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Overcoming Self-Doubt: How Do You Do It?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
We've all had those times when we set a goal, start working toward it, and then begin to wonder if we're going to be successful. Was my goal to aggressive? Is this the wrong time to pursue it? Do I have all of the tools I need? Whether your goal is to lose 5 pounds or 100, to run a 5K or run a marathon, it's easy to let self-doubt creep in. I've been experiencing a lot of that lately.

I've successfully completed 4 marathons and started training in June for #5. I knew going in that this one would be more difficult than most of the others: I've got 2 kids now which makes it tougher to find training time, and on top of that, I've set an aggressive time goal that I'm not exactly sure is feasible for me. I love running, so it's something I enjoy doing. But jumping out of bed at 5 a.m. for a 10 mile run is not easy, especially when your sleep was interrupted by children numerous times the night before.

I'm someone who loves a physical challenge. I'm not much for competition with others, which is why I was never any good at sports. But when I started running, it became a competition between me and myself. I wanted to prove that I could be strong and do something the majority of people would never even attempt. That's why I started running marathons. My reasons for running have changed over the years, but one big motivator is my kids. I want to show them that you can be physically tough and be a mommy at the same time.

The training group I joined is for more advanced runners. I figured it would push me to get faster and stronger. But honestly, sometimes I'm discouraged when I'm one of the last to finish a run or because I don't log as many miles (because of time constraints and energy level) as others in the group. I try to remind myself that most people wouldn't attempt this with kids as young as mine, especially when they are still nursing one of them. I remind myself that I've done this before (running my last marathon while nursing baby #1) and I can do it again. I remind myself that I'm not there to break a world record, and just finishing will be an accomplishment. But sometimes all of those reminders aren't enough. Sometimes I get frustrated and wonder if all the hard work is really worth it, and if I'm really going to reach the goals I've set for myself.

How do you do it? When the self-doubt starts to creep in, how do you deal with those thoughts and feelings? Do you adjust your goals, or just keep forging ahead?

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KHALIA2 1/30/2020
Great Advice! Thanks for sharing!!! Report
I need to remember this article. Great messages. Report
CECELW 10/25/2019
Oh wow!! I am really glad I am not the only one with self doubt. If i happen to remember, these strategies that is. Report
This applies to many life goals as well as to running. Report
This me all the way Report
I beat myself up sometime because I don't think that I'm really ready for a run. Thanks for sharing your advice. Excellent Article. Report
Self doubt is a biscuit, I tell myself you have come to far to turn back now, just keep on pushing you will get through this moment ,and I do ,then there's one one more ,positive self talk and a lot of praying!!!!!!!! Report
self-doubt seems to be quite natural.. we set goals that include some sort of change and we wonder if we really can carry it out.. the only way to show ourselves we can is to do it.. that being said we do want to be sure that our goals are achievable and that we've given ourselves adequate time to get there OR are willing to let it take longer.
I do like Pickanyname's suggestion of weighing the pros and cons of the goal.
I wonder if you could also find a group of runners, not as advanced as those with whom you are running, to run with once in a while and with whom you can finish earlier in the pack.. always coming in last would erode anyone's confidence.. run with some slower runners to give yourself a boost! Report
Not sure how helpful this will be; but, when self-doubt starts to creep in on me, I ask myself, "What's the worst thing that could happen if the situation doesn't work out as I would like?" In most instances, after thinking of the possible outcomes and solutions, the worst case scenario doesn't even warrant the actual anxiety created by the anticipation and worry. Luckily, logic usually prevails, reminding me that being worrisome and anxious might actually hamper my performance, which REGARDLESS will only be my best on that given day anyway .... lots of factors that on any given day are sometimes simply beyond our control!

