What Causes Self Doubt? by @Barbclifford

by Barbara Clifford | Featured Contributor


All of us, at some point in our lives, lack confidence.  We feel we lack the skills or capability to do something important.  We may feel panic that things won’t go as expected or as we’d like. This is what we call SELF DOUBT.
A little self-doubt can be a good thing, when we need to be mindful of areas for improvement, however, when the feeling is overwhelming or persistent it can hold us back.
Some may feel self-doubt when assigned or inheriting certain responsibility. It can lead to panic and performance fear.  This, in turn, leads to stressed behaviour around decision making, fretting over every process or putting off major decisions. This lack of motivation further fuels the doubt around capabilities.

So Why Do We Allow Self-Doubt to Take Over?

Comparing Ourselves to Others

We’re taught from an early age to compete, to strive above others for success.  Social media is the perfect tool for us to constantly compare our success to the success of others. We focus our gaze so much on others, we spend little time appreciating our own wins and successes.  Yet there is a healthy way to compare yourself, by focusing on mentors, leaders or those that inspire you but only with the intent of self-improvement, not self-doubt.

History of Mistakes

If you’ve had a failure, mistake or setback all other decisions or actions become tainted with the same brush.  We fear that if we have fallen once, we’ll fall again, rather than seeing the last fall as an opportunity to learn.  We need to find the freedom to fail, like we did when we learned how to ride a bike.  All successful people find an opportunity of learning in their moments of failure, using them as stepping stones to a more successful future.

Performance Anxiety

Have you ever felt like a fraud? Or had a success that feels like a fluke? We can sometimes allow self-doubt to creep in when we fear that we can not repeat a previous success.  We may feel that our best has already been.  People can fall into a trap of replicating a previous success rather than learning and building on it.

Stuck in the Mind of a Child

Most of us have had “A job worth doing, is worth doing well” drummed into our head.  However, if you allow yourself the freedom to fail, to learn from your mistakes, you can convert this saying into “A job worth doing, is worth doing lousy”.  This childhood mantra brainwashes us to believe that if we can’t do it perfect the first time, then we will fail.
Additionally, we may have found ourselves in an environment of being over criticised or judged by our teachers, parents or peers. I know I still have a fear of singing in public (even though I can sing in tune) due to some harsh comments by my friends in primary school.  From an early age, we learn to self-question, self-criticise and as a consequence, self-doubt.

Change or Something New

Change is inevitable, it’s how we face it that makes all the difference. However, when we lack experience in a certain area, we are likely to allow fear and doubt to creep in. Yet if you give yourself permission to do a lousy job, to make a mistake, decisions happen a lot easier.  The next stage is to develop your assertiveness techniques to feel confident in making decisions and knowing that you can deal with whatever outcome arises.
Ultimately we need to develop strategies that enable us to boost our confidence the counteract the harmful thinking of self-doubt.
  • Give yourself permission  to make mistakes
  • Reflect on your own personal wins
  • Value Your learning
  • Develop Your Assertiveness skills
  • Write a list of all your past achievements
  • Seek approval from others
  • compare your success with others
  • Under-value your knowledge
  • Give up before you’ve started




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