Before sending evites you bump into your friend Karen and share your enthusiasm.
But instead of joining in she rolls her eyes and tells you she is far too busy to come this month. She’s pretty sure a couple of others will feel the same.
Her lack of interest feels like a punch in the gut and you are disappointed and angry.
At first you to want to strike back. But very quickly you become mired in self-doubt.
“Maybe Karen is right,” you tell yourself. “Maybe having people for lunch is not such a great move.”
You picture your own full schedule and figure your other friends probably have more important things to do as well. You wonder why you ever had such a dumb idea.
In the end it all feels too stressful and you give it up.
Feeling stuck in self-doubt is nothing new. It’s like an annoying habit you can’t seem to break. You wonder what to do about it.
Fortunately, these simple steps will help you stand firm against self-doubt even when you feel attacked.
Start with the first one the very moment you feel under pressure and follow through to the end until self-doubt disappears.
Stage #1: When you feel self-doubt creeping in
Close your eyes and breathe like you are oxygen deprived (because you probably are)
When you feel under attack your body prepares to fight or flee the threat. This happens whether the cause is physical (a rattlesnake or an aggressive dog) or psychological (a person who belittles you in public).
Threats like these cause your breathing to becomes shallow and rapid. This gets oxygen quickly to muscles and essential organs but a lot less gets to the rest of your body. And essential organs don’t include your brain, which means it is difficult to think clearly before you react.
All of this is good if you are under physical attack and need to run or fight. But if the attack is psychological, it helps to have a functioning brain so you can respond appropriately.
If you are often stressed, you and your brain are almost certainly oxygen deprived. This means you are more likely to react impulsively, followed by regrets and more stress.
Remember the times you said something in anger when under attack? Something irrational you later regretted?
A deep breath signals your body to relax and gets oxygen flowing to your brain again. Now you can think more clearly and respond in a different way.
Get clear on the real issue. (Hint: It’s not about you.)
With oxygen flowing back to your brain the situation becomes clearer. You can remember that when someone attacks you it is from their own anger, their own sense of inadequacy, their own fear.
Something about what you said brought up a childhood memory or reminded them of an authority figure from their past. Without realizing it they attack you out of this memory.
But it’s not about you. And even though their attack may hurt, you will feel better when you step back and recognize it’s their issue not yours.
Now that the pressure is off, you can breathe deeply again, this time with a sigh of relief.
Deliver an unexpected response
The next step is to surprise them with something unexpected.
Instead of hitting back with a carefully crafted zinger designed to deliver maximum pain (which will only come back to haunt you later), look them in the eye and smile.
Then thank them for their opinion.
Your response will be a shock to their system. They were braced for something negative and when it doesn’t come they are off balance, forced to think.
With the situation defused a bit you both can breathe deeply, bringing even more calm.
Your attacker may even come to his or her senses and apologize. But even if they don’t, you will feel energized and leave them wondering what happened. It may even change their life.
Stage #2: When you feel more relaxed
Seek out sources of cheer
Now is the time to get some reinforcement. Call a good friend who understands how you were unfairly attacked. They may even congratulate you for standing firm against your self-doubt.
It feels good when they commiserate with you and confirms you did the right thing.
Better yet, invite your friend for lunch and enjoy a glass of wine or your favorite dessert in celebration. The time together will remind you of how valuable your real friends are.
In light of this caring response, your encounter with the attacker looks different. The memory of your friend’s encouragement will help you be strong against self-doubt the next time someone unexpectedly attacks.
Watch a funny movie, read a hilarious book, or do a marathon screening of your favorite humor series on Netflix.
Or dredge up some old memories, times when you were in good company and laughed so hard you peed in your pants or snorted water up your nose. Do what it takes to remind you to do some serious laughing.
The Mayo Clinic reports that laughter causes you to breathe more deeply and fills your body with oxygen while it encourages the release of feel good hormones.
It also helps you relax and frees you from the negative impact of self-doubt.
Fill up with inspiration
There are so many good books and blog posts that can inspire you and help you feel your best. Pick some of your favorites and devote time to reading and feeling uplifted every day.
Reading self-help material not only helps you feel better about yourself but reminds you that life can be great in spite of occasional attacks from insecure people. It will also help you view the attacks for what they really are, someone else’s problem.
The best source of inspiration, though, is you. Take inventory of what is good about your life and start keeping track in a journal.
Write daily about what you truly appreciate in your life and express gratitude for all of it. This practice takes your mind off of your self-doubt and fills it with how wonderful your life really is.
Now watch your self confidence soar.
Stage #3: When you can think clearly
Check in with your imagination
Self-doubt happens when you fear you are not enough, or that another person is smarter or more attractive or more accomplished than you are. It may also be triggered by fear of what others think of you.
A powerful way to release these fears is to create another experience with your imagination. Your subconscious won’t know the difference and will go to work to help you create this alternative reality,
To do this sit quietly and recall a threatening situation you feel you didn’t handle well.
Then vividly imagine a different outcome. One in which you took a deep breath and replied in a positive way. One in which you felt good about yourself at the end of the day.
Be sure to use all of your senses in your visualization. See yourself looking your best, hear your words as you calmly reply to the attack and feel the emotions that come from the self-confidence you exude.
To reinforce the practice remind yourself that what others think of you is their problem and their business. Your only business is what you think of yourself.
Now see your self-doubt disappear as you congratulate yourself for a job well done.
Send out inspiring thoughts
If you are full of self-doubt you may be easily swayed by other people’s moods and opinions.
You may even express agreement when they bad mouth someone else. Or you may get caught up in their negative views of the world when they express them.
Allowing others to influence you like this only adds to your feelings of self-doubt when under attack.
Instead, gather up all the positive energy you create through your imagination and picture yourself sending it out in large quantities to the difficult people in your life.
Toss it to them in a big energy ball, or spray it on their heads using a special hose that carries positive thoughts.
When you do this regularly your feelings about these people will become more positive and you will have more self confidence when you are around them.
They can’t help but respond to the new you and you will notice a change in how they treat you.
Your life doesn’t have to be this way
The self-doubt you endure when others attack is never fun. At the same time, hitting back rarely brings good results. And withdrawing into yourself doesn’t work either unless you want to live like a hermit for the rest of your life.
The key to overcoming self-doubt is in how you respond in the moment.
Imagine how much easier your life will be when you can smile at attackers and wish them well rather than stewing about how you’ve been wronged.
Think of the energy you’ll save by not reliving the same stressful experiences over and over. And how wonderful it will be not to waste time wishing you had put the other person in their place with the perfect nasty zinger.
Imagine how much more you will enjoy each day when you stop feeling like withdrawing into yourself so often. Instead, you can get out, mix with new people and have more fun because your self-doubt is gone.
Think of the positive feedback you’ll get when you speak up in meetings and other social settings because you feel so confident in yourself.
It will be like you are a whole new woman. Which you are.
So go forth and enjoy the confident new you, free of self doubt.