It starts innocently enough—you had a bad morning at work. Then someone snaps at you as you slip off to grab some Starbucks. And then your thought process spirals into an all-out avalanche: Should I get a new job? What kind of job should I look for? Am I on the right track? What do I really want to do with my life? How am I going to make it to the end of the week, let alone through the next year?
The worst part is, once the self-questioning starts, it doesn’t stop—and it seeps in to all the other aspects of your life, too: What if I picked the wrong partner? Why did I choose this apartment? Are these the right shoes to wear with this skirt?
When you finally get a break for lunch, it’s all you can do to choose from one of five sandwich options.
Yes, it’s important to take an honest look at your life. But women can be prone to getting into a spiral of overwhelming self-doubt that drags us down rather than helping us make productive decisions. Sometimes, what you need the most is just to stop the running commentary and clear your head, instead. Here are four simple tips for silencing that voice of doubt:
1. Surround Yourself with Positive Messages
Sometimes, it helps to replace your own internal voice with someone else’s. So read a good book (check out our virtual book club for a place to start), post inspirational quotes on your mirror, or listen to music that makes you feel good, be it pumped-up gangster rap or soothing acoustic crooning. Drown out the little voice that says you can’t and fill its absence with words and rhythms that keep you moving forward, that tell you you’re amazing and capable and beautiful and whatever else you want to be.
2. Turn off Distractions (If Just For an Hour)
My senior year of college, one of my professors asked us to do a 24-hour media fast: no cell phone, internet, email, magazines, newspapers, nothing (though books were OK). Try disconnecting, even if it’s just for an afternoon, to reconnect with your offline persona. Really be present and attentive to the world in front of you rather than the one in the cloud. Meet with a supportive friend and talk about your lives in more depth than you can capture in a tweet or status update. Do something tangible like baking cookies, working out and reveling in your body’s strength, or crafting something beautiful.
3. Take Some Time for Yourself
Some of us need more time alone than others. If your job keeps you hopping from one client to the next and you leave work only to spend all of your free time with your friends and family, are you getting the reflection time you need? Grab a journal and lock yourself in your bedroom or jump in your car and drive until you’ve cleared your head of the day’s clutter. Once you’ve relaxed into your own skin again, you’ll be able to be more present to all the people in your life—and to yourself, too.
4. Focus on What You’ve Done, Not What You Haven’t
I know we told you that you are not your resume, and it’s true that no single sheet of paper can capture all dimensions of who you are. But sometimes you need to remember how cool your accomplishments really are. Did you graduate cum laude? Become a member of your department’s honor society? Did you head up a community service project or write a pretty awesome article?
Think about those accomplishments and how happy and successful they made you feel. You’re selling yourself short if you only think of the things you haven’t done instead of all of the fantastic and unique things you have. Build on those.
Above all, don’t be so hard on yourself. You don’t have to take on the world at 100 miles an hour to know you’re moving in the right direction. Sometimes you just need to take a moment to remember what brings you joy and what brought you to this point in your life in the first place.
What are your favorite things to do when life gets overwhelming? How do you silence the voice of self-doubt?