Self-doubt is a common human experience characterized by a nagging, pervasive feeling of uncertainty and a lack of confidence in one’s own abilities, decisions, or worth. It can manifest as an inner dialogue of skepticism and fear. I think it can have the “voice” of a critical parent or a judgemental person in your past. Either way, it can leave you feeling doubtful about your life prospects or own abilities. It can lead you to question their talents, intelligence, or judgment. This internal struggle can be paralyzing, hindering personal growth and preventing you from pursuing your ambitions or healthy taking risks. Whether in professional endeavors, relationships, or creative pursuits, overcoming self-doubt should be a priority so you can remove the self-imposed barrier that is impeding your progress and leading you to miss valuable life opportunities.
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Overcoming Self-Doubt and Knowing What It Really Is…
At its core, self-doubt is a psychological issue rooted in fear and insecurity.
In my opinion, it arises from a variety of sources, including past failures, societal expectations, or comparisons with others. Comparison to others is the most future activity one can do. Comparisons are indeed useless in a world of individual people. We all have different skills, abilities, and histories. What is the point of comparing ourselves to anyone else? No matter how hard you try, you cannot be me, nor can I be you. It’s as much a waste of time as trying to start your car with the battery mechanism outside of it.
Self-doubt can erode self-esteem and create a negative cycle where you hesitate to trust your instincts or showcase your true potential. Overcoming self-doubt involves challenging these negative beliefs, cultivating self-compassion, and developing a positive mindset. It is a transformative journey toward self-discovery and self-acceptance, empowering you to recognize your worth and capabilities and ultimately enabling you to face challenges with resilience and confidence.
Common Signs of Self-doubt
Here is a list of common signs and symptoms of self-doubt based on general knowledge and psychological literature. Write down those you currently struggle with:
- Constant Negative Self-Talk: Regularly engaging in self-critical thoughts and putting oneself down.
- Perfectionism: Setting impossibly high standards and feeling like a failure when these standards aren’t met.
- Fear of Failure: Being paralyzed by the fear of making mistakes or failing in various aspects of life.
- Over-Apologizing: Saying sorry excessively, even when not at fault, to seek validation and avoid conflict.
- Difficulty Accepting Compliments: Feeling uncomfortable or dismissive when receiving praise or compliments from others.
- Avoidance of Challenges: Steering clear of new opportunities or challenges due to a lack of confidence in one’s abilities.
- Comparing Oneself to Others: Constantly measuring one’s worth against others’ achievements and feeling inferior as a result.
- Indecisiveness: Struggling to make decisions, fearing that any choice will be wrong.
- Self-Isolation: Withdrawing from social situations due to a fear of judgment or rejection.
- Lack of Assertiveness: Difficulty in expressing one’s opinions or needs assertively, often leading to passive behavior.
- Seeking Constant Reassurance: Relying excessively on others for approval and validation of one’s actions and decisions.
- Mind Reading: Assuming what others think or feel about oneself without any concrete evidence, often assuming it’s negative.
- Imposter Syndrome: Believing that one’s accomplishments are undeserved and fearing being exposed as a fraud.
- Difficulty Setting Boundaries: Struggling to say ‘no’ to others, even when it compromises one’s well-being or time.
- Negative Body Image: Constantly feeling dissatisfied with one’s appearance and body, leading to low self-esteem.
- Fear of Taking Risks: Avoid any situation involving risk, even if it could lead to personal or professional growth.
- Reluctance to Share Ideas: Holding back ideas or contributions, fearing others might reject or ridicule them.
- Chronic Self-Doubt in Relationships: Questioning one’s worth in relationships, leading to insecurity and fear of abandonment.
- Difficulty Handling Constructive Criticism: Taking any form of criticism, even if it’s constructive, very personally and negatively.
- Chronic Procrastination: Delaying tasks due to a lack of confidence in one’s ability to complete them successfully.
This list should motivate you to begin your journey of overcoming self-doubt. I know I had many of these symptoms. Let me tell you about it.
Let me switch to my “I” voice now.
