Self-doubt – Behavior Modification Project


            Behavior modification is a relatively sophisticated procedure employed with the primary purpose of transforming human behavior over a specified period.  It involves making key alterations to the basic pattern of individual’s demeanor using a motivational framework amalgamating positive and negative reinforcement. The main objective of behavior transformation is to replace intolerable or displeasing demeanor with desirable ones capable of improving one’s life. Behavior modification has, therefore, proven effective in addressing various issues related to human demeanor such as irrational fears, mental illnesses, and substance abuse (Miltenberger, 2016). In essence, behavior modification simplifies the process of change with the hope that individuals will embrace this nascent transformation and stick to this new regimen for posterity.  Behavior modification is also informed by the idea that human beings transform their behavior in response to perceived consequences of their actions as described by B.F. Skinner. Positive consequences improve the probability of a given behavior being repeated while negative ones reduce such chances. This is generally referred to as the “principle of reinforcement” and forms the basis of human behavior.

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Target behavior – Self-doubt

            For this project, I will be targeting self-doubt as a troubling behavior which I have grappled with during the course of my life. It has proven problematic, seemingly preventing me from taking on various important challenges in life. Self-doubt is essentially characterized by uncertainty in individual’s inherent abilities or competence within a given situation and detrimental to personal development.

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Negative evaluations linked to self-doubt have recently been associated with an overall lowering of self-esteem among individuals plagued by this pattern of thinking, proving an insurmountable barrier to success. Individuals experiencing self-doubt are typically fearful of failure and strive to ensure they always avoid it at all costs in any given scenario (Miltenberger, 2011). Self-doubt is often problematic mainly due to the fact that it reduces the level of effort that one may have used, ultimately convincing many to settle for simplistic solutions. Similarly, overachievers may be gripped by the “imposter” feeling after attaining their goals as a direct result of self-doubt dominating they general psyche. Although literature on sports and exercise psychology (SEP) links self-doubt positive outcomes in sports, it is difficult to replicate the same results in other aspects of life such as academia and relationships.

            According to (Martin & Pear (2019), self-doubt is a reality plaguing a considerable section of the human population and linked to a number of major impactful factors in individual’s subjective experience. It may be the direct result of past experience which may have ended in catastrophic failure or sheer disappointment. They often upset the belief system, with the past constantly used as a reference point in the present moment. Self-doubt may also be a direct consequence of childhood upbringing especially since it plays a major role in the adoption of a belief system and personality. This causes individuals to internalize self-criticism of their abilities based on parent’s opinions and academic prowess in institutions of learning. It is further characterized by an unnatural comparison with others given the competitive nature of contemporary society. Self-doubt worsens in situations where individuals are confronted with new challenges where the fear of success and failure often takes center stage.

Iversen (2017) opines that self-doubt is directly responsible for individual’s failure to remain grounded and incessantly pursuing set objectives. Such individuals are constantly questioning their competence since negative voices permeate their though process; constantly preparing them for what may go wrong. Their inability to adopt counterarguments to these negative assessments often means that they remain oblivious to their abilities and fail to attain achievable goals. Lowered optimism eventually creates a situation where many feel stuck in their current circumstances and find it increasingly difficult to shift their attention to a positive mindset. They waste precious time feeling unsure about their abilities and lack a sense of motivation to drive them towards select aspirations.

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Treatment method

            Addressing self-doubt requires a structured approach linked to the basic tenets of behavior modification. Acknowledging the actual self-crippling nature of self-doubt is the most significant step in when seeking to implement an apt treatment method. It should then be followed by positive reinforcement where individuals are motivated to continue with a positive behavior one step away from self-doubt (Mruk, 2015). An appropriate treatment method should also combine positive punishment with the current approach to enable one to achieve set objectives. This should then be accompanied, in quick succession, by the extinction phase where self-doubt is summarily discontinued to curb its growing influence over persons with the condition. Eventually, individuals struggling with self-doubt no longer react to their initial obnoxious behavior and are now fully capable of discontinuing it for posterity. This behavior is then shaped to desensitize the said individual from the behavior, leading to fading, and the adoption of chaining to ensure full transformation.

            According to Braslow et al. (2012), cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a viable option with regard to addressing self-doubt (p.471). CBT, essentially, approaches self-doubt as a psychological problem requiring a problem-focused approach if progress is to be made within the shortest amount possible. Its main focus is on the events occurring in the present moment rather than a collection of negative influences which may have occasioned it in the first place. The main objective of CBT in addressing self-doubt is the introduction of cognitive restructuring which will eventually enable such individuals to adopt positive thinking patterns and identify instances of archetypal of distorted thinking. Additionally, CBT also involves aspects of behavior activation where individuals become highly capable of transforming negative behavioral patterns by engaging in positive behavior.

            Assertive training is also considered among one of the most useful methods of addressing self-doubt in sufferers. Persons experiencing self-doubt find it difficult to make requests, or say no to activities detrimental to their well-being.  It is particularly instrumental as a useful approach in enabling persons experiencing self-doubt to attain their objectives by skillfully getting their way without being trapped in negative thought patterns (Meichenbaum, 2013). This can also be combined with problem-solving training where individuals with self-doubt are trained on to avoid feeling helpless in any given situation. It is particularly essential in enabling them to identify key problems, solutions, and the implementation of effective alternatives.


Behavior modification is a fundamental aspect of psychology that aspires to address challenges associated with destructive patterns in human behavior. Self-doubt is an example of one such trait capable of causing immense suffering to individuals. It introduces ideas of incompetence and uncertainty in abilities and skills, leading to stagnation and leading many to wallow in mediocrity. Nevertheless, CBT, behavior activation, assertive training, and problem-solving training are affective treatment methods which may very well serve an important role in addressing the aforementioned existential threat.

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