Self-doubt prevents you from taking action and is often a reason you put off your dreams. Unless you learn how to overcome self-doubt, you will not see the success you crave.
Self-doubt is the direct opposite of confidence. It flourishes when you get caught up in negative self-talk. You hate it but feel powerless to loosen the grip it has on you.
A lot of my self-doubt came from offhand comments made by other people. They probably didn't realise what they had said. Still, the result was a whirlwind of thoughts that had me psycho-analysing myself and dissecting the comment in tiny detail. I don't know whether I'm a psychiatrist's dream or nightmare!
If offhand remarks or reminders of past failures haunt you, a small trigger can cause you to be swallowed whole in a world of negative self-talk.
The problem is, your negative self-talk focuses on failure. And you, by default, are telling yourself that you are a failure. Sadly it usually ends up with you telling yourself all the reasons why you should stop now.
In short, you have sabotaged your potential success.
The only way to overcome this is to stop the self-doubt and take back control of your life.
So, if you want to learn how to overcome self-doubt, read on. I've got four simple techniques for you to try.
You may think that to say 'no' when self-doubt creeps into your head sounds too simple. But it is a technique that works.
Our negative self-talk is not overly creative. You probably find that you tell yourself the same things over and over, such as:
- I'm not good enough
- I'm stupid
- People are going to make fun of me when I do things wrong
And so it goes on.
Your head is playing a broken record, something you've heard time and time again.
The secret is to be firm with yourself. Tell yourself that you're not going to think about this right now. You might even want to say the word NO out loud to give it extra power.
But don't leave it at that. When you say no, follow it up with a statement that you are freeing yourself to engage in a new thought. Perhaps one about how exciting your next step is going to be.
Having an affirmation to hand such as - I can, and I will do this - is often helpful.
How To Overcome Self-Doubt Technique 2 – Remind Yourself This Isn't The End
Things go wrong all the time. We are human. But if you feel like a failure because of a mistake, try not to wallow in self-doubt.
You can take a minute or two to feel bad, but the best thing is to take a step back and examine the situation as objectively as you can.
A mistake that's happened is already in the past. You can't change it no matter how badly you want to. But it isn't the end.
The important thing is to own up to your mistake and see what you can learn from the experience. Is there something you could do differently in the future?
If you have to face up to someone with your mistake, like tell your boss, it would be better to say to them how it happened and what you intend to do about it.
Mistakes are easier to forgive if you have a plan of action. And taking action is the antidote to any feeling of failure you might have. When you take action, you'll have no time or room for self-doubt.
How To Overcome Self-Doubt Technique 3 – Be Prepared Or Learn Something New
Self-doubt has a habit of creeping up on us when we don't feel prepared or lack specific knowledge.
My husband has a saying – perceptive planning prevents poor performance. And it's true.
If you find self-doubt and negative talk running riot in your head, think about what worries you and creates these feelings. If you're scared you'll fail, what part of the process do you think will go wrong?
If it's a lack of knowledge, this might be an opportunity to learn something new. If you want to learn how to overcome self-doubt, mastering a new skill will go a long way to reduce it.
How To Overcome Self-Doubt Technique 4 – Change Your Self Talk
At the beginning of this article, I mentioned how self-doubt flourishes when you get caught up in negative self-talk. Well, it's time to change the way you talk to yourself.
When you entertain negative self-talk, you are putting yourself down. You focus on all the things that have gone or could go wrong and forgotten about all the things you do right.
Imagine if a friend came to you upset over a mistake she had made or because she had failed at something. Would you ridicule her? No. You would talk kindly to her and point out all the things she achieved in the past.
Talk to yourself as you would a good friend. Be compassionate and kind.
I can't think of anyone who deliberately sets out to fail, but it happens to all of us. But not all the time. Sometimes past failures can appear more significant than they are. Try to put it into perspective.
Change Negative Thoughts Into Positive Ones
Change the negative statements you make about yourself into something positive. Focus on your past successes. I always recommend that people create a list of all their achievements. If you do this, you can grab your list and remind yourself of all the things you did well.
If you tell yourself you're stupid, think of all the times when you used your common sense to solve an issue.
If you fear failing, think about times when you overcame adversity.
Your examples don't need to be work-related. All skills are transferable.
The secret is to build your self-awareness and look out for any negative statement you tell yourself, and stop them in their tracks.
For more guidance on negative self-talk, please read my article 5 Quick Ways To Stop Negative Self-Talk.
When you learn how to overcome self-doubt, you set yourself free. The techniques laid out here will help but will need practice.
The key is to pay attention to what you're telling yourself and act accordingly.
These techniques might not be a quick fix, but bear with it, and you'll soon be able to overcome your self-doubt.
You can do this.
Take some time out and think about when you tend to doubt yourself. Is it linked to a specific person or a situation? Write down your thoughts to see if there is a theme.
You won't be able to do this in one sitting; it might take a couple of weeks or so. But be prepared to keep an eye out for triggers for your self-doubt. As they occur, write them down.
When you are in a relaxed mood, explore why these thoughts occur. What is it that you fear? Are you scared of failing, making a fool of yourself or making a mistake? Write out the fear you have.
Next, write down what you can do to reduce the fear. Baby steps are best. For example, if you fear speaking up in meetings, it might be because you worry about what other people think about you. Try speaking up in safer settings, perhaps at family events initially.
You could always engage a cheerleader. By this, I mean someone who will support you. Explain to them you want to overcome your doubts about speaking up. Most people are happy to help. In the next meeting, sit where you can see them. If they know you struggle, you'll find that, at the very least, they will give you nods of encouragement.
Having someone on your side is a big boost to your confidence and a great way to learn how to overcome self-doubt.