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How to Overcome Self-Doubt & Start Contributing

Have you ever had a meltdown where the lizard brain takes over?

Rewind to Saturday morning and you would have found a teary eyed Tammy standing in the kitchen. Why so many tears?

To make a long story short, I was experiencing a lot of self-doubt.

I kept saying to myself:

I’m not a good writer.

How will I ever finish a book proposal?

Even if I get a decent proposal shipped out the door, will a publisher take me on?

And is it really possible for me to write a print book? Something that’s longer than a guide?

These thoughts lead me tumbling down the rabbit hole filled with fear. Self-doubt and fear is something we all struggle with, but it’s our job to push past this stuff and keep working.

Rather than tumbling down the rabbit hole, it’s essential to remember the big picture. While I’m crying in the kitchen over my feelings of inadequacy, a lot of people don’t have access to clean drinking water or might be looking for a way out of a violent relationship.

Remembering the big picture makes me realize that I am very privileged and I have so much to be grateful for.

Part of my agenda on this blog is to get you to rethink your relationship with stuff, work, time, and money. And more importantly to remember that we’re all interconnected. The broader goal of living a simple, minimalist life is to change the world for the better.

If you want to overcome self-doubt and start contributing let’s take a look at a few examples of organizations and people who are making the world a better place through their contributions:

1. Living Yoga is a non-profit outreach program β€œteaching yoga as a tool for personal change in prisons, drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers, transitional facilities, and to populations who would otherwise not have access to it.” Yoga has the power to change the world by helping people become more mindful and aware of their choices. {Read more here.}

2. Chris Guillebeau donates 10% of his annual income to a charity. In addition, Chris is donating a portion of earnings from this book sales to The Ethiopia Water Project.

3. Karol Gajda, of Ridiculously Extraordinary, recently organized a minimalist book sale. And this sale wasn’t about putting money into his pocket. He donated the first 24 hours of profits to Kiva.org. His original goal was to send $2,000 to Kiva. But, Karol sent over $9,000 to the organization!

P.S. Today is the last day of the sale, so be sure to check it out!

How do you overcome self-doubt and contribute to the greater good? Leave a comment and share your story.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Megan October 6, 2010, 8:23 am

    Love your post! I am often plagued with self-doubt and these are good reminders and motivate me to forge ahead. Plus, despite self-doubt, I have no chance of success if I don’t at least try. Not trying = failing.

    Thanks for your wonderful site and insight πŸ˜‰

  • Michelle - the urban hausfrau October 6, 2010, 8:28 am

    I do exactly what you did, I put things in perspective. I am happy, my family and I am healthy, I’m in no mortal danger of any kind……I’m so very fortunate.

    I think some days we need to be reminded of all that we have so I consider the “kitchen crying days” a nudge from the universe. We all need a nudge once in a while. If we don’t acknowledge it, you might get a shove next time. (:

    As far as self doubt goes you’re a perfect example of putting it out there. Your such an inspiration Tammy. You have a lifetime of amazing things ahead. Trust in yourself. As a perfect stranger, I have trust in you (:

  • Crystal Street October 6, 2010, 8:41 am

    Overcoming self-doubt when the Lizard brain takes control- never easy!! I’ve found that when this happens- by chance or fate- someone I do not know takes the time to tell me how my writing has helped them in some aspect of their life. Or that some of my images helped them see the world from a different perspective. Validating my efforts and quieting the Lizard.

    So, I guess that having the support network in place to prop you up and beat down that Lizard brain is priceless. And, contributing to the greater good through your actions seems to be a powerful legacy.

    When others see what is possible through your own actions and the ways in which you lead a meaningful life, they are implored to follow along and bring meaning to their own life. And the positive juju just spreads from there.

    Thanks for your work! Quite fabulous!

  • Mollie October 6, 2010, 8:43 am

    Hi Tammy,

    Once again your blog is incredibly relevant for me. I’ve been struggling with self doubt, too. You made me realize that instead of wasting my time questioning myself, I should be thankful for the opportunity I have to take risks and explore dreams.

    Keep up the good work!

  • SusieQ October 6, 2010, 9:23 am

    As a big fan of your writing, I want to offer my encouragement- I can’t wait to read your book! So hurry up! πŸ™‚ Also, I am trying to write my own book, and i have the same kinds of doubts, and i find it helpful to hear that others have the same doubts, especiallly when they seem (to me anyway) to be flatly contradicted by a whole lot of evidence.

