Self-doubt is a dangerous thing. It not only keeps us small, away from our potential and from all that’s possible, but it mostly keeps us from truly knowing ourselves. I learned at a young age not to trust myself. As a young girl, when my dad was drinking and behaving differently, I’d naturally ask my mom what was wrong with him.
My mom, who of course thought she was protecting me, said, “nothing honey, don’t worry about it.” And in that moment was born my first moment of self-doubt. I could clearly see that my dad wasn’t himself and wasn’t behaving in his usual way. I could hear that he spoke differently and even looked different.
But in spite of what I saw, heard, and felt, the one person who I trusted to know more than me (my mother) was telling me that what I saw, heard and felt wasn’t correct. And so in that moment, I unknowingly had my first experience of doubting my instincts and distrusting my own perception. It would happen over and over again as my mom, from a place of love and with the greatest intentions, tried to protect me from what she thought I shouldn’t know.
The only trouble was, I did know, but was now asked to dismiss what I knew and replace it with what she wanted me to know. And as self-doubt grew and continued to artfully thread itself through my life, it successfully kept me from my own inner knowing and truths.
The only answer it left me with, to almost any question, was “I don’t know”.
When asked, “What do you want for dinner?” I would respond, “I don’t know, you choose.”
When asked, “What movie do you want to see?” I would respond, “I don’t know, you choose.”
“What are you going to wear to the party?”
“I don’t know, what are you wearing?”
I had trouble making any kind of decision because I was so disconnected from what I thought and completely mistrusted my own judgments. I dismissed and ignored everything I did know.
As an adult, I even doubted whether I was actually unhappy in my own marriage. Maybe the truth was that anyone else would be perfectly happy with my marriage, and it was just me who was ‘off.’ I doubted my ability to leave an unhappy marriage and create a life for myself. I doubted my ability to look after a home alone and raise my kids alone. I was completely swallowed up by self-doubt.
I was not only unsure of myself and my abilities, but I became increasingly unsure about who I even was. I was unsure about everything: what I thought, what I believed, what I stood for, what I was entitled to, how I felt and how I should be treated. Self-doubt ran deep. And from the deep roots of self-doubt, firmly planted in me, grew an apologetic energy for daring to ‘be’, for simply existing.
For years, if someone told me I did or said something that I knew I didn’t, I used to question myself and doubt my own recollection about how the circumstance unfolded. I automatically assumed that I must have been remembering things incorrectly. I continually replaced my own experience for another person’s experience, and dismissed what I thought was true to make room for what they thought was true. If someone seemed upset or rattled, I was sure it must have been something I did. In my uncertainty, I assumed anything that was wrong was related to something I must have ‘missed’.
It was in therapy that I was gently reassured that I did know. That I never ‘don’t know.’ That the answers are always available to me, and they lie within me. That if I pay attention to my own gut instinct, it will never mislead me. It will always tell me the truth about what I want, what I need, and how I feel. And regardless of what anyone else says, I am to always trust my own gut.
It was also explained to me that we have neuron-receptors in both our brain and our stomach that process not only spoken but unspoken information. These receptors in our stomach process energy, body language, anything non-verbal that is coming our way, and that’s where the term ‘gut instinct’ comes from. This realization was the beginning of me paying attention to my own body – to my gut instinct and following what feels true for me. So when something feels off – it is off. And I began to trust that daily.
I began to give myself permission to stand in my own truth. If someone else’s version of what happened was different than mine, I firmly held onto my own experience – to what I knew was true for me. They were entitled to have their version of what was true, but I was no longer willing to replace my version with theirs. I give myself permission to trust what I know. If it doesn’t feel right to me, I don’t do it. If it doesn’t resonate as truth to me, I allow myself to disagree and own what is true for me.
The more I practice this, the more I discover myself – my opinions, my likes and dislikes, how I feel, what makes me happy, how to honour my own voice, and how to stand in my own truth. You are waiting for You! Anytime you are feeling uncertain and full of self-doubt, let that be a red flag to indicate that you have disconnected from your own inner wisdom. When feelings of self-doubt come up, instead of going outside of yourself and relying on others’ opinions, in that moment, turn inward toward yourself and pay attention to your own gut instinct. What is it telling you?
You will either feel peace and ease, or tense and restrictive. The truth will always feel like freedom – follow that.
The way back home to yourself is by trusting what you feel. Your body will never, ever lie. Use it like a compass and it will guide you back home to yourself without fail.