Hello and welcome back to The Joy Within’s podcast. This week we’re talking about the 5 ways negative thoughts are secretly controlling your life and what you can do to stop them. Today we’re going to be talking about doubt and disbelief.
I actually think this is one of the tougher types of negative thoughts to deal with, for the simple reason that we usually just don’t pay any attention to it. Of the 5 categories we’re talking about – and remember, those are: stress, doubt, internal criticism, external criticism, and overactive thoughts — doubt is the one we are least likely to notice.
And that’s not your fault. It’s just something that, generally, societally, we’re not taught to deal with. It’s not like stress, which we talked about last time, where you probably usually know when you’re stressed about something. You usually know when you’re worried about something. But doubt not so much, and sometimes doubt is even encouraged. We hide it in terms like being realistic, or having a “healthy skepticism” about something, almost to the point where – in some circles – an ability not to believe something is seen as a mark of intelligence.
And, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you should go around believing everything you hear – my point is that some of these macro-societal forces have caused us – in some ways – to turn a blind eye to the negative implications of doubt.
Probably the worst side of this has to do with self-doubt. If you are like most people, you probably do not 100% believe that you could be, do, or have anything that you want, at any time. At the extreme end of that scale, that would mean literally being able to imagine anything you want and POOF, snap your fingers and it appears. Now, I think you’ll probably agree that sounds a bit magical. It sounds unrealistic. No matter how good Prime delivery gets, we’ll still fall way short of that dream — and you’ll probably even argue that it’s against the laws of physics.
Now, here’s the key: the way you responded to this little thought experiment points the way to how you can deal with doubt of any kind. Your doubts point the way towards your limiting beliefs. Let that sink in for a moment. Your doubts point the way towards your limiting beliefs.
In the example of snapping your fingers and miraculously having anything you want, your limiting belief is that the laws of physics prevent it. I’m not saying that’s good or bad. I’m not arguing for or against it, I’m simply pointing out: that’s your belief.
And, here’s the the point that’s absolutely essential to understand: you can change your beliefs. You can choose to believe anything you want. Most of the time, we don’t think about that. Most of the time, we unconsciously adopt our beliefs from everyone around us, or from the life experiences we’ve had. But, if you want to, you can change any belief you hold – and you can shape your beliefs so you can live the life you really want.
The problem, the challenge, somes when our doubts stop us from doing the things we really want. Then we have friction, we have resistance that grinds us down. And that makes us feel disheartened, or fed up, or angry or depressed. When we really want something, but don’t believe we can have it, we create all sorts of negativity for ourselves.
But, if we become more aware of our doubts and if we understand that those doubts are simply pointers, they’re indicators shining a light on our limiting beliefs, then we can learn to choose, conscious and deliberately, thoughts and beliefs that will better serve us. Doing this is a process of stepping back, tuning-in to the way those thoughts and beliefs really feel, and then guiding them into your preferred state. When we do, it becomes clearer that our doubts are really just choices that we make unconsciously.
Now, to give you an example of this I had a client who was a solopreneru. She owned her own business and even though she’d been making a living at it for years, she didn’t feel like she was wildly successful. She had plateaued and every month that her business stayed at the same level, she doubted her ability to grow it.
So, because she doubted herself, she often felt disheartened, and she kind of worked on autopilot a lot of the time. She’d lost the enthusiasm, the zest she had wen she started out.
So, we started by centering, by finding a calm, neutral space so she could think clearly. Then, we used her doubts to look at the beliefs she held. Some positive, some negative. She believed she was smart. She believed she was good at her work. But, we realized she dind’t believe she knew how to run a business. She had never had a business before, and she dind’t know what to do. She didn’t even know what skills she lacked. And while on the surface that seemed like a small shift, it was actually a huge breakthrough, because it empowered her to use the positive beliefs she held about herself to change the limiting beliefs. She already believed she was smart, so she believed she had the capacity to learn. That meant she could learn new skills, and running a business is just a series of skills.
Once she made that shift, her doubt evaporated really, really quickly. She started to feel better, more excited about her work again, so she started getting more done, which let her make great progress growing the business, so she had more confidence and more resouces to build it even further. Reframing her doubts kickstarted a positive spiral of rapid growth.
And that’s the funny thing about doubt. At its core, the mental shift can be really simple, but it’s often something we can’t see for ourselves. Our doubts blind us and because we can’t see past them, we often start to believe that’s just the way life is. We get stuck, spinning our wheels, and the longer we’re stuck, the more we try to force a surface-level change, without addressing the silent negativity underneath, and we end up just digging ourselves deeper and deeper into the mud.
So, the next time you start doubting yourself, ask yourself why. Ask what must you believe in order to have that doubt. Then start to chip away at that belief. Little shifts – done right – can have remarkable results.