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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that is a very challenging goal you've set for yourself especially a nursing mom. I commend you. I would say, not to compare yourself to the advanced runners but use it to get to YOUR VERY BEST!!! Report
When I have self doubt then I take one small step forward to help build myself back up. Once that is successful I take a larger step forward. And when that worked then I move in larger and larger steps. This helps me rebuild my focus and sense of security and with that comes success. Report
I think if we stick to a plan we have researched, we have to have faith that the science will take over...it has to work. I'm going to use that strategy for 1 month straight and see if I know what I am talking about....I know it has to work. I may not lose the weight I think I should but if I lose anything, it is working! Then I can doubt no more!! Report
Awesome blog. Thanks for sharing your story. As you have said so well, the power of self-doubt is a huge hurdle for each of us to overcome. Best of luck on reaching your time goal for marathon #5. Report
I think that a lot of self-doubt comes from comparing ourselves to others. At least it does for me. The minute my point of comparison or validation is external, I will find a way to find fault in myself. I try to remember what I'm there for - to finish the event, to be strong, etc. and stop taking on other people's goals. Report
We only have just this one life, so I don't worry about self-doubt. Report
I just joined spark people today because after 10 weeks of trying to reach my goal I'm having self doubt! This article was great and encouraged me to keep going. When I have self doubt I remind myself that I've done this before! I've lost 100 pounds and don't want to have surgery for weight loss because I know I can do it! Report
When self-doubt starts to creep in, I turn to my biggest advocate and support: my husband. He is very pragmatic when it comes to giving me a Reality Check. He's good at seeing The Big Picture, and he can give me a realistic, objective assessment of my options (i.e., you can continue what you're doing, or you can try A, B, or C). Don't think I do what he tells me every time, though. I am stubborn enough to run the options by my friends and extended family, do a fair amount of self-evaluation, and then make a decision to either change, or wait it out. As humans, we are resistant to change, and when you have kids (or a demanding job, for example), you have to be prepared to be flexible and make spontaneous adjustments to schedules and expectations. Though you may not be finding it as easy to complete your task as you did when you were X years younger, if you are making a conscious choice to meet a certain goal, then you are making a great start, and doing better than many other people. I like to remind myself that I'm doing things now that I haven't done in YEARS; that usually gets me in a better frame of mind. Report
You are inspiring for each step forward you are there for you. Even thouse days your body says slow down, lissen as tomorrow it will let you go for the gold.....L-I-F-E & L-I-V-I-N-G your doing great. Better then great in my book. Report
I have only been a Spark people person a little over a month now and I cannot tell you how motivating this site is for me. I really am beginning to believe that I can lose the weight and live the life I am envisioning for myself. It is so empowering to find others that I consider so much stronger in their journey encountering the same everyday challenges and negative thinking I am. It convinces me that I'm not alone in my struggles and that I'm not going to be a quitter! YAH!!!! Report
I think you are doing great. Don't be so hard on yourself. When I did the 60 km walk for Breast Cancer in a weekend, I measured myself on the walk with how many kms I had done as opposed to how many kms were left. It worked for me as I did not get overwhelmed. Hang in there! Report
When self-doubt starts to creep in I use positive self talk. A psychologist I worked with for years told me "What you tell yourself is where the trouble begins". I have never forgotten that and apply it all the time.

I then review my goals and make sure they are still relevant and that the action steps to reach both my long and short term goals are appropriate.

Oh, How much I learn from Spark.

Nancy Report
I've found that, for me, the best way to overcome this is to document my motivations and objective reasonings for the original goal. Then, when doubts begin to creep in, or I start to waiver on my goal, I have an objective reference to remind me why I set out on this challenge in the first place. The trick, is to be complete, and totally objective in documenting those reasons. It could be that my original plan did not take into account new information, and perhaps I should change my goal. But, I do not want to be creating or modifying my goals based on emotion and hype. This helps me to keep focus, especially when your body is trying so hard to convince you to do otherwise :-) Report
I had doubts when I started training for my half marathon last April. I was never a runner, and DEFINITELY not a long distance runner, but I wanted to see if I could do it. I put my trust in the training schedule and sure enough, I went from 6 miles to 13.1 in 3 months and finished just a minute or so after my goal of 2:15:00.

