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Friday, April 12, 2024
The Observer

Flip the script 

I think it’s safe to assume that at least once before we’ve all been in a situation where we were consumed by doubt and anxieties. Our professional, academic and personal projects are often clouded by self doubt and fear of failure. Van Gogh once said, “If you hear a voice within you say you cannot paint, then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.”

This is definitely easier said than done. So does being overwhelmed with fear or anxiety in difficult times equal lacking confidence and faith? 

A quick Google search brings up the definition of faith “complete trust or confidence in someone or something.” I personally disagree with this statement. Faith, no matter what you believe in (yourself, karma, God…) isn’t something that you just have or do not have. Faith is a process through which we sometimes grow and at others diminish. Faith is a choice peppered with victories and setbacks. 

Self-doubt is always portrayed as the villain undermining one’s ability to move forward and succeed. Deemed as a traitor to success and even the worst enemy to creativity, we are often advised to silence the voices in our heads and steer clear of doubt and shut down our anxieties. Recently, however, a new perspective on doubt has emerged. In fact, when properly managed, self-doubt can help combat complacency and improve performance. When we take the time to question ourselves, we trade a faster result for a more thoughtful, long-term one. It drives us to question results, experiment with new strategies and be open to alternate ways to solve problems.

“But self-doubt isn’t only a performance enhancer,” says Rich Karlgaard. “It’s also a recipe for being a wiser leader, teacher, parent and friend, because coming to terms with it makes us more compassionate and gives us greater insight into ourselves and others.” 

The key to harnessing the power of self-doubt starts with learning not to fear self-doubt but to embrace it as a naturally occurring opportunity for growth and improvement. It all starts with understanding and exploring self-efficacy. And in order to achieve that all you need to do is talk. Yes, just talk to yourself and channel your inner cheerleader. Psychologists and researchers call this voice “self-talk.” Self-talk shapes our relationships with ourselves, allowing us to try to see things more objectively.

Positive self-talk and its relationship to self-efficacy has been a topic of intense study for sports psychologists. Researcher Antonis Hatzigeorgiadis and his team at the University of Thessaly in Greece studied water polo players and how self-talk affected their ability in throwing a ball for accuracy and distance. The players using motivational self-talk significantly improved at both tasks versus the others, and the study showed that motivational self-talk dramatically increased both self-efficacy and performance.

The power of self-talk has been conclusively demonstrated in fields beyond sports, including management, counseling, psychology, education and communication. It is also important to note that how we refer to ourselves in our self-talk can also make a difference. Ethan Kross, director of the Self-Control and Emotion Laboratory at the University of Michigan, has found that people who speak to themselves as another person — using their own name or the pronoun “you” — perform better in stressful situations than people who used the first-person “I.” By using external pronouns, we view ourselves as a separate person, enabling us to give ourselves more objective advice. This is because we are able to self-distance — we can focus on ourselves from the distanced perspective of a third person. “One of the key reasons why we’re able to advise others on a problem is because we’re not sucked into those problems,” explained Kross. “We can think more clearly because we have distance from the experience.” By using external pronouns, we view ourselves as a separate person, enabling us to give ourselves more objective advice.

Positive self-talk is not self-deception. It is not mentally looking at circumstances with eyes that see only what you want to see. Self-talk is about recognizing the fundamental truths regarding the world and yourself, one of which is the fact that none of us are immune to mistakes and mishaps. Self-talk is not simply about hyping yourself up. It’s about objectively reflecting on your next step while learning to flip the script in your mind from doubt and fear to self-efficacy.

Krista Akiki is a sophomore at Notre Dame majoring in Business Analytics. Coming from Beirut, Lebanon, she always enjoys trying out new things and is an avid travel-lover. She hopes to take her readers on her journey as she navigates college life and stands up for the issues she believes. She can be reached at or via Twitter @kristalourdesakiki.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.