You can only do your best for the given set of circumstances on THAT day. So, continue on as you will, knowing that you have done (and will do) your best with whatever the circumstances have brought for that day. Whatever your performance is, it will be your best (It's not fair to beat yourself up while comparing this event, or your training, to others because many of the circumstances are not the same). You're doing it anyway, AND THAT SHOWS TRUE GRIT!!! So, forget the self-doubt and worry! It serves no purpose other than to weigh you down! And, if it makes a difference, remember that your Spark Community, many of whom who don't even know you, myself included, are routing for you! =)

You have lots of great advice here. I wish you the best in finding what works for YOU!!! Report
I figure I might as well keep working on my goals, realizing they may take longer than I thought. I'm also aware that I'm getting older, no matter if I pursue my goals or not. What do I want to look back on one year from now? Report
When doubts creep up on me I focus on my goals and tell myself that I want to succeed, that I need to succeed, for me. I want to be healthier and get around easier so I can enjoy life more. Report
I feel that sometimes my conscious thoughts are really encouraging, (like you should go for a jog, you love going for jogs) but it's my subconscious thoughts thAt can really let me down at times, say I'll plan to go for a walk but I subconsciously find all these things that I 'have to do' and by the time I'm done there's no time for a walk or the gym! Does anyone have any thoughts on how to give my subconscious a kick in the petutee? Report
6 months ago I had my first surgical experience (and, I hope, the last). It really woke me up and I realized I drastically needed to change my eating and fitness habits. I don't beat myself up if I fall off the wagon, but am committed to getting back on without delay. I belong to a gym, and have noticed more than half the members are past 50 and some are even in their 80's! This certainly helps me, in my 60's, to keep at it. I have set small, reachable goals for myself and keep in mind that the longest journey starts with the first step! Also, like on a journey, your body needs to stop and rest once in a while, then picks up and starts out with renewed enthusiasm. As Winston Churchill once said "Never give up". Report
Instead of getting frustrated, why don't you do some research into some other training methods? The problem with joining teams and training with them is that they usually belong to one school of training thought and this might not suit you; it seems like your team belongs to the "miles make champions" mentality. The "miles make champions" method isn't the only way to train; there are several other methods that will get your speed up (more speed = more endurance at submaximal speed) with very little actual weekly volume. Experiment with tempo runs, sweet spot runs, and threshold training. Also, learn about sport form (this doesnt only apply to powerlifting btw) and peaking before races by using hiit. Learn about periodization of training, and design different mesocycles according to times when you think you may be better/less able to fit in volume work. I'll give you a place to start reading, this 5 part series is GREAT in terms of teaching you how to begin to think of ways to get the most bang for your buck with training time: http://www.bodyrecomposition.com/tr