I don't have any kids though - that's definitely an accomplishment. All I can say is I work a full time (+ some at times) job but I was able to make it work. Good luck with your training and YOU CAN DO IT! :) Report
The big difference between my current efforts and the failed ones in the past is that I'm more comfortable viewing sub-par performances as learning experiences rather than as defeats. It sounds cliche, and I've known that I SHOULD do this for a long time, but this is the first time that it feels natural to do so. I ate too many calories today? Well, what contributed to that. I didn't fit in my exercise routine? How I can prepare a contingency plan next time. I guess this approach to potential self-doubt fits in with the view that this is a lifelong process...I don't have to get EVERYTHING right every time, but I do need to be committed to trying. Report
At the age of 42, I just started running. I want to prove to myself that I can get fit and to my daughters that it is important. That being said, it has been a challenge and I'm not nearly as far as I would like to be. But, today I had a break thru while I was running. I need to run for enjoyment, not to prove myself to anyone but myself.

When the self-doubt creeps in, I ask myself why am I doing this and what do I want to accomplish? The answer must be "me" centered. I have to do this for me. Report
Thank you for the well-written article. You are doing great, and I encourage you to remember that you are worth it, and so are your children and everyone else who depends on you. The healthier you are, the happier you will be, and the more energy you will have for everyone and everything else in your life.

This could have been me, about 27 years ago, except that my distance was 10K instead of marathon. That was when I first started running, after the birth of my second child, and while I was still nursing him.
I could be the poster child for what happens when you give in to the excuses for not running, because that's what I did a few years later after my next child was born. My back hurt, my knees hurt, my doctor said I should quit running, and all the "sensible" people around me said the same. I'm ashamed to admit that I fell into the very easy trap of just not sticking with any exercise program consistently after that for a long, long time. I never found anything that kept me as excited (or is it addicted?) as running.

I am happy to say that I am back on track now, and have finally added strength training and Pilates to my weekly workout routine, putting me on the way to being in the best shape ever. But the laws of nature do take their toll. It's sometimes hard to keep going, but not nearly as hard as starting over years later.

I think I would say that you just need to find whatever level really works for you, to stay personally motivated and challenged, and forget about what others do or think. Report
I am cooperative. I am goal orientated. I am not competitive with others. I compete with myself. I set my goals and when they are met, I change the goal. In my past those "negative" people have found me, beat me up and it was an awful experience. So I do a few sports and avoid the negative competitive people. There are those who really enjoy what they are doing and improve themselves as well as those around them. Those are the positive competitive people. It took me a long time to figure out how to find them, but they are out there and they can make sports fun! Report
Count me as another person who is not into competition. Like Jen, my only competitor is ME. :D Though my right knee and ankle will likely keep me from running anytime soon (thanks, family genes on BOTH sides... *sigh*), my workout time is ME time. I'm not into group sports at all... never have been. :D

Self-doubt never goes away. I've been having a hard time maintaining since switching from a retail job (read: walking about 30 miles a week in addition to cardio) to a sit-down job, and moving from an apartment complex with a gym to a house without a treadmill (working on it) in a neighborhood without sidewalks. Can I ever get back down to my goal weight?! I hope so! I'm going to keep on keepin' on. Report
I loved this! I also love running for the solitary competition with myself...Just remember that when you are feeling frustrated with your performance compared to others....it's not about the others....it's about you and your competition with yourself. You are doing this from a really amazing place with the young family and all those demands....even though you have done a marathon before when nursing...remember you are now a wee bit older and have the other children as well taking some of your physical strength so you can do this but it may be somewhat different now. You are fantastic!!! Report
I really want to work up to a marathon at some point in the next few years. Right now, I'm starting small, a 5K at the end of the month. Maybe I'll make it to a half marathon by next summer... Report
Never been atheletic, myself. But I did participate in various sports. Mostly I was the person that people would groan about, if they had to have me on their team. But when i was physically able, I kept at it. Funny thing, It was not too long ago, that my brother mentioned a time, about when we played on my work softball team, and he did too, that was 20 years ago. He is atheletic and accomplished, and after all this time he said, out of the blue, that he respected and admired me for playing softball, and thought I was awesome for having tried, even though it is not my forte'. That made my day! and reminded me that I do forge ahead, even when I know I am not going to be a star. It is still an accomplishment Report
We all have self-doubt from time to time.
I too always finish last when in team exercise groups. I feel bad for my team mates because they may have to work harder or longer than I because of waiting for me to finish. But then they are there also cheering me on to finish.
Keep up with you goal, it may be too agressive, but on the other hand, you won't really know this until you get to the completion point. If so, then you can look back and make the necessary adjusts for the next time around.
Congratulations on what you have accomplished so far and remember that there are others out here in the same boat - so you are not alone.
We are here to cheer you on! Report
I try to work up slowly, and I don't mind coming in last so long as I know I've given it 110% and getting better over time. It's the internal system that drives me, not the competitive aspect (I'm like you, I'm a solitary but social athlete).

