One of the most significant things I’ve realized throughout my work as a therapist is something I’ve been able to sum up with the following quote: “Those with the most self-doubt are often the ones most capable.”
It’s been astounding for me to witness so many strong-willed, intelligent, good-hearted, skilled, creative, hard-working, and resilient people winding up on the couch in my office and expressing all the different ways they don’t feel good enough and how afraid they are to make moves they want to make in their lives because of it. In many cases, there is often a sense of shame that seems to radiate from these individuals as they seek my assistance for things they “should already know and be good at.”
What’s worse is that not only do these clients hold themselves back from future successes, but they even have a tendency to downplay whatever achievements they’ve already made and the many obstacles they’ve already conquered. They speak of their successes while dismissing their own parts in it, only giving credit to whoever was there to help: “I couldn’t have done it if it weren’t for him/her,” they diminish the level of difficulty involved in the feat: “It wasn’t a big deal, anyone could’ve done it,” or they devalue the significance of the accomplishment: “I could’ve done better/I could’ve done more.”
Such cases are some of the hardest to swallow in my work as they represent a much bigger problem in our world as a whole. This problem lies in how it is all too often that while these natural go-getters and good-doers self-assign to backseats, those who LACK skill, good-heartedness, intelligence, and the several other qualities previously mentioned, turn out to be the ones filled with all the confidence and all the enthusiasm to climb all the ladders and land themselves in the highest places. As this occurs more frequently, it seems to confirm that one’s ACTUAL ABILITY to achieve things in this world is much less important than THE BELIEF THAT ONE POSSESSES this ability.
Mindset sure is a powerful thing--- convincing the strongest that they are weak and the weakest that they are strong. A shift is necessary here and it is the very thing I work on most with my self-doubting clients. I work to help them start putting more weight and value on their natural abilities, recognizing that what comes naturally for them really isn’t what comes easily for most. I work to help them acknowledge that they are special for doing what they do and for knowing what they know. I tell them that they are not only capable of getting to where they want to go in life, but that they BELONG there.
I help these clients realize that self-doubt is often the trait of those most humble, most cautious, most selfless, most educated, most passionate, most perfection-seeking, and most conscientious. It is the trait of those who will put their all into something before feeling any element of pride in signing their name to it. It is the trait of those wise enough to know that they will never know everything and that they will never stop learning. Self-doubt is a trait shared by those most capable of sustaining good function in this world.
I often ask my self-doubting clients the following question: “If the good go down, what happens to the rest of us?” I let them know that the world needs them to stand strong and to get out there, no longer feeding into thoughts or feelings of inferiority. I let them know that they are what’s needed for establishing a truly capable society... not one simply shrouded in the illusion of such.