Mental Health

How I re-booted my self-trust

For as long as I can remember, people have believed I could get through whatever I’m faced with—but I don’t believe them. When I’m struggling with my latest mound of self-doubt, my support network reminds me that I’ve conquered all my past challenges. So why not this one too?

In recent years, a trend has started to emerge: I start off the year motivated and ready to get on the way. I’ve got this. Then, as the semester progresses, the workload gets steeper. Life gets busier, assessment starts to pile on, and it’s harder to keep up the pace. That initial confidence in my ability is starting to waiver. Marks start to come back from assessment pieces, acting as obstacles to the trust I have in myself and the work I’ve been doing. I can’t do this. I’m not going to be a good clinician. How are people meant to trust me as a veterinarian when I can’t even do well on this mid-semester exam?

Sounds dramatic, right? One thing goes wrong and then my brain starts to doubt every little piece of work I’ve done. The sad part is, I know I’m not the only one who’s thought like this.

Trusting yourself is easy when everything is going your way. But in reality, our self-belief is always challenged when we’re tired, and not at our best. It’s easier to give in and listen to the negative inner dialogue in our head saying, “but this time is different,” or, “”it’s harder,” and “how do they know I’ll be okay?”

This distrusting voice is trying to protect you and keep you safe. Because if you don’t believe that you can meet this new challenge, you’ll stay in your comfort zone. You’ll stay “safe.”

The problem is, growth only happens when you step OUTSIDE your comfort zone. When you challenge the self-doubt. When you believe you CAN do this.

Those around us always seem to have more faith in our abilities than we do. Because they don’t have our inner voice telling them that we can’t do it. They aren’t buried by our self-doubt. They see a birds-eye view of what we’ve been faced with, and what we’ve previously overcome. While we’re in the thick of it, trudging on.

Trusting yourself is easier said than done. And the past year has really highlighted to me how much trust I lack in myself.

I remember sitting in the first introductory surgery practical of the semester, struggling to get the suture patterns and tensions right on the first go. Looking around, my selective lens saw my classmates excelling where I was not. I critiqued my lack of ability, and as a result, didn’t show up to the rest of the practical with my full energy or focus, because my brain had shut off.

It was easier to doubt myself and give up mentally than to fail and try again.

I recall going home that afternoon and pulling myself up on this negative self-talk. I swore to myself that instead of tearing myself down further, that I would put in extra time to regularly practice this skill. And in the end, trusting my determination to do better (and consistently showing up with my full energy and focus) resulted in me getting top marks in the surgery section of my practical skills exam. Practice really does make progress.

You may be thinking, “Yeah, so what? Everyone feels doubt, why’s this so important if I can do nothing about it?”

And my answer to that is – yes, you’re right. Everyone doubts themselves at one stage or another. But what if we could minimize the effect it had on our lives?

Self-doubt is an obstacle. Our minds always like to focus on the things we find difficult. On the 10 we got wrong out of 100. Glossing over the 90 we got right. And whilst this might be useful when this thinking acts as a motivator, more often than not, it can easily tear us down.

But what if we started to notice when that little voice pops up? And start to challenge it. You are more than capable. Believing in yourself can seem like a challenging leap. So why not just start by trusting that next time you find something difficult that you won’t automatically listen to the negative self-talk? That you will start having your own back.

I’m not saying that trusting yourself will always get you exactly where you want to go, but it definitely gets you a step closer to the right direction.

Little by little, those baby steps add up. And before you realize it, you’ll be at the summit of that mountain, using your re-booted confidence.

Sophie Bolton is a third-year veterinary student at the University of Queensland in Australia. She has always had a love for animals, but only decided that the veterinary field was for her mid-way through her first year of Biomedical Science. After graduation, Sophie aspires to work in mixed-practice to gain experience with a variety of different species. She loves to help both people and animals, and is excited that her degree will help her to do so. Outside of university, Sophie likes hiking, horse riding, beach trips, and spending time with friends.

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