When you doubt yourself, there’s usually also a tendency to doubt God.
So, today, I’m pulling back the curtain on why you might have doubts and what you can do to stop them. Because when you operate in a mindset of doubt all the time, you will doubt the purpose God has for you. And it’s impossible to be the woman God called you to be and do the things He has purposed you to do if you allow doubt to run your life.
Doubt has a cost and it’s much too big for you to pay.
So, why do you doubt yourself?
You look confident. You have the degrees or certifications. You have the experience. You’re living a great life.
Then, why the doubts?
Well, there are a lot of different reasons why doubt shows up in your life. Some may even seem valid, others not so much. But in either case, you won’t stand a chance of overcoming these doubts if you don’t acknowledge them and then come up with a plan for overcoming them.
Let’s begin with where doubt comes from.
I’m sure you can take a guess. Doubt comes from the deceiver, the father of lies, and the enemy of your soul – Satan. 1 Peter 5:8 says, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” The devil is on his job 24/7 and that job is to devour you. One of the meanings of devour is to absorb or engross wholly. He wants to steal, kill, and destroy you – your purpose, your dreams, your hopes, and your faith in God. He’ll use anything he thinks will get the job done. And if you’re someone who struggles with ongoing doubt, he’ll try to use that to devour you.
Everyone has doubts about something sometimes, but what I’m talking about right now, is a lifestyle of doubt – doubt that spreads out in your mindset, your heart, and your actions. That doesn’t come from God.
So, let’s take a look at 7 common reasons why you may doubt.
#1 – You Don’t Know What to Expect
I’ve shared the story of when I first retired years ago and started my online ministry, I had lots of doubt. I doubted my skills. I doubted if I was really hearing from God. I doubted the technology and the whole online way of doing things. But when I really thought about it, all of my doubt came down to a fear of the unknown.
When you’re starting out on a new venture, even one you believe God is calling you to, you can’t possibly know everything about it. There are a lot of unknowns and that can make you uncomfortable or even fearful. And that fear then turns into doubt. If you don’t think you can do it and don’t put yourself out there, you don’t have to face those unknowns. But that’s no way to live your life.
The truth is that there’s no possible way to know everything that’s going to happen when you step out in faith.
Yes, you can prepare, but there will always be unknowns.
The key is to find a way to say yes anyway and figure it out as you go along – pray, get wise counsel, and look at all the reasons why you should say yes.
2 Corinthians 5:7 reminds us that we walk by faith, not by sight. That’s faith in God. You’re never going to know everything that’s going to happen. Only God does. Because if you did, you wouldn’t need Him. And God wants to be in relationship with you, through Jesus Christ. So, you step out in faith, trusting that He knows what’s best for you.
#2 – Your Past Catches Up with You
Bernie Madoff died in federal prison at 82 years old. If you remember the story, this was the man who ran the largest Ponzi scheme in the history of the United States. His victims ended up losing billions of dollars. For years, he was viewed as some kind of financial genius who got really big returns on investments for his clients. But it was all a lie. No one knows for sure when he started his Ponzi scheme, but it went back years – to the early ’80s or ’90s, maybe even the mid-70s. He got away with it until the financial meltdown that began in the mortgage market in mid-2007 and the failure of Lehman Brothers in September 2008. In December 2008, he confessed what he’d done to his sons and they turned him into the police. His past caught up with him.
Luke 8:17 reminds us that, “For nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light.”
It would be great if we all had perfect lives with no problems or issues. But that’s just not the case. We all come with our own history and our own baggage. And some of those past experiences can lead to doubt.
Maybe it’s a failed relationship that makes you think you’re just not cut out for a long-term commitment like marriage. Maybe it’s an incident with a boss or co-worker in a past job that makes you hesitant to try out for the promotion. Or maybe it’s something completely different.
Each of us has a past and that past leaves scars. Some are deeper than others, but they can all undermine your confidence and lead to doubt. Realizing that is the first step towards overcoming that doubt and with it your past with all its baggage.
Psalms 103:12 says, “as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.” When God forgives, He truly forgives and forgets. He doesn’t hold that thing against you that happened in the past. And you shouldn’t either.
When you accepted Christ, you became a new creation. Old things have passed away and you are new. Walk in that newness and don’t let the doubt that comes from past mistakes influence the future God has for you.
#3 – You’ve Been Told You Can’t Do This
Circuses used to train baby elephants by tying a rope to one of the elephant’s legs. The baby would try to get away, but it couldn’t break the rope or pull the rope away from the thing it was tied to. As the baby elephant grew, it would still allow the rope to stop it from breaking the rope or getting away. The adult elephant remembers that all through its life, it’s been held back by that rope, and even as an adult, it believes that it still has no power to free itself. Their doubt costs them their freedom.
