3 proven ways to overcome self-doubt for good


cutting paper in half that says I can't and removing self-doubt

Negative thinking, especially self-doubt consumes the very best of us. Some of the most successful people still consider themselves to be frauds, regardless of how well they are doing and how many awards they win. This type of negative thinking stems from deep insecurity and unless fixed can haunt people for life, stopping them from enjoying their own success. There’s no shortage of self-help guru’s who swear that repeating positive phrases to yourself can change your life, encouraging that if you recite to yourself “I am successful”, your self-doubt will wash away. Unsurprisingly, positive affirmations won’t remedy all our deep seeded insecurity.

The problem with positive affirmations, explains Melody Wilding expert in Human Behaviour, is that they operate at surface level of conscious thinking and do nothing to contend with the subconscious mind where limiting belief really lives. So whilst it’s important to recognise your tendency to engage in self-doubt thoughts, whitewashing your insecurities with positive thinking is not the remedy you need. In fact, new research has found that while repeating positive self statements may benefit people with a high self-regard, it can be detrimental to those lacking confidence. Ironically those with a high self-regard would not be engaging in the type of self-doubt that plague so many of us, so positive affirmations seem to serve a very limited purpose all together.

How to tackle the problem and mentally empower ourselves away form self-doubt?

Here are some very useful tips provided by Wilding to tackle your negative thoughts at their root instead of using a surface cleanser.

1.Dig yourself out from the “Negative Nancy” or “Negative Nigel” thoughts.

If you’re reading this article the content is resonating with you and perhaps you realise your tendency to beat yourself up. Start with articulating the negative thoughts weighing you down. Instead of beating yourself up for procrastinating, forgive yourself for it. You will be surprised to learn how relieving it is to stop feeling angry at yourself. Wilding advises that if you spend less time beating yourself up for procrastination you can re-direct this energy into focusing on how to action a task to avoid your previous mistake.

2.Interrogative self-talk

Research shows that asking ourselves questions rather than issuing commands is a much more effective way to create long lasting change. Wilding explains that it’s as simple as tweaking the way you speak to yourself. When you catch your inner self shouting commands, undeniably making yourself more stressed than necessary think: how can I turn this statement into a question? Some examples are:

  • When have I done this before?
  • What if (insert worst case scenario) happens?
  • How can I?

This type of self-questioning charges up the problem-solving areas of the brain. You start to meet negative self-doubt thoughts with curiosity instead of fear.

3. Focus on progress not perfection

Wilding advises that to effectively re-frame your thinking, consider who you are becoming and focus on your progress. Play the long game. You might want to re-word your self talk to sound more like “I am a work in progress”, “look how far I come each day and that’s ok”. This points you in the direction of positive growth and is both realistic and achievable. It helps to negate the negative can’t do/ self-doubt attitude that can overcome many of us.

If you’re prone to negative talk, its extremely important to stop this kind of “self-harm”. If you don’t treat yourself kindly with the respect you deserve what can you expect from others? We all deserve to enjoy the success we have worked so hard for without any thoughts taking that away from us.

This blog was written with the help of Melody Wilding’s story for Forbes; Forget Positive Thinking: This is How to Actually Change Negative Thoughts For Success.

If you are interested in reading more about this type of content, I would highly recommend following Melody Wilding’s stories here.

Image curtesy of Marie Maerz sourced from Shutterstock

Seven brain hacks to learn faster

a picture of a road sign named memory lane which pertains to how we consider we learn

Old dogs, new tricks

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Whilst, that may or may not be true – it’s totally irrelevant to humans. We certainly can learn new tricks throughout life. Yes, kids seem to learn new information more quickly than adults but we have to remember that children spend all day learning new things. Mastery of new skills is largely a function of how much time we spend, each day, trying to pick up new tricks. By challenging your brain regularly to learn, it will re-learn the mode that makes absorbing information happen more efficiently. So, your brain actually pumps resources into rewiring the pathways to make learning happen more rapidly. Quite simply – invest in learning and you will see high returns.

Pretend to teach

According to a study conducted by Washington University, St. Louis the expectation that you will teach as opposed to just learn changes your learning approach so that you engage in more effective learning approaches.  John Nestojko, a postdoctoral researcher in phycology and co-author of the study states that “when teachers prepare to teach they seek out key points and organize information into a coherent structure,” Nestojko writes. “Our results suggest that students also turn to these types of effective learning strategies when they expect to teach.”

Use a pen and paper

Laptops may be more efficient at recording information but they are generally very inefficient devices to use if you wish to understand the subject matter at hand. In three studies researchers at Princeton University and UCLA. found that students who took notes on laptops performed worse on conceptual questions in comparison to students who took notes longhand. Co-author and Princeton University psychology professor Pam Mueller states “We show that whereas taking more notes can be beneficial, laptop note takers’ tendency to transcribe lectures verbatim rather than processing information and reframing it in their own words is detrimental to learning.” When students took notes by hand, they listened more actively and as such were able to identify important concepts in comparison to those who transcribed on laptops.

The power of imagination

Numerous experiments have been carried out over the years with people practising new skills, varying from sports to playing musical instruments. What has become apparent, is that whether or not someone physically practises a skill or instead they vividly picture doing it – after  a few days, marked changes occur in the brain. Incredibly, changes in those who had only imagined practicing were almost as significant as those who had practiced for real!

Water the lawn

Benedict Carey, author of How we learn: The surprising truth about when, where, and why it happens is an advocate for – practice distributed learning. Carey uses the analogy of watering a lawn to describe this learning process. “You can water a once a week for 90 minutes or three times a week for 30 minutes,” he said. “Spacing out the watering during the week will keep the lawn greener over time.” To retain material, Carey suggests – it’s best to review the information one to two days after initially studying it, as repeating the information sends a stronger signal to the brain that it needs to retain the knowledge.

Study naps

According to a new study published in Psychological Science, sleeping in between study sessions can boost your recall up to six months later.

In an experiments carried out in at the University of Lyon, France participants were taught the Swahili translation for 16 French words during one morning and one evening translation session. Participants were divided in half with one group being allowed to sleep between their morning and evening translation session. On average, the group that slept recalled 10 of the 16 words, whilst those who hadn’t slept recalled only 7.5 words. Scientist Stephanie Mazza of the University of Lyon comments “Previous research suggested that sleeping after learning is definitely a good strategy, but now we show that sleeping between two learning sessions greatly improves such a strategy.”

Treat studying like a workout

If we exercise the same muscle groups everyday we see far less results than if we focus on different exercise regimes throughout the week. A new study conducted by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine found that participants who practiced a slightly modified version of the task they were attempting to master during the learning process, increased their retention in comparison to participants who repeated the same learning method. Pablo A. Celnik, suggests that “if you practice a slightly modified version of a task you want to master, you actually lean more and faster than if you just keep practicing the exact same thing multiple times in a row”.

Study interval training

Experts at the Louisiana State University’s Center for Academic Success suggest dedicating 30-50 minutes to learning new material. “Anything less than 30 is just not enough, but anything more than 50 is too much information for your brain to take in at one time.” It is advised that between these intervals you take five to ten minutes breaks before you start your next session, this allows your brain to approach the next interval feeling refreshed.

For more information on this check out Fast Company’s useful blog on faster ways to learn anything and Dr Jack Lewis & Adrian Webster’s book on the intricacies of the human brain – Sort Your Brain Out.






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