by Dr. Diane Rogers
Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.” ~ Shakespeare
I recently coached a successful author who came to me in a state of anxiety prior to the launch of her third book. Her previous novels had been successful beyond her wildest dreams. With her latest release only days away, she’d lost confidence and spiraled into a sea of negative thoughts and emotions.
“I’m just not ready,” Catherine (not her real name) told me. “I don’t have the energy for this. I know what to do to support the launch, but I also have a mountainous workload on other projects. I just can’t manage it all. The book’s going to be a disaster.”
Say Hello to Self-Doubt
Catherine felt doomed to failure. She spoke about all that she hadn’t accomplished, the things she didn’t have time to do. As she talked about the abundant challenges she faced, I recognized the dominant voice of self-doubt.
We all play our own version of this classic anxiety scenario from time to time. Self-doubt lurks behind overwhelm and confusion. It likes to throw out a smoke screen of obstacles and justifications to keep us stuck.
Remember: It’s Just a Story
It’s important to understand that the story we tell ourselves creates our experience.
Scientists now know that perception influences brain chemistry. The brain responds to the stories we tell by releasing a cocktail of neurochemical compounds and hormones into the body.
Create a New Story
I asked Catherine to tell me another story.
“Tell me about of the births of your children,” I said.
Her voice suddenly filled with joy, love, and enthusiasm.
“Was each birth experience the same?” I asked.
“No,” she answered.
“Was each one as joyous and momentous as the other?”
“Of course,” she responded.
“And did each of your babies have a unique identity and life of his and her own?” I asked.
As Catherine began to focus on small positive experiences, she relaxed. Her perception shifted. She understood exactly how to resurrect her confidence.
By wanting her new book to be as successful as the others, she had set herself up for failure. She recognized that she could let go of the outcome and allow herself to enjoy the process of each creative experience as it unfolded. With each awareness, the fog of self-doubt and anxiety began to recede.
Don’t Let Anxiety Pull You Under
When you feel like you’re caught in a riptide of anxiety, the following steps can keep you from getting pulled under.
- Keep a clear head. Remain calm. You can escape the grip of anxiety before it pulls you under.
- Stay grounded. Keep your feet firmly planted in reality by asking: “What story am I telling myself?” Sort out the fact from the fiction. What part of the story comes from fear? What is the real truth? Anxiety clouds our judgment by casting half-truths laced with fear and catastrophic thinking.
- Conserve your energy. Fighting the tide of anxiety is exhausting. Conserve your energy and keep yourself afloat by changing your focus. Do something positive. Take a walk. Get some exercise. Go to the movies.
- Change the tide. Practice deep breathing exercises. Rewrite the story in your head by asking: “What’s another story I could tell myself right now? What story supports the outcome I want to achieve? Spend some time visualizing yourself in that positive scenario. Breathe.
- Call for help. Getting support when you feel anxious is vital. Call someone you trust. Share what’s going on for you. Remember also that sharing helps brings stories to life. Stay focused on your new story—the one with the happy ending.
If someone you know suffers from anxiety or self-doubt, be a lifesaver and share these tips.
Dr. Diane Rogers holds a Ph.D. in psychology and is the author of three children’s books on courage and self-esteem. Her literary work has been published in journals and anthologies in the United States and Australia.
Her first book, Stand Tall, made its debut at the 2008 Seeds of Compassion Conference in Seattle, Washington featuring His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. A week after the book’s release, the State of Washington selected Stand Tall as an official teaching resource for compassionate education. Diane’s other published works include Emerge, A Story of Confidence, and When We All Stand Tall.
Diane divides her time between her beloved places: Southern California, Sydney, Australia, and aboard a sailboat in the Mediterranean, where she blogs about her travels.
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