“It’s red panty night when you foight me”
“I could rest my balls on your forehead”
“Who the fook is that guy???”
Sure he’s one of the best sh-t talkers in the game, but Conor Mcgregor has clearly got an incredibly sharp mind.
He has founded companies in multiple industries, recently selling the majority stake in his whiskey brand for $600 million.
He topped the Forbes list for being the highest-paid athlete in 2021.
“Conor McGregor is MMA, isn’t he? That’s it. I couldn’t name you three more fighters in MMA, I just couldn’t.”Tyson Fury
In an interview with Ariel Helwani for the UFC, Mcgregor made a profound point about self-doubt and taking action.
This quote was the inspiration behind this article.
What is self-doubt actually?
What does it mean?
How can you use it?
How do you overcome it?
All of these questions will be answered.
When self-doubt creeps in
Self-doubt is poised to take hold of your thinking.
It’s waiting, ready.
It knows there will be an opening.
There always is.
It’s not so much like fighting an opponent, because you can’t just beat self-doubt. Not really.
You could kick the absolute sh-t out of it today, and it will be right there again tomorrow.
It’s a tough little b-stard.
Self-doubt isn’t playing for fun, either.
This isn’t catch in the park with your dad.
Self-doubt will f-ck you over.
It will end you.
You will try to keep self-doubt at arm’s length, to free yourself of its influence.
You find you make decisions better that way.
It will not like that.
It’s an attention-seeking little f-cker.
But what can you do? You can’t just get rid of it. Not without deceiving yourself.
You can’t just ignore it either. It knows you too well.
It’s like your bitter ex-girlfriend.
It knows just what to say to get under your skin.
And, as annoying as it is, the little b-stard has got a point from time to time.
The way I see it, you’ve got 1 good option.
You can learn about how self-doubt works, so that you are better equipped to deal with its advances.
And in order to understand what self-doubt is, we should first learn where it comes from.
You have been programmed by your early childhood
When reading around this topic, I came across this talk by Peter Sage about the power of the unconscious mind.
In this presentation, Peter goes into the psychology of self-doubt. To summarize, the development of the brain’s frontal lobe is what separates us from much of the animal kingdom. It is responsible for all of our decision-making, expressive speech, and critical thinking.
The frontal lobe does not get properly activated in humans until they are around 7 years old, which is why young children just sleep and play and make decisions without any critical thinking.
This lack of critical thinking also makes young children very impressionable.
So when you’re 5, and your mum’s stressed out by her job and her marriage and she snaps at you for wanting some attention, you don’t think:
Instead, you just see someone you love reject you when you were vulnerable. Because of your lack of judgment at this age, you allow events like these to engrain themselves in your own subconscious self-perception.
Events like this stay with you. They influence your own view of who you are and what you should think about yourself. You learn to accept limitations that are not really there, but which feel more and more real as the years go on.
Self-confidence is an external-internal pursuit
As creatures of habit, we use our primal brain to perform most cognitive functions in our lives.
So you walk, and you speak, and you breathe, and you regulate body temperature, and you blink. All without thinking.
This automation has plenty of benefits, but it also presents a challenge for us as we try to better ourselves.
What it means is that as humans, we are constantly being programmed.
Whether we like it or not.
Environment beats will
Because of the dominance of our primal brain for our day-to-day thinking, it is our environment that is responsible for a lot of our habits.
- If most of our friends use drugs recreationally, we can choose to not use them. But we will feel an overwhelming urge from our primal brain to conform to our environment.
- If we live with people who are negative and terrified of risk, we can choose to live boldly and take chances in life. But our primal brain will conform to the risk-averse over-conservative mentality the minute our motivation lapses.
- If you want to become more entrepreneurial, you might consider starting a business. But if everyone you know and live amongst has a steady job and has never successfully started a business, you might find it hard to imagine a future where your business gives you the freedom you crave.
Just like these things are true, the reverse is also true. If you want to see a real positive change in your life, you should look first at your environment.
- If you want to stop using drugs recreationally, stop hanging around those people. Befriend people who consider that behavior to be beneath them. Over time, your worldview will change.
- If you are overwhelmed by negativity and trauma, move away from those people. Get out of there. Try to live with positive people who are optimistic about the world.
- If you want to become more entrepreneurial, go and seek out some people just like you. Let their enthusiasm reinforce your own perspective.
Everyone feels like a fraud
You might have heard of imposter syndrome. You might have got a sense that most people struggle with it.
