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How to Outsmart Your Self-Doubt

How to Outsmart Your Self-Doubt

Do you ever feel like a loser? Last weekend, I felt like a card-carrying member of that club when the negative voice in my head slipped back into its old ways, spinning and spewing lies set to the soundtrack of “you suck and everyone knows it.”  

Unfortunately, negative self-talk isn’t new to me. Self-sabotaging tunes have been spinning on the bitch radio in my mind since I was a freshman in high school. And let me tell you something you already know: these thoughts are always ugly, never helpful and sound nothing like music. More like a dragon of self-doubt taking over the DJ booth and shouting ugly lies into the microphone to make sure you don’t forget to feel like shit today. 

Well guess what, just because you hear negative thoughts about yourself doesn’t mean you have to listen. 

Let me teach you my ways.

Last Sunday, I decided to be brave and attempt a more challenging cycling route than my new-to-biking body was accustomed to tackling. I’ve only been riding a road bike for one year and let’s just say that my commitment to the cause is spotty at best. So, when the biking group I ride with announced a 22-mile route with over 1,000 feet of elevation change, I thought, “What could go wrong?” 

Other than death, dehydration, and demoralization, of course. 

I’m happy to report that I didn’t die. I made it through the highs and lows of the grueling hills that tested my bike, my body and most importantly my mind. Riding with a group of 25 others certainly helped – I would have turned around after the first five miles if I’d been on my own. But what didn’t feel like help was the bitch radio in my mind mocking me for being at the very back of said group the entire ride. “Good grief Katherine, why can’t you go faster? You’re always last and it’s embarrassing.”  

Nothing like a little positive pep talk, huh? 

When I finally pulled into the finish line with two other riders, I couldn’t help but notice that the 23 riders who finished before us had arrived in enough time to towel off their bodies, load their bikes and many had already driven away to get on with their day. In other words, they had been there for a minute.

While the physical grind of riding 22 miles up and down hills was over, the mental torture of coming in last place was just beginning as negative self-talk started telling me I should be embarrassed for riding so slow, remorseful for holding everyone up and regretful for ever believing I was any good at biking.  

In that moment, I heard what my dragon of self-doubt had to say, and I immediately told it to shut the flip up. 

On my drive home after the bike ride, I slowly but surely shifted the narrative by using pride as my weapon of choice against my self-doubt. Sure, I finished last, but at least I showed up. Yes, I was in the back, but I sure wasn’t at home on the couch.  And oh, by the way, I just rode my bike for 22 freaking miles! 

Here’s what’s important to remember: Sometimes when you’re in the back of the pack or not as good as others at something, it’s important to pause and be proud of yourself for being there in the first place. 

Instead of allowing my dragon of self-doubt to play DJ on my bitch radio, I put that beast in its place. And along the way, I reminded myself that I get to decide (and train my mind along the way) whether I’m a loser for finishing last or a winner for accomplishing something pretty damn amazing. 

I prefer the sound of the latter. 

Yes, my self-doubt showed up on my bike that day, but I showed up bigger.  I hope this story helps you find the courage to do the same. 

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Katherine Wintsch