You may be familiar with a little phenomenon I like to call the vicious spiral of self-doubt. After all, SfW’s blog is aimed at college students, particularly female students, and it’s practically a given that members of these groups will experience an intense feeling of self-doubt every now and then. The lack of confidence, that odd feeling in the pit of your stomach, the sweating, the stress eating, the stress-exercising, the stress-crying, the hunt for a stand-up comedy special that will remind you that the world isn’t a completely miserable place. I bet this all sounds pretty familiar.
For some people, feeling like they’re not good enough can actually be empowering; it makes them want to prove themselves by doing their best. They take this feeling, go out into the world, and give 110% at everything they do so at least they can say they tried. But for me, as for many other people, it can be a paralyzing experience. Instead of picking myself up and trying my best, I tend to simply give up and abandon whatever thing I had just been trying to accomplish. I take to my bed like a Victorian widow, whine about how woe is me, and announce that I once again reached for stars that were too far away.
Is this melodramatic? Yes. But at the time, these seem like the only reasonable things to do; working any harder would be wasted energy because I’m obviously destined to fail anyway, right?
I’ve been through this cycle several times. So far, I’ve discovered a few things that help me get out of my funk.
Whatever you may be struggling to achieve, it’s important to remember that you are more than the grades on your transcript, your standardized test score, your boss’ opinion of you, your position in a club. The list of things that define you is long. The things I just listed, though important in some situations, don’t rank anywhere near the top. Take some time to think about your positive qualities and experiences if you’re having a bad day.
Recognize which steps are important on the ladder of success, but don’t build an individual step up in your mind as the end-all-be-all. Your internal monologue shouldn’t be “If I don’t get do X, then I’ve lost my chance at living happily ever after.” If you’re feeling low, try to see past the thing that’s giving you trouble right now, with the knowledge that there will be another challenge after that.
I know people say this often, but it bears repeating: everyone fails and everyone has negative experiences, but the best way to get through life is to learn from these events. It is claimed that Thomas Edison once said about his many attempts to create a lightbulb: “I didn’t fail. I found 2,000 ways how not to make a lightbulb.” (I learned that from National Treasure.)
Following the tips above won’t guarantee you a life free from self-doubt. The world is, unfortunately, filled with obstacles and with people who are all too happy to point out your shortcomings. But should you find yourself trapped in the downward spiral, I hope these tips will help you find your way out again.