PS: read the comments too, Lyle clarifies a lot of things and answers questions. If you have any questions, he will answer them for free and pretty quickly if you leave a comment. Report
Great blog - thanks - sometimes I need to do the reality check! I beat myself up about something that in reality does not make any sense i.e. my friend ran faster than me in a race - well guess what - there are a lot of people who would thrilled to run at all! Report
I talk myself into whatever it is that is eating at me...like walking. I know I need to do it but the scale didn't move this week was it worth it? Everything says it is, so I just talk myself into doing it- everyday. Report
Thank you all for today's blog! I just joined SparkPeople and am looking forward to success. I learned to love running last year and finished 4 different 5ks. But I had a very encouraging running partner. She moved and I stopped running. I daily long to get back out there, but I am afraid I will fail without her. After hearing all this encouragement I am ready to go out and find the joy again...for myself! Thank you ! Report
When I lose motivation and self doubt creeps in, I use a journal to create goals in. As mother of 4 I don't force myself to train if the kids are ill or have been up at night, but I do tai chi and go to the gym when I can. If theres a problem or something I will go for a quick run instead of an hours training. It all adds up . The main thing is to enjoy it and have fun. Well done on the marathons! Report
I'm sorry, but I know I can't do it. I don't have the time. I wish I had found Spark a lot sooner. I should have listened to Maria. My health problems are insurmountable and if I did every single thing right, I still wouldn't have the time to even come close to where I should be. Why do we wait so long to tackle a serious problem? We think we are invincible and that we still have lots of time. It doesn't always work that way. Report
Agree with a lot of you and set myself a long term goal and many many small goals and celebrate when achieving each step when self doubt seems to say can't do it quickly give myself a pep talk and read a good article of inspiration and soon turn things around to can do thanks for sharing your story and you will succeed with determination and dedication one day at a time Report
I love this article! Thanks you. These days when self-doubt creep in, I focus on what I have accomplished thus far and push forward..... there is this song that I like to humm - "Look were God has brought me, look how far I've come. I am not where I ought to be, but I am not where I use to be.....Thank you Lord for what you've done" It gets me through the difficult moments. Grace and Peace! Report
I used to beat myself up pretty bad if I was not living up to a goal I had set for myself, but learned that it did not help things for me it just made them worse because I would just eventually give up. I guess since I have gotten older and wiser (LOL) I have learned that there are going to be set backs and days I just give in to temptation, but that does not mean I have failed, it just means I didn't do my greatest on that day and as long as I continue to believe in myself I find that I am more than successful! I quit caring along time ago what other people thought of me, and started caring about what I thought of myself and I am finally proud of all that I am and can do and you should be too! How many of those other runners are keeping up with the life style you are? If you believe in yourself and are working toward your goals..........you have nothing to worry about and if those other people want to judge you, let them! I hope to one day be as able as you are!! I can't even run a block at this point in my life and every time I see someone jogging, I think to myself, good for them! There will always be someone better than you and lots more that aren't as good as you, so just be happy with you and set goals for you! You are an inspiration to me! Good Luck! Report
I look back at all the other amazing accomplishments I've achieved in my life and tell myself I can do this too! Sometimes we need to detour ourselves a bit to get to where we're going, but as long as we get there somehow, and we don't give up, that's what counts! To me your efforts and passion for running are amazing! Keep moving forward and just have fun!!! Thanks for the blog. Report
I woke up with a case of the F-its this morning, and I got on sparkpeople and looked under motivation. Great blog! Sound like we all get down on ourselves at one time or another, huh? Realistically, and that is what I can deal with - I have started jogging again and this is the beginning of the third week. I am sore in new places, I new I ate way too much last night, and the weather isn't that great for later on today to exercise outdoors - so F-it! I think. Go eat something. Go back to bed. Go feel yucky all by myself. I really expected more weight loss after a week and that is not realistic.

So, it's good to be reminded to be easy on myself and don't set the expectations too high. Maybe today is a walk day. Maybe today is something other than exercise day. Maybe it''s a yoga day. But everyone is right. To focus on getting out and just doing something is a major feat some days. One step at a time. One day at a time.

Just admitting I feel discouraged inspires me to do something. I'm glad I read your thoughts and thank you for sharing them. I admire you whether you exercise today or not! Do you have one of those push strollers that runners use? I always wanted one when my child was younger.

I'm sending empowering thoughts your way...

I am really hard on my self and find it hard to overcome self-doubt. I have tried several diet, exercise plans, pills, ect. to reach my goals. When I didn't reach them, I would quit. But TODAY is a new DAY and the start of my new life. Report
wow- when self doubt kicks in I usually lose some confidence and adjust my goals to something I can meet reasonably; in other words I quit aiming for the goal....wrong thing to do I know but then once that is met, I up it back up as now that confidence is back once again Report
I loved your article. I only wish I had the health to run like you do. The best I can hope for is walking and just make it faster in the future!!
Peace and blessings,
Vicki Report
I set very small, very achievable "stated" goals, and have internal "hope for" goals about which I promise I won't beat myself up if I miss, because I know the "hope for" goals aren't realistic. In academics, goals that were small and very achievable for me might have seemed impossible to others. In physical training, it's just the opposite, and other people are surprised that I set such small goals. When I ran my first mile, I was ecstatic. My husband, who runs ultra-marathons, sometimes deals with self-doubt by reminding himself that finishing at all, even at a walk, will be a major accomplishment. (This is also true for marathons and even half-marathons for people who don't have nearly as many physical limitations as I do.) He's also careful to keep the training itself as the main goal, with the races as rewards, and while he likes to keep his mileage high enough to run ultras, he doesn't act like a fool about injuries. He cross trains, too, and is careful to train the supporting muscles he needs. Report
First of all, agreed about the difficulty of staying on track for long term goals. I had a goal of loosing 120 lbs. The first 20 lbs came off pretty easily then I was on a plateau for months. When you have such an ambitious goal and you don't see much or any progress it is hard to stay on your path. As we get older it gets harder and harder to loose weight and easier to gain. Every single pound becomes a struggle in itself. What I've come up with is that I'm not in a race to loose weight; Now I see not gaining weight back as success in itself. 95% of people who loose weight gain it back so by just holding the line I'm doing better than most people. Every victory no mater how small is worth celebrating. Right now I'm lucky to loose a pound or two a month. Yes it is going to take a long time to reach a healthy weight and no doubt there will be more plateaus along the way. What's my hurry though?

