January 15, 2017

Use This Buddhist Practice to Overcome Self-Doubt.

The funny thing about growing up is that it requires us to push ourselves outside our comfort zone—and it won’t always feel great.

We can’t truly understand what this means until we feel it—that uncomfortable experience when we’re sitting in unfamiliar territory and the outcome of our journey is still unknown.

If we are choosing to expand as a humans, we will most certainly feel this. And, often it will be followed by a rock in our gut and a swirl of critical questions in our mind.

This is called self-doubt.

We will all encounter it—especially those of us who wish to carve our own path through life.

In my experience, as we step outside of “normal” and walk a route that is more authentic to us, the voices of self-criticism will shout louder.

We must remember that this negative internal dialogue is not the truth.

Unfortunately, we often end up believing it is—and then we allow it to hijack our mission to follow our juicy dreams.

Self-doubt is absolutely a fabrication of our psyche, and one originally designed to keep us safe when we were small. However, as capable adults it is our job to put these limiting beliefs in their place.

None of us deserves to let criticism rule our lives.

We can’t always control the feedback we get from the outside world, but we can learn to command what we acknowledge from our inner one, and this is where applying Buddhist philosophy can come in handy.

Mindfulness is a word that gets thrown around a lot in modern-day spiritual circles. Maybe we don’t yet know exactly what it means or how to use it, but it’s a handy tool in the face of all types of adversity.

Let me explain…

The practice of Buddhism (and specifically meditation) helps to create mindfulness. The word that we use in Buddhist theory is a Pali term called Sati, which means “to remember” or “to recollect.”

Mindfulness is a practice of recalling what is real by returning to the present moment, where our ultimate reality resides.

By using mindfulness, we create perspective, which is what we desperately need when we are facing self-doubt. If we can become an observer of the doubt in our minds, we can then choose to react to it or not.

Here is a method I developed to free us from self-doubt (sometimes I use it multiple times in one day), because as we put ourselves out into the world more, our old, limiting beliefs will certainly pop up to say hello.

A mindfulness practice for dissolving self-doubt:

>> Become still.

The first step when we are hit with a self-doubt landslide is to pause. Our fears around internal criticism will make us want to run, but doing that will only increases doubt. Pausing catches self-doubt off guard, and it is the foundation of a mindfulness practice.

So sit down (or stand still) and take a deep breath in. Release it, and do this two more times. Notice the air entering and leaving the body. Just be here.

>> Observe the doubt.

Instead of pretending that it isn’t here, observe the self-doubt directly. When we face something head-on, we often realize it’s not as scary as we thought it was. We can hear the words that our own self-criticism uses. It’s important to note is that by observing it (becoming mindful), we realize that the doubt is not us, but that it is simply an old tape playing on repeat in our head.

>> Go beneath the doubt to what is solid.

In meditation practice, we are taught that our thoughts are like the weather, temperamental and changing. Once we acknowledge that this doubt is not our ultimate reality, we can go deeper to the place where something more solid resides—our heart. We drop beneath the defeating dialogue of our mind and touch into the beating of our heart. Inside our heart resides the voice of truth. Listen to this dialogue for a moment instead.

What do we hear? I bet it is a truth much more beautiful than critical—one that we always have the choice to hear.


This practice can remind us that we need not escape from our reality, even when it is sprinkled with doubt. We can realize that underneath self-doubt we discover true guidance for our lives.

As we get better at mindfulness, we will pay less attention to that old part of us that thinks it needs to keep us safe by staying small.

We are not our self-doubt. We are something much greater, so let’s not let the internal critic win.

We have way more important things to do than believe in the negative; we have our beautiful dreams to fulfill.


Author: Sarah Norrad

Image: Sukanto Debnath/Flickr

Editor: Toby Israel


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Hypnolieb Dec 8, 2018 7:27am

Thank you for the reminder!

mykuljay910 Dec 7, 2018 5:24pm

Perfect timing. As a new year beckons, it’s time I stopped letting the ‘internal critic’ as you call it – win. I’ve spent far too much of my life with defeatist, internal dialogue. Why try? It probably won’t work out? Oh just put up with it, everyone else does. The conversations are endless.

Thank you for perhaps reaching me, when I myself couldn’t.

rho2gold Dec 7, 2018 7:21am

Thank you. A wonderful way to review the old year and start anew.

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Sarah Norrad

Sarah Norrad was born a wild woman in the rural and rugged forests of the Nimpkish Valley, on Vancouver Island, BC. This is a place where the mountains, forests and rivers speak louder than the people. A transformational coach, certified yoga instructor, mindfulness and lay counsellor, and authoress, Sarah muses at the world through a lens steeped in mindfulness, adventure, and tenderness. Currently, she exploits the cracks in her own heart to write as a columnist at elephant journal, her busy brain to create content for others through her business and her keen spirit to sit as coach and counsellor, teaching powerful tools for success in all aspect of our lives, especially personal power. Please track down her offerings and her mindful self on elephant journal, her writer’s page or her personal Facebook, her website, Cowbird, Twitter and Instagram.