    As for overcoming doubt, I have not found it useful to try to stamp it out. Rather, I try to accept that it is there (in a Buddhist way– e.g., “this, too.” There’s hope, and joy, and fear, and sadness, and anticipation, etc., etc., etc. Doubt? Yes, well, this, too.). And then I can see that it’s there– I don’t have to believe in its truth, or its permanence, instead I can try to see what it is, maybe why it’s there, what it’s trying to teach me. And then I get back to work.

    Good luck with your book!

  • Brenda October 6, 2010, 9:34 am

    Holy Cow Tammy!

    You always writing and say exactly what I need to hear. Just yesterday I was plagued with tons of self-doubt and fear over my blog. I think I read the paper too long and got tremendously discouraged by our lack of civic action and how that correlates to our current government.

    Long story short, I was so angry I could not write, but today I woke up with a new resolve and remembered why I chose to start my blog. I write my blog to help empower people, and remind them that they have choices every time they buy food. I write to remind people that it’s never to late to take action and take control of our lives and overall health. I write because I believe 100% that major food corporations do not have our best interest at heart and that we have the power to fight back. Sometimes I fall off the wagon, but I have to remember that I’m trying and hope that over time making better choices will become easier than they are today.

    Thank you for reminding me not to give up Tammy!

  • Mark Powers October 6, 2010, 10:06 am

    Thanks, Tammy! A great reminder, when that inevitable doubt creeps in, of 1) exactly how good we do have it, and 2) that focusing our energies outward can create even greater results.

    And for the record, we’re all waiting for that print book, so get crackin’!

    • Tammy October 6, 2010, 4:52 pm

      @Mark – LOL! I’m working on it. πŸ™‚

  • Lisa October 6, 2010, 10:09 am

    It sounds corny, but I “count” my blessings. Then I take time to do something for somebody else. This never fails to jerk me off my pity pot.

    • Arron October 6, 2010, 11:30 am

      Now that’s a great idea, and productive!

  • Katie October 6, 2010, 10:12 am

    I do what is possible for me, right now. I try not to compare. I accept those teary-eyed moments as necessary to my humanity and growth. I eat homemade chocolate peanut butter cups. I forgive myself. I try to learn, love and offer help where I can. I volunteer my time. You’re doing just fine Tammy.

  • Kristy Powell October 6, 2010, 10:18 am

    A friend pointed me toward your blog, I’m a new follower. We have many similar interests/intentions.

    As for overcoming self-doubt, I allow myself to experience the doubt and have a personal convo about why I’m doubting and then I do a little cognitive challenging. For example, if I were you I would have begun to challenge my doubts on the grounds that this is a logical next growing step for you, not leap, but step–you’re already admired as a writer. Then maybe I challenge what my expectations are, perhaps they are too great, perhaps they are just slightly off target, perhaps that’s not the issue. I try not to minimize my feelings in the face of greater struggle as in the moment, whatever I am experiencing is valuable. Once I process I must move forward, and sometimes I have to before I “feel” ready to and then generally my emotional experience catches up and I’m contributing to greater good. As we all have so much to share, and that can be frightening, but for those of us with those fears, we are kept from sharing a most valuable asset of our own. I’m going through this process myself now about starting to blog and share my own contemplations. Biggest fear: Why on earth would my thoughts be original, not already shared in a better way, from a more developed platform, etc?

  • Arron October 6, 2010, 10:32 am

    Hi Tammy! Great post. I am subscribed to “Rowdy Kittens” so I receive your new blog entries regularly, and truth be told they are among the first things I read each day. You have inspired myself and many others with your blog and e-books. After reading that someone who has inspired so many of us also has moments of “what the heck am I doing? who am I kidding?” is even more of an inspiration. Most people would never admit to having self-doubt. It takes courage to do that but it takes strength and determination to get beyond that moment and make it work for us. We’re human. We all have self-doubt, but it is our ability to push past that self-doubt and turn it into a positive force that defines us. Your ability to inspire others should be proof that yes, you are more than capable of being a good writer. πŸ™‚

    I try to put things in perspective when I’ve hit my “doubt wall”. I tell myself things could be worse, that everything is transitory and impermanent. I think of the things I have accomplished that I never thought I would have and push forward in what I am struggling against at that moment. If I don’t, I know I will fail…but if I at least attempt then I might just succeed.

