What is self-doubt?
Self-doubt generally is a lack of confidence in yourself and your abilities. From my own experience and that of working with many clients on this, it can truly stop you from living the life that you desire or at the least, it makes life a lot more difficult than it needs to be. Self-doubt can drive you to ignore your dreams and ambitions, miss opportunities, not take care of yourself, and a wide range of other issues.
It often saddens me to hear the stories from clients when I start working with them. They often don’t see their own brilliance, keep pushing themselves to just work harder, don’t take up leadership opportunities, ignore their own health and wellbeing and live under the tyranny of a relentless inner critic.
While they may still be able to achieve their goals, the price they pay is high. Often overworked, the toll on their health and peace of mind is high, and what pains me the most: there is an underlying feeling that is a constant companion that drives their life: the feeling of not enough.
What opportunities in your career or outside of professional life have you missed because of self-doubt?
It can be a painful process where you just don’t feel as you are able to show up as yourself and stand powerfully in your life. It feels like your potential just can’t come out. It’s frustrating and painful, yet it’s also incredibly important to know that if you are feeling this:
- You are not alone. Most people at some point in their lives experience self-doubt in some shape or form.
- Your self-doubt is not indicative of your capabilities and of who you are. You are not broken.
- There are ways of managing your self-doubt so it no longer holds you back from living the life you want and pursuing the career that you want.
Why you may lack self-belief
I believe self-doubt is inherent in the human experience. In the words of Brené Brown:
We are hardwired for connection.
Human beings, more than any other species, need love and connection in order to be able to survive, so it’s built into us to seek that connection. Self-doubt in that sense is really just a protective mechanism to keep us safe from rejection and abandonment.
Our upbringing as children, and in particular our attachment style (the blueprint for how we learned to relate to others), can play a significant role in the relationship that we have with ourselves and the outside world. Did we learn it was safe to be who we are or were there certain conditions placed upon us? What were your family of origin narratives that influenced you and how you learned to show up in the world?
You may moreover also have experienced events in your life that influenced and in some cases, scarred you. Memories from childhood, but also events in later life. We’ve all had defining moments in life that shaped us. While hopefully many of those were positive experiences, some unfortunately may have left an imprint that you still carry with you today. And while you can’t change those experiences, what you can do is to take responsibility for your life and see how you can start creating a new narrative for your life.
In addition, our cultures are rife with narratives and messages of scarcity and “not enough”. We get bombarded with messages about who we should be and what is socially accepted. In a highly connected (and disconnected) world, where lives are on full display on social media, it’s difficult not to get caught in the comparison and conformity trap. In the words of Ralph Emerson Waldo:
To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.
Finally, there may also be times in life when we need to step up the game or the doors of opportunity open. When we are called to grow in some form, take up new leadership positions, open a business or present our creative work to the world, self-doubt inevitably will show up if the next step is meaningful to us. Some of the best minds in the world have done their greatest work while thinking that their work had no value. Self-doubt is a natural consequence when we are stepping into growth.
How does self-doubt show up?
So how do you know whether self-doubt is showing up for you?
Let me ask you this:
- Do you have a strong inner critic that keeps telling you that you or your work is not enough? Feel you need to be the best at what you do and find yourself pushing and striving? Often find yourself working harder to get the job done? (Come join me in the proving yourself club)
- Sit in your office wondering when they’re actually going to find out that hiring you was a mistake and that you just got here by luck? (why hello Imposter syndrome)
- You just need to do a bit more, tweak things again and again. Oh, let me do some more research, actually perhaps let me get another degree or do another course. I’m just not quite ready yet. (perfectionists unite!)
- Do you often put your needs and desires on the backburner? Do you find yourself saying yes when you actually mean no? Boundaries huh, what? (welcome people pleaser!)
- Do you keep “busy” but somehow the things that really matter most on your to-do list just don’t get done? Does cleaning the house just seem like a much better proposition than sitting down and actually pulling your CV together for that dream job or writing that newsletter with your latest offering? (join the club procrastinators!)
- Just can’t move. Just can’t do anything? Feeling completely stuck? (P-p-p-paralysis)
If you answered yes to any or all self-doubt may be holding you back and making life a lot harder for than it needs to be. Knowing that this might be the case is so incredibly important. I often say, you can only change what you can see.
Making the invisible visible
Making the invisible visible is very valuable as it allows you to find ways that you can manage your self-doubt. Unfortunately, there often still seems to be quite a lot of stigma attached to the topic of self-doubt, especially in professional settings. It’s vulnerable to admit that sometimes you doubt your own abilities and is something that we are not keen to share in the workspace.
Yet opening up the conversation about this is incredibly important. Sometimes even just knowing that it is self-doubt that is leading you to procrastinate or stay stuck in perfectionism can help you to move forward. Knowing that self-doubt is common normalises your experience and allows you to move on more quickly. For others, it may need some more commitment and work to help manage your self-doubt.
What is most important however is that you know that self-doubt, while it can feel intense at times, does not need to stop you from achieving your goals, taking the next step in your career and living the life that you desire. There are tools and strategies to manage this and I look forward to sharing more of this along the way.
If you have any questions at this point or if I can support you in managing your self-doubt, I look forward to hearing from you.