Second Guessing Yourself? Here’s What you Should Do.
My mind was lost out in limbo, waiting for clear direction on the next step to take. The longer I was there, the further I felt from myself and my ability to be confident in my decision. I felt stuck on autopilot with no idea of how to shift into a different gear. I was exhausted. I stopped making decisions and started second guessing myself. I was looking for someone else to tell me what to do. I wished I was that fearless child that loved to explore and enjoyed solving puzzles and taking lead without a second thought, but that wasn’t me anymore. I don’t even feel like the same person I was just a year ago.
Then I realized, I don’t know who I was a year ago. I spent so much of my time doing for others that I took the easy way out of accomplishing my own goals. I worked harder for everyone else than I did for myself. When it came time to decide who I wanted to be, I was stuck? I thought I knew who I was. I was that friend you called for advice, the friend who always wanted to be your resource, the family member you called to help set up last minute for the event and the person you could always rely on. Until I wasn’t. I realized all I had was a list of things I was to everyone else, but who was I to myself?
I needed to take time to think about that question. I needed to think about what I wanted for my life, but I was stuck. I had no answers. Clearly, I needed to sit down and self-reflect. Before I made the time to sit and think, I was on to helping the next person. I did start doing more things for myself while at the same time continuing to say yes to whatever was asked of me. In no time, I was exhausted, but I couldn’t say no to people or could I?
What would happen if I said no? I would be confronted with being stuck where I was in my life. Many of my friends were already in or done with medical school, grad school or long into their careers and I was still trying to figure it out what I wanted to pursue.
I lost confidence in everything – work, school, relationships and so on.
Then, I realized I was trying to force myself to be someone I wasn’t. I don’t even know when it started. Honestly, I didn’t care. I just wanted to find my way back to being happy. I felt like I was pretending to be happy. I was pretending to be excited about where I was in life. I was pretending to be excited about life, but I was actually scared. I was afraid to fail so I kept myself distracted from my goals. When people asked me what I was up to I would tell them all these great things, but I wasn’t working toward anything at all.
A realization that made me crumbled inside.
SPOILER ALERT! Eventually, I found my way.
My goals have changed and I am actually working toward accomplishing them now.
So, how do we make this feeling of being stuck end? Whether it’s stuck in a relationship, a friendship, a job, a school and so on, how do we shift back into gear and take control? Here’s what I did to move forward.
PUT IT ON PAPER
I wrote myself a letter titled “Dear Happy Me” in free flow form or a stream of consciousness. That just means you write your thoughts and feelings without editing yourself, without rereading before you’re done and without second guessing your gut. I included what the happy version of me looked like and what I wanted to accomplish in bite sized goals as well as from a big picture perspective. I let this letter sit for a couple of days and then I read what I wrote. I was surprised by what I read. At times, we can neglect our own thoughts. As fast as we think that thought it disappears. This time, my thoughts were saved on paper for me to sift through. I used this to make an actionable plan answering these questions: What do I want to accomplish today, what do I want to accomplish this month, and what do I want to accomplish in 3 months. I added them to my google calendar with daily reminders. In a way I made myself my accountability partner. At each reminder, I reflected on whether I kept my goal as my priority. Day 1, I failed, until I saw the reminder that I was the only one able to accomplish this goal.
THE POWER OF POSITIVE THOUGHTS
We’ve learned how to be pessimistic and in time we can learn how to be optimistic. Interestingly enough, learning does not always mean active engagement. Stick with me here. Priming is an example of implicit learning that we experience daily. It’s the commercial where you see people laughing while holding a soda and then you see a soda in the store and you associate happiness with it. You will be more likely to make that purchase. That association occurred unintentionally. Explicit learning is when there is clear instruction and intentional learning.
Why do I mention explicit and implicit learning? They are important because the music you listen to, the movies/shows you watch and the conversations you have with your friends can implicitly trigger pessimism. So make an effort to surround yourself with positive signals. I started doing yoga in the morning and I wrote, with a dry erase marker, positive messages on my mirror that I could see when I brushed my teeth. I taped an index card to my steering wheel to read before and after work. I also downloaded an app that sent me messages daily. I even had to tell people I am focusing on making a change and not complaining. What I noticed from this is that I was very affected by other peoples negative experiences. I didn’t want to be weighed down by other people’s baggage anymore. If you wanted to vent to me we had to talk about how we could make a change for the better. One day, I noticed that instead of snoozing my alarm, I woke up encouraged to go to do yoga and read my notes before heading to work. I was no longer sluggish n the morning.
In short, surround yourself with things that will remind you to be positive and think happy thoughts until they become true…that’s right fake it until you make it boo!
CONSCIOUS DECISION MAKING
“I think, therefore I am.” There is no doubt in that statement. We spend so much time doubting and second guessing ourselves that we many times never make a decision and one is force upon us. I decided to start with small decisions that I was going to spend no more than 60 seconds thinking about before I made a decision. I started with food. Simple enough right? Take lunch or buy lunch? I found it helpful to limit myself on options. When I my alarm went off, I was decisive about getting out of bed and not snoozing my alarm. When I got comfortable, I started making more decisions and noticed as time went on, I didn’t second guess myself. Be intentional and set limits.
There may be other things that are not on this list that you may find helpful. No matter what I tried, I always found it help to self-reflect. My initial problem of feeling stuck grew from me not listening to myself. I didn’t take the time to check in on me. Unless you have a good friend that asks “how are you?” and actually listens to the answer you may not spend time doing that for yourself so we have to make time to sit down and do it for ourselves. Journaling is an option. This is also the time to see if you have accomplished your daily, monthly and 3 month goals and reassess. Put you first and work from there.