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How to Stop the Doubting Yourself Cycle

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I can’t stand it anymore! Too many amazingly talented women whose gifts the world desperately needs are stuck in a debilitating cycle of self-doubt, quitting, then looking for a magic solution. It’s keeping too many of us from getting what we most want. It’s blocking us from creating the impact, satisfaction, and happiness we crave, and the world so needs!

It drives me batty. Batty!

And I  understand this cycle and know it oh too well. I wasted too many years and too much money doubting myself and looking for someone to tell me what to do.

It is a mission of mine to help stop this cycle FOREVER.

The cycle goes something like this:

You want so badly to ______ (build your consulting business, write your novel, move your body more consistently and joyfully, take more responsibility for shaping your own life).

But you have no idea what to do. What’s the right choice? What’s the best choice? How do you even decide?

Overwhelm creeps in. You start to feel anxious, at loose ends, too much info and options flooding in.

You start to believe your stinky thinking that you can’t do ______. You tried before and it didn’t work. Your idea is too complicated. You’re too old… if only you had started five years ago. You just don’t have the discipline. Plus nobody ever recognizes your talents and your field is too crowded…

The self-doubt sends you screaming, away from taking action, and you either give up or take hit-and-miss flimsy actions that only frustrates you further.

(You may at this point take the job you don’t want that you said you would never take again, say yes to your family and take on more elder care, or sink deeper into shadow comforts – hours on Instagram, Words with Friends or Nextflix – any of which leaves you with no time to pursue what you desire and keeps you feeling safe to boot.)

And then, after weeks or months, or years, of this desire limbo, you get hopeful and excited to try again. (Because you are brave and smart, and you want _____ so much.) So you buy a bunch of books / sign up for expensive over-hyped courses / get a reading (angel, astrology, psychic) / create a very complicated overly ambitious plan

Only it doesn’t help, at least not for long, and the whole cycle starts all over again.

Until you give up for good. Resign your dreams and desires to the ash heap of never-going-to-happen.


You listen to me. (Well, not me but the following ideas which will lead you back to your own wisdom and agency.) But these ideas I’m about to share? They are not quick or sexy. But if you stick with them, over time, this cycle will stop grabbing you and keeping you trapped.

For real.

Here’s the get started now cheat sheet to being free.

1. Give Yourself a Break

Walk away from any shame or self-blame. Shame will keep you stuck! Self-blame will keep you running on this hamster wheel of stuck. Self-compassion is not giving up or coddling yourself with shadow comforts; it’s soothing your nervous system and speaking to yourself with compassion, “This is hard. This is hard for lots of people. And I believe I can learn and do what I need to do to persevere. Not perfectly, but good enough.”

2. Value Not Knowing… Sometimes


Our minds are wired to fear the unknown. The unknown got our ancestors eaten. We aren’t comfortable not-knowing so we have to learn to tolerate the daily uneasiness of uncertainty.

Our minds and bodies look for the easy path. The easy path takes less resources which also kept our ancestors alive. (Thinking requires calories.) Easy beckons, easy seduces, and the coaching/New Age culture also preaches that “easy” or “ease” is a sign it’s “meant to be.” Which is a very, very misleading idea that causes a lot of people to quit when they hit their first patch of struggle, failure, or not knowing.

Our education, for the most part, taught us we were successful when we found the right answer, the ONE right answer. Valuing ambiguity or holding opposites? Not so much. But that’s where creativity lives! Creativity comes out of holding conflicting ideas and bearing the discomfort of that until something new is born.

Finally, our culture is obsessed with quick miracles results and fixes, and that affects all of us. In 12 weeks you can go from want-to-be-singer to global star! Follow my program and make millions in mere weeks! Drink my bulletproof coffee and be a million IQ points smarter while losing weight. The world is beaming gilded promises at you every day, burying in the fine print, “This will take time, a lot of time, and diligent work.”

3. Slow Down

Embrace a fierce devotion over time to living a reality-based human-scaled life. This means facing and embracing what you actually have time and energy to do, exploring what you may need to learn to bring your desires to life, and turning away, again and again, from speedy get-it-done-yesterday-be-super-human fantasies.

4. Start – and Stay – Small

Practice separating out your decision-making from your action-taking. When you try to decide what to do at the same time you need to do it, fear has a better chance of seducing you away, back into the cycle. Simply spend a bit of time listing in writing what you could do to take action, and then nail down what your next small steps will be from that list. Then decide when you will take those steps.

Taking action is a practice. Each time you do it you build your action taking muscle. And each step matters. Just like you wouldn’t expect to go from the couch to running a marathon in 2 weeks, you can’t expect yourself to build all of your dreams in a day. Expecting you should be able to or that you are “failing” or “falling behind” because you aren’t sends you back into the cycle.

