I’ve suffered from crippling self-doubt for most of my life.
Self-doubt first punches me in the face, making me think I will never achieve anything, and then stabs me in the back after I have achieved something, making me wonder if I only made it by sheer luck.
Nice work, self-doubt!
I am someone who will not accept defeat—who will fight to improve a situation, either personal or professional. I also believe in self-development and in our ability to work on ourselves to become better people in all areas of our lives.
We all have so much potential to evolve and transform into more confident versions of ourselves, but sometimes we lack the knowledge or the tools to achieve that. Isn’t it a shame to be so close to greatness—to have dreams that are within our reach—but we stop ourselves because we don’t believe we can?
Most households have a first aid kit in a drawer somewhere. Wouldn’t it be useful to also have a first aid kit for life in the recesses of our minds? Something we can pull out and use when we need it most?
I needed help to overcome my self-doubt, and I was lucky enough to have met a practitioner in London who specialized in a fairly new discipline. This discipline is a self-development and stress-management technique called “sophrology,” which is still rather unknown in the United States and other English-speaking countries.
Sophrology means “the study of the consciousness in harmony” and builds resilience by raising our awareness. It was developed by a Colombian psychiatrist, Alfonso Caycedo, first starting as a way to treat psychiatric patients in Spain without using invasive methods like electroshock therapy.
The technique later evolved to encompass stress-management and self-development, and many people embraced it in Spanish-speaking countries and other European countries such as Switzerland, France, and Portugal.
Sophrology uses dynamic relaxation to train our mind and body to work in harmony. The technique is easy to learn and is based on breathing and gentle movement. To learn how to practice sophrology, we need a few sessions with a qualified practitioner to guide us through the exercises. Most practitioners will make the recordings of the sessions available to us so we can practice at home, at work, or when traveling.
Unlike hypnosis, we stay conscious during the session and work with our breath to calm the brain and relax the body while staying in a positive frame of mind. Also, with sophrology, we don’t need to meditate for an hour to achieve a sense of calm: 10 minutes a day can be enough to dial down the chatter inside our heads and feel more connected to the present moment.
For example, we can take a short break at work, close our eyes, and breathe from our abdomen focusing on the sensations in our body from breathing slowly.
Having experimented with different types of meditation techniques, I wanted to find out more about sophrology, and I learned how to practice it with the help of Dominique Antiglio in London. She taught me to use the mind/body connection to focus my attention on the present moment and visualize a more positive future.
The exercises are simple and involve basic movements, visualization, and breath work. For example, my favorite exercise is the tense-and-release technique in which I breathe in, tense up all my muscles, and then breathe out, letting everything go at the same time. The sense of release and relief from doing this exercise is tangible. This exercise only takes a minute, but the effects are long-lasting.
Ideally, we can find a 10-minute break in our busy day to breathe consciously with our eyes closed and give our brain some rest.
How does this help me with my feelings of self-doubt? These feelings are more so projections from my mind than actual reflections of who I am, and they work overtime to undermine my confidence. Our mental chatter can be dangerous if left unchecked, so it’s a good discipline to check regularly that we are not allowing our fears to stop us from living our life.
I have always felt that I wasn’t a good enough writer. However, doing regular dynamic relaxation exercises stops me from worrying too much about my future, and instead allows me to acknowledge that I am a full-time writer and many have enjoyed my work and learned something from it.
Writing while keeping a calm and positive frame of mind is the best form of defense against self-doubt because action is the remedy for lack of confidence.
I still have self-doubt crises popping up every now and then, but as long as I acknowledge that they are only the product of my mind, I can do something about them by using dynamic relaxation to switch my thinking to the present moment.
What can we all derive from my experience? I think we could all do with a tool kit for times of need. We need to search for something that resonates with us. Not everybody will enjoy sitting cross-legged for an hour in search of enlightenment, but most of us can carve out 10 minutes of our time to do some breathing exercises.
Whatever you choose, make a commitment to nurture a more mindful attitude and allow yourself to be more accepting without judgement.
Author: Paola Bassanese
Editor: Danielle Beutell
Copy Editor: Leah Sugerman
Social Editor: Yoli Rammazina