    Keep up the great work!

  • Heather October 6, 2010, 10:44 am

    Self doubt is such a common occurrence for me I try to turn it into a form of entertainment. If I can write about it in a self deprecating way, it loses its power and I can can share with people. “See? See how ridiculous I am? I should join the circus! I’ll sit in cage and people can “Poke The Loony!'” Aaaand… then sleepless nights and big self doubty problems don’t seem quite so insurmountable.

  • Beverly October 6, 2010, 12:39 pm

    I run a constant battle with the lizard brain. That little voice in my head that says no you can’t. I just have to take a step back and revaluate what I’ve accomplished. Then I know I can do anything.

  • Sue October 6, 2010, 12:56 pm

    Hi Tammy,

    I hear you and empathize with the self-doubting, teary-eyed meltdowns. I’m going to offer a different approach and suggest that rather than trying to talk yourself out of those moments, gritting your teeth and pushing past them, why not try taking some time to listen to what that part of you saying and ask it why it’s feeling so vulnerable. I’ve found that sitting with the feeling and asking it what it’s really about (and then really listening with respect and compassion for what it says) is often more effective in the long run for dissolving the wall of doubt than using the energy to try and push past it, ignore it, etc. I’m with Katie on the being gentle with yourself advice–including indulging in the homemade chocolate goodies.

    You write well and I enjoy reading your articles especially as you have the courage to bring your own vulnerabilities and experiences to your writing. From what I’ve read–and observed for myself as an editor–it seems most writers experience attacks of self-doubt when their inner critics or inner editors launch a stealth attack out of left-brain field. The self-doubt attacks seem more likely to happen when authors are writing through and from their heart. My hunch is that it goes with the territory of putting yourself out there in a genuine, heart-centred way. It might feel less overwhelming if you view the process of writing the book as one one paragraph or section at a time rather than a whole book.

    Take care, be good to yourself, and bright blessings to you.

  • Emma-joan October 6, 2010, 1:14 pm

    I found your site today and it is helping me to overcome my enormous self doubt and the belief that I am stupid and worthless. I worked as a model full time since the age of 14 and have never known any other life. A few months ago I walked away for the last time. I’m never going back there again. They are awful dreadful people who tell you your only value is in how you look. From day one you are too old, too fat, too HUMAN!!! I always felt so guilt when I saw billboards or commercials I was in because I knew there would be girls out there who would feel worse about themselves and doubt themselves because of ME. I didn’t start it but I was a part of something that was harmful to girls and women everywhere. I was virtually trafficked into the biz, growing up we never had much money & home was not a happy place but by choosing to stay there when I could have got out I became a part of a very ugly vampire called fashion and beauty advertising. Whenever I try to reach out to women who say the things I feel in my heart, I am consumed with insecurity and convinced that they will hate me for being one of “them” and very often they do. I have never belonged with the models and fashion people, it was my means of survival. Until recently I really believed that my physical appearance was the only valuable part of me and that it saves me because I am stupid and worthless and will not survive. Today I am choosing not to believe this and finding people I admire and reaching out. Tammy thank you for your blog, your post and what you are doing for women everywhere. You have fortified my spirit.

    • Tammy October 6, 2010, 4:50 pm

      WOW Emma – thank you so much for your kind words and sharing your story. I’m glad you left the industry. It sounds like it was a very negative experience. And you’re starting a new chapter in your life, which is so exciting!

      Remember – you are beautiful the way you are! And please keep me posted on how things go for you.

      • Emma-joan October 7, 2010, 7:44 am

        Thanks Tammy!
        I’m so happy I got out too. I was such a slave to stuff and dieting and the belief that how attractive other people think I am is how I feel. Writing it down actually makes me giggle because it is so stupid!!!! But seriously it is also a dangerous and pervasive thought virus and many many young women are struggling to cope with the messages they receive from their role models. Even the mothers are sick with these thoughts (in many cases). As women we are taught that to be nurtured by the collective and belong in the tribe, in essence to survive we must cling to the body of youth. Chop it paste it, re touch it. It’s so horrible that all these talented, smart, brilliant, gifted little girls are growing up with the belief that to be different is dangerous. This has to stop and we must resist. Your work is so important for this reason. We need all of us to bolster our self esteem and build real and meaningful lives so that we can thrive and not just survive. We can be there for the others who think, Is that all there is? We can yell , NO! Rowdy Kittens Rock On!
        with love

