philosophy and self doubt – how to conquer yourself


There is something in Philosophy called Epistemic Self-doubt. This doubt is special because what we are putting into doubt is our ability to achieve an epistemic favorable state. We doubt that we we can achieve true beliefs.

Take for instance Rene Descartes’s radial doubt. Descartes wanted to lay a foundation for “perfect knowledge” that was knowledge so unshakable and could not be subject to doubt.

In doing so he doubted every source of knowledge until he came to something that he could not doubt. He began to doubt knowledge obtained through his senses as they could be wrong, he doubted being in his body, he doubted his existence. He doubted everything until he fell into solipsism.

The one thing that Descartes could not doubt was that he was thinking. Descartes therefore came to the famous conclusion: I think therefore I am.

Philosophical doubt aside, there is one type of a doubt that most of us suffer from.

Self doubt is a type of doubt that doubts our judgments and therefore makes negative assessments of our judgement which can be very debilitating and can interfere with our quality of life and happiness.

I will be the first to admit that I suffer from an unhealthy amount of self-doubt that prevents me from getting ahead in life, it keeps me stuck and it drives me crazy!

I know what I want to do, I know where I want to go, I know how to do it but I doubt my choice to do it and therefore do not take action at all.

I have this underlying feeling that what I want wont work for me because I am inadequate despite it working well for everyone else. I spend hours of time deciding what I want to and do not end up doing it.

Now a certain amount of self doubt is necessary because it indicates that you know you are not perfect and that you know what you can do to improve but having a lot of self doubt will have you feeling trapped in life.

I’ll use an example of myself:

a) if I failed that would be the worst thing EVER

b) I want to go and teach in Thailand, I would be such a good teacher and so many people do it! Just look at everyone on youtube!

c) if I go to Thailand and teach and I don’t like it and I come back it means I failed and that would be the worst thing ever! Conclusion: I won’t try at all

I haven’t failed I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work. – Thomas Edison.

What happens? I don’t try at all and live in the land of what ifs. I continue to work at my safe job at the bank while everyone in the world tries new things and my list of regrets pile sky high.

Here are a few a few philosophical antidotes to overcoming self doubt.

I see it all perfectly; there are two possible situations—one can either do this or that. My honest opinion and my friendly advice is this: do it or do not do it—you will regret both.  – Sören Kierkegaard

Kierkigaard has a point. Regret is inevitable. We cannot choose both to do something and not do something. So what do you do?

Choose to do if what you want to do has even the slightest chance of making you happy!

When you act on it at least you can tell yourself you took a chance on your self to improve your quality of life. If you don’t act on it you didn’t even give yourself the opportunity at all. When you think about it that way then it’s easy to say that it’s better to regret something you did than something you didn’t. If having did do could have the possibility to better yourself.

Try to push self doubt to the side. When you hear the words “what if you fai……?” Drown those words out with “WHAT IF IT WORKS OUT!”

You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. – Wayne Gretzky

The unexamined life is not worth living. – Socrates

Socrates uttered those famous words in Plato’s Apology.  An unexamined life according to Socrates is a life deprived of purpose and existence. Human beings unlike animals have the ability to think and reason through our highly developed faculties. So if we do not think and challenge ourselves to do better and take risks in order to feed feed our curiosity then we do not enhance our quality of life and intellectual happiness. That means that we are no different than animals who merely sleep, eat, drink, work and procreate.

When you take chances, explore life, engage in all areas of life you begin to have a in depth understanding of yourself, your strengths and the universe.

I empathize. Self doubt it difficult to overcome so take baby steps. If you want to do something then do it. Try not to over think it. Give yourself a little encouraging words if no one else is. If you’re afraid that people will judge you then don’t tell anyone you’re doing it. Don’t share it on social media. And keep in mind that not everything is done for winning sometimes it’s just done for the sake of doing and experiencing. You don’t have to pick up a basketball and become the next LeBron James. You can pick up a basketball for the sake of dribbling it and playing!

I hope this blog post helps you 😊

P.S. after sitting on the desire to teach in Thailand for well over three years I did it in October 2019 and it was incredible! I never thought I would fail at doing it. I was afraid that the experience wouldn’t be worth missing out on my Canadian dollar salary. Guess what? My only regret is I wish I had done it sooner! I’m back in Canada and now I hope to go back one day.