This is an episode of Crush It Mondays. Each week, I’ll bring to you an inspiring message, habit, or contemplation to get your week off to a powerful start.
Today, I want to talk about doubt. There are so many times and in different areas of our lives where we have self-doubt. The thought – “What if I’m not good enough?’ Sport is the easiest example, but it can happen any time. It can be doubt in your own capability accepting a role at work, it can be doubting a decision you made, or doubt that you’re doing the right thing.
Doubt and self-confidence are linked. Nobody is perfectly confident all the time and every single person experiences doubt, no matter what their level of accomplishment may be. In my experience, focusing on negative thoughts are what lead to doubt. Overthinking leads to doubt. And sometimes, self-doubt leads to giving up.
I’ll use a simple example. I did a race called the Nimby Fifty in Pemberton over the weekend. I was afraid before the start because conditions were going to be dangerously wet and slick on a very technical course. I also had chosen a race set-up that was for dry conditions and I didn’t have any way to change what I brought. I was ruminating about something bad happening on the descents – I had done the race 3 times in wet and dry conditions so I knew what was in front of me. My husband Matt said, “you’ve done this course in multiple conditions: TRUST that you know how to ride the really technical parts.” It was hard – there are days where I really trust my skills and then there are days where I choke. And in terms of how I rode the technical descents relative to how I normally ride, I totally choked and it was disappointing. I couldn’t overcome my doubt and I walked stuff that I’ve ridden tons of times. So self-doubt beat me there.
However, an example of crushing self-doubt that day was at the start. I have been working hard on my fitness and thought that I was going to have a fast start. But on the first climb, it seems like everyone was riding away from me and I was in 5th or 6th place. I couldn’t even see the women in front of me anymore.
My thought process was:
Objective observation: I’m not riding at the front of this race. I’m in 5th or 6th right now.
Negative thought: I’m not fast anymore. I suck. I’m too slow. The work I’ve been doing isn’t paying off.
Self Doubt: I guess I was wrong thinking I would be able to race for the win. I am not good enough. I want to give up.
Spoiler: I ended up winning the race.
What happened next?
First, I was immediately aware of the thought pattern which is important. The awareness that you’re starting to slip into a tornado of doubt and negative thoughts is powerful. Next, I chose to stop focusing on what everyone else was doing. We were only 5 minutes into an almost 3 hour day. I looked at my heart rate and power and thought, “well, that’s on par for me…I’m doing my best right now. I didn’t feel great in my warm-up and it sometimes it takes me longer to get going in races.” I tried to stop looking at how fast everyone else was and committed to riding my best, even if it wasn’t as fast as everyone else or even if I knew I’ve been stronger on other days. I tried to stop comparing myself which is hard, because a race podium by definition is how fast you are compared to someone else. A few minutes later, it seemed like everyone started to slow down and I moved up to 2nd place very quickly. It’s because it took me longer to warm-up- I came around. Disclaimer: I’ve had this thought process in other races at the start and I HAVEN’T come around. Feeling stronger isn’t point here. The point was recognizing the thoughts and changing my focus.
As the race progressed, I didn’t worry about what place I was in. About 50 minutes in, I caught the person who was leading and passed her. I overcame the doubt that I wasn’t fast enough. “What if I get caught?” was my next thought. And my response “I’m going to ride my best. If I get caught and passed, I didn’t deserve to win and that is okay.”
The self-doubt I wasn’t able to overcome was riding at my normal level in the wet conditions. I’ve raced that course in colder, greasier conditions. I had psyched myself out the 24 hours leading into the race. I doubted myself and I was afraid to commit to certain slick off camber rock rolls and steep chutes. I was walking more than I ever have. And it just got worse. I had lost confidence in my ability. I choked. While it’s a shame that happened, I was able to mostly avoid creating a spiraling narrative of how I sucked. I just accepted that it was where I was at that day and it didn’t mean anything more than that. I practiced self-compassion.
I chose to ride my strengths and do it really really well- the climbs. And I won the race by 18 seconds.
Another quick example was Kate Courtney’s inspiring world cup win this weekend. She mentioned that she had a flat tire, had to claw back 35 seconds and had thoughts of doubt. I loved that she said that because at any level, we all experience doubt, even when you are the reigning world champion. But to overcome it, you just have to get as present as you can, and focus on doing something well- even if it’s something very small.
This week, I challenge you to notice when you start having negative thoughts, where they stemmed from, and the doubts that come. Write them down. It’s okay if you can’t turn it around, but step 1 is noticing when the claws of self-doubt get you. There are times where we actually do overcome self-doubt a lot, and it’s a muscle. Think of times you overcame self-doubt and surprised yourself. When you do notice negative self-talk and doubt, can you change the story you’re telling yourself to create opportunity for improvement instead of using it as verification that you’re not good enough?
What happens if you actually weren’t good enough at something- like how I couldn’t regain my confidence on the descents? It was truly all in my head. That happens too. Instead of saying “I’m not good enough,” say “I’m having an off day” or “I can work on this to improve, I’m not just not good enough yet.” Resilience is built on trying over and over. Working at something over and over. Or even changing your strategy for improvement.
I think that one of the best antidotes for self-doubt is saying, “Even if today doesn’t go exactly the way I wanted it to go, I can show up tomorrow, keep working at it, and one day- it will all come together.”