Self-doubt is one of the best ways to hold yourself back from doing what you want to do. Wait. You don’t want to do that? You want to stop doubting yourself and actually go for the things you want?
You’re in luck. Because self-doubt can be overcome. But you need to put in some work and adjust your attitude.
Are you ready for that? Then let’s have a closer look at the self-doubt phenomenon and how you can conquer that beast!
Related: 75 simple self-care ideas for a happy, balanced life
Related: Chronic unhappiness: These 5 habits make you sad
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What is self-doubt?
Self-doubt is that little voice in the back of your head, that keeps saying you’re not good enough. It’s that voice that makes sure you don’t dare try anything new. Or go for your dreams.
You could say that self-doubt is your brain’s brake mechanism. Unfortunately, it sets in before you even start moving.
Is self-doubt an emotion?
Humans like to classify things. But how can we classify self-doubt? Is it an emotion? A state? Or what?
I think self-doubt is more of an “emotional habit” or behavior. It is a way to see yourself and to react to challenges.
That is lucky for us. Because that means, that we can influence it. Habits can be broken and behaviors can be changed to benefit us.
What does it mean to have self-doubt?
Because having constant self-doubt means being constrained. All the time. By yourself. Your doubts and worries are holding you prisoner.
It means that you don’t believe in yourself, in your skills and abilities.
What causes self-doubt?
So seeing how doubting ourselves can have such a negative impact on our lives, it makes you wonder: Why would we doubt ourselves? It doesn’t seem to be a very helpful behavior, does it?
Common causes of self-doubt are these factors:
- constantly comparing yourself with others
- having grown up with negative messages about yourself
- expecting yourself to never fail
- a negative mindset
Note that in this context we are not talking about the life-saving self-doubt. Yes, but better be very sure that you can cross the street quickly enough without being overrun. Self-doubt is based on self-protective behavior. But if you only had that kind of self-doubt, you wouldn’t be reading this article. So I will only refer to the restrictive kind from here on.
How do you conquer self-doubt?
As you can see in the causes of self-doubt, all of them are behaviors and habits. And all of those can be overcome with regular practice and an understanding of what you are trying to do.
It can sound like a huge task from where you are starting. But believe me, it is very doable. And not too far in, the process becomes a lot of fun. Because suddenly, you decide what happens. Not your self-doubt. That is a powerful feeling!
So let’s dive in and look at the ways in which you can finally conquer self-doubt!
15 tips to help you overcome self-doubt
1. Adopt a growth mindset and welcome mistakes as your best teachers
The first thing you want to overhaul is your perspective on mistakes. Do you feel devastated when you do something wrong? Then you probably have a “fixed mindset”. This means you believe your intelligence is measured by doing things right. Whereas someone with a growth mindset believes that they can become smarter and better at what they do by putting in the work.
So for those people, making mistakes is just part of the journey to getting better. No reason to doubt yourself at all. On the contrary, you making mistakes means you are on the right path to learning something new! Of course, you could stick with only what you know already and never make mistakes. But who wants to be stuck in the same place forever?
2. Make it a rule for yourself to try and fail hard regularly
Building upon that, make sure that you have opportunities to fail regularly. Give yourself the possibility to realize how much quicker you learn by actively going for things you are not good at yet. For example, apply to jobs that you deem “way out of your league”. Challenge yourself.
Think of your mind like a muscle. When you train a muscle, you want to give it a weight that’s quite heavy for it. Bodybuilders only use weights that are a little too heavy for them. Otherwise, they don’t get further muscle growth.
It is the same with your belief in yourself. Keep going for things that are a little too hard. And whenever it hurts, know that you are growing.
3. Act before you think
This is advice contrary to everything you’ve learned in school, right? But in this context, it’s actually super important.
When you get the impulse to do something, you need to act on it quickly. You only have a few seconds before a different part of your brain joins the party. That part that is responsible for protecting you from perceived danger and doing stuff.
I explained this a little more in detail when I explained how to stop procrastinating, so go read that if you need more background.
4. Get to know your inner voice
So far, we talked about your self-doubt as a kind of evil inner voice. But now we are going to challenge that assumption.
Whenever you notice that voice telling you something like “You are not good enough to do that. You shouldn’t try!”, pause for a moment. Don’t just brush it away, but acknowledge that it’s there.
Then ask it: “Why do you say that?” You might be surprised by the answer. Usually, your inner voice will not just try to hold you down. It’s trying to protect you. Maybe it’s scared because it has learned that failure hurts and it doesn’t want you to hurt.
