Everyone struggles with self-doubt at some point. Even Beyonce. She’s human, isn’t she? Self-doubt is part of the human condition. It is our brains reacting to fear that we don’t measure up. A lot of it comes from comparing ourselves to others, something that is so common in this digital age. We see others having things, achieving feats, and looking the way that we wish we did. It is no wonder that self-doubt can creep (or sprint) into our minds. It is the villain behind many of our personal struggles. The good news is that self-doubt is not the truth. It is a lie rooted in fear, and we have the power to overcome it.
Fear: The Root Cause
Fear is so pervasive in our culture that it is basically running the show. We commonly react to things from a place of fear and don’t even realize it. Procrastinating on getting something important done? It could be because you are afraid of what comes next. Not wanting to step out of your comfort zone and try something you’ve been curious about? It’s probably because you are afraid of the unknown. The nasty villain of Fear is at it again.
There is always a feeling or need behind our behavior, but they are often invisible to us. To understand this further, let’s take a look at the iceberg metaphor (image source). The tip of the iceberg, the part that we see, is simply our behavior. But supporting the tip is a hefty section that is not visible to us, and that is our emotions and basic needs. The need for belonging. To need to feel significant. The need for connection. If these basic needs are not met, there is a void that beckons fear into our subconscious mind like moths to a flame.
Negative Self Talk: The Drama Queen
So maybe you aren’t the most confident, and perhaps you can identify the root cause (fear of something). But you probably have one more obstacle to a positive mindset. That obstacle is negative self-talk, the drama queen of your mind. How many times a day do we say these things to ourselves in our heads.
- Why did I say it like that?
- I look so bad today!
- I’m not good at doing that.
If you had a friend saying that crap to you all the time, you would ditch them! So why say it to yourself? The problem (at least for me), is that it happens without realizing it. I am lost in thought about something, and then I snap into awareness. I realize that I’ve been beating myself up in my head, and most of the time it is not even true. I dramatize things or skew them out of proportion, or even dwell on past disappointments. In order to gain control, I make the decision to stop that line of thinking. You have to learn to identify when negative self-talk is happening, and stop it in its tracks.
There is hope! You don’t have to live under the weight of self-doubt, fear, and negative self-talk. Awareness is a great start. Become aware of why you feel a certain way, and how you are talking to yourself about it. Then, try some of the strategies below to turn your mindset into an asset.
Simple ways to cultivate a positive mindset
Your mindset is like an intangible garden. You absolutely must nurture your mind in order for it to flourish. Warning: having a positive mindset is not a one-and-done technique. It takes time and practice. Some people think it’s all “woo-woo,” but those of us who have seen it work know better. Roses can’t reach their peak potential unless they are cared for by a gardener.
Here are five tips that I have personally found to be useful in cultivating a positive mindset.
The I Am art series
Whatever you call it (I prefer the term mantra, others affirmation), it really works! A mantra is a phrase that you specifically select to be repeated both in your head and out loud. The purpose is to focus on what you DO want to happen… not what you don’t. This brings about a sense of inspiration and positivity, and really changes your brain from focusing on the negative.
A lot of mantras that I come up with focus on a feeling of abundance (limitless resources and opportunities) as opposed to scarcity (not enough to go around). It is important to phrase your mantra in the present tense, as if the thing you want is already happening.
Ways in which I implement mantras in my life are writing them in my journal each night, writing them on my cupboards (they are like whiteboards!), and sticking up post-it notes around the house. In times of extreme doubt, I have set alarms on my phone to remind me to say the mantra so I couldn’t miss it. Repeating it to yourself several times a day makes a huge difference in nurturing a positive mindset and banishing self-doubt and fear.
Some examples of mantras I have used in the past:
- I am grateful for the abundance that is flowing into my life.
- Be the energy you wish to attract.
- The entire universe is conspiring in my favor.
This strategy is parallel to mantras. Whenever you are reciting a mantra, also create a visual image in your mind. Try and see yourself living in that way or achieving that goal. Like a scene in a movie, play it in your mind and feel the emotions you would feel it if were true. The key to visualizing is feeling the emotion that goes with the thing you want to happen.
I find that a wonderful side effect of visualizing is an instant mood boost. I instantly feel more optimistic and positive after visualizing a success that I want to manifest. Some people call this the Law of Attraction or manifesting. It doesn’t matter what it’s called, but please know that it works. I have achieved some big things that I wanted because I used this technique, including getting a dream job in Europe and moving to Canada to pursue my passion.
Another strategy is finding a meditation practice that works for you. If you think that’s too much, ask yourself why? Jerry Seinfeld and Ellen DeGeneres think it’s worthwhile, and they’re doing pretty well for themselves. Need more convincing? Read this article that gives science-backed evidence of the benefits of meditation.
I have done it for several years, and although I’m definitely not an expert, I can say with certainty that I am healthier when I have a consistent meditation practice. Just like any habit, I stick to it in spurts, sometimes more than others. But when I do stick with meditating regularly, I find that I have clearer skin, a happier mood, better relationships, less menstrual pain, and so much more.
Some apps that I recommend to learn meditation:
- Stop Breathe & Think: A really basic one that is easy to get started. It’s free!
- Meditation Studio: Think if this one like a buffet, you can pick and choose different topics and teachers out of many offerings.
- Headspace: You have to pay an annual subscription, but there’s a free course to start with.
Studies have shown that practicing the feeling of gratitude can make us happier. In order to focus on feeling grateful, it means we have to let go of any anger, worries, disappointments, or other negative feelings. You can choose to simply be grateful and happy for the positive things in your life. It is a choice, just like many of these strategies. It doesn’t happen by accident.
One way that makes it easy to practice gratitude is to have a gratitude journal. Each evening, as you get ready for bed, spend a few minutes reflecting on the day. What went well? What are you happy about today? Make a list, and actually write it out on paper. The act of writing is like magic in the way it makes you remember it for longer.
You can be grateful for small things like getting a haircut or getting a text from your friend. Or big things, like having a supportive partner or family. It’s up to you. If you focus on the positive, there’s no wrong answer! Try to do this for a few weeks in a row and you’ll definitely see an improvement in your mindset.
5. Self Education
I’m a personal growth junkie. In the past few years, I’ve become a lot more intentional with my life. At least, I’m trying to. I have curated my social media feeds to show only productive or inspiring accounts. I’ve stopped watching so much tv to give myself more time for other pursuits. Some of my favorite ways to educate myself about personal growth and a positive mindset are by reading and listening to podcasts, as well as some online courses.
Here are some of my favorites:
- Oprah’s Super Soul Conversations
- Optimal Living Daily
- The Goal Digger Podcast
- The One You Feed
- Untangle, The Podcast
Books (I enjoy reading and also listening to audiobooks)
- You Are a Badass at Making Money by Jen Sincero
- The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
- Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg
- Living Forward by Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy
You’ve Got This
You are the most important person in your life, so why not be kind to yourself and put some effort into becoming a better you? The outcomes could surprise you! Cultivating a positive mindset takes work, but the reward is a happier life, which in turn benefits those around you. You just have to decide to try.
Katrina Slade left her home state of Oregon almost a decade ago to pursue a life of travel. Katrina now resides in Canada where she is a professional artist. A practicing meditator, Katrina seeks the beauty in the everyday and strives to portray a sense of wonder and joy in her paintings. Follow her on IG @katrina.slade.art