    • Sue October 7, 2010, 6:51 pm

      Hi Emma-Joan,

      I hope Tammy won’t mind me jumping in here to comment on your comment, but I just wanted to let you know how much sensitivity, insight and awareness comes through in your description of your experiences. It takes a great deal of intelligence to be able to step back, offer up the kind of first-hand observation and analysis you’ve just done and stay in a place of compassion for yourself or others. You’re also a really good writer.

      I hope you will find a way to combine your flair for communicating with your ability to so clearly articulate both your experiences and your understanding of the larger beauty and and advertising corporations that keep so many women trapped in the belief that there sole value is in their bodies and physical appearance. You have the smarts, insight, passion and compassion to make a hugely positive difference in the world. Go for it!

  • Laurie October 6, 2010, 2:31 pm

    Again, I applaud your honesty, Tammy! Transparency in blog writing always hits me as the most effective way to reach people. It’s much easier to relate to someone who struggles with the same stuff as I do.

    Usually if I’m struggling with self-doubt it’s because I’ve become too stuck in my own head. Often watching a good movie or putting on some music I love can snap me out of it. Anything to get my mind roving on to something besides me, myself and I! And on those days when the best thing about the day is crawling into bed at night, I end the day with a prayer of thanks for a warm, safe place to sleep, and a prayer of compassion for those who don’t have that…and that always helps me gain some perspective and gives me hope that tomorrow will be better.

    I just downloaded the “minimalist book sale” and am looking forward to reading your books! I love your blog and your unique take on minimalism. Keep it up!
    Laurie in Michigan

  • Grow With Stacy October 6, 2010, 2:59 pm

    The first thing that I do is to recognize the self-doubt for what it is – negative thinking that will do nothing other than drag me down. I know that our attitudes and our thoughts are powerful and they guide the direction of our lives. I don’t want to let any of that get comfortable in my mind.

    I used to live a life full of negative thinking and I constantly felt beaten down and I wasn’t able to achieve any kind of success in my life. My own beliefs were getting in the way of being able to accomplish anything that I wanted out of life.

    One thing that really helped was learning how to use affirmations. Repeating positive statements about myself felt really unnatural and silly at first but then after a short while I found myself becoming more positive and having more belief in myself. Once my attitude changed it seemed like my whole life changed, even my relationships!

    • Tammy October 6, 2010, 4:51 pm

      @Stacy – Thank you for sharing!

      I love the idea of incorporating more positive affirmations into my life. My mom is actually sending me a few books on that very topic. πŸ™‚

  • Trish October 6, 2010, 3:50 pm

    Boy have I had an exhausting struggle with self-doubt in recent years! I have always loved horses, and at the ripe ole age of 40 acquired 2 big strong YOUNG horses. I keep them at a great barn where there is a mix of people my age and younger, high school age people. Everyone else, especially the young people, is excelling, and I am left crying and afraid. I just kept plodding along, and the thing I told myself is that while I may not be extraordinarily gifted, I am also not extraordinarily flawed. In other words, if they can do it, so can I. I am finally making some great progress, and this accomplishment, which was 5 yrs in the making, has me on top of the world.
    As for ‘the greater good’, I try to ‘live simply that others may simply live’. while horses may not be exactly in line with that ideal, I strive to make the rest of my life line up.

  • Tammy October 6, 2010, 4:54 pm

    WOW. Seriously peeps – I’m so blown away by all the positive comments, feedback and suggestions. Thank you so so much for reading! πŸ™‚

  • Molly On Money October 6, 2010, 5:23 pm

    I cry and cry…..then I feel great (what a release!), look around and see my husband or co-worker (all men) staring at me like they’ve been through a tornado.
    I tell them, ‘It’s just a crying day, don’t worry (god I feel better)!’

  • Jen October 6, 2010, 6:59 pm

    Something I have found that helps me alot when I a feel overfaced and intimidated is to take a step back and brake my goal down into doable steps. If you look at your whole goal especially if its a big one like writing a book for example πŸ™‚ it can seem like too much. So I make a flexible outline of steps that will help get me in the right direction. Things seem so much more clearer when stripped down into sections or bench marks. If I concentrate on how I’m going to achieve something raher than wether or not I can do it, it keeps me destracted from self doubt and makes me feel more in control of my situation.

