We’ve talked about doubt on a couple of past episodes, but we’ve saved one of the worst kinds of doubt: self-doubt—for its own episode.
Self-doubt is a sin.
Not sure you buy that? Well, stay with us…
Self-doubt can stem from different sources
1. Low Self-Esteem or an Underestimation of Your Abilities
- You don’t believe you’re good enough, that you have the skills, the abilities. You don’t trust what you know.
The problem with this is that it often stems from Fear of being wrong, which puts this positive task God has given us into a negative light. That makes what we’re doing each day a task of fear rather than joy. We’re thinking, “Don’t screw up” instead of delighting in the work God has equipped us to do.
It points to a lack of trust that God can equip and enable you to do what He’s asked you to do. You doubt Him. That’s not just a bad idea. It’s a sin.
- Also, when we focus on some task that we don’t believe we have the skills to do, it can make that task much bigger than it is.
For example, I’ve (Erin) been working on an automation sequence for our newsletter, and I’m struggling learning how to use a new mailing program, and I’m doubting I’ll do it right. Pretty soon this whole process takes on an exaggerated proportion. Like it’ll be some HUGE failure if I mess this up. Well, no. The world will not end if my automation sequence has a glitch, or a mistake, or I have to redo it down the line. This is NOT a problem of epic proportions, but my self-doubt was making it into that. But look at what 1 Chronicles 28:20 (TLB) says:
“Then he continued, ‘Be strong and courageous and get to work. Don’t be frightened by the size of the task, for the Lord my God is with you; He will not forsake you. He will see to it that everything is finished correctly.'”
2. Thinking You’re Not Doing Enough
- The word enough is the problem. We fail to see what we ARE doing when we’re constantly focused on what we aren’t doing…We’re not writing enough, or we’re not writing fast enough, or we’re not working hard enough, being grateful enough, being productive enough…
This type of self doubt is so dangerous because it doesn’t have any manners. It doesn’t just stay in one area of our lives. When we battle self-doubt as writers, it tends to spill over into every other aspect of who we are. So we struggle with feeling like we’re being a good enough spouse or parent or friend or Christian or whatever. And what better way to derail us from what God has asked us to do, whether in our writing or in other areas of our lives, than to whisper to us that we’re just not enough. And what we do isn’t enough.
Instead of resting in God and His leading, we start striving. We take on more than we should, we get frustrated and impatient, and we end up fulfilling the idea that we’re not good enough or doing enough because we become focused on self rather than on God. And that often leads into the next type of self-doubt, which is…
3. Self-Doubt Rooted in Self-Sufficiency
- Whether this is conscious or unconscious, self-doubt is a warning sign of self-sufficiency
This one is a tricky one. It can be hard to identify because we don’t rationally think, “Hey, my problem is that I’m being self-sufficient.” But that’s what it comes down to.
When you doubt that you’re enough, you’re not really doubting yourself. If, indeed, God is the one who has asked you to write, or if He has led you to your spouse, if He is the one equipping you to parent or write or whatever, then when you doubt that you’re enough, you’re really doubting the supplier of your needs. You’re doubting God. And, like we said, that’s not just a bad idea, it’s sin.
Solutions for Defeating Self-Doubt
- When we’re doubting our ability to do a task, we need to go back and ask: Who gave us this task?
- If God gave us this task, then our job is to trust God. Period. He has promised to give us the abilities we need, to go before and behind us, to prepare us.
- Deuteronomy 31:8 says: “Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; He will neither fail you nor abandon you.” Either we believe He will fulfill His promises, or we don’t.
- It might help to think about Noah. The guy probably never built an ark before. But when God tells him to do this, does Noah spend the next 100 years worrying that he’s going to do a lousy job? God wants that ark built, He has a plan. He’s not going to let Noah ruin it. When we think of it that way, it seems ridiculous for Noah to worry. It’s the same with the task God gives to us. He will make us able.
- That doesn’t mean it won’t be hard, and that we won’t have to learn a lot along the way.
- Allow yourself to make mistakes.
- Making mistakes isn’t failure! It’s a normal part of a learning process. Sometimes we learn best from our mistakes.
- Look at all the mistakes God’s “heroes” made. Shoot, just look at David, the man “after God’s own heart.” He lusted, committed adultery, and committed murder, to name just a few mistakes. But God still loved him. Still used him. Give yourself permission to make mistakes.
- Some of us have a really hard time with this. We’re perfectionists, which is a problem in and of itself that we’ll also address in a future podcast. But you might need to repeat this to yourself: The world will not end if I make a mistake.
- And if you start worrying about it, remember Psalm 37:23-24: “The steps of good men are directed by the Lord. He delights in each step they take. If they fall, it isn’t fatal, for the Lord holds them with His hand.”
3. Focus on what you’re doing right first, and rejoice.
- When we struggle with self-doubt, we never take the time to celebrate what we do right, to celebrate our victories. They’re always overshadowed by what we did wrong.
- But here’s the thing: realize when you do things right, that’s from God, not because you’re so great or perfect. So when you rejoice, rejoice in HIM, in His provision and presence. Remember Proverbs 21:31: “Go ahead and prepare for the conflict, but the victory comes from God.”
- Focus on what you’ve learned from your mistakes, and rejoice again!
- Anyone who has worked at something important will tell you, mistakes WILL happen. Making them isn’t the problem, it’s how you react to them and whether or not you learn from them. Rejoice in what you’ve learned through the normal human event of making mistakes.
- Focus on the big picture, the overall task. Am I moving in the right direction?
- This writing journey isn’t about hitting some bullseye somewhere. It’s about walking in obedience in the DIRECTION God has pointed us.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff
- Don’t sweat things like messing up an email. They’re SMALL. The big stuff—the important stuff—is what’s going on in your heart.
- How is your relationship with God? Are you submitting to Him? To His provision for you, whether it turns out the way you wanted to or not? Do you understand His amazing love for you?
- Ephesians 3:17-19 says, “I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” When we focus on that, we don’t have room in our thoughts for self-sufficiency.
- Focus on this writing thing as a task WITH God, not FOR God.
- God doesn’t leave us as orphans. He wants to be intimately involved. We have to embrace that. We have to repeat that truth over and over to ourselves in order to replace the lie of self-sufficiency.
- Remember Gideon in the Bible? The Midianites were oppressing the Israelites terribly, and when God was ready to intervene, here’s what He tells Gideon in Judges 6:14-16: “The Lord turned to him and said, ‘Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?’ ‘Pardon me, my lord,’ Gideon replied, ‘but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.’ The Lord answered, ‘I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.’”
- This wasn’t a task Gideon had to do alone. Neither is this task God has given you. The whole point is to do this WITH God. Then He gets the glory, not us. And we get joy rather than self-doubt.
Few things can derail us as quickly and effectively as doubt. And the most debilitating form of doubt is often self-doubt. But when we recognize that what we’re really doubting isn’t ourselves, but the One who gave us this task, who promised to equip us and prepare us for this task, who promises that He’s with us every step of the way, then we have to admit the hard truth that self-doubt isn’t just a bad idea, it’s sin. It’s doubting that God is who He says He is and doubting that He’ll fulfill His promises. The next time those doubts try to get to you, stop them in their tracks. Turn to God and submit them to Him. Let HIM take them down as He’s promised He will. And then move forward in the peace and freedom that God is in control. All you need to be is obedient.
We want to hear from you!
What have you found to be your most effective cure for bouts of self-doubt?