How do you stop doubting yourself?
April 16, 2010 7:02 AM   Subscribe

How do you stop doubting yourself?

I've got this issue where I severely doubt any decision before I make it.

Like I think of doing something (e.g. getting in touch with ex-girlfriend to apologise for being a twat, get in touch with a mentor to help with my career) and my mind seems to say go, then says stop, then says yes, then says no, major scramble, blockage, and eventually nothing gets done.

It's like the fear of what's going to happen when execute the move is the final thing that stops me from doing it.

Aside from therapy (which I'm having), does anyone have experience of this?

Is there a series of steps you can use to evaluate the decision?

Am I incurable?
posted by spaceandtime30 to Human Relations (9 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
You're not incurable.

You stop doubting yourself when you learn to learn from your mistakes. Because then you're getting better even when you fuck up.

Anyway, there's nothing wrong with properly evaluating any decision you need to make. Draw a line down a page, and list the reasons you'd decide one way on one side and the reasons you'd decide the other way on the other side. The practice of actually rigorously debating any course of action is not mindless like the doubt that plagues your decision-making now. When you start coming up with reasons to do (or not do) things in life, it will be much easier to shut down that part of your brain that needlessly vacillates, that shouts from one ear to the other, "no!" "do it!" "don't!" "yes!"
posted by carsonb at 7:22 AM on April 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Oh, also, the way you phrase your question puts you smack dab in the center of "Guess Culture". Here's tangerine's awesomely insightful breakdown of Ask/Guess culture. It's a thorny issue and most folks I've talked to about it admit it's difficult to cross from one to the other, but even just being aware of which one you ascribe to can help.

tangerine: In Guess Culture, you avoid putting a request into words unless you're pretty sure the answer will be yes. Guess Culture depends on a tight net of shared expectations. A key skill is putting out delicate feelers. If you do this with enough subtlety, you won't even have to make the request directly; you'll get an offer. Even then, the offer may be genuine or pro forma; it takes yet more skill and delicacy to discern whether you should accept.
posted by carsonb at 7:26 AM on April 16, 2010 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: That's fascinating. I really fear the rejection and the "no". Definitely a Guess Culture person.
posted by spaceandtime30 at 7:31 AM on April 16, 2010

While on some temporary medications in the past, I had the worst time making ANY decisions. I would stand in front of vending machines for 10 minutes debating what to get, it was strange. The actual decision rarely mattered, so I started just flipping a coin to save time.

Not sure if that is really helpful to you at all.
posted by Menthol at 7:33 AM on April 16, 2010

I had exactly what you are going through as a symptom of other, larger problems for which I take medication. Once I started on it, my mindset shifted. Instead of fretting over the worst-case-scenario of my decisions, I just brought to mind the fact that my life is in a pretty good place, which is entirely due to my natural faculties and the decisions I have made and continue to make by way of them. That and very, very few individual decisions I could make would nullify the rest and send my life spiraling into misery.

For instance: if your ex-girlfriend already thinks you're a twat, what's apologizing going to make worse? You'll feel better knowing you did what felt like the right thing to do - or, at least, it will be one less thing to fret about - and if it pisses her off, fuck 'er! You don't need people whom you can't genuinely apologize to in your life.

And as for being "cured"? This is a basic human condition. I don't know anyone, even the most self-confident people, who are entirely sure all of the time.

(Please note: I am not in any way suggesting you need psychiatric help. Or that you don't. That is for you and your therapist to decide.)
posted by griphus at 7:49 AM on April 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

re: griphus -- Right. Generally the diagnosis of an official psychological disorder includes the requirement that your problem interfere with daily functioning, which doesn't necessarily seem to be the case for you. But certainly mention this to your therapist, who knows you better and has more experience than People On The Internet.

That being said, when I'm in situations like this I often mentally rehearse or imagine the conversation I'm worried about. I try to think about what I'd say when I walked into the person's office or whatever, and what the reply might be -- and go from there. Often I find this process both helps me to clarify the issue I want to raise, as well as figure out what words or ideas I might inadvertently use that could offend the other person(s) or shut down the conversation.

tl;dr: Do some intentional prep work before potentially fraught situations. This'll make you more confident and increase the likelihood of a positive outcome.
posted by tivalasvegas at 9:08 AM on April 16, 2010

Here's the best advice I've received about handling fear-induced hesitation:

"Ya can't be afraid all the time. Ya gotta go for it, then deal with the consequences IF and WHEN they come."

When you start going over scenarios that might happen, just ask yourself if you can handle the worst. If the answer is "yes," which it usually is, then go for it.
posted by PFL at 11:17 AM on April 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

Also... consciously suppressing the desire to impress people generally helps a lot too, at least for me.
posted by PFL at 11:18 AM on April 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

I had this or something similar for most of my life. I got over it pretty quick when I moved to Japan, alone. Being visibly different and functionally illiterate and not being able to do simple things like use an ATM is very humbling, to the point where my concerns over how people might perceive me just weren't worth thinking about anymore.

I'm obviously not recommending you do that necessarily, but coming to terms with the fact that sometimes you're going to look like a bozo in life is really a big hurdle to overcome and you'll feel great when you learn to laugh at your mistakes instead of dwelling on them--or living in fear mistakes that you haven't even made yet and consequences of actions you haven't done. If it's something you feel you really need to do or really want to do, do it. Deal with the consequences if/when they come up later, and a lot of the time you'll find when it does go wrong it's pretty funny.

Easier said than done, sorry.
posted by Kirk Grim at 12:00 PM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

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