How to Mitigate Your Self-Doubt

A woman holds out her two hands and holds a yellow flower

Self-belief and success go hand in hand.

Your inner confidence can inspire you to chase after your dreams and stick with them, even in the face of adversity. 

But did you know that self-doubt can also play a role in your success

We usually view self-doubt as a flaw or weakness on our part. If only we didn’t question every single decision or doubted our skills and talent, then maybe we’d be more accomplished. If only we were more self-assured, then we’d never experience impostor syndrome and we would just go for what we wanted. 

But a certain amount of self-doubt can be a good thing. Here’s how it can benefit you:

  • Self improvement. Self-doubt can motivate you to develop your skills, take classes, and grow as a person. Instead of staying in a rut, you’ll always be striving to improve.
  • Smart decision-making. If a little voice inside your head is telling you to slow down or think through a decision, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. A healthy amount of self doubt can help you become more intentional about your choices. Instead of making rash decisions or flying by the seat of your pants, you’ll take smart, deliberate steps toward your future.  
  • Thoughtful preparation. When you’re over confident, you’ll be less inclined to prepare and put in the work for important projects or meetings. But self-doubt can make sure that you’re well-prepared and organized. You know not to rest on your laurels and you’ll be more likely to plan, prepare, and roll up your sleeves to do the work. 
  • Connecting with others. You’ll be able to connect with others and empathize with their struggles because you’ve been there and you understand what they’re going through. 

While too much self-doubt can be crippling and get in the way of progress, a healthy amount can keep you in check. Below, we discuss ways that you can mitigate self-doubt and use it to work for you, instead of against you. 

Assess the situation like a detective

Let’s say that you want to try something new in your career. Maybe you want to go for a promotion or start a side hustle, but the self-doubt is starting to creep in. You can manage the skeptical voices in your head by assessing the situation.

Ask yourself:

  • What am I having doubts about right now?
  • What are my fears? 
  • What are some possible negative outcomes?
  • What are some possible positive outcomes?
  • What can I do to feel better prepared?

Assessing the situation gives you clarity. You'll know what exactly it is that’s giving you doubts, and you’ll have a better idea of how to handle it.

And in doing this exercise, you’ll gain a new perspective on the situation and perhaps even notice blind spots that you hadn’t seen before. For example, if you want to start a side hustle but you’re worried about your entrepreneurial skills, maybe this will motivate you to take an online class or reach out to someone for advice, before diving in headfirst.

Self doubt doesn’t have to discourage you. Instead, it can serve as a compass, and point you in the direction of what to do next. 

Reflect on your previous wins

Maybe it’s your first day as a manager and you’re feeling unqualified. Or you’re interviewing for your dream job and you don’t feel deserving. Instead of giving into the doubts and fears, now is the time to celebrate your previous accomplishments. 

So take out a notebook and make a list of all the things you did this past year that you’re proud of. Did you work up the courage to ask someone you admire to coffee? Did you finish a draft of your novel? Give a presentation in front of stakeholders? Did your boss compliment you on your report? Write them all down and then refer to this list regularly. 

It’s so easy to dwell on our mistakes or shortcomings over and over again. But we rarely take the time to really absorb and celebrate our achievements. 

And when you see all of your accomplishments written down on paper, it will be hard to deny that you are qualified and deserving and great. 

Give yourself a pep talk–in the second person

Our thoughts can influence our actions and beliefs. And because of this, it’s so important to balance out the negative thoughts with positive self-talk. 

Whether it’s reciting positive mantras or reading inspirational quotes, positive self-talk can shift your mindset and help you believe in yourself. 

And one of the best exercises for positive self-talk is talking to yourself…in the second person.

Talking to yourself in the second person can help you see things from a more objective point of view. 

According to this article, talking to yourself in the second or third person is helpful because it gives you much-needed distance from the situation: “By using external pronouns, we view ourselves as a separate person, enabling us to give ourselves more objective advice.” 

Here’s how to apply it in real life: Identify someone in your life that you trust or someone who makes you feel safe and supported. Now imagine this person talking to you and giving you advice. How would they talk to you? What words would they use? Now try talking to yourself in that way.

After doing this exercise, you’ll walk away feeling more clear-headed and supported. It’s amazing how a small tweak in language can help you be more gentle and compassionate with yourself. 

Conduct weekly planning sessions 

Instead of being immobilized by self-doubt, turn it into action and motivation with weekly planning sessions.

At the end of the week, take stock of what you accomplished, what still needs to be done, what went well, and what could’ve gone better.

Pay particular attention to the tasks or meetings that you had self-doubts on and make sure to note the outcome. 

Maybe you’ll find that the meeting went better than you had anticipated. Or maybe the meeting didn’t go as planned, but now you know what you would do differently next time.

A weekly planning session can help you review your progress and see all the great things that you’re doing. You can also use it to prepare for the week ahead and manage the self-doubt that may arise. Are you worried about giving a presentation next week? Write down 2-3 things you can do before the presentation to help you better prepare. Then add it to your calendar to make sure you do it.

A weekly planning session can help you overcome the self-doubt by transforming it into concrete action steps.

Written by JiJi Lee.

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