“Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will.”

Suzy Kassem

If self-doubt is an assassin, it’s skilled at killing your dreams quietly and quickly without you knowing. It will mask itself as a cautious thinker or a shrewd risk analyst and send your dream to the grave before you realize it. 

Self-doubt is a common experience where you question your competency. Having self-doubt is a part of being human, and a small amount helps you stay humble and clear-headed to mitigate potential risks. Giving in completely to self-doubt exemplifies low confidence and distrust of your ability to handle things outside of your comfort zone. It’s capable of imprisoning you in the state of not being good enough, eating away your self-esteem, and stopping you from living your life fully. 

To not fall victim to self-doubt, we must first gain a better understanding of it.

How does self-doubt show up?

Have you ever experienced the following?

  • Limiting beliefs – “I can’t do this, I’m not smart enough, I don’t have enough experience. I’m too old to learn.”
  • Imposter syndrome – “I’m a fraud, a phony, and I got to where I am through dumb luck. People will find out that I don’t know enough to do this work.” 
  • Scarcity mindset – “There is not enough to go around. If someone else has the same idea as me, I can’t do it. I’m not where I should be compared to my peers.”
  • Perfectionism – “Things have to happen exactly how I planned. I can’t lose control. I can’t do anything until everything is all planned out.”

If your answer is yes, that means you are familiar with self-doubt. What ends up happening is:

  • You second-guess yourself and constantly worry that you might make a wrong choice and mess up. 
  • You talk yourself out of doing things outside of your comfort zone because you always assume the worst and get stuck in that mindset.
  • You overthink and overanalyze. You can’t move forward and eventually lose interest and motivation.
  • You tell yourself that you are just being cautious and giving yourself an excuse to get out of doing anything uncomfortable. In reality, you are avoiding the possibility of looking bad and being judged.

What are the causes for self-doubt?

The negative beliefs you learned. The fear of failure, judgment, and shame results from caring too much about what others think. The lack of self-compassion and the tendency to assume rather than pursue facts. All of the above nourish your inner critic and make it a powerful mastermind that often tells false stories through self-doubt. 

Now that we are clear on what self-doubt does, here is an example of how you can practice combating your self-doubt!

Four steps to combat your self-doubt:

  1. Notice it and call it out. Be aware of your inner critic and call it out to break its spell. Name it Negative Nelly, Grandpa George, or Mean Girl Mimi. Pick a character that best represents the destructive inner voice.  
  1. Address it. In addition to naming it, address it. Identify the trigger. What is causing you to feel this way?
  1. Process it and break it down. Rather than buying into the inner critic’s narrative, validate whether those thoughts and doubts are true by breaking them down.
  1. Reframe it. Examine the narrative from a different angle and ask what another perspective is.

Here is an example of how self-doubt surfaces at work: 

“I’m having a hard time finishing all my work. I’m NOT working hard enough and NOT smart enough. Am I cut out to do this job?”

Notice it and call it out: “Here comes Grandpa George,” or “Hello again, Mean Mimi.”

Address it: “My colleague brags about powering through a 12-hour workday which is triggering to me. He gets everything done and makes himself look really good in front of the boss. I wish I can do the same. The truth is, I can’t keep up.”

Process it and break it down: “What’s going on here? Are my thoughts true?”

Assumption: “I’m not working hard enough, and I’m not smart enough. That’s why I can’t get my work done.”

Fact: “My workload has increased exponentially lately, which is challenging for me. I’m doing my best to get complete everything on time.” 

Assumption: “I need to put in 12 hours every day to demonstrate that I’m a good employee.”

Fact: “Working a 12-hour day is not what I want in my career. I compared myself to my colleague, fell into the scarcity mindset, and operated with limiting beliefs.”

Reframe it: “Working a 12-hour day is not sustainable, and neither should it be the norm and measurement of my performance. I can’t finish my work because of the increased workload. I’ll seek support and feedback from my manager and evaluate what I could do differently to manage my work effectively without feeling burnout.”

Rather than ruminating on negative thoughts, peel back the layers to identify what truly bothers you. Challenge your doubts and focus on the facts. Approach the situation from a different angle and decide if an action is necessary to resolve the issue.

Now that you have a structured method to deal with self-doubt, will you give it a try? What can you start doing today to become more aware of your self-doubt? Can you give up on being a perfectionist and stop comparing yourself to others? Will you think of abundance rather than scarcity? How about adopting a new belief that growth happens when you push yourself out of your comfort zone? Remember, combating self-doubt takes practice. Be patient and treat this as establishing a new habit where consistently trying will make the process stick and help you keep self-doubt at bay.

Our life coaches can help you reframe negative self-talk and develop courage, confidence and self-worth. If you want to share your tips on how you battle self-doubt, I’d love to hear! Reach me at peggy@alvcoaching.com.

The following two tabs change content below.

Peggy Wu

Hi there! My name is Peggy Wu, and I’m a Career and Life Coach with Ama La Vida. I use mindfulness techniques and the Whole-Person approach that emphasizes working with you as an integrated whole and helping you become aware of all elements of your life – mental, emotional, physical, social, and spiritual.

Latest posts by Peggy Wu (see all)