What I didn’t realize, Until researching for this article, is that some of the absolute greatest contributions to society were made by people who felt like they were not what others perceived them to be.
Maya Angelou was an African-American writer and civil activist. She made an incredible impact on literature and culture. She won so many Medals, honors, Grammys, and awards that you’re gonna have to research her for yourself if you want to know the specifics.
She is quoted as saying:
“I have written 11 books, but each time I think, ‘Uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.’”
Albert Einstein presented the general and special theories of relativity. He explained the photoelectric effect. He might be the most influential scientist in history. He is quoted as saying:
“The exaggerated esteem in which my lifework is held makes me very ill at ease. I feel compelled to think of myself as an involuntary swindler.”
We all might look at that like “come on Einstein, mate, they don’t give out Nobel prizes to any old scientist do they”.
But it does go to show – We all doubt ourselves. Even right at the top of the top of the top, there are people dealing with that voice of inadequacy.
So don’t be thinking that the day will come when you finally stop doubting yourself altogether!
Your self-doubt is telling you something, sometimes?
Whilst all of this is true, it’s not like self-doubt exclusively comes from unjustified imposter syndrome and other people’s trauma.
Much of the content out there in the world is about how to destroy your self-doubt.
How to get rid of it once and for all.
How to stop it from f-cking you over.
Don’t get me wrong, I plan on doing that a little bit too.
But we want to be careful because it’s not like your self-doubt serves no purpose.
It is sometimes appropriate to take a long, hard look at ourselves.
So for the sake of balance, here are 4 reasons why it’s a good thing to doubt yourself from time to time.
It’s a sign of true humility
Think about the kind of person who doesn’t doubt themselves.
Ever. Like never.
Like they are always convinced that they are correct.
They understand how things work.
Nothing unexpected will happen.
They are always sure of themselves.
Have you ever met one of these idiots?
With such a vastly advanced world, where millions of geniuses have dedicated their whole lives to contributing to the body of knowledge in their specific fields to make civilization what it is today, no one man can really know that much.
Even Einstein, who literally disagreed with Isaac Newton and then proved himself right, struggled with imposter syndrome throughout his life.
He knew there was so much that he did not know.
So if nothing else, take your self-doubt as a sign that you are thinking straight. Because there are unknowns, and there are limitations, and you would be a fool to consider these things beneath you.
It can lead to you asking the right questions
Whilst you have vast potential, there’s a huge difference between what you could do in principle and what you are literally capable of right now.
So although it’s difficult to accept, if you’re going to achieve big things, sometimes you have to ask yourself those hard questions that you won’t like the answers to.
As an example, let’s say your dream is to become a Michelin starred chef.
No one’s stopping you.
Is this really what you want? Why?
What makes you think that you actually want that life?
Do you really have the knowledge and experience and drive to make it on your own?
Can you cook food that is really at that level?
Chefs like that work 70 hours per week every week for years. Have you thought about that?
There are a million ways to make money that are so much less stressful and quicker. This is what you want to spend your time on?
There are Michelin-starred restaurants that lose money all the time. Forget the cooking part- can you run a business like that? Should you not partner with someone more experienced?
Restaurants never make money in the first year. Restaurants like that might break even in the second year. Have you got the finances to make it work?
When you own a restaurant, there are a million things that you have to personally do that aren’t directly cooking. You’re going to cook way less than when you worked for someone else. Are you ready for that?
All these questions suck, but they are also worth asking. Without some self-doubt, they might not be asked until it is too late to resolve them.
It allows you to relate to other people
Imagine there was a man who never doubted himself. He decided what he wanted to do, and then he just did it, successfully, always. Easy as that. No ups and downs, no trial, no internal struggle.
Sure that would be some man, but what the hell would you talk to him about?
What on earth would he know about you?
When you have experienced the human struggle that others have experienced, you are able to relate to them as people. You can understand them, and they can understand you. You can inspire them, and be inspired by them.
You talk the same language.
You can have real, deep self-respect
Think about this same perfect man. Everything is straightforward for him. Nothing is complex.
He takes risks easily.
He works hard effortlessly.
He does not doubt himself at all.
Sound good to you? Just think about that.
If you could take risks without feeling fear, is it really bold to do so?
If you can grind for years without any effort or difficulty, is it much of a personal achievement?
If you never fight that internal battle, where you choose to act strong where part of you feels so weak, have you achieved anything by being successful?
