David Baxter PhD
A Simple Plan to Overcome Self-Doubt and Do What You Want to DoBy Catherine McCourt, Tiny Buddha
Sept 30, 2022
"Don’t let others tell you what you can’t do. Don’t let the limitations of others limit your vision. If you can remove your self-doubt and believe in yourself, you can achieve what you never thought possible.” ~Roy T. Bennett
Ahh yes, self-doubt. Something that affects every single one of us at different times and at different magnitudes—even those that seem supremely confident.
Why do so many of us experience self-doubt, and how can we overcome it?
On a personal note, I can tell you my self-doubt comes any time I am trying something new. I’ve learned over the years where this stems from, and it may be similar for you. It comes from my parents.
Although my parents were always encouraging, they’d also say things like, “Are you sure this is the right move?”, “Are you sure you want to do this?”, and “Be careful.” In fact, every time I left the house, that’s what my dad would say: “Be careful.” “Drive safe.” Not, “Have fun,” “Have a fantastic time,” or something along these lines.
In my twenties I realized that it had been ingrained in me to always be cautious, which then led to me doubting myself in certain scenarios, though I’ve never been someone who shies away from challenges or holds myself back. Over the years, I learned to identify what contributes to my self-doubt and then push through it.
Now, this isn’t the case for everyone. Other things that contribute to self-doubt are comparing ourselves to others; feeling a lack of means, intelligence, or other things we think we need to succeed; past experiences; possibly being criticized; and the natural fear that we feel when attempting something new.
When we doubt our ability, we are allowing fear to settle in and hold us back from forging forward and taking a leap. Without trying, we are feeding the self-doubt, which means it will likely compound the feeling the next time we are faced with or offered a similar opportunity.
So how can we detach from self-doubt and make sure we are not missing out on what could be an amazing opportunity or journey for ourselves?
First, we need CLARITY.We need to first get clear on where this self-doubt is coming from.
What is striking this feeling within you that makes you think you shouldn’t try it or you can’t make something happen? Is it the fear of the unknown, or is it the feeling of not having the ability, or something else you think you need to succeed? Are you comparing yourself to someone else in the process? Or do you think you couldn’t handle it if you failed?
Second, we need to recognize the FACTS.What do you know to be true? For example, what do you know about yourself that can help prove that you can attempt or accomplish this? Have you had any similar experiences that prove you can do this?
If you’re comparing yourself to someone else, what are the facts in this? Meaning, are you comparing yourself to someone who has already succeeded? Or are you comparing yourself to someone who is at the same stage you are? Nobody gets from A to B without experience, practice, and even failure. So, try not to compare yourself to others, as you may not know the complete story to their success.
There was a time when I was contemplating which direction to take my business degree. I’d majored in marketing because it’s a creative field that allows for variety, which aligns with my values. But as I was working in my first couple of “corporate” jobs, I was enticed by sales.
My father wanted to steer me away from sales. He said that it’s a hard career, it’s mostly male-driven, and it’s extremely stressful and unpredictable. But what I saw was the fun interaction sales teams had with their clients and prospects. How they were able to basically chat on the phone 80 percent of the time and attend fun events.
It was a fact that sales is stressful, unpredictable, and male-dominated, but I knew myself. I knew I was different than my father. I knew I was up for a challenge and taking risks, whereas he was risk adverse. I knew if it didn’t work out, I always had marketing to step into or maybe other options, whereas my father was opposed to change.
I had to recognize that he was from a different generation. That although what he expressed was true, there were other factors to consider. If I compared myself to the majority of people occupying these roles I likely wouldn’t have attempted it and enjoyed a fifteen-year-plus career in sales and business development.
Finally, GO FOR IT!The best way to conquer self-doubt is to put yourself out there, take action, and see what happens. No success comes without failure. If it works out, you’ll be glad you did it, and if it fails you’ll learn and can progress.
Without acting on it you will never know. At least if you push through the doubt and try you will understand yourself and your ability a lot more.
There was a time when I was considering making a big move that I had dreamt of for so long. I loved my friends and family, but I didn’t love where I was living or the lifestyle I was caught up in. When the timing was right I decided to take the leap and move to the other side of the county alone, without a job.
I heard things like: “Do you really want to go?” “It’s so expensive out there. How will you afford it?” And “It rains so much there, and people get depressed”.
If I had listened to others’ fear and angst about the move I would’ve likely lived in a miserable cycle. Instead, seventeen years later, I still feel this was the best thing I’ve ever done for myself, for my life, for my soul.
The move brought me an even greater awareness of how resilient we are when faced with change.
And if it hadn’t worked out, I would have had an adventure, and who knows where it may have taken me? Maybe it would have led me to something else I didn’t even know I wanted until I opened myself up to new possibilities. New possibilities I would never have known about had I limited myself based on other people’s fears.
Don’t let others’ doubt or success deter you from going after what you want or trying something new. Recognize that you can either let your doubt leave you with regret or feel the satisfaction of taking action. Who knows, your action might actually inspire others to ditch their doubt and take a leap into a life they’ll love.