The other thing I want to comment on is the sleep thing. For a while I was getting up an hour early so I could hit the gym before work. There is no going to bed an hour earlier for me; and hour earlier in the morning means an hour less sleep. It isn't bad if it means 6 instead of 7 hours of sleep but more typically it means 5 instead fo 6 or even 4 instead of 5 hours. It is hard to determine if the damage I'm doing through sleep depriviation is offset by the good I'm doing with exercise.

My athletic goal is cycling a double century in a reasonable length of time (under12 hours). When I was in my 20's I rode a number of centuries but never tackled a double. I'll never be as strong or fast as I was back then but this is certainly doable. Report
Clearly, your words haven't fallen upon deaf ears with the amount of people who've commented. I'm another who has been moved by your words. It's true, reminding yourself that what you're doing is difficult and unlike others (a mother of two attempting a difficult race) is a reminder that only by setting difficult goals that stretch us will we be rewarded. Thank you for sharing! Report
Each person must assess their own goals and decide whether they are unreachable. I have been doing this for 2 weeks and realized I would surrender if I didnt reassess my goal. It doesnt matter if I lose the weight by March or July, the goal should be to lose the weight without setting the bar so high that you cant reach it. Report
I talk to others and talk the situation through. I pray about it too. Then I repeat the promises of God to myself. I then turn my negative thoughts into positive ones. Report

I wonder if you are focused on the training because you tell yourself that is something you can control. Maybe, your focus is because everything else feels out of control and this is one thing you feel you can control.

Just a thought,
Andrea Report
Don't be so hard on yourself. Since I have aged and had two children which are in college I have found that I do not have as much strength as before. In some ways I am stronger though in both mind and body (yoga was great for both of these). When I have self-doubt I try and set little goals with the larger ones. Having children means they come first sometimes, especially for me, even though mine are in college. Setting a time to just go out and run or to the gym could be that little goal. If you find time each day to do that, it is quite an accomplishment. Trust me after having 2 children working both full-time, part-time or not at all. Figure out what's more important, put them in order, make sure your sanity is in there on top as number 1. Then don't sweat it, just do the best you can and enjoy what you are doing at the time. In time when your children are bigger you will improve your times. Then your children can be at the finish line encouraging you on or maybe even running with your. Report
Great blog.. self doubt.. i have to take one day at a time. deal with that and go on from there .. Report
Wow, I so know this feeling. I am trying to purchase a house, go back to school, help my fiance run his buisness, handle my job, and embark on a weight loss journey. I have asked myself the same question "am I taking on too much at one time"? When the self-doubt starts to creep in I just remind myself that life is very short, and always waiting till i finish this thing or that thing has never proved successful for me and time passes to fast to waste it! Report
My self doubt issues don't usually surface during the process of reaching a goal. It comes before I even start. The fear of failure has too often resulted in a failure to even try or start.

My way to overcome those doubts is to just jump in and focus on the process. I set a plan and attempt to follow it, not really focusing on progress towards the final goal every day. If I'm not able to follow the plan, I re-evaluate the plan. I evaluate my progress towards the goal periodically and if I'm not making the proper progress, I re-evaluate the plan.