We’re social creatures, brought up in a social environment. We all have families that can look very different. But from an early age, we’ve learned to listen to what those around us have to say. In particular, we’ve paid attention to our parents, parent figures, mentors, teachers, and people of authority. We’ve learned to listen to them and heed their advice most of the time.
And so, it’s only natural to doubt yourself and your decisions when one of those people you look up to tells you that you can’t do it. Sometimes the advice is wise counsel. But sometimes it’s not.
The key is to learn the difference and realize that part of growing up involves trying things even when your “elders” advise against it.
Because the truth is, they aren’t always right. There are things in your heart and soul that God only whispered to you. Everyone won’t understand that. They may truly love and care about you, but everyone won’t always agree with you. Prayerfully keep moving forward.
I have a simple process I use when it comes to taking advice from other people.
- Is this someone who loves and cares about what happens to me?
- Have my past experiences with them confirmed that they give wise counsel?
- And is what they’re saying lining up with what God has told me? God’s Word?
If the answer to any of these questions is no, then I refuse to allow their words to sow doubt into my life.
That’s the time to rely on Philippians 4:6: Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
Trust the Lord and what He says you can and can’t do. He designed you with a special purpose that is unique to you. And He made sure that you would have the gifts you need to carry out that purpose.
Remember that when someone tells you that you can’t do something, and you know it’s what God would have you do.
#4 – You’re Operating in Fear
When I was in elementary school, years and years ago, we had to take gym classes. One of the rotations in gym class was gymnastics. I loved everything we got to do in that rotation – the pummel horse, balance beam, parallel bars, etc. I loved all of it, except for one thing. I hated tumbling – doing summersaults. Somehow, somewhere, I had gotten it in my mind that if I tumbled, I was going to really hurt my head. So, I was too scared to even try. Because of that fear, my grade for gymnastics was always lower than it had to be.
Operating in fear has consequences.
I understand that sometimes you’re just plain scared. You’re afraid of the unknown, you’re afraid to mess up and you’re afraid to find out that you aren’t good enough.
Fear can be a strong motivator to do nothing. It can cause doubt and it can motivate you not to take action. In other words, it can stop you in your tracks.
But you know what that means?
You don’t start your dream business. You don’t go out and get that degree you’ve always wanted. You don’t write your book. And you don’t take a chance and go out with the guy you’ve been having coffee with at Starbucks for the past two months.
All for fear of being let down.
But guess what?
When you let that fear rule you, you lose any chance you had for positive change.
Isn’t it worth doing something despite the fear if you have a chance of getting what you really want?
Isaiah 41:10 says, So, do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
And Psalm 56:3 reminds us that when we’re afraid, we can put our trust in God.
#5 – You Doubt Your Worth
I remember presiding over a hearing that involved a young man who had dragged his child’s mother out of her car, hit her in the head with a gun, and kicked her until she almost passed out. He told her that he should just kill her while calling her stupid, and handicapped and saying that nobody else would want her.
The police officer who came to the scene had the good sense to take pictures of her injuries and her bloody clothes. He also had her write out a 3 ½ page statement in her own words a couple of days later describing exactly what happened. However, at the hearing a couple of weeks later, she testified under oath that nothing happened; that she just made it all up. That young woman loved that guy beyond reason. And some part of her believed that it was okay for him to treat her that way. She valued his worth much more than her own.
It isn’t just the woman who is getting beat up on a regular basis who has low self-worth. Any woman who allows herself to be treated less than the masterpiece God created her to be, usually has low self-worth issues.
When I say, “self-worth,” I’m not talking about self-absorption, self-centeredness, or plain old selfishness. Self-worth means you know who you are in Christ. You understand that a woman’s worth doesn’t come from self but from Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection.
It has nothing to do with how you look, your dress size, or how much you weigh.
You have worth because:
- You are a child of God. – Romans 8:16
- Jesus loves you so much that He gave His life for you. – John 3:16
- You are a joint heir of God through Christ. – Galatians 4:7
- You are a child of promise. – Galatians 4:28
- You are God’s masterpiece – there is no one else on the planet like you. – Ephesians 2:10
God has written a love story just for you and you can read it every time you pick up your Bible. Because you belong to Jesus, you have worth beyond measure. Never allow the devil or anyone else to make you think otherwise.
