Why we second guess ourselves

Why we second-guess ourselves1491666_582223718521290_337457996_n

By Ashlee Secord

Self-doubt, self-criticism and self-judgment are so commonplace in our lives that when we come across someone who is confident, assured or comfortable making mistakes we consider them “self-centered” or even “arrogant.” If not these things something must be wrong with them! We have gotten away from stepping out in faith, trusting our gut and following our instincts. While we may not know the direction we’re headed when it comes to our future, we are well aware of what we do NOT want.

For example, when I was 19 years old I took a job as a stock person at a local co-op to make extra cash. My shift started at 4:00 am and involved nearly no interaction with another human being. I made it through one shift. One. I couldn’t bring myself to do it again. While I may not have known that I was going to be a therapist at that point, I did know that I would NOT be in a job that involved so little interaction, no matter how well I was paid. Even with knowing the direction we DON’T want to go, why is it so difficult to step in a direction that could take us closer to our goals, dreams or desires?

Consider three possibilities:

Fear of the unknown

Change means stress. Think about the top five most stressful circumstances: death, moving, debt, divorce and having a baby. Change! Not only change but, whether you saw it coming or not, you’re not sure who you are in those circumstances, what challenges you’ll be faced with or if you even have what it takes to face them. Change is uncomfortable and if you don’t know what lies ahead, you at least know that this is gonna hurt. Not knowing how life will unfold is a recipe for anxiety. We attempt to control the outcome, hand over responsibility to someone else so if things go COMPLETELY wrong at least you won’t be the one held responsible.

Previous experience with failure

Okay, so you want to change but what happened last time? The last time you lost weight? The last time you tried to start your own business? Did it involve failing? How does the saying go, once bitten twice shy? We are reluctant to try again, to try and do things differently because when we did that before, it didn’t pan out. If I failed before I’ll fail again. Not trying seems to feel better than failing. It’s better than looking like a failure …again.

No experience with what lies ahead

Maybe you feel moved to do something you’ve never done before. You feel drawn to create music but you were told you were tone deaf in elementary choir. You want to write but it was never your strong suit. You despise running but decided to sign up for a marathon. The end goal seems out of reach before taking the first step. Failure seems imminent, so why bother moving toward that goal at all? We give up before we even start.

The above obstacles can stop us before we even start. So we continue to do what we’ve always done and find ourselves in the same circumstances (that we don’t necessarily like or want). It is here that my clients typically say they feel stuck, trapped or lost.

Confidence grows in these small decisions, even in simply acknowledging the draw toward a dream. Start there. Moving in a new direction doesn’t have to be a complete 180. It can be incremental. Dr. Leo Marvin from the movie What About Bob? touted the slogan “baby steps.” Instead of quitting your job tomorrow to begin looking for your dream job isn’t the smartest idea. Maybe begin looking for a new job while still at your current job and applying for schools in the field you’re interested in. Instead of promising yourself to workout every day this week, why not focus on thirty minutes this afternoon? Instead of ignoring your husband and assuming he’ll be able to know why you’re upset based on your actions, why don’t you risk sharing a glimpse of your hurt and pain to help him better understand you?

We spend a lot of time looking at what could go wrong instead of what could right. We spend so much time in the worst case scenario and not enough in the best case scenario. Small changes, risk, and courage begin to create the confidence we all long for. When we start experiencing small successes we begin to believe that even more might be possible.


–Ashlee Secord is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in the South Metro suburbs of Minneapolis/St.Paul. For support making small changes in the direction of your desires contact Thrive Therapy today to set up an appointment.