Recognizing self-doubt dangers and how they can halt health goals
We are all critical of ourselves or doubt our abilities sometimes. That’s normal. But if you often lack confidence in yourself, it might be a sign of self-doubt.
Self-doubt can affect your emotional health, which is connected to your physical health. Because self-doubt impacts your overall well-being, finding ways to be kinder to yourself is vital.
What is self-doubt and why is it dangerous?
Self-doubt is different from just doubting yourself now and then. For example, you might doubt whether a new recipe that you created will taste good on the first try. But you know that if you keep trying, you’ll get the technique and the ingredients just right. If you have self-doubt, you are much less likely to even try a new recipe or experiment with anything outside of your comfort zone.
Self-doubt can hold you back from many things, which can be isolating and make you feel lonely. When you feel lonely, it might be harder to engage with others. For example, you might stop talking to friends and family on the phone, via video chat, or through email. You might even turn down the chance to do things with others that you used to enjoy.
It can be easy to dismiss these things. Denying these feelings can be dangerous and cause bigger problems. Social isolation and loneliness can repeat themselves and trap you in a vicious cycle that’s hard to break. This cycle can have serious health consequences.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, loneliness has been associated with higher rates of depression, anxiety, and thoughts of self-harm and worse.1 The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine notes that poor social relationships where social isolation or loneliness are a factor have been associated with a 29 percent increased risk of heart disease and a 32 percent increased risk of stroke.2
The key is to spot negative thoughts and shift your thinking toward self-kindness.
The benefits of being kinder to yourself
Being kinder to yourself is essential to your physical and mental health. Self-kindness has many benefits. It may help lessen your stress levels. It can also help increase your resilience, which can boost your confidence. When you are more confident, you may be more likely to put yourself out there and try new things.
If you notice that you are often unkind to yourself, stop and think about whether you have self-doubt. Then think through what to do about it. Your actions should target ways to be kinder to yourself before your self-doubt worsens. Picture a stop sign in front of you. Use it as a signal to shift from criticism to compassion.
To see if you have self-doubt, ask yourself, “How many times have I felt bad about myself this week?” Then, “Why am I having these thoughts?” If you note negative thoughts, incorporate ways to be kinder to yourself.
Small steps to start being kinder to yourself
Different strategies work for different people. You can try the following tips to see what works for you. Several approaches might arm you with the tools to make lasting change.
Form a healthy mindset
To change, you need the right attitude. Believe that you can learn and grow through self-awareness. Your thoughts differ from reality. Accept this without letting negative thoughts take over.
Set goals and actions
List your actions. Are your actions kind to yourself? If not, what changes do you need to make? Put this list somewhere where you’ll see it each day. Plan for what actions you will take to be kinder to yourself. Think of goals you can reach to build your confidence.
Eliminate self-doubt habits
If the thought of trying new things makes you want to quit before you even get started, focus on small steps you can take to get to your overall goal. Celebrate your successes at each step. Set new goals to bolster your sense of accomplishment.
If you get stuck in a rut, distract yourself for a moment. Notice your state of mind. See that you can move forward without being negative. Replace negative thoughts with healthy ones. Exercising or doing a creative activity are great ways to be kind to yourself.
Practice self-love and acceptance
The cures for self-doubt are love and self-acceptance. Treat yourself as you would treat a friend or family member working to improve their self-confidence.
Changing your thoughts and habits is a journey. Don’t focus on the end result. Try and enjoy the journey getting there.
Learn from and lean on others
Ask others how they changed their behaviors. It can save you time and frustration. Support groups are a great way to learn from peers.
Think about how negative thoughts have affected your life. Then imagine how positive thoughts can make you the confident person you want to be.
How to get help with self-doubt
How you work on self-doubt depends on how often you find yourself being negative and the impact that it has on you. Seeking out a mental health professional may be a good first step. This can help you work on shifting from self-doubt to self-confidence.
UPMC Health Plan member mental health support and resources
1Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Loneliness and social isolation linked to serious health conditions. Updated Jan. 6, 2022. Accessed March 15, 2022. tools.cdc.gov/medialibrary/index.aspx?mediaType=eCard&displayName=eCards#/media/id/406617
2National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Social Isolation and Loneliness in Older Adults: Opportunities for the Health Care System. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi.org/10.17226/25663