It’s a confidence demon. It holds us back and stops us from taking action.
The Dictionary Definition of self-doubt is: The feeling of having no confidence in your abilities or decisions.
We’re not born with self-doubt! It’s a learned behaviour that’s influenced throughout life by others and by experiences that undermine our confidence. It is a mental state where the mind remains suspended between 2 or more contradictory positions.
The good news is it’s normal, research suggests that as many as 85% of the population experience self-doubt in some form whether that’s second thoughts about the decisions you’ve made or actions you’ve taken.
When self-doubt presents itself you might feel anxious or nervous when things don’t go as expected. In moderation self-doubt can be a motivating influence as it demonstrates you are recognising skills that you need to achieve a task
When experiencing self-doubt, whatever you’re facing is likely to be out of your comfort zone, so you may feel vulnerable too.
All these feelings are valid.
WHERE DOES IT COME FROM?
Our experiences are likely to influence how we feel and react to things. They shape who we are and how we perceive others and it can be difficult to let go of these experiences and change our perceptions. Past failures and disappointments might fill us with fear and self-doubt keeping us firmly in our comfort zone.
Your upbringing is another place self-doubt can originate from, maybe or a significant person from your childhood or later in life who has told / tells you that you’re useless or not worthy of something good. It can often feel difficult for you to accept compliments from others or acknowledge that you did a good job.
Social media can also impact our self-doubt. It brings about what I call “comparionisitis”, where we compare ourselves to what we are seeing on social and feel pressure to be like others, successful in work, relationships, and life. Of course, a lot of what we see is what others want us to see!
Stepping out of Your Comfort Zone
When something new or different presents itself and we face having to step out of our comfort zone, it’s natural to feel uncertainty over what and / or how to do. Not to mention whether you think you can or can’t do it!
Fear of Failure and / or Success
The fear of failure or making mistakes is as real as trying to recreate our previous successes. When self-doubt presents itself here you may feel that your previous successes have been a fluke or luck rather than because of your skill set and abilities.
Wherever your self-doubt appears to come from you may experience it as some of the below:
- Questioning your abilities and capabilities
- Inner critic / inner voice that says you can’t do something or you’ll fail
- Indecisive – questioning decisions you’ve made
- Hesitation to speak up in meetings to voice your views or opinions
4 TRAPS OF SELF DOUBT
I recently discovered these 4 traps of self-doubt from Jules at Miz Mindful. They really resonated with me.
- Hesitation – triggered by uncertainty, looks like waiting, overthinking and perfectionism
- Hiding – triggered by fear of others (opinions & judgement) and overwhelm, looks like, avoiding, procrastination, shrinking back, staying behind the scene and playing small
- Hypercritical – triggered by the fear of being hurt, disappointed, or failing and looks like arguing with yourself, being self-critical, or complaining
- Helplessness – triggered by insecurity, fear of success, looks like, playing the victim, blaming, lack of self-trust, dependency, or defeatist attitude.
I think mostly I flit between Hesitation and Hiding – depending on the situation. I’d love to know which traps you feel you fall into?
WHAT CAN I DO?
By noticing your thoughts about self-doubt and being more aware of them can help you to manage them. It’s thought that at least 50% of our thoughts, feelings and behaviours come from an unconscious habit of thinking, so when we are on auto-pilot these habits are difficult to change. We need to be consciously aware of them to change them.
Here’s some ways to manage self-doubt, remember this will take practice and consistency for you to see a change.
What have you achieved?
Think back and make a list or use post it notes to reflect on your achievements, especially the ones where you were questioning whether you could do it. Once you have your list think about what actions you took to achieve it. Is there something in there that you can pull on next time you are doubting yourself? Remember to celebrate all wins, no matter whether you think they are small or large, they are all wins.
Things always seem clearer when we step away and come back to it. Time out doesn’t always mean going on holiday! It can mean stepping away from the task at hand and going to do something that distracts you. Usually everything then become clearer. Try a walk, watching TV, going for coffee, whatever works for you.
Notice your thoughts & be curious about them
It may be difficult for you to notice these negative self-doubt thoughts because they have always been there, so you’re used to ignoring them. When you next hear them, stop for a moment and be curious about them. Are they factual? Where is the evidence to support them? Change that negative thought into a positive one and see how that feels.
Compare yourself with the yesterday you
Theodore Roosevelt said that “Comparison is the thief of joy”. If comparisonitis is fuelling your self-doubt, then stop. When you are comparing yourself to others, the focus and energy is in the wrong place. Switch the focus to you and compare yourself to the yesterday you, the last week you, the last month you, the last year you! These are the only comparison worth making.
Work with a coach
Of course, working 1:1 with a coach can help you work through your self-doubt. Because a coach is unbiased they will see and hear things that you don’t or won’t and help you to see things differently or from a new perspective. They will also help to keep you accountable on any actions you decide to take the manage your self-doubt.
If you’d like to know more about working 1:1 with me, get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org