Addressing self-doubt has been a transformative journey for me and has taken me years to manage. At one point in my life, I was a young divorced mother. I had the most beautiful little curly-haired, brown-eyed baby to support. However, I knew I could not support him the way he deserved with my self-doubt and low life expectations.
I needed to step up to get “up.”
The realization dawned upon me that self-doubt was not merely a fleeting feeling but a significant obstacle holding me back from realizing my true potential. Embracing this challenge head-on, I discovered that acknowledging and addressing my insecurities was the first step toward empowerment. By understanding the root causes of my self-doubt, whether they stemmed from past experiences (which they did) or societal pressures (which they did), I gained the clarity to confront them.
I decided I was tired of being a low-level worker. A door opened for me to take a job completely out of my realm of responsibility, and I maximized that opportunity. Some days, I faked my confidence; other days, I just did the work afraid -but I did it.
Reading books about skill, confidence, and success also helped me in my journey of overcoming self-doubt. I am a person of faith, and that really springboarded my fight to overcome self-doubt!
It took time…lots of time.
This process was not easy; it demanded self-reflection and a conscious effort to reframe my thoughts.
Reframing your thoughts is like giving your mind a positive makeover. Imagine your mind as your care. Think of your self-doubt as a funky air freshener someone gave you. Out of gratitude, you hang it only to discover it smells like feet. So, what do you do? You get rid of it and open the windows! Instead of letting negative thoughts run the show, you gently dump the negative thoughts and replace them with something refreshing and encouraging.
Be on alert…
For me, I had to be hyper-aware of the thoughts I allowed myself to ponder. It’s important to recognize those negative thoughts when they creep in. It’s like catching a sneaky toddler trying to steal a cookie – you’ve got to be vigilant and watch that crumbsnatcher! The same goes for those negative thoughts.
Once you catch those thoughts entering your mind, challenge them right away as part of your strategy of overcoming self-doubt.
Ask yourself, “Is this thought really true?”
Often, our doubts are based on assumptions or past experiences that might not be relevant anymore. It’s like keeping a floppy disk (remember those?). What’s the point? It’s so ancient and irrelevant to the present.
Now, let’s get creative in overcoming your self-doubt and re-framing your thoughts.
In overcoming self-doubt, you are going to have to do a switch and replace.
This means you will develop the habit of replacing those negative thoughts with positive ones. Think of it as swapping out a gloomy, dusty painting for a vibrant one. For instance, if your mind says, “I can’t do this; I always mess up,” counteract it with, “I may face challenges, but I’ve overcome hurdles before. I’ve got this!” I did that time and time again as that young single mother. It really does work. Try it.
Practice self-compassion as you reframe those thoughts!
Treat yourself like you’d treat your best friend – with kindness and understanding.
It blows my mind how easy it is to be kind to others, turn around, and be a total jerk to myself.
You’re not perfect, and it’s okay. That’s not a reason to beat yourself up or listen to those negative thoughts.
Remember, it’s okay to make mistakes or have doubts; it doesn’t make you any less amazing (and you are amazing!)
Reframing your thoughts is about rewriting the script of your own story.
Release self-doubt, reframe your thoughts, and watch what happens!
Listen, the liberation and freedom that came with letting go of self-doubt was profound for me.
I found myself more willing to take risks, pursue my passions, and embrace opportunities without the constant fear of failure looming over me. I tried bold things on my job. I started a nonprofit for single moms. I was on TV, I was in newspapers – all because of my faith in my God and myself!
How about that?
Addressing self-doubt became a personal triumph and a fundamental lesson in self-love and acceptance, allowing me to navigate life’s challenges with newfound confidence.
But, the truth of the matter is we all struggle with it, and you know what? It never completely goes away. It is something that must be managed, like allergies or athletes’ feet. When it flairs, you handle it.
I’ve found a good article called Intellectual Self-doubt and How to Get Out of It by Adam M. Persky. Click here: Intellectual Self-doubt and How to Get Out of It | American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education (ajpe.org)
Tips for overcoming self-doubt
Overcoming self-doubt is a journey of self-discovery and resilience. It starts by challenging negative thoughts and practicing self-compassion. Viewing setbacks as opportunities for growth, seeking support, setting realistic goals, and celebrating achievements are key steps toward building confidence.