Congratulations and good luck in your upcoming marathon! Report
I have never really been active - so any little thing I do is a challenge. I WANT to be an athelete though...maybe I will consider myself one someday in the future. Report
Self doubt is negative self talk. You know that you can reach your goal by taking small steps that lead to great success. There are greater challenges on your time right now than ever before, so it will be much more difficult this time. One of the signs of over training is mood change, so perhaps you do need to look at the plan you are on. I wish you all the best. Sometimes we just need to take a step outside where we are, so we can really see what's going on in the big picture. Report
Congratulations Report
You want to show your kids you can "be a Mommy and be physically tough"? Being a Mommy IS physically tough! I can remember the days of lugging around two kids and all that entails, along with the feeding schedules, sleepless nights, colic, teething,..... well, you get the picture. Report
I remind myself that I am not in competition with "everyone else". They're faster than me - so what? If I can beat my own time by 5 seconds then I've succeeded. I'm in competition with ME. It's not embarassing to come in last - it's embarassing to give up and quit. So forge ahead and compete with who is most important in this race - you. Report
i think you should be proud of your accomplishments! i am having issues with self doubts myself. i have come so far in some areas but still doubt myself so bad at times! Report
I want to say congrats to you! Training for a marathon while still nursing and I am sure, not getting much sleep, is quite a goal. Remember the fable - slow and steady wins the race. Stop comparing yourself to the other runners in your group and give yourself credit for each accomplishment you make!! Report
Wow...thanks so much for posting this. I've been having identical thoughts myself about a race I'm training for...and I'm so glad to know I'm not alone. I'm trying to focus on one training run at a time, rather than the entirety of the training program, and I think that's helping. Good luck with your training!! :) Report
I try to remember that goals must be flexible. It's no vice to look at where we are in life and decide our priorities may need to be adjusted. If I can't get to my fitness, I stay focused on my nutrician and sleep goals. Practicing maintence is a good thing to do along the way. After all, once we reach our weight goals, we will need to maintain. Practice makes perfect. Report
When self doubt starts to creep in or I feel like I'm starting to slide, I usually hit bottom, and eventually turn to food for comfort. I hope this will change with the support, knowledge, and help that I now receive with Spark. One of the things I learned from Spark is to take small steps. I'm further ahead with the small steps, than I am leaping with giant ones.

