How To Overcome Self-Doubt

You're feeling excited about a project and keen to move forward, and then the evil gremlins in your mind rise up and strike a blow that stops you in your tracks. Or perhaps you feel stuck in your tracks unsure even which way to move in the first place. If so, there's a good chance you're being held back by self-doubt.

I know the feeling all too well. The fear of failure, the procrastination, the voice in my head that says “nobody will read that article”, “nobody will come to your gig”, or “you're gonna fuck it up in front of everybody!”. It all comes down to self-doubt and the fear of failure that lurks beneath.

So how do you overcome this evil gremlin?

Here's what I tell myself when self-doubt strikes:

Understand That It's Normal

Pretty much everyone struggles with self-doubt to some degree; unless you're a narcissist or a psychopath, and I don't recommend being either of those. Most people walk around projecting an image of having-it-all-together in order to avoid shame and embarrassment, but the truth is that we all experience self-doubt to some degree.

Do What's Important To You

I've heard many famous and successful people talk about feeling like a fraud; but they became successful because they pursued their goals anyway. So set goals for yourself that align with your values and feel important to you, regardless of whether you think you're up to the task or not. Doing what's important to you is the first step in dealing with self-doubt.

Break Your Challenges Down

When faced with challenges, we live in a dynamic tension between boredom and overwhelm. Too little challenge, and we get bored. Too much challenge and we become overwhelmed. So we're constantly oscillating between these two extremes. When we get the balance right, we experience an optimal state called flow where we're maximally productive and we don't even notice time passing.

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But if the challenge is too great, overwhelm and self-doubt hit us big time. The key to handling this is to break your goal down into smaller steps. If you decide to become a musician because you just love the idea of playing music and want to share it with the world, you don't just step out on stage and start playing; self-doubt tells you that the task is too overwhelming. So you go and learn to play music first, get experience playing in front of small groups, and work your way up to rock stardom.

Just Take The Next Step

Once you've broken your goal or challenge down into bite-sized steps, all you have to do is take the next one. It helps to have a clear direction of where you're heading, but once you have that it's important to focus just on the next step. Putting too much attention on future steps that aren't achievable yet will raise up that sense of self-doubt again. So focus on what you need to do right now in order to move forward, and take that next step.

Success is achieved by taking one step each day towards our challenging goals. It doesn't have to be a huge earth-shattering step; it just needs to be a step forward.

Learn To Deal With Uncertainty

Sometimes it's not clear whether the next step is towards our goals or away from them, but it's important to take the step anyway. The reality is that we can never be really sure whether we're moving in the right direction until we arrive at our destination. So we need to learn to deal with uncertainty, at the same time as developing our intuition regarding the best way to move towards our goals.

The way to do this is to take whatever action seems right at the time, and learn from the outcome whether it was the best choice or not. Do this often enough, and you develop the intuition that you need to take confident action even in the face of uncertainty. In the process you'll also learn to see failure as simply a learning experience, which will lessen your sense of self-doubt next time you're faced with a challenge.

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    About Graham Stoney

    Graham struggled for years with low self-esteem, anxiety and a lack of self-confidence before finding a solution that really worked. He created The Confident Man Program to help other men overcome similar problems and live the life of their dreams.
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    4 Responses to How To Overcome Self-Doubt

    1. "Understand That It's Normal
      Pretty much everyone struggles with self-doubt to some degree; unless you're a narcissist or a psychopath, and I don't recommend being either of those. Most people walk around projecting an image of having-it-all-together in order to avoid shame and embarrassment, but the truth is that we all experience self-doubt to some degree." ----- THIS! Thank you. I needed to read this today..
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    2. avatar Anthony says:

      Thanks Graham for share so directly and clearly. I feel that is possible to be more real and balanced in my affairs from how you identify the truths about honestly accepting that self doubt is a normal aspect of being human. Do you have anything to share about how to avoid becoming too self obsessed and how people might be able to avoid serious mental illnesses or disorders. It seems that something needs to be done about oversensitive reactions which are probably based in unrealistic beliefs?

    3. I know a lot of people advocate positive affirmations, but I don't personally find them all that helpful compared to a real-world experience of achieving the thing we were doubtful of. I do find mental rehearsal of challenging situations helpful, but looking in the mirror saying "I believe in myself!" doesn't really cut it for me. Cheers, Graham

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