#6 – You Don’t Think You’re Good Enough Yet
LinkedIn did a study in 2019 to see if a common belief about women and men applying for jobs was in fact true. Research shows that in order to apply for a job, women feel they need to meet 100% of the criteria while men usually apply after meeting about 60%. LinkedIn concluded that this common statistic was in fact true. Women held themselves to a higher standard, whereas men believed that if they were at 60%, that was good enough.
It’s normal to think that you don’t know enough yet, or that you aren’t experienced enough yet for a task, a job, or a position. To be honest, chances are when you take a new job or try something new you may not be as good at it as you’d like to be at first. That’s because you haven’t tried it yet and you’re lacking the experience.
I remember when I graduated from law school thinking that I didn’t have a clue how to be an attorney. Law school taught me where to go and get the answers, but it was experience that taught me how to be a lawyer.
It’s normal to doubt you can do new things when you first start out. The important part is to try things anyway, get some experience under your belt, and get better at what you’re doing.
The goal is not perfection – it’s excellence. Give yourself some grace and do the best you can in the most excellent way that you can.
There’s a common belief that God helps those who help themselves. That’s so untrue – God helps those who know they can’t help themselves. When you need God’s help because you think you’re not good enough yet, remember Psalm 86:1: Hear me lord, and answer me for I am poor and needy.
Like I said a few minutes ago when I graduated from law school, I didn’t know the first thing about going to court and trying a case. But law school had taught me where to go to get the answers. The Bible tells you where to go to get the answers when you don’t know. And that’s why you’re good enough right now.
#7 – You’re More Comfortable Where You’re at Right Now
When I was the Chief Judge of my court, one of the first things I did was to put a personal and professional development training program in place. I saw so many employees with talents, gifts, and skills who weren’t using them. And most of the time, it was these employees who were most unhappy with their lives and their jobs. So, I thought training could help them see their potential and help them improve their life, both professionally and personally. Well, out of the 50 or so employees who went through the training, only 1 did what I had hoped the training would do. After completing my post-training evaluation, it became very clear, that even though many of those employees didn’t like their life or jobs at the time, they were comfortable with their unhappiness. They weren’t willing to step outside their comfort zone.
That was tough for me to understand. But after going through counseling training and coach training, I began to understand them. Those employees were not the exception.
It’s all too common for people to get too comfortable in their comfort zone – despite the fact that they don’t really like it there. People will often use doubt as an excuse for going after their goals, hopes, and dreams.
But here’s the thing. You have a choice to make.
Will you stay comfortable where you’re at now, or are you ready to get a bit uncomfortable, face your fears and challenge the unknown?
As nice as it is to stay comfortable, it’ll eventually get boring. And remember, dreams don’t come true in the comfort zone. All those dreams, goals, and plans you have, require you to get uncomfortable if you want to make things happen.
Remember the story of Abraham.
God had promised him that he’d be the father of many nations. However, Abraham couldn’t stay in his comfortable home and surroundings. God told him that he would have to leave that place and go to another if he wanted to receive all God had for him.
So, Abraham went. And it was not an easy journey. But he obeyed God and because of that obedience, he was blessed beyond anything he could have imagined.
Is there something God wants you to do, but you doubt that you can? It’s okay to doubt, as long as you don’t allow it to stop you from doing what God’s called you to do and what you want to do.
This is a good time to remind you of a very familiar story but in a somewhat unfamiliar way.
The disciple Thomas was not with the other disciples when Jesus appeared to them after His resurrection. The next time Jesus came to the disciples, Thomas was there but he said he wouldn’t believe it was Jesus until he saw and touched the wounds in his hands and side. When Jesus allowed him to do just that, Thomas said, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28)
I think we tend to overlook the fact that Thomas might have had doubts, but his doubt had a purpose – my Bible says that he wanted to know the truth.
From wanting to touch Jesus’ wounds, he’s been known forever as Doubting Thomas. But I think that’s a misnomer. Thomas didn’t live a lifestyle of doubt.
If you remember, in John 11:16, Thomas was the one who said to the other disciples, “Let’s go, too, and die with Jesus” when the people in Galilee wanted to kill Him. He didn’t hesitate and he even urged the others to go with Jesus in the face of danger.
So, Thomas wasn’t really a permanent doubter.
And he shows us that you can have doubts and not have a doubt lifestyle. Doubt isn’t ever meant to be a permanent condition. Thomas didn’t stay in his doubt. He allowed Jesus to bring him to belief. And if you struggle with doubt, Jesus will do the same for you. Like Thomas, ask and He will answer.