Once you understand the reason for it, ask yourself if it’s really true or if the inner voice is just assuming something. And then you can decide how you want to deal with it.
5. Forget about perfect and start celebrating “done”
Ah, perfectionism. That old bane of humanity. Get rid of it. To ban self-doubt from your mind, it is super helpful to change your perspective on tasks or challenges.
Would I have ever written this post if I needed it to be perfect? Definitely not! My goal is to have it written. Because even an imperfect post on self-doubt will be 100% more helpful than a post that doesn’t exist!
Make “done” your new goal and forget about “perfect”. Life is way better that way.
6. Assume that you won’t be great at first
Whatever your endeavor is, always assume that you are not going to be great at first. Here’s a surprise: no one is great from the start. Anyone you can name that became a pro in anything – they sucked first!
Just accept that. And focus on the fact, that you are going to grow and learn every day!
7. Focus on a goal
Doubting yourself is an inward focus. You watch yourself, compare yourself to a task and find reasons as to why you’re not good enough.
To overcome self-doubt setting a goal can be super helpful. It changes your focus from yourself to an outcome. It doesn’t matter anymore if you are doing good or if you are good enough. What matters is that you find a way to reach that goal.
8. Stop asking yourself “How did I do?” and start asking “What did I learn?”
Throw “How did I do?” out of the window! It doesn’t matter!
What matters is what you’ve learned and how that brings you closer to what you want to achieve. The real goals in life cannot be measured by school grades anyways.
9. Start meditating to develop more awareness
All of the tips so far require quite a bit of self-awareness and mindfulness from your part. And what is a great way to work on that? That’s right, meditation!
Personally, I am convinced that regular meditation is perfect for any kind of personal growth goal, not only beating self-doubt. Make it part of your day. You won’t regret it, I promise!
And if you need help to get you started with it, read my guide to meditation for beginners!
10. Read something inspirational every day
Sometimes we need some outside help to go from a negative to a positive mindset. Inspiration reading can help a lot with that!
I love reading “pep-talk-books” like “You are a badass” on my Kindle. I do that as part of my morning routine. It helps in setting a positive tone for the day and feeds my brain with encouraging messages.
What you put into your head is extremely similar to what you put in your body. You are what you read, in this case.
11. Start a journal
I’m a big fan of bullet journalling to write down some thoughts, ideas, and notes every day. How does that help with self-doubt?
First of all, it also increases your awareness of what’s going on in your head. You can only deal with what you know.
Second of all, you can use it to write down what you are learning on your journey to more confidence. For example, what you’ve learned about your inner voice. Or you can use it to do tip number 12.
12. Write down a list of accomplishments every day
When you write down your accomplishments every day for a while, something funny happens. You will notice how your focus changes from being weighed down by your huge task list to how motivated you are. Because you see clearly how much you have already achieved.
It also helps to squash self-doubt about your productivity. No more telling yourself “I have done NOTHING today.”
You definitely accomplish something every day. And yes, “took a day off for mental health” totally counts as an accomplishment in my book. Because sometimes it can be hard to admit that you need it and act on it.
13. Stop comparing yourself to other people
Remember the causes for self-doubt higher up on this page? I listed “constantly comparing yourself with others” as the first one.
This comparison game doesn’t only fuel self-doubt, it also doesn’t make a lot of sense.
You have your own goals. Other people have theirs. You do different things, you want different things. Why try and compare? No one can tell you “how you should be” in order to reach your goals. You’ll find that out. Mistake by mistake, learning by learning.
You have the freedom to make your own path.
14. Cherish difficult situations
We usually try to avoid difficult situations. But not those of us with a growth mindset! We know, that any difficult situation has the potential to fuel personal growth for us.
When you feel like life’s tough, keep that in mind!
15. Get creative with self-doubt
Obviously, none of these tips guarantee instant freedom of self-doubt. So I have one last tip for those times when you feel self-doubt overcome you.
Listen to that doubting voice again, and realize which problem it sees. Then ask yourself “How could I solve this problem?”
Spend at least two minutes finding creative ways on how you could overcome this challenge. This isn’t only a really fun exercise, it’s also kind of a brain hack.
Doubt shuts down half your brain. And then you are stuck in that half-brain-doubting state. Going into brainstorming mode helps to literally turn your brain back on!
Now go and conquer self-doubt!
I really hope these tips are helpful to you. If you are stuck doubting yourself, just give them a try and stick with them for a bit. What do you have to lose?
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