Actually, You’re An Expert: Conquering Our Battles with Self-Doubt

bigstock--120762239“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?” – Marianne Williamson

Most people would consider me a confident person who is “put together.” Receiving various awards and academic accolades over the years boosted my confidence and put an extra spring in my step. Doing well in school was straightforward because my schoolwork was largely under my control: Do this assignment to this standard, get rewarded with a good grade. However, my confidence wavers and self-doubt creeps in in situations that I can’t entirely control.

Though there is perhaps nothing more I’ve devoted myself to, being a birth doula is one area of my life where I’ve sometimes doubted myself. When working with clients, I sometimes heard those demons arise in my subconscious: What if a situation comes up and I’m not prepared? What if I can’t read the labor well and don’t suggest anything helpful? What if I don’t meet the couple’s expectations or, worse, disappoint them?

The thoughts would sometimes leave me in a state of paralysis, depriving me of something I really love to do — marketing my services, taking new clients — because of self-doubt. I knew I had to find a way to silence them.

I have always loved the above quote from Marianne Williamson because she seems to flip power so beautifully on its head: If we are inadequate, we have a perfect excuse not to use the power and talents and brilliance we have. If we are adequate, well, that’s the hard part.

Part of realizing that I am adequate, or even more than that, is grounded in my belief that each of us is an expert on something in life, whether it’s a subject matter, a hobby or a talent. Our knee-jerk reaction when we hear the word “expert” is to think of someone on a documentary or having many credentials behind their name. However, we are all experts in our everyday lives.

Think of the friend you go to when you are at your wit’s end trying to do something that you know they can do so well and effortlessly. We all have that kind of expertise. If we truly embrace that we are adequate, we’re simply out of excuses to be our best selves.

Here are five ways you can silence your self-doubt:

Accept compliments with gratitude

For instance, if someone gives you a compliment, instead of dismissing it, simply say “thanks” and embrace knowing you have skills and talents to offer others.

Take on a new sort of self-improvement challenge

Instead of being your worst critic and defining self-improvement as figuring out what you’re bad at and working on it — our traditional idea of self-improvement — flip that on its head and ask yourself what you’re good at, and focus on embracing that.

Take a personal inventory

Simply take out a journal and write a short inventory of your skills and interests. Thinking about the things you most love to do is a good place to start. One way I was able to quell my self-doubt about being a doula was to make a website for my services. Listing the training I’ve had or thinking back on the clients I’ve helped allowed me to embrace my expertise in a visual, virtual way.

Become more present in your day

Spend one day being more attentive to what others say to you, and write down any positive comments you receive.

Confide in a friend, mentor or family member

We all struggle with self-doubt. Think of someone you know well whom you might feel comfortable confiding your struggle to. Ask if they ever struggle with self-doubt and what they’ve done to get past it. Note some suggestions that strike you as true to you.

The truth is, we are all experts, and we have so much to share with each other and with this world. Who are we not to think of ourselves as exactly that?

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Christina Gebel is originally from Cincinnati, OH and holds B.A.’s in psychology and theology from Saint Louis University as well as a Master of Public Health in maternal and child health from Boston University. After college, she spent two years as a full-time volunteer with Amate House in Chicago. In her free time, she enjoys writing, photography, and serving as a doula and Lamaze childbirth educator. She currently resides in Boston, working in the field of public health. Christina's area of interest is maternal and child health as well as combining faith with health.