Professional Education and Career Blog

How to Overcome and Conquer Self-Doubt

doubtIt’s probably a symptom of people who self-doubt that they think they’re the only ones that feel it and think it, and all those “other” successful people are just rolling along, always in control. Or if not in control, supremely confident of getting it back under control. Nothing could be further from the truth: everyone feels self-doubt from time to time, even the most accomplished people. But often what makes the difference between success and failure is how one handles their periods of self-doubt.

A Serious Problem

For many people, self-doubt is a paralyzing fear that takes over their mind and prevents them from moving forward. Little whispers rise in their mind that “they’re not good enough” or “they’re not smart enough” or “what will happen if I fail?” The feelings of inadequacy can overwhelm them, leading to a serious impairment of their performance in their professional or personal lives.

The irony is that they may be perfectly capable of performing well, but it’s actually the feelings that defeat them, bringing forth a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure.

However, there are ways to handle your self-doubt, and gradually reduce the symptoms so they no longer control you.

Getting Past Self-Doubt

  • Realize That It’s Not Just You. Truly, everyone is “just winging it” in their day-to-day lives, trying to do their best. No one has a magic Oracle to give them the right answer in every situation. Some are smarter than others, and some have more information or experience, but everyone is figuring it out as they go.
  • Preparation Leads to Confidence. Nothing tears down your confidence like feeling inadequately prepared for a task. When faced with a situation that inspires fear in you, ask yourself if there are specific things that are causing the fear, which you can possibly review. Fear can be a useful tool for helping us to reveal where our weaknesses lie, and what we can do to improve.
  • Question Yourself. Fear and emotion can be useful, when kept in check. The antidote to excessive emotion is engaging your logical mind. Ask yourself if a fear is justified, or if it’s unreasonable. Make a list of possible outcomes, and their consequences. Sometimes breaking down fears into specifics can help overcome irrational emotions.
  • Face Your Fears Anyway. The most difficult thing at times is to bring forth courage in the face of fears. But just like getting on that bicycle for the first time, the rewards can be great, and it’s just a little easier to face a new situation that next time. Review your goals and realize why you’re doing what you’re doing.
  • Don’t Dwell on the Past. When we have failures in our past, it’s sometimes difficult to not let them haunt our current thoughts. However, the healthy aspect of this is that it’s our way of reminding ourselves not to repeat our mistakes. But it also leads us to fear the same outcome. When the past invades your thoughts, compare what happened then to the current situation. Chances are, the circumstances that led to the original failure don’t apply to the present. Or if they do, maybe it’s a good warning to make a few changes.
  • churchillAccept That Failure is a Part of Life. Every successful person has failures in their past. The secret is to accept that failures are going to happen, and embrace them for the learning experiences that they are. If you fail, accept it with good humor. Go out of your way to talk about your failure with others, and what you learned. Owning your failures instead of hiding from them gives you power over them, and makes you more confident going forward that you won’t make the same mistakes.
  • Don’t Compare Yourself to Others. Everyone is on their own journey. Accept that some people are just going to end up being further along, or more accomplished, or better looking, or what-have-you. It may have been they just had a better break, or it may have been they were just more talented. But ultimately everyone can incrementally improve themselves and be a little better today than they were yesterday. Some will be better off than you, and you will be better off than some others. But ultimately, everyone’s journey is unique. Don’t be so busy looking at everyone else’s journey that you don’t enjoy the unique aspects of your own.