Dr. Maya Angelou, American poet and civil rights activist, once said, “If you’re always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.” So, in light of Dr. Angelou’s words, it might be worth asking yourself: do you care too much what others’ think about you? Are you fearful of criticism? Do you want to feel free of worry? How can you let go of self-doubt and worry?
First of all, you’re in the company of many. We have been wired to care about what people think of us in order to preserve the quality of our relationships and hence our satisfaction and chances for survival. Overdoing it can be preoccupying and unnecessary, however.
Try these tips to keep self-doubt at bay and be what I call a “character butterfly.” What is a “character butterfly?” Essentially, rather than the “social butterfly” we may have heard of, a “character butterfly,” I would say, is having the courage to be our most authentic self, driven with purpose to do good and help others. Try these three tips to start with:
1. Use self-criticism or criticism from others to drive you ahead.
In the last few days before her husband left office, then First Lady Michelle Obama sat down with Oprah for an interview and gave advice to young girls everywhere about how to cope with negativity and unfair criticism: use it to fuel you forward. Based on her time in the limelight, the previous FLOTUS offered the wisdom that helped her, in part, to build campaigns around fitness, diet and more. While most of us may not receive the level of attention that the First Lady did, we can still certainly use her advice while charting our own paths.
If you want to stop being bothered by what others are thinking of you, or if you are overly self-critical, try to collect those thoughts, and use it to fuel you forward, rather than get you preoccupied. Your success, and your efforts, will give you the confidence you need to showcase your most amazing traits.
2. Pursue achievements that will make you truly happy, not just so others will praise you.
Professor Raj Raghunathan at the University of Texas at Austin, who teaches a course on happiness, found that consistently ranked at the top of people’s list of what they want to learn from his course is this: I would like to learn how to stop being bothered by what others are thinking of me.
So, considering the consequences of this common feeling, are people pursuing goals in life just to get praise and respect from others? Probably so. Should you work towards achievements that will truly make you happier? Definitely, yes. While competition in life can be healthy, remember that pursuing things that will truly make you happier will be more fulfilling and could potentially touch people’s lives in helpful ways. Rather than chasing perhaps materialistic goods or achievements solely to get praise from others, consider what will genuinely drive your happiness and satisfaction.
3. Remember that self-doubt can fuel deeper happiness with appropriate reflection.
This point may be harder to acknowledge. With enough reflection on, but not overanalyzing difficult emotions, you can feel more lasting happiness. How? According to science writer Matthew Hutson who writes for Psychology Today, “We have the wrong idea about emotions. They're very rational; they're means to help us achieve goals important to us, tools carved by eons of human experience that work beyond conscious awareness to direct us where we need to go. They identify trouble or opportunity and suggest methods of repair or gain.”
So, while unpleasant, self-doubt and other negative emotions can result in measurable progress (i.e. “repair” or “gain”). It might not always mean feeling upbeat. From time to time, we may need a little self-doubt to drive us even more forward, to even greater success. The trick is to recognize the helpfulness of the process, perhaps write down or talk about our “bumps” in the road, look back and realize we are making progress.
All in all, in this short piece, there are three tips to keep self-doubt at bay: 1) Use criticism to move you forward, 2) Pursue things that will truly make you happy and 3) Remember that long-lasting happiness requires some self-doubt or other “bumpy” emotions. Hopefully, these tips can help you keep self-doubt at bay and be your own “character butterfly!”