4 Steps to Defeating Self-Doubt

Apr 5, 2017

The criticism waited for me when I woke up. I didn’t recognize the email address, but I recognized the tone. The sender intended to shame, deliver self-doubt and put me in my place.

I read the message, carefully, more than once. I tried to understand her point of view, take into consideration the possible heart behind her heat. And then I did my best to craft a thoughtful response, absent of defense or retaliation. Message sent, I closed my email, walked away, and thought of it little ever since.

Now, before you applaud my maturity, you should know I’ve rarely handled such sticky situations with any measure of grace. Most of the time, I turn into a Scarlett O’Hara mixture of indignation and tears.

In other words, I react. Anger first, followed closely by self-condemnation. It’s always easier to doubt myself rather than question someone else.

Not this time. And it felt good. Real good. I felt free to be myself—flawed as I may be—and free to love those who were different than me.

Hallelujah, you can teach old dogs new tricks.

It’s now been two months since I Am: A 60 Day Journey To Knowing Who You Are Because of Who He Is hit the shelves. The stories that I’ve heard since—over email, social media, even a few face-to-face conversations—have convinced me of the importance of its message. Recently, one reader asked me a question much like this one:

I hear you say that my identity is secured, my worth established. It’s in who God is and what He says about me. Great. Wonderful. But let’s get real: how do I walk it out? How do I practically overcome my constant, nagging self-doubt?

GREAT question. It’s not easy. Even though the Divine work has been done, the human “work” has just begun. When self-doubt happens—and it will happen—this is my hard-earned process to wade through the muck and find solid ground:

FIRST, Recognize the Culprit. What is it, exactly, that’s making me doubt myself and my value? A disgruntled reader? A relationship wound? A personal failure? A body change? Whatever it is, I need to acknowledge the cause. Many times, we feel angry, anxious or withdrawn, but we don’t stop long enough to recognize the cause and effect. That can be as simple as saying, “That fight with my husband yesterday is making me question my value more than I thought” OR “That rejection I received in the mail is causing me to question my calling.”

SECOND, Name the Deepest Emotion. Notice I said “deepest.” If I had a conflict with my husband, the first and easiest-to-recognize emotion might be anger. I’m ticked. Thoroughly irritated. Want to flash Mean Eyes his direction. But that’s not deep enough. Instead, dig further, deeper than the anger. What is it that’s creating such a powerful emotional response? Then name the feeling, as honestly as possible: “I feel unwanted and unimportant. And that scares me.”

THIRD, Identify the Lie. Lies are sneaky. In fact, the best lies aren’t blatant. They begin with small half-truths, pulling you in until the lie spins out of control and hijacks all rational thought. Remember that fight with your husband? The process might look something like this: “He’s mad and doesn’t want talk to me. What if he never comes around? What if this means our marriage is doomed? Something is wrong with me. I’m no good in relationships. I’m not lovable.” Familiar? The only way to stop the self-doubt spiral is to challenge the lie. Like gravity, it’s easy to fall into a lie, but hard to crawl out of one. Instead, call it out. Maybe write it down. For example, “My husband and I may be at odds right now, but that happens in relationships. Frustration does NOT mean a lack of love.”

FOURTH, Replace the Lie With Truth. Unless you kick it in the teeth, the lie will continue to cause self-doubt. Instead, replace it with truth. The Bible is filled with possibilities, words from the mouth of God himself, designed to infuse us with courage, confidence and peace. I Am: A 60-day Journey To Knowing Who You Are Because of Who He Is includes 60 of those verses packaged by their core message: I Am Chosen, I Am Valuable, I Am Safe. If you have the book, simply search for the needed truth and read the corresponding Bible verse out loud until you believe it. His words trump every lie. Always.

[reminder]When faced with self-doubt, which one of these steps poses the greatest challenge? [/reminder]

[Image Copyright: evgenyatamanenko / 123RF Stock Photo]


  1. Kimberli Freilinger

    The first one. I am too quick to assume I’ve done something g wrong. My first reaction is to question and scanning heart, behaviors and motives. Not bad things until you do that and never come up with the good stuff. I can mine for a long time and find self doubt in many forms. Finding the true culprit and realizing my default is to fault myself can move me on to the others stages.

    Thanks Michele! Loving I Am too!

  2. Damon J.

    Hello Michele! I wanted to say “two,” identifying the deepest emotion, but I have come to believe that moments like this are almost always rooted in some ugly form of fear. Thus, I’m going with door number three – “Identify the Lie.” Lies come from the deceiver, and the tricky part about being deceived is that I do not know I am deceived … because I’m deceived! Get it? It’s a horrible catch 22. Once I know I’m deceived I’m no longer deceived. I’m just being lied to, and that is a condition about which I can do something.

    This was a great post. Thank you for sharing.

    Victoriously in Christ!

    – damon

  3. Lee

    The hardest step for me is taking the time to do all the steps instead of wallowing in self pity. I focus too much on my feelings that I don’t see the whole picture. Thank you for giving four steps to help me see the underlying causes,emotions and how to overcome my self doubts

  4. Rick Weidman

    Replacing the lie with truth is SO ESSENTIAL. Thanks for that reminder Michele. God’s Word holds these TRUTHS as our counter-attack to the half-truths that seek to steal our identity and feelings of self-worth. Thanks Be To God for His unchanging TRUTHS during these ever-changing times in our world.

  5. Jerolyn

    #3, Identify the lie. Way too many thoughts hijack all rational thought. Thank you for writing about this. I’m tired of hanging out with “worse case” scenarios!


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