When the seeds of self-doubt creep in

What do you do when you find yourself sinking in a sea of self-doubt? Every thought, every feeling you have seems to be dragging you down. Your confidence is waning, and all you can think is that you can’t do it, you’re not good enough to do it and if you did do it, no-one would like it anyway.


I woke up this morning feeling like this. I’m not sure about this blog post. The subject seems a little dull and insignificant. I feel like my writing will put any readers off. I’m not really sure why I’m pressing on – although there is a little voice saying “Write, first and foremost, for your-self. There will be others out there who feel this way too. When you write for your-self, they will benefit too.” So I thought I’d give trust a go. I still don’t feel all that happy about this, but perhaps my little voice is right …

Why do we doubt ourselves?

It feels horrible. It weighs us down. It prevents us from shining our light. It keeps us small. The short answer to this question is that “I don’t know!” But let’s explore …

To me right now, there appears to be no logical reason to doubt ourselves, other than self-preservation and the habitual behaviour we have come to identify with as safe. But here goes …

  • Self-doubt serves to keep us safe. There you have it … we doubt ourselves when we are pushing ourselves beyond our usual boundaries.
  • Self-doubt tests our resolve. Yup – if you really want to do something, you will feel the fear and do it anyway. Self-doubt is there to check that we really want what-ever it is that we are going after, because it’s a bit different to our usual forays.
  • Self-doubt helps us to grow. Truly – without a sprinkle of doubt here and there, we wouldn’t be so firmly rooted where we are, and the decision to up-root and move forward wouldn’t be so challenging – or rewarding. When you have overcome the little niggles of self-doubt, you feel like you can conquer the World. It is a wonderful feeling to have overcome a limitation – much better than to simply do something that you already do easily.

So there you have it – self-doubt does serve a purpose (who’d have thought it!) and now I want to explore how to stick with the challenge, the resolve and pushing out those boundaries so that the challenge laid out by the seeds of doubt has a happy ending.

How can we move past doubt?

When we are surrounded by negativity, it can seem overwhelming and a little bit impossible to move past it. The evidence is everywhere, in all kinds of thoughts and feelings we are having – and perhaps in our surroundings too. The seeds of doubt have grown thick and strong, and they are holding us in a place we neither like or enjoy. True, we feel safe here – but that doesn’t make it good.

My first instinct is to begin hacking down at the evidence. I feel angry, I get mad at those thoughts for being there, I lash out at my feelings and I wish I didn’t feel this way. The feelings, in turn, grow stronger. The thoughts keep on coming. Without knowing it, I have been sowing more seeds of doubt – and sure as anything, they have grown. Ugh!

If we were in a garden full of weeds, and we started hacking them down or pulling them out, sure they might seem to go for a bit. But, the root systems often remain – and those bigger weeds were full of seed heads that re-seeded the ground as we pulled them out. The doubt keeps on returning because we aren’t planting anything new.

Now, in my experience a garden will always grow weeds. I’ve never known a garden that doesn’t. But, when people plant seeds of beautiful flowers, shrubs, trees, fruit, vegetables … they will grow too. And the more those people focus on the plants they want, the more those plants thrive. Their garden is now beautiful. Sure, there are still weeds – but those are easily handled since the people love and enjoy the other plants so much, and want to enjoy their benefits.

And so, as we leave the metaphor behind, it is clear to see that when we are surrounded by doubt, all we need to do is start to plant more purposeful thoughts. Be persistent, and the doubt will begin to feel insignificant.

When I began writing this post, I didn’t want to. I didn’t believe in it. I didn’t believe in myself. A small voice said “You can do it!” Alongside that, I consistently gave myself praise as I began. Every negative thought I had, I smiled at, and then added a “You’re awesome!”, “I Love you!” or even a “What’s the worst that can happen?” The negative thoughts persisted. I felt crappy and nearly deleted it several times. I persisted with the good thoughts too. Result being that I now feel much better about myself – and I’m happy with my post. It has served its purpose for me – and hopefully it can do the same for you too!

Kathryn Harper

First published on Katharper, January 26, 2015


 Kathryn was a socially anxious pre-teen who had suffered from selective mutism as a younger child, and elements of the condition stayed with me. As an older teen Kathryn developed eating disorders, depression, and then alcohol dependency. Into my 20’s, she began to suffer from frequent night terrors.

She sought help with medication, meditation, and various forms of therapy, both self-directed and facilitated. Over the 10-15 years that followed Kathryn have moved mountains in her efforts to make peace with her anxious ways, but as a highly sensitive person it doesn’t take much to push Kathryn back over the edge.

Kathryn believes, managing anxiety is a bit like healthy eating. It is not something you can do just once, but instead is something to be incorporated into your lifestyle.


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