• Reflective Resources

D is for Doubt

Doubt is a feeling of uncertainty or lack of conviction, it


Distracts with the details

Obfuscates the obvious

Undermines confidence

Blocks motivation

Tricks you until paralysis kicks in


If you have a doubt about something, you feel uncertain about whether it is true or possible, whether you or others are capable of achieving something or if there is more than one course of action to choose from, doubt makes you uncertain as to what option to choose to get the best outcome. Sometimes we can also find ourselves faced by limited choices which force us to decide between a certain bad outcome and a less certain worse outcome i.e. which is the 'lesser of the two evils'.


We can experience doubt to different degrees dependent on e.g. the gravity of the consequences of our choices or when things are not simple because there is not much to choose from between two options or we have too many options.


Types of doubt and pointers to help us through the doubt


“Our doubts are traitors and make us lose the good we oft might win by fearing to attempt” William Shakespeare


We doubt ourselves – self doubt

- our own capabilities or

our ability to make the best choice in a scenario


Sometimes we have doubt because we don’t feel that we have all the information or skills needed to make a decision. Self-awareness and accurate knowledge of our strengths and weaknesses is key when having self-doubt. Where possible we can use mental and physical rehearsal to prepare us too. i.e. try and look at things from different perspectives including the worst possible outcome and pre-planning i.e. If scenario a) I’ll do … if scenario b) I’ll do this instead


With all the best will in the world though, there will always be unexpected occasions that we find ourselves in and then all we can do is listen to our gut instinct, our intuition, and make the best decision at the time with the information and resources we have at that time.


We doubt others

- their capabilities or

whether they will follow through/stick to their word


When a decision involves others, we can become uncertain as to whether we are able to rely on them. When others are introduced into a situation it can be a real help but it can also be an occasion for doubt. The more we know the others concerned this doubt can be reduced or we can adapt accordingly. Sometimes our doubts are completely misplaced; other people are competent and trustworthy and in fact it is us and our own fear of vulnerability that is really the problem so we ‘cut our nose off to spite our face’ and don’t give the others the trust and confidence they deserve and thereby lose and potential opportunity for change and growth.


We experience doubt when we find ourselves in new (or difficult) situations

where we have no familiar points of reference to help guide us


“Don’t waste life in doubts and fears, spend yourself on the work before you, well assured that the right performance of this hour’s duties will be the best preparation for the hours and ages that follow it” Ralph Waldo Emerson


When we find ourselves in a new and unfamiliar situation with little/no chance of preparation, this is the time that time spent in the past quietly listening to ourselves, developing our self-awareness, knowledge of our strengths and weaknesses etc is time well spent and helps us tune into our intuition


“For so many years I lived in constant terror of myself. Doubt had married my fear and moved into my mind, where it built castles and ruled kingdoms and reigned over me, bowing my will to its whispers until I was little more than an acquiescing peon, too terrified to disobey, too terrified to disagree. I had been shackled, a prisoner in my own mind.

But finally, finally, I have learned to break free.” Tahereh Mafi


All healthy human beings have an inner stream of thoughts and feelings that include criticism, doubt and fear. This is a normal part of the brain’s process trying to anticipate and solve problems and avoid potential pitfalls. If we can change our perspective and look at doubt in a more positive light then it helps us see doubt as an asset rather than its usual negative connotation and is an aide to clarify our thinking


“And your doubt can become a good quality if you train it. It must become knowing, it must become criticism. Ask it, whenever it wants to spoil something for you, why something is ugly; demand proof from it and you will find it perhaps bewildered and embarrassed, perhaps also protesting. But don’t give in, insist on arguments, and act in this way, attentive and persistent, every single time, and the day will come when, instead of being a destroyer, it will become one of your best workers – perhaps the most intelligent of all the ones that are building your life.” Rainer Maria Rilke





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