Is it Self-doubt or Low Self-esteem?

Everyone has those moments.  Moments in which you’re not certain if you’re doing the right thing or making the right choice.  Moments in which you think back to that thing you said at the party and wish you could take it back, but you can’t.  There are times when you question whether or not you used good judgment or acted too impulsively due to anger or fear or something else.   All of this questioning is a sign of self-doubt.

Self-doubt is present in every person’s life and it can mean a moment’s hesitation before making a decision or it can be a paralyzing force that keeps you from taking action.  For teenage girls, who may feel particularly susceptible to what others are thinking about them, self-doubt can be a daily intruder into their thoughts or a shadow that whisks certainty away from almost every decision.  Sometimes girls express their self-doubt as a way of bonding with friends, either by not appearing to be too arrogant, i.e. masculine, and forthright with their decisions, or, by using self-doubt to consult with a BFF at all times.  But what might seem to be second-guessing can have deeper consequences in terms of a girl’s self-esteem.

Having low self-esteem can be a serious result of too much self-doubt.  If you don’t hold yourself in high regard, or keep a strong base of emotional resilience stored against how things might turn out, you’re likely to question yourdecision-making skills and if your instincts are right about things.  Fundamentally, self-doubt is a contributor to low self-esteem, rather than the same thing.  Doubting yourself constantly, whether by engaging in comparison with others, or holding yourself to an idealized and impossible goal, is a recipe for lowering your self-esteem, because you aren’t staying true to the conviction that you know what’s best for you.  Building up a stronger reservoir of self-esteem will help battle those self-doubt demons when they go on the attack.

But, how do you do this?  Or help a teenage daughter or friend to do this?  Encourage girls to be in touch with what they really want, not what they think they should want.  Do this by (as much as possible) shutting out the media’s messages to girls and going inward to think through what your inner voice most calls out for.  Meditate, create a vision board, or trace out the paths of other strong women and think through what decisions got them to the place you admire.  Imagine the stresses they endured, but overcame, and think about how it’s possible to do that as well.

Draw on supportive friends who will affirm your decisions, and back you up if you feel you’ve made a wrong one and need to make a change.  Practice telling yourself you know best for yourself and shutting out negative voices that tell you otherwise.  Learn to be confident that you’re acting with your own best intentions as your top priority and can be ready to face whatever consequences might come.  This will help bolster your self-esteem and work to erase the voices that can question every decision you make.

Dr Carol
 

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