The teacher puts the paper on my desk. I have a pen in one hand and the other is clenched because I can’t remember anything I studied. The same pessimistic mantra repeated over and over in my head as my eyes flicker through the questions, “I can’t do this, I can’t do this.” This is the most common scenario I’ve experienced during my time as a student. I have always had self-doubt; if I could do anything well, it was criticize myself. No matter what it is I do, the idea that the paper I just handed in is unreadable, or the job interview I gave wasn’t sufficient enough, negativity is something that constantly lingers with me. I’ve not only worried about others’ critiques, but often my own.
I am my own biggest critic, and although some call it being a perfectionist, it borders on insanity. I’ve never had a problem telling someone else how there paper was, in fact I feel obligated to compliment other people. However, no matter what my fingers pound on the keyboard it doesn’t suffice. It is only in the last couple of months, as I take the steps closer to my impending graduation, that I’ve realized how big of a problem it’s been. It wasn’t that I couldn’t do it, it’s that I wouldn’t let myself do it. Why is it that I tear myself apart like I do?
For much of what I do my inner thoughts are negative, and it took a long time to realize why. I’ve never been one for self-analysis, mainly because I wasn’t sure what I would find (or if I wanted to know). I needed to understand why I kept putting myself in this cynical bubble and got deflated when I didn’t do as well as I wanted to.
My self-doubt wasn’t because I was as useless as I thought I was (thank god), or I wasn’t capable of being successful, but because I was so busy comparing myself to others. I was making a false image of what I was supposed to be, and when I didn’t match up, I didn’t feel the need to try. It didn’t matter how much studying I did, I was doomed to fail before the pen hit the paper.
It’s completely normal to make expectations for ourselves. It gives us a goal to reach for. But before you start that assignment or cram your last bit of studying before exams, don’t tell yourself what you can’t do, because you may believe it. If you think about the reason you’re studying and apply a little positive reassurance to that knowledge, you may be that much closer to achieving that goal.
Self-doubt is a big problem for some. Don’t doubt your abilities. Next time you find yourself struggling, analyze the problem, and don’t critique it. Self-improvement is always important, not self-deprecation.
You can do it.