But you aren’t that perfect man. You are one of us. You suck. You are weak in so many ways.
So when you achieve something significant, it is because you refused to listen to that voice in your head.
It’s because you chose to make sacrifices that were painful in the short term.
It’s because you were strong when it would have been so acceptable to be weak.
That is a hero story.
That is a sight to behold.
That is where true self-respect comes from.
Don’t give it an inch
I know what you’re thinking.
A cliche tony robbins quote in an article about personal development.
Shoot me now.
But the man makes a great point.
In our lives, whatever we chose to focus on intensifies.
If you choose to listen to that quiet voice that tells us we can win, not just in principle but with our actions, then that voice will be nurtured.
It will become louder and louder.
If you hear that voice of self-doubt objecting to you doing what you really want to do, and you listen to it, the same principle applies.
That voice will become slightly more dominant.
And if your self-doubt grows, it will become more and more ludicrous. More and more restrictive.
What you need to do, when you hear that voice, is identify what both voices are saying.
Use your conscious brain. Your frontal lobe.
Decide to act in a courageous way, regardless of how you feel so that that voice can continue to lead you down a heroic path.
Because if you give your doubting self even an inch more than it deserves, you will find yourself acting less effectively in the world.
Outwork your own uncertainty
When you put serious work into bettering yourself, day in and day out, you are habitually listening to that bold voice that believes in your higher ambitions.
That voice grows and grows. You adopt it as your own.
Self-doubt has no hold on you in this state. You are proving to yourself, with your actions, constantly, just the kind of man that you are.
When you really do everything in your power to work as hard as you possibly can, you know that you have not let yourself down.
You have fought for your place.
You are the kind of man to rise to a challenge.
You build deep, grounded self-respect.
When you live with this kind of perspective, The external world notices.
The reality is, that most people do not live with this kind of intensity.
Most people are perpetually distracted and comfortable.
So when you do work harder than is considered reasonable, you start to look very different to most people.
You start to see yourself as the exception to the rule.
You start to fancy your own chances.
How to take action and remove self-doubt
Celebrate any kind of win you have
Momentum is seriously powerful. When you work hard and take action today, it’s that bit easier to do the same thing again tomorrow. When you slack off today, you will wake up tomorrow doubting your own ability to get the job done that bit more.
That being said, getting any kind of small win under your belt can really help you to build positive momentum and get back into outworking your self-doubt.
As an example, say you’ve just spent a few days partying with your friends over the new year. As a result, you have fallen out of your positive habits and part of you feels weak and distracted.
In this situation, something like going to the gym can be all you need to snap yourself out of the haze and get back to chasing your potential.
Decide the most important thing
Having more than 3 priorities is the same as having 0 priorities.
This is something that I have found seriously impactful.
As a young man at the moment, I want to save money. I want to be a brilliant chef. I want to be a good boyfriend. I want to look after my body. I want to build my blog.
Saving money involves what I eat, investing, holidays, and clothes.
Being a brilliant chef involves where I work, what I read, and What I prioritize day to day.
Building my blog involves keyword research, writing content, link building, and optimizing for SEO, blah blah, blah blah.
Being a good boyfriend- f-ck knows.
I found myself weak in the mind because this is just way too much stuff. I’ll never do all of this stuff to any kind of level. If I get an extra hour, where on earth should I put it?
I had a whiteboard in my room with 3-month, 6-month, 9-month, and 12-month goals for these things. It was quite inspiring I guess, but it was also stressful as I found I can’t really hammer away at something in my life without completely overlooking some other area.
After reading up on billionaires, I decided to choose just 1 goal. 1 specific measurable Priority. Every day I made progress toward this goal, was a day well spent.
Any other day, was a waste of a day. I don’t care If I rescued a little kitten from being stuck up a tree.
Waste of a day.
F-ck that kitten.
Today, my whiteboard looks like this:
Set up your environment for success
The people you spend time with. The kinds of opinions you hear. The attitudes of those people in your surroundings. These things vastly impact your own mindset and decisions.
A huge part of this is taking complete responsibility for who you find yourself influenced by.
Most people do not do this enough.
I do not do this enough.
We find ourselves “friends” with people that grew up near us, and we just kind of stay with them. For better or worse.
The thing is, the kind of attitude that will reap serious rewards in this world is not what the majority of people adopt. So the chances that you have found yourself to be childhood friends with nothing but absolute winners are slim.
If you can start to design a more positive environment, then you will start to make more positive decisions.