6 Steps for Overcoming Self-Doubt

Self-doubt can be destructive. It can stop you from being successful in doing what you want and make you feel helpless at the same time. It can show up at unexpected times, especially, when you deliver a presentation, lead a meeting in front of your manager and colleagues, or do something new.

By definition, self-doubt starts when your head is infiltrated with mindless thoughts of self-criticism. You start downplaying your abilities, shattering your confidence, and feeling uncomfortable in social settings.

Yes, self-doubt is common! But not everyone is held back by it, nor should you! Following these six simple steps can help prevent self-doubt from overshadowing your ability to shine.

Step #1 Improve Self-Awareness

People that are overwhelmed by self-doubt tend to live in an ocean of thoughts related to their past. To break free from the chains, you should identify the thoughts that are holding you back. The thoughts that are too judgemental or critical can be limiting your potential. These thoughts can lead you into an impasse, inaction, and procrastination. Distinguish them from the healthy thoughts, ones that encourage you to move forward, take action and participate in the transaction.

The purpose of the exercise is to manage the internal dialogue. Turn off any dialogue that is not useful. Think of these dialogues as the background apps on your phone – they don’t appear on screen but still drain your battery. You want to shut down these apps to save energy.

Step #2 Offer yourself a dose of self-compassion

What you believe and think, and the words you use affect your self-confidence and self-esteem. Being self-critical can bring you down mentally. Feelings like frustration, guilt, or shame after a failure are universal. But keeping them in your mind can be dangerous. You can practice letting go of these unhelpful thoughts and emotions and fill the void with love and self-compassion.

It is always helpful to remind yourself that we all are humans, we all make mistakes, and it is okay to do so. Most of the self-doubt comes from our inability to make room for mistakes and errors. To err is human. We should accept that we also learn and grow through them. Showing self-compassion helps to alleviate the fear of failure and self-doubt to a great extent.

Step #3 Identify the origin of your self-doubt

To prevent the thoughts from coming back again, you will need to identify their source. Most often these ideas stem from our childhood experiences, an overcritical parent or teacher, our comparison of ourselves with others, or other stress.  It is important to understand that these thoughts are in the past and have no place in the present.

Step #4 Understanding how your belief is affecting you

Once you fully identify the source of your struggle, you will be able to understand how it is affecting you. Think of all the things it is keeping you from. Whether it is preventing you from pursuing your goals, taking a new leadership role, or impairing your performance at work.

When you identify the afflicted areas – reassure yourself that you can and could have done better if you change those beliefs. Think about all the opportunities and possibilities you might be offered with this simple change in mindset. Remember what’s holding you back is just a self-framed belief that does not necessarily represent reality.

Step #5 Incorporating practical beliefs in place of old beliefs

Think of all the good thoughts that you can practice to replace the self-limiting belief. You can reassure yourself that you are able to do it. You can also tell yourself that you are safe and you have seen difficulties before and that with courageous practice things will become easier.

Practicing a beginner’s mindset can be helpful too. Let the product of your effort come out without being subject to self-critique. At this juncture, you can recall the time when you were at your best, the difficulties you had faced then, and the strengths that you put to use.

Step #6 Listening to your reaffirming voice

Once you recognize the voices that are hurting you, you can acknowledge their existence and proactively choose to listen to your healthy voice. When this happens, you will be able to hear yourself much more clearly. You will be able to recognize and express your actual desires, needs, and concerns. And when you do, try saying it out loud and record it whenever possible so you can listen to them later. When we listen to ourselves we understand our real wants. And we put an end to the need to seek validation from others. Practicing this to help master control over your doubts and your nerves in pressure.