    • Jen October 6, 2010, 7:20 pm

      Oh yeah and PS remember that tears and self doubt are also a sign that this is very important to you and you must want this very badly. Realize that and don’t be afraid of it, sometimes just the fear of something having that much of a hold over our emotions paralizes us. Its ok to want to do this and its ok if you fail and its ok if you succeed give yourself permission to experience this however it should play out and GOOD LUCK!!!! πŸ™‚

  • Kori Golightly October 6, 2010, 10:58 pm

    Hi Tammy,
    Thank you for this post. I just quit my recently acquired coffee shop job and was wallowing in self doubt about how I will support myself. Your post reminded me of all I have to be grateful for and the necessity of maintaining a positive attitude. If there is anything I can do to help you with your book proposal, don’t hesitate to ask. You are a lovely writer, and you will be fine, but I am happy to help all the same.


  • Kristen Sloan October 7, 2010, 4:16 am

    Self doubt hits everyone at some point. Recently, I have hit a period of self doubt as I have started a new job and it’s been a slow start. I am reminding myself that success thats time and hard work to push through it. I also try to remember those successes in my life during my times of doubt. Your suggestion of putting my life in perspective is also a great idea.
    Thanks for the great post!

  • Sarah Jean October 7, 2010, 6:49 pm

    Love this post!! I just started a blog last month and I realized that self-doubt is one of the best procrastination devices possible. And, just moving forward in action, has a way of assuaging that fear. Thank you for sharing your personal struggle with self-doubt and for offer tangible ideas for action! Fear less, hope more πŸ™‚

  • Lyle October 8, 2010, 2:09 am

    Wow, great blog Tammy and great follow on comments. As I sit here, an insomniac at 3:47 am, hit by the self-doubt bug this was exactly what I needed to read. I recently returned from working overseas to my old job and am wallowing in self-pity that I am being sucked back into a role that I that I thought I’ld left behind. This is a great reminder to get outside myself and count my blessings. I have a great wife, wonderful kids, good friends and neighbours and my health. It really helps to hear that others are going through their own personal torments and sharing their thoughts on how to rise above it all. Thanks everyone who posted and best wishes.

    Fantastic website. I have always been a minimalist at heart. Recently I found myself contemplating a larger place because the kids are getting older. “Why should I have to line up for the bathroom now that I am over 40?” – is that self indulgent thinking or what. Your website, all the posts and links, reminded me that I have (more than) enough ! Thank you for the reality check Tammy. Peace.

  • Lyle October 8, 2010, 2:20 am

    PS – Tammy you have really tapped into something deep, very St Francis of Assissi. Take heart, you are inspiring alot of people to live a better life. You write well, you have great ideas – the book will come.

  • Erin October 8, 2010, 4:28 pm

    I’ve recently come across the work of Susan Johnstone over at The Heart’s Voice, and that has been pretty transformational for me. Working with her insights is helping me to think about my own resistance and self-doubt in a new way and befriend it for its wisdom, rather than just hunkering down and pushing through it (which rarely seems to work for me). One of the things she mentions is that resistance always feels so personal, like “why am I doing this to myself?” If we instead believe that who we’re being called to become serves a purpose larger than ourselves, it can really change the story from feeling bad about ourselves to finding greater self-compassion and meaning through our transition. Check her out! She’s awesome

  • Jeane February 24, 2011, 7:44 pm

    Wonderful blog! A friend of mine recommended your blog and I am happy she did. Good stuff here. Self-doubt hits us all. When I am faced with self-doubt I have to say I let myself dwell for a bit and then I get moving: cleaning my yard, doing yoga, or heading to the beach. More often than not if I can get out of my own head for awhile the world seems to fall into place.

  • vee February 26, 2011, 9:26 am

    “Part of my agenda on this blog is to get you to rethink your relationship with stuff, work, time, and money.”
    Very well put RK.
    I am trying to learn how to record bits of my journey to minimalism. I am glad you are sharing your life with us. I am hearing your heart in your writing.

    “Do not labor for the food which perishes but for that which endures eternal life”

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