Request a demo
Back to Blog

Overcome self-doubt (once and for all?): 8 tips to move forward

February 11, 2022 - 10 min read


Jump to section

What is self-doubt?

The cause of self-doubt

Types of self-doubt

4 signs that you're doubting yourself

How to overcome fear and self-doubt in 8 steps

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. 

New call-to-action

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.

Doubtful doctor at hospital taking over phone-overcoming-self-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

man listening music with earphones but filling tired sad and depressed-overcoming-self-doubt

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. 

New call-to-action

Published February 11, 2022

Elizabeth Perry

Content Marketing Manager, ACC

Read Next

16 min read | February 15, 2021

Why self-management is key to success and how to improve yours

Self-management is a critical workplace skill that can—and should—be developed. Learn what it is, and how to improve your own self-management skills. Read More
Leadership & Management
7 min read | September 2, 2019

From self-awareness to self-control: A powerful leadership technique

The shift from self-awareness to self-control is a powerful leadership technique. Discover how emotional intelligence uplifts and engages your teams. Read More
14 min read | August 12, 2020

Building resilience part 6: what is self-efficacy?

Since we don’t know how long it will take for the world to right itself—and much of that depends on the actions of millions of other people—we are left wondering what is... Read More
13 min read | May 25, 2021

The self presentation theory and how to present your best self

Self presentation is defined as the way we try to control how others see us, but it’s just as much about how we see ourselves. It is a skill to achieve a level of comfort... Read More
Professional Development
12 min read | March 23, 2022

So you want to be your own boss? Here's how to do it right

Discover what it takes to be your own boss. Learn about the ups and downs and how you can make it happen so that you control your success. Read More
Professional Development
10 min read | March 25, 2022

Are you receptive to feedback? Follow this step-by-step guide

Feedback doesn't have to be daunting. Learn how you can become more receptive to feedback with these 5 easy steps. Read More
Professional Development
19 min read | May 18, 2022

Learn how to be your own best ally for reaching your goals

What is self-motivation, and how can you use it to achieve your goals? Here’s your guide to pushing yourself and getting things done. Read More
Professional Development
25 min read | August 23, 2022

Your complete guide to writing a self-assessment (with examples)

A stellar self-assessment can help both managers and employees develop careers. Use these self-assessment examples to kick off your own evaluation. Read More
Leadership & Management
14 min read | September 14, 2022

Self-awareness in leadership: How it will make you a better boss

Wondering how you can use self-awareness in leadership positions? Learn how to strengthen your self-awareness to become a leader that welcomes all feedback. Read More

Stay connected with BetterUp

Get our newsletter, event invites, plus product insights and research.