Become Your Own Cheerleader and Get Rid of Self-Doubt

You can be your own cheerleader

I’ve been teaching Language Arts to middle-schoolers for 20 years, but this year I’m trying something new. (You can read about my decision to change careers at 60 here.) I am now an Academic and Life Skills coach for at-risk kids. Sounds daunting, right? I have to admit, I’ve had some doubt about whether or not I’m up to the task, but I learned a long time ago you have to become your own cheerleader to succeed at anything new, different, or hard.

Self-doubt will take over and control any decision you make if you don’t believe in yourself.

We all have an emotional bank account that’s linked to our self-belief. We add to or subtract from that account based on our life experiences. When we do something hard and succeed, we add to our account. When we try something and fail, we subtract from that account, and that’s the problem.

We think of failure in terms of a debit to the account, and when we allow our failures to drain our account, we begin to doubt ourselves and our decisions. We stop trying new things or working towards new goals for fear of losing the whole account.

When you become your own cheerleader, you learn ways to keep your account balance in the black.

Here are 3 things you can do to get rid of those debits to your account:

 STEP 1: Realize that failures can be good things.

Become your own cheerleader and turn failure into success.

The key to keeping your account full is learning failure isn’t a bad thing. I know it seems counter-intuitive, but it’s true. When we see failure as an opportunity to learn and grow, it becomes a positive instead of a negative thing.

How is that possible? Find inspiration from the lesson you learned or the understanding you gained. Remind yourself life is a process and success isn’t always the end result. Cheer yourself on with the knowledge you tried; that’s a big deal – there are lots of people out there who didn’t.

Remember what Thomas Edison said when confronted by someone who asked about his failure to invent the lightbulb: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

STEP 2: Build on positive experiences. 

Become your own cheerleader and make choices from a place of hope.

Self-doubt often creeps in when we’re faced with something difficult. We tend to view the situation from a place of fear, questioning our ability to meet the challenge.  When we realize that is happening, we need to take time to think back on previous successes to rebuild our self-belief.

What does that look like? Think about difficult things and situations you overcame in the past. Tell yourself, “If I did __________, I can do anything.” Remind yourself of tools you used that helped you be successful in those situations and choose the one you think will work for this challenge. 

Nelson Mandela said it best: “May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.”

Choose to reflect on your past successes . . . remembering even the smallest of successes can help you believe in yourself until you’re strong enough to tackle anything that comes your way.

STEP 3: Follow a fake-it-’til-you-make-it policy.

Become your own cheerleader and believe in yourself.

Teaching English to 8th-graders is a difficult task in the best of circumstances. Getting them to “engage” in discussions or learning activities first thing in the morning is almost impossible. I’m often asked, “Mrs. Smith, how come you’re so happy (or full of energy or excited) every day?” I usually reply, “I decide to be.”

The fact is, I’m no more excited than they are to start the day off with writing or grammar, but if I’m not, who else will be?

Years ago I read The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale. He explained the “act as if” principle. If you’re not happy, smile until you are. If you’re not enthusiastic, pretend you are. The same thing works with self-confidence or courage.

Venus Williams has a similar philosophy: “Just believe in yourself. Even if you don’t, pretend that you do, and at some point, you will.

Become your own cheerleader and get rid of self-doubt.

It was a belief in myself that caused me to choose my new career path. Now It’s the fear of failure that brings self-doubt about my decision. Every day I face doubt, wondering if I’m up to the task. You see, it’s always there – that fear of failure.

Maybe it’s because by the time a person reaches “midlife,” there have probably been as many failures as successes, so we focus on those failures. Maybe we’ve forgotten how to cheer ourselves on as we work through our challenges, so self-doubt is our default mechanism.

Whatever the reason, when we realize failure is really a success, recognize the many successes we’ve had, and act as if we’ll succeed, we go a long way to ridding our lives of self-doubt.