Good luck Jen. I admire you for your determination and for what you have achieved. Keep it up girl!
Sometimes I try to imagine myself in the future looking back on my successful accomplishment, then see I can do it. Report
Sometimes I cheer myself on during workouts, I think about the smaller goal and push towards that. Corny, but it helps to say "this last interval is only 5 minutes, you can do it." Report
I try to do what Wayne Dyer says and "think from the end." Focus on the results, the end, rather than today. I also ask myself if my doubts have anything to do with what other people will think. Other people's judgements, or potential judgements can be paralyzing sometimes. Report
I often feel like giving up, quitting early, etc... especially when I'm running... but I remind myself that it's just my mind trying to trick me into going back to my "old" ways... I don't quit now, that's not who I am... and it sounds like that's not who you are either. Congratulations on what you've accomplished and what you are accomplishing! Report
i know how u feel. sometimes i feel like all the goals i set are just too far out of reach and give up. but then i start to ask myself "am i ever going to accomplish anything?" and that makes me want to go out and do it. it's also hard when u have other obligations but if ur strong enough and self disciplined enough to handle everything u need to handle, then more props to u. u've done it before, no reason why u can't do it again. keep it up!!! Report
Congratulations you are already a winner, being fit, able to run a marathon. Who cares if you come in last, you've already challenged your self and won. Don't get discouraged or down, your doing more than most people can ever do. Each step is a victory, and every second you are improving yourself, you take care of yourself and you are there for your family. Report
I have to remind myself that this is for my health - and my healthy competition with "ME". I am a walker and there aren't a lot of my friends who can say they have completed a full marathon and 4 half marathons - but, they think it is awesome that I have. I do this for me - you are doing an amazing job - keep up the great work - remember, it is for you and your health and those babies! Report
I shut my eyes and keep moving forward. This is the only life I have and I am going out looking good. Report
Try to remember that just getting out there when you do is a lot more than others. No one is paying attention to your time and no one cares if you are the last one in. They are more worried about themselves. When I go running or anything good for my body I look at other people and think "wow look at all these people who care about themselves," not "wow, she is a minute slower than me." Do it for you! And don't worry about days you can't fit it in. If you can't you can't... When you can you do! And that's most important. ---- I should follow my own advice more. It's a struggle for everyone, but just keep trudging :) You're gonna do great. Report
Reward yourself for the progress you've made, whether it be food, an occasion/event or shopping, then keep at it with your next reward in mind Report
The Hard Work is Most Definitely Worth It. I cannot fathom your training regime. Period. Much less with 2 children. I'm having an "I'm not Worthy" moment just reading what your daily life is. (regrouping and ahem-ing) For me, it is about competing with myself now. When I was in my most fit form, it was about upping the ante with trusted fit friends that pushed me beyond my fitness/comfort zone consistently. Today, I pushed myself beyond what I thought was possible for me now, physically @ the gym. You've definitely taken me back full circle. And I thank you for the oh so very timely spark. Report
I go run! Report
Just remember you are worth every step. I like keeping the small steps for today in mind, then taking a breather and looking back at all that l have accomplished.

You are an inspiration. Thank you so much for sharing! Report
I set my plan and stick with it. Last August I ran a marathon and had a plan for training ahead of time. Anytime I would start doubting myself (I used to be an overweight smoker) and I would just tell myself I was going to stick to the plan and just see what happened. Commit myself to just this run and the next run and go from there.....all those runs turned into the marathon I wanted so much. Report
When I begin to doubt myself, I focus on the immediate goal - today. Because I know I can do what's called for today, and that's all I have to worry about now. Tomorrow is when I have to think about tomorrow's goal. At times I have focused on the next few steps in front of me, if that's what it's taken. Usually after 3 or 4 times of telling myself "just to that next light pole" a new burst of energy/confidence will come through and I'll be able to think about the distance that's left to go - that day, or toward the ultimate goal. Report
Self-doubt has been a companion of mine for many, many years, regardless of accomplishments that should have made me proud. I have been married for 37 years and we are still in love, we have three great kids who each have steady families with well-rounded children. I was one of those women who gave birth to three children, then decided to return to college. I obtained my degree in Chemistry at the age of 32. My career arced to the top of my field (pharmaceuticals) where I finished as the Director of Quality and Regulatory Affairs for a small Midwest pharmaceutical company.

But despite these accomplishments, I always felt like a failure because of the 20 or 30 or 40 or 50 pounds that I would gain and lose, gain and lose, year after year. Now, with the support of the SparkPeople community, I am facing the weight battle once again, standing tall, and taking personal responsibility, while also battling rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and anemia. Putting myself first, for the first time in my life. Yikes!

After reading all of these caring, insightful posts, I have decided to divorce self-doubt and embrace self-acceptance! To treat myself as kindly as I try to treat the rest of the people in my world. Thanks to all of you! Report