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We all experience feelings of self-doubt from time to time, whether we're starting a new job, taking a test, or playing a sport. That's perfectly normal.
The definition of self-doubt is experiencing feelings of uncertainty about one or more aspects of yourself.
A certain low level of self-criticism can be a good source of motivation. It use may inspire you to work harder and hone your skills to increase your confidence. But too much doubt and fear can hold you from performing well and reaching your full potential.
Though it does take time, you can overcome your doubts. BetterUp is here to help you do that. Through dedication and hard work, we give you the tools you need to embrace your beautiful, authentic self.
What is self-doubt?
Self-doubt is a lack of confidence regarding yourself and your abilities. It’s a mindset that holds you back from succeeding and believing in yourself. Humility is a healthy character trait to have, but if it's at your own expense, it's no longer beneficial.
William Shakespeare once said, “Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.” Basically, that means doubt makes us quit.
The cause of self-doubt
There are many things that can cause a person to doubt themselves. Although the most useful thing is to learn how to work around your self-doubt, it can be helpful to understand what causes it.
Here are some of the common factors that lead to self-doubt. Think of these as possible explanations to help you stop beating yourself up for having doubt. For most people, trying to pinpoint exactly why they have doubt is less important than overcoming it.
1. Narcissistic parents
Often, we’re scared of repeating our parents’ mistakes and might be overly cautious in specific decisions as a result. But if your parents are narcissistic or arrogant, you may swing to the extreme. In response to your parents’ characteristics, you may become too modest or unconfident. You may question your own actions. This makes it hard to accept praise.
2. The "drill sergeant approach"
Showing yourself “tough love” can be an effective motivator as it urges you to work harder the next time. But repeatedly criticizing yourself does far more harm than good. Self-sabotage from overworking and a fear of becoming lazy or “soft” can arise if this behavior continues.
3. Past experiences
There’s truth to the saying “the past can haunt us.” Our experiences shape who we are and how we see others and the world. Lots of us struggle to let go. Failures and setbacks from the past can leave us overwhelmed with self-doubt.
4. Fear of failure and fear of success
The fear of falling short and disappointing others is just as real as the fear of being unable to replicate our past successes. We might think it was luck that got us this far instead of our talents if we’re filled with doubt.
Types of self-doubt
Self-doubt often manifests in three forms.
The first is imposter syndrome, or the illogical fear of others seeing you as a fraud or undeserving of your accomplishments.
Next is self-sabotage, which refers to undermining yourself, your values, and your goals.
The third is indecisiveness or struggling to make big and small decisions due to worries that whatever path you choose will be wrong.
All of these things erode your self-esteem over time, and the negativity with which you view yourself increases.
4 signs that you're doubting yourself
Common indications that you may be dealing with self-doubt in your personal or professional life include:
1. You can’t accept compliments from others, and you can’t give yourself credit
2. You constantly seek reassurance
3. You have low self-esteem
4. You feel like you’re never good enough
How to overcome fear and self-doubt in 8 steps
Here are some good habits for you to keep in mind to stop doubting yourself:
1. Practice self-compassion
Self-doubt means that you’re holding yourself back. It arises from the fear of making a mistake, but mistakes are how we grow and improve our own abilities. Look at yourself in the mirror and say three positive affirmations at the beginning of every day.
2. Think back to your past achievements
Self-reflection is a fantastic tool; it reminds us that we’re capable of what we want to achieve. But living in the past can take away from the present moment. Learning from what’s happened — not dwelling on the bad — and focusing on using the lessons you’ve learned from those times to improve the present is what truly matters.
3. Try not to compare yourself to others
Self-doubt can also arise when you measure yourself up against a family member, colleague, or even a celebrity. Everyone’s life is different, and someone else excelling doesn’t mean you don’t have any strengths. Instead of comparing yourself to others, focus on yourself — it’s one of the best ways to stay happy and accomplish your dreams.
4. Spend your time with supportive people
Being around people who put us down is one of the worst things for our mental health. Some people won’t support you, but others absolutely will. Spend your time with people who make you feel good; they can build you up when you’re struggling to encourage yourself.
5. Remember, you are your biggest inner critic
No one holds us to a higher standard than ourselves. You wouldn’t put down your mother for not being chosen for a job or your sister for not receiving top marks on her school essay, so why do that to yourself? Apologizing to yourself is one of the most important steps toward healing and moving forward.
6. Seek professional help
It’s okay to ask for help, especially if self-doubt is a persistent obstacle that you’re facing. Talking about our feelings and insecurities allows us to unburden ourselves and be heard.
7. Start journaling
Make an effort to record what you’re thankful for and what you’re proud of doing each day. Your journal may cover everything from earning a promotion at work or remembering to do the dishes. The more frequently you practice loving yourself, the easier it gets.
8. Be skeptical of your thoughts
You aren’t your thoughts. Question how accurate or helpful they are. Negative thinking is a mental habit that consumes us more than it should. You can undo your habits, too. It just takes patience and commitment.
BetterUp is a human transformation company that champions personal growth, social connections, and mental fitness. We emphasize a conscious shift in thinking, from reactive to proactive, to open up a realm of opportunities. We won’t sugar coat it — it takes work to improve, but the effort is worth it. We’re here to guide you and empower you into becoming the very best person you can be.
Content Marketing Manager, ACC