5. Be Clear

Make sure those small steps you have decided on are simple, small and clear. How will you know when you’ve completed the small step? If you don’t know, refine. For example, “Write 500 words” is clear while “Write an essay” is not – too big to be a small step. “Research local networking opportunities in Facebook groups for 20 minutes” is clear because of the 20 minute container but “Find new clients” is too vague and overwhelming. Where do you start? How do you know you completed your small steps?

6. Tell Your Tribe

Gather people to cheer you on and to be accountable to. It doesn’t have to be a big deal – email, phone calls, once every two weeks for coffee works but please know: you cannot break this cycle alone. And these supportive people must reflect back to you the progress you are making… especially when you feel pulled back into the old doubt/quit/look for magic solution cycle. This is the moment when the support becomes the real magic.

7. Love the Start… ciz it’s gonna happen a lot

Always begin again and again when you get pulled back into the cycle of self-doubt / quitting / magic solutions or you get sick or your mom breaks her hip or your car craps out and you have to take a freelance gig you dislike that consumes all your free time to buy a new one.

Do not waste your energy thinking these slips or life blips mean you aren’t meant to write your novel or get your side-gig to full time or run a half-marathon. Instead, see this as the moment to become a success. Because this very moment is what seperates out the people who succeed in their desires and dreams from the people who don’t. The people who succeed begin again. And again. Without wasting any of their heart’s energy on thinking they are doomed, screwed or worse off than anybody else. Kvetch to your best friend, then shrug and get back to it.

8. Celebrate EVERY Win

Oh please, turn away from sexy, turn away from wanting big flashy overnight miracles, and please start noticing – and celebrating!! – the very real miracles that sustained settled down actions produce.

It might feel silly to celebrate writing 500 words every day, but your brain and spirit need the little woo-woo or the text to your writing buddy. It might feel that you’re taking forever to make progress on your running or to learn the Zumba steps, but that’s because we humans are horrible at actually perceiving reality. Track what you’re doing! Share with your tribe. Celebrate every small step.

9. Break Up and Break Out

I will totally admit it – I stop following people on social media all the time that trigger my self-defeating habit of comparison. I unsubscribe from blogs that preach “this is THE way” or showcase the writer’s life to be especially glamorous or perfect.

Is there anyone or anything you need to block / delete / stop taking in that triggers you to look for magic solutions, feel less than, or doubt your abilities? It’s not about being a hot house flower – I believe strongly in being resilient and well-informed about the world – but rather to be on the look-out for where someone or something sends you toward quitting.

10. Not (necessarily) Till Death Do You Part

Nothing is forever. You will have new dreams and desires. And the thing you are pursuing now? It might not be IT. Please regularly check-in with yourself and your tribe of supporters/ to see how your actions are feeling and if you still want what you want.

Good Questions to Ask:

  • Do I still want this? (Scary but vital to keep asking. Plus asking helps you feel the sensation of desire and that is motivating!)
  • Have I had enough? (Sometimes the finish line comes faster than we think it will… aka “I did the half-marathon and I’m finished with running for now; I want to try swimming.”)
  • Are my actions moving me forward and helping me experience more of what I want now? (Being busy is not the same as making progress and if you hate the path, is the destination worth it?)

Reflect with your tribe to help you see blind spots where fear or the cycle might be causing cognitive blindness, then course correct as needed; everybody has to! Nobody has a straight shot!

11. Think Impact

Dedicate your efforts to something bigger than yourself to help yourself stay motivated and connected to what we all want as humans: to have an impact, to live a meaningful story.

“I want to build a consulting business so I can give money to my niece for school” keeps you going when you want to quit. “I want to move my body joyfully so I can inspire my sisters and mom to do the same” can get you to the gym at 6 am or 6 pm.

In the end, it’s simple.

  • Forget perfection, forgo sexy, and one size fits all solutions.
  • Instead, be fiercely devoted to taking regular, small measurable steps that you determine.
  • Don’t go it alone. Share your desire with someone you trust when you want to go back into the cycle.
  • Celebrate along the way. A lot.
  • Be kind to yourself when you always begin again.
  • Keep checking in: do I still want this? Am I making progress? Does it feel good?
  • Repeat with love!

I so want you to create what you most desire. Again and again, with glee. I so know you can, no matter how big your dream.

May it be so.



I feel this is one of the most important posts I have written. If you feel inspired or moved, would you please share it with friends? Thank you!

Originally published at

About the Author

Jen Louden is a writer and personal growth pioneer who helped launch the self-care movement with her first book The Woman’s Comfort Book. She's the author of 5 additional books on well-being and whole living, including The Woman's Retreat Book, which landed her on Oprah, and her newest The Life Organizer.

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