Certainly, overcoming self-doubt is a challenging but entirely achievable process. I’m going to list some strategies I’ve found helpful in my own journey and those I’ve found through researching the topic:
- Practice Self-Compassion: Be kind and understanding to yourself. See Kristin Neff’s video below.
- Challenge Negative Thoughts: Whenever self-doubt creeps in, challenge those negative thoughts. Ask yourself if they are based on facts or irrational fears. Often, they’re the latter.
- Set Realistic Goals: Break your larger goals into smaller, achievable tasks. Celebrate your victories, no matter how small they may seem.
- Visualize Success: Imagine yourself succeeding in your endeavors. Visualization can boost confidence and motivation.
- Learn From Failure: See failures as opportunities to learn and grow, rather than confirmation of your limitations. Analyze what went wrong and use it as a stepping stone for improvement.
- Practice Self-Affirmation: Use positive affirmations to counteract negative self-talk. Remind yourself of your strengths and capabilities regularly.
- Seek Support: Talk to friends, family, or a therapist about your feelings of self-doubt. Sometimes, an external perspective can provide valuable insights and support.
- Develop a Growth Mindset: Embrace the concept that abilities and intelligence can be developed with dedication and hard work. This mindset fosters resilience in the face of challenges.
- Take Care of Your Physical Health: Regular exercise, proper nutrition, and sufficient sleep can significantly impact your mood and confidence levels.
- Face Your Fears: Gradually confront the situations that trigger your self-doubt. The more you face them, the more confident you become in dealing with them.
- Practice Mindfulness and Meditation: These techniques can help you stay present, reduce anxiety, and develop a more positive outlook on yourself and your abilities.
- Develop New Skills: Learning something new and mastering it can boost your confidence. It could be a hobby, a sport, or a professional skill.
- Celebrate Your Achievements: Acknowledge your accomplishments, no matter how small they might seem. Recognize your progress and give yourself credit.
- Limit Negative Influences: Surround yourself with positive and supportive people. Distance yourself from those who bring you down or fuel your self-doubt.
- Journaling: Write down your thoughts and feelings. Journaling can provide clarity and help you challenge irrational beliefs.
- Professional Help: If self-doubt is severely impacting your life, consider talking to a mental health professional who can provide tailored strategies and support.
Remember, overcoming self-doubt is a gradual process that requires patience and persistence. Be kind to yourself during this journey and celebrate your progress, no matter how small it might seem.
Imagine a workplace trainer with self-doubt!
Yes, that’s me. On my best day, I am 90% confident, but I still hear that little voice that says, “You’re not good enough.” But, I reply, “I’m more than good enough, and I’m ever better still!” then I go rock whatever it is that gave me the jitters.
In my journey, I’ve come to appreciate that addressing self-doubt is not a sign of weakness but a testament to one’s strength.
It requires courage to confront the inner voices of negativity and replace them with self-affirming beliefs.
Re-framing your thoughts and replacing the downtrodden ones with faith-filled positive ones is the key!
Beyond personal empowerment, overcoming self-doubt also positively impacts my personal and professional relationships. By valuing my worth and abilities, I’ve found myself engaging more meaningfully with others, forming connections based on authenticity and mutual respect.
Moreover, in the professional realm, this newfound confidence has translated into assertiveness, solid decision-making, innovative thinking, and the ability to inspire confidence in my team. It makes me an asset, and it will make you one too! Overcoming self-doubt isn’t just about personal liberation; it’s a transformative process that enhances every aspect of life, enabling me to live with purpose, passion, and unshakeable self-belief. The best part is I’m contagious! I hope to infect everyone with the same positivity I live my life in!
Go you! Acknowledge, reframe those thoughts, and do your thing in this world!
Here is the resource I referenced above:
Persky, A. M. (2018). Intellectual self-doubt and how to get out of it. The American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, 82(2), 6990. https://doi.org/10.5688/ajpe6990