How to Deal With Fear and Self-Doubt

“Happiness can be achieved through training the mind.”

~ The Dalai Lama

When I’m upset, I pause for a second and listen to the voices in my head, the nagging and nattering redundancies of judgment, fear, or criticism that can buzz like the background din of a busy pub. We all have some version of these inner critics; if you meditate, you know exactly what I mean. I used to choose one particularly disturbing thought and try to analyze it away, but the relief was short-lived. For example, if financial insecurity surfaced (What if I lose my job? How will I pay the rent?), I would reassure myself that “things always work out.” After all, I have over 40 years of experience to prove it. And that would work, but only for a time. This nagging aspect of the mind, well-honed over many years, doesn’t go away with rationality.

After many years of trial and error I’ve developed some more effective ways of handling this problem. I envision a Green Gremlin on my shoulder, rubbing his hands together as he invents new versions of the same old anxieties that have rattled my inner peace for years: “HEH,” the ghoul sticks his tongue out and says, “Nobody wants to read what you have to say. That book has already been written. Stop wasting your time.” What a nasty illusory jerk!

You’d think I’d have banished the gremlins by now, with over a decade of yoga under my belt. To some extent, I have. Today the green ghouls, goblins, and gremlins are more entertaining than they are disturbing, and they keep me on my toes. They encourage me to practice “pratipaksha bhavana.” In ancient Sanskrit, this means “cultivating the opposite.” So when the voices rise up to tell me I’m not good enough, I take the opportunity to remember how awesome I really am. 

Try This

To train your mind, you must first become aware of the messages it sends. If you can’t make out the exact words, note the physical sensations in your body; can you find the source of discomfort or anxiety? Do you clench your teeth or feel butterflies in your stomach? These sensations are the physical manifestation of your thoughts. Whether you realize it or not, and whether you believe them or not, your life unfolds in response to your thinking. Choosing faith over fear promises inner peace, outer strength, and overall well-being.