Saturday, November 26, 2011

Reset Your Mindset

Do you believe the things people tell you about yourself? Do you believe the things you tell you about yourself?

I got an email from a reader, Chelsie, a few days ago. She’d been through a tough time lately and had gained some weight. Feeling out of sorts and depressed, she decided to go for a run to work out some of the stressful kinks. She ran in the woods of Iowa, feeling on top of the world. Then, she rolled her ankle and fell.

Laying there with no phone and 2 miles from her car, she felt foolish and defeated. Her mind started playing back all the crap people had told her over the years, “"You're not a runner. You're not athletic. Why do you even try? You aren't good enough." She sat in the midst of all of the negativity for a couple of minutes, crying, wallowing. But, then a switch went off.

It started as a whisper, but became louder and louder. “I am good enough,” she told herself. For so long she’d been allowing all of the negative things people had told her about herself to enter into her head. She had started to believe the naysayers. She had become defeated and had stopped standing up for herself. But, on this day, in this moment of vulnerability, she was done. She had “reset her mindset.”

She ended the email by saying, “Life won't go according to our plans, but doing something good for yourself everyday, like running or yoga, makes it a lot easier to roll with the punches.”

I love this story (even if it doesn’t involve ONE bodily function) because it so perfectly illustrates the power we have over our thoughts. It lets us know that we can filter not only what others tell us about ourselves, but what we tell ourselves about ourselves.

I don’t think we’re born with self doubt, I think we learn it. Over time, we take in negative external messages from parents, peers, teachers, coaches, etc., and decide to believe them. We learn the ways of the world. We start to compare ourselves to others. We decide we don’t stack up. Before we know it, we’ve decided we’re not good enough.

Self doubt can crop up about anything and everything. I am not a fast enough runner, I’ll never get my PR. I am not an effective parent, my kids will be in therapy forever when they’re older (don’t know if you can avoid the therapy thing no matter how hard you try). I suck at my job, I’m not smart enough to get this stuff done.

The good news is, it doesn’t have to be that way.  There are some steps you can take to nip self doubt in its ugly ass:

1. Admit it. Realize the self doubt is there. Most of us have some degree of self doubt. For some it is the smallest of whispers and doesn’t lead to inaction, depression or low self esteem. Others, however, operate out of self doubt and can be paralyzed by it.

2. Trace it. Try to figure out why it’s there. Does it rear its ugly head when you run with a friend who is faster than you or when you go to your mom’s playgroup? How about when you visit your parents? What triggers the strongest feelings of self doubt? When you are in those situations, be prepared to notice the self doubt and to move onto #3.

3. Tackle it. Don’t take self doubt sitting down. Set up strategies to minimize it.

    • Question it! Are the doubtful feelings true? Not likely. For example, if your Aunt Edna keeps telling you that you will never run a 5K because you are too out of shape and it will kill you, is this true? Not likely. Maybe she needs a lobotomy. Consider the source. Know that some people want to bring you down because they are jealous or they don’t feel great about themselves.
    • Be bold. Challenge the doubt. If you’ve always wanted to run a half marathon, but talked yourself out of it, take the first steps. Find a training program or a coach. Prove yourself wrong. This is the best way to kick self doubt to the curb.
    • Talk back. Self doubt thoughts creep into our brains on average 1,560 times a day. Okay, I just made that up, but the number is probably pretty large. Have a strategy in your head for when this happens. When I was a junior in high school my speech teacher always told me that before I got on stage I needed to tell myself, “You are the queen of the world.” I know it sounds goofy, but it worked. Sometimes building up your own confidence and getting behind yourself is the best thing you can do. Other good talk back techniques? “Screw you, negative thought. You are out of line and don’t know what the hell you are talking about. Of course I am good enough. Of course I can do this.”

If all else fails, there is always the Stuart Smalley inner voice to fall back on:

Do you struggle with self doubt? If so, how do you cope with it?



  1. Love this post! I struggled for years of self-doubt because I hadn't finished my bachelor's degree. I continued to get/keep decent jobs, yet still felt that "self sabotage" feeling of "What if they find out I'm not really that smart, etc"

    I eventually took charge and rocked my bachelor's (while working full time), graduated summa cum laude (not so self-doubting now, am I!), and returned to rock my Master's.

    I've decided I rock.

  2. I just started following you and I love your blog! I have two quotes that I continuously fall back on when self-doubt creeps in:

    1) "Your biggest challenge isn’t someone else. It’s the ache in your lungs and the burning in your legs, and the voice inside you that yells ‘CAN’T’. But you don’t listen, you just push harder. And then you hear the voice whisper ‘can’, and you discover that the person you thought you were is no match for the one you really are." ~ Unknown

    2) "You can do ANYTHING! Your destiny is just waiting for you to show up!" Jillian Michaels

    With these two sayings how can you go wrong??

  3. We are strong enough to change it, but just like Chelsie, sometimes it takes a little time to know we can change it.
    I was married almost 4 years to a verbally abusive man. I finally realized that 1) I didn't deserve this treatment and 2) that I was strong enough to do something about it. I still have doubts, but I do know that I am strong enough to make a change.

  4. I have crippling self doubt, mostly about social situations. The only way I can deal with it is to look at the evidence that people actually do like me. Not sure where this powerful voice came from but I need to kick it's ass.

  5. I have crippling self doubt, mostly about social situations. The only way I can deal with it is to look at the evidence that people actually do like me. Not sure where this powerful voice came from but I need to kick it's ass.

