How can I stop doubting everything

Stop doubting decisions: These tips will help

Leadership Advisor Melody Wilding helps people navigate their careers and find a balance between work and personal life.

In her opinion, too many thoughts and doubts prevent us from making confident decisions at work.

In order to progress you need to interrupt such thoughts, arrive in the now, and realign your thinking. Wilding explains how this can be done here in her text.

How do I stop questioning myself? With this question, one of my customers, Sarah, came to the coaching session. Sarah is a seasoned manager and executive who earned two PhD degrees in her career. In twenty years she has worked her way up from legal to business development manager at a luxury retail company.

A year earlier, the managing director had asked Sarah to set up an independent unit within the business development department that would concentrate specifically on innovation. That meant her team was responsible for developing and implementing innovative strategies to modernize the company's marketing and sales channels.

Sarah was thoughtful, empathetic, and adept at spotting opportunities that others had missed - this combination of skills made her the perfect fit to lead the team. But Sarah had started her career as a lawyer and worked under the mistaken belief that she had no idea what she was doing. At the thought of building the innovation team, she got what is known as impostor syndrome. She doubted whether she had what it takes to do the job well and be successful.

Soon her insecurity began to hinder her in another way as well, namely in relation to her decision-making. Sarah often found herself rethinking major and minor decisions too much. This created a high level of stress and slowed the team's progress. She struggled to trust her own judgment and instead sought excessive outside approval before making a decision.

Most of all, Sarah constantly doubted herself. After finally making a decision, she was plagued by all the what-if questions: What if we had chosen direction B? What if X hadn't happened? At night she tossed and turned (and at the desk during the day she was distracted) wondering if she could have made a better decision. In other words, Sarah couldn't stop worrying.

What is rumination?

Rumination is a type of brooding in which the same thoughts keep coming back. Most of the time, these are stuck thoughts that are not productive, positive, or useful. It's like your mind is a record playing the same track over and over - that's where the questioning comes from.

In pondering, you linger and live in the past. You analyze and repeat situations over and over again. You may revisit conversations, analyze people's body language, and reflect on what they or didn't say. Regarding decision-making, brooding can be expressed in the following ways:

  • You blame yourself for making a decision too slowly.
  • You wonder if there were any better options.
  • You repeat your own wrong decisions or omissions.
  • You worry about other people's reactions and judgments.

Thinking about a decision can be very useful, especially if it leads to a solution or enables new solutions and insights. But brooding and questioning do not lead to it. It just causes stress and deprives you of the mental and emotional energy you need to do your job effectively.

"Sensitive Striver" in particular question too much

To some extent, brooding is normal, also because we believe that reflection can give us insight into a problem. It becomes a problem, however, when it becomes a deeply ingrained mental habit that prevents you (and possibly the people around you) from reaching your full potential - as was the case with Sarah in the story above.

Rethinking and questioning is common in people with certain personality traits, including so-called "sensitive strivers". As dedicated, astute minds, Sensitive Strivers pride themselves on being conscientious and thorough. When they are balanced, their thoughtfulness can be a strength and contribute to an above-average positive self-image. In this case, it gives the person additional skills such as good intuition and high creativity. However, as soon as the brooding gets out of hand, thoughtfulness becomes an obstacle, as was the case with Sarah.

"Sensitive Strivers" also tend to be perfectionism. So while they do a high quality job, they are often extremely tough on themselves and their own worst critics - which in turn causes them to brood. Do you recognize yourselves in it? Don't worry, it is entirely possible to bring your thinking back into balance. Using appropriate methods to channel your sensitivity and ambition, you will manage to stop self-doubt and learn to regain your self-confidence and trust your judgment.

How to stop doubting yourself

Here is a three step guide on how to stop the rethinking that I did with Sarah that will help you too.

1. Stop

Essentially, the brooding is based on negative self-talk. These unhelpful thoughts can be expressed as follows:

  • I'm such an idiot. Why didn't I think of that earlier? A clever person would have done that.
  • It will all be a disaster.
  • I'm sure everyone thinks I'm a failure.

The inner critic sounds different for every person and therefore your negative self-talk is expressed differently. Regardless of this, the first step always remains the same: You have to interrupt these unhelpful thoughts. This makes sense because brooding is a knee-jerk reaction. It often happens so automatically that you are not even aware that it is happening. By pausing the thoughts, you build inner strength and gain more control over your sensations.

You can interrupt your negative self-talk in a number of ways. For example, you can quietly say STOP or “This is not helpful” or snap a rubber band that you wear around your wrist. I also like to let my clients name their inner critic so that they can find emotional distance from their cruel inner voice when it comes up.

2. Accept

Questioning yourself is characterized by wishing yourself or the situation were different. Many also prepare themselves for all of the "could-should-should" situations that arise during decision-making. In both cases, you are wasting valuable time and energy fighting against reality. In contrast, radical acceptance is much more productive. Radical acceptance does not mean resignation or passivity. Rather, it is about the following aspects:

  • You take responsibility for yourself in a situation.
  • You adapt your perspective so that you willingly and realistically accept and recognize what you cannot change, even if you would like to.
  • You progress confidently without sinking into thoughts like “why me?” “This is unfair” or “It shouldn't be like that”.

Radical acceptance means that you are rooting yourself in the present rather than fighting it. Sarah achieved this by repeatedly reminding herself after a decision: “This is where I am now” ”or“ I don't like the situation we are in, but I can't change the way it is developing Has."

3. Redirect

Once you've stopped brooding and questioning and accepting reality, the last step should be to redirect your thoughts. By that I mean that you are channeling your depth of thought and intelligence more constructively. You can do this primarily through self-coaching - by asking yourself open, growth-oriented questions that open up new possibilities.

Self-coaching questions can make you stop questioning yourself. Here are some examples:

  • How do I make the most of the given framework conditions?
  • How does someone react who is confident?
  • How would I advise my closest colleague to approach this?
  • What thought will help me feel energetic and powerful?
  • What would I do if I knew everything was going to be okay?
  • What's the best possible next step I should take?

Remember, you cannot just try such a process and expect the brooding to magically cease. Changing a habit, especially a mental habit as ingrained as doubting yourself, requires repetition and dedication. However, if you follow the steps above, you will soon experience greater success without causing yourself so much stress.

This article was translated from English and edited by Ilona Tomić. You can read the original here.