This way if I follow my plan, the problem isn't with me, it's with the plan. I don't have negative feelings towards myself. I just have another problem to solve. Report
So know this feeling. I'm currently running 3 businesses, helping my husband with his business, trying to get pregnant and I'm going back to school the end of this month! I keep asking myself, am I taking on too much? Can I really do all of this plus keep up my exercise routine and maintain my health? I just have to remind myself that I know I can do this as long as I elicit and accept help from the people I trust. I may not be able to do it alone and that's OK. But I do know that I can do this! All of this! Report
Your words ring true in me. I too love to run but have the demands of three small children (one still nursing) also. Training is an escape, a release. Logging the miles is the result of an inner drive to do something more with my life. I recognize the little successes of each run and that quells the doubts that creep in. Report
I tell myself "I don't have to be the BEST!!!! I just have to be the BEST that I CAN BE!!!!!" and I continue on towards meeting my goals. Report
Some days I let myself wallow for a bit, then I push through it. Mostly, I just push through it and tell myself to keep moving forward and not stop. Report
When I begin to doubt myself and start to think it would be easier to just give up, I recall the feelings of disappointment I had in myself the last time I gave up on something. That feeling of disappointment is a lot stronger than the negative thoughts of doubt running through my head and it helps to push me forward and finish whatever I started.
~Ang Report
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. readjust and continue. Thank God we can take a 5 minutes break and continue on our journey/destiny.YOU CAN DO IT Report
I adjust my goals and keep going. I also try to keep in mind that the journey is just as important as the end result. Report
I went back to school in my late 50s to study ceramics at the university level. My classmates, who were for the most part in the mid to late 20s would stay at the studio working until 11 or 12 at night. I had a 45 minute drive each way to school, a family to take care of, and for the first year, a part time job. I did get discouraged at times, especially when teachers said that "at my age" I shouldn't expect to develp techniques as quickly as others. Those years of study have changed my life, and turned my into an artist. I love the challenges I'm facing now, and I don't regret the difficulties I had. You always have the option of staying in this running group for a while and then switching to a different one, where you might not be the last. As long as you're doing it for yourself, you'll be fine in the end. Report
Self-doubt seemed to dissipate once I turned my life over to my God. I know there's a lot of people who don't believe as I do and that's o.k. What I'm positive about: when I thought I wasn't going to be able to walk anymore all I could do was pray. Several months later my husband and I walked in one of the breast cancer 3 mile hikes. My husband quit half way (he's on oxygen) and I kept on going all the way, then missed the turn off and walked another mile. A miracle in my life......thank you all for sharing, it's the inspiration and motivation I received whenever I'm doubting myself. Report
The best way I find to deal with self doubt is to stop comparing myself to others. We are all UNIQUE. We are individuals, with many strengths and weaknesses. You may be weak in one or a few areas, but so are other people. No one is better than you. Find the things you do well or really enjoy and just do you! And remember, while someone else may be better at something, you too are better at something they are not. Variety is the spice of life, do you! Report
You can do it. I trained for a marathon in 2000 and was always the last to finish. After I completed the marathon I didn't really seem to matter that I finished last in training. Finishing is the greatest payoff ever. Report
I think you have done yourself a huge favor by writing this blog. I have just completed my second marathon. My circumstances are very different than yours, I only work 10 hours a week and my kids are 15 and 18 years old - I haven't been tied down with nursing in many many years. :-) still, while training for my first marathon I came so so so close to giving up on my dream. What helped me was a fellow sparker. Someone I didn't know very well. Some how, his words were exactly what I needed to hear at that time. All the negative self talk ( I can't, maybe I am not meant to, maybe there isn't a marathoner in me) changed to I will get this done NO MATTER WHAT!!!! I hope someone will make a comment that will help you in the same way I was helped. Report
When i find myself doubting what i can do i think about all the things i have done
and didn't know how i was going to do them but knew i had to find a way because i had noone to do them for me. Sometimes we just have to push ourself. Report
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