  6. Great post, thanks for sharing. I'm the master of self-doubt. In my head I question everything I said or did. It's difficult to stop doing it, but running is a big help. It made me realize I'm better than I thought and can achieve things I never thought would be possible :)

  7. I love this. (And thank you for posting it today. Another blogger I follow calls Saturdays "the place where blog posts go to die." I think I'll post today as well.

  8. Love, love, love this post!!

    You are spot on with how to tackle it-and this is how I strive to overcome self doubt, whether that be personal, professional, or athletic.

    I always have to stop and think "where's the evidence?" (there usually isn't any), or even better "check yourself before you wreck yourself". Pow!

    A few weeks ago I was at the aquatics center at the University of Texas, and THE Brendan Hanson was there, sporting a cap that said "SAYIWONT". I so am getting one!

  9. It's an interesting topic b/c I do believe that I can do anything, not matter what, with enough training and time. I believe I am unstoppable and thus why Greg and my wife call me The Machine.

    The thing about it is that somedays I think I'm not getting to this pace or that speed, but I don't let it stop me. I research how to get faster or I email my coach and tell her that I need/want to improve here and start the path to success.

    Believing in yourself is the key as you point out. I don't give two rats tails when people call me cocky, conceded, narcisstic, etc because as I tell them: If I don't believe in myself who will?

    Great post it.

  10. Only all the freaking time! I think that my lack of confidence is my biggest obstacle in multiple aspects of my life. I am a big fan of positive self talk (silently preferrably, or there might be other issues)

  11. Awesome post. I love finding out that I'm not the only one cringing on the inside while I try and look all confident on the outside. Fortunately, my preferred mechanism is pretending to be bold. Fake it till you make it seems to work pretty well for me.

    When not, I remember this one: I'm composed of 85% Kick Ass and 15% Crippling Self Doubt. - from Etsy Shop: Bean Forest. I figure I can kill off a measly 15% with loud music and whiskey.

  12. My biggest form of self-doubt is that I should be where I want to go FASTER. How come I can gain 5 lbs in one holiday weekend, but it takes a month to lose it? How come I can't run an entire 5K yet? How long is it going to take before I FEEL like an athlete instead of just wanting to BE one? And then some days I throw my hands in the air and wonder why I'm putting myself through all of this. But my biggest defense on all of it so far has been to just say "Look how far you've come just since April. There is no turning back now."

  13. Run-bloggers never cease to read my mind. It seems that whatever sort of bad day i'm having some runner is writing a post that hits the nail on the head -or gives me a smack in the face.

    today you're the winner. thank you :)

  14. Honestly, this post came at such a perfect time. You must be reading my mind, you creeper.

    But my favorite quote is this one: "I don’t think we’re born with self doubt, I think we learn it."

    How true. And the educator in my says that since it's something we learn, we therefore get to decide if it's true, if it'll be part of our truths.

    I'm kicking it out of mine.

  15. I LOVE this post but i am ashamed to say that is the Senator from MN as Stuart Smalley. What have we done MN??!!!

  16. GREAT post :) super helpful tips...I really need to be more positive /w myself :) THANKS! <3 xo

  17. freaking love this post.

    That SNL skit was one of my FAVS.

    Great post.

  18. I repeatedly asked myself during my last race who I thought I was to be out there! I'm sure most of us do that. I typically only struggle for moments when things are really tough. A quick question of how will I feel tomorrow if I give up today, is usually enough to get my mind back on track.

  19. I'm not one to sugar coat things, so if I doubt myself it usually means I'm in over my head. I'm pretty honest with myself. And if other people are catty and snide I just tell them to go get a lobotomy.

  20. Haha, old SNL :)

    Great story and post. I think another self-doubt trap is that we're often taught growing up (by we I especially mean women) that to be bold and confident was arrogant and cocky. We're supposed to be humble, swallow our pride, and be quiet in the background. If a woman is self-assured and well-spoken in an interview, she's not smart, she's a show-off. We're taught to be ourselves... but only to a certain point.

    Well I hope my daughter grows up in a different world, which is why I'm teaching her to be brazen no matter what. I want her to know it's OK if she's not capable of something, but not to let the world tell her she can't do it before she tries!

  21. I think even when you are in a good place you need to be reminded of this every once in a while ...

    Thank you! I needed that!

  22. Also love this post. Thanks for writing about this.

  23. i really needed to read this today! Thank you.

  24. i love what jill bolte taylor says...when you have these thoughts ask yourself is this true? you'll usually say yes so then ask again, is this really true, what evidence do i have. Then you slowly start breaking down how you can't absolutely positively know that it's true.

  25. Wonderful post! 2 yrs ago, when I told my Dad i'd signed up for a local 5k, he laughed at me and said, "you're not a runner". 2 yrs later, I am still mediocre at best, but have run 15 5k's and now my 1st half marathon. I used what he said to help me spur myself on to prove him, and others, wrong. I love challenging myself and proving myself wrong too. I was so terrified about doing the half marathon, didn't sleep a wink the night before, and didn't quite meet my goal, but the last .2 miles I sprinted to the end, fist-pumping the air and smiled from ear-to-ear. Mindset is everything. I'd rather be mediocre than sitting on my couch!!! LOVE your post. Love your blog!

  26. I have always said that mental toughness is the 4th discipline of triathlons, I admit, I am not very mentally tough, I admit I let things get to me, I am trying sooooo hard to correct it, its freaking tough

  27. I love this advice!! It can be applied in so many situations! the brain is extremely powerful, and self talk does work!! I hope you have a great weekend ahead of you! xoxo!