Have you ever wondered where that voice of self-doubt comes from? Why are we so programmed to listen to it and follow it unconsciously like a robot?
The doubter within or the inner-critic actually serves a purpose; it is trying to keep us safe. The doubter is your personal department of risk mitigation. The problem is, the voice of self-doubt does not usually serve us in modern day life. Its true purpose it to keep us from physical harm and keep us alive, but without any censorship, it keeps us playing small in our lives. Self-doubt keeps us living in a box, a life without expansion.
In some regards, you could consider the inner-critic or doubter to be outdated DNA. It truly served us at one point in history by keeping us safe. For instance, if a saber tooth tiger was chasing you or it would keep your behavior in check to not cause rejection from your tribe, both could threaten your physical survival.
Today however, since our physical safety isn't usually at risk when we listen to the voice of self-doubt, it is attempting to protect us from psychological or emotional pain, criticism, disappointment, or possible failure. But, there is no way to play big in our lives and expand without putting ourselves at risk of any of the above.
Here are two personal stories of how I quieted my doubter and turned up the volume on my true voice of inner wisdom.
First, a few years ago I was at Miraval Resort outside of Tucson, Arizona and navigating a type of ropes course, meant to bring attention to the places within ourselves that needed mindfulness. I had to climb to the top of a 50 foot telephone pole, harnessed with safety ropes and then jump off. Once I reached the top, I had to stand up on a 1 foot by 2 foot platform to jump. I had no problem doing the climb and have no fear of heights, but when I got to the platform, I could not figure out how to hoist myself up on the platform to stand! I went into fear and began telling myself "I can't do this." I asked the instructor if I could climb back down -- not allowed. I asked if I could jump from there -- not safe. I asked for advice on how to do it -- nothing really helped. I was now panicked and immobilized with my belief of "This is impossible, I can't do it." Self-doubt was screaming and in control. Then suddenly, my inner wisdom kicked in and said, "Come on Lisa, people do this every day that aren't half as athletic as you. You can do this, there must be a way!" That little boost of encouragement was all I needed and then I did it!
The second story was last year when I was getting ready to give my first big keynote at a women's conference. I was totally prepared and just a little nervous. Prior to my turn on stage, there was a panel discussion with executive women, four fabulous VPs of huge organizations that shared amazing stories of their accomplishments. Boy did my inner critic have a field day: "Who are you to get up there after them, You don't belong here. What could you possibly have to share of value compared to them?" Then my inner-wisdom found her voice. She said, "Lisa, you are here tell women that we all have the ability to play big. You may not have their credentials, but it doesn't make your story any less valuable to the audience. You can do this, you are meant to shine."
Playing big is for everyone and it has nothing to do with money, title, or doing something grandiose. It has everything to do with following your calling, passion, or bliss.
Playing big will definitely put you in a vulnerable place, so know that if your voice of self-doubt is talking to you, then you are heading in the right direction to play big by pushing your boundaries.
I have learned after working with women for years that playing big can be especially frightening for women. Throughout history, women have been oppressed by painful criticism, rejection, or physical harm. Women burned at the stakes was only a few centuries ago and women have only had the right to vote in the U.S. for less than a 100 years. Even today in the modern world, think of any woman that has played big, she has sustained huge criticism and labels like elitist, not nice, a bitch, aggressive, and out for herself.
"Avoiding fear and the unknown will always stifle your creativity." - Deepak Chopra
How do we unhook from self-doubt?
Step 1: Understand why we have self-doubt. It is there to protect us, but then logically decide if you really need protection and what is really at risk.
Step 2: Start observing the voice of your doubter. Don't ignore it. The doubter needs to be heard, or it will come up to sabotage you. Address what concerns are coming up and if it is anything that needs consideration. Does the fear have any real merit or logic? Usually not.
Step 3: Learn to recognize that the voice of self-doubt is NOT your true voice. The doubter will see things as black and white and it will have an absolute perspective (always or never), and it will try to keep you in your comfort zone. Self-doubt will always speak the loudest and first.
Step 4: Your inner wisdom will always bring up excitement and passion. Inner wisdom is usually a quiet and subtle voice that you can only hear in stillness. The more you cultivate listening and following your wise-self, the louder and more consistent the voice becomes.
Self-doubt will never leave you, nor do you want to banish it. You only need to put it in a new perspective and not allow it to run you and make your decisions. Your inner wisdom is the advice you offer a dear friend, your child, or anyone you love and deeply care about. Inner wisdom is the loving advice and encouragement you give to yourself so that you can push boundaries and move into expansive new places. Playing big requires you to get uncomfortable, so that you may follow your passion, purpose, or calling.