Did you know that self-doubt and lack of confidence are two of the top reasons people don’t take action?
Even the most sure-footed among us have days when they feel insecure and stuck. That’s because things can happen at any time to poke holes in our sense of authority and self-assurance. A project that flops. A presentation that’s not well-received. Being passed over for a promotion or a date. Even a negative comment made years ago, which pops back into your head as you embark on a new path in your life – all of these occurrences can stop you from taking the action you know you need to take at a given moment.
Defining self-doubt and lack of confidence
The fact is, self-doubt and a lack of confidence are about our ability to trust ourselves. The word “confidence” actually comes from the Latin word fidere which means “to trust”. While ‘self-doubt’, according to renowned psychologists and authors, Matthew Braslow and Jean Guerrettez, “is a state of uncertainty about the truth of anything”.
When we’re in a spiral of self-doubt, we tend not to trust any of our feelings, our opinions, and the decisions we’re making. As a result, we freeze. We’re unsure which way to turn and what step to take.
As a career coach, I’ve seen this a lot. Most of the people who come to me because they’re seeking a change in career, go through a stage of self-doubt. Often they also lack the confidence to make the leap themselves from a job they hate, to doing the work they dream about.
They don’t believe in their ability to achieve and are scared of not succeeding in their career transition. Sometimes they don’t believe they’re good at anything.
Of course, this is never true and, luckily, there are great tools and techniques that can be used to help anyone deal with self-doubt and a lack of confidence.
Main causes of self-doubt and lack of confidence
To use these tools to their best effect, however, it’s important to understand why you’re being dogged by self-doubt. And you might be surprised to discover that your “lack of ability” is not the reason for your lack of confidence.
Misaligned values and abilities
If your crisis in confidence is occurring at work it could be that the job you’re currently doing doesn’t align with your values and skillset. You might wonder how everyone else is enjoying the work and moving ahead when you can’t muster up the enthusiasm or ability to do either. And then you begin to believe there’s something lacking in you.
This disconnect between your ideals and skills, can not only affect your productivity, relationship with colleagues, and overall job satisfaction, but it can pour over into your personal or home life thanks to the stress or lack of positivity you feel.
You might begin to believe you shouldn’t have the job you have (hello, Imposter Syndrome!) or compare yourself to colleagues and others, all of which compounds your feelings of self-doubt and insecurity.
Spending time with confidence drainers
Another reason you’re suffering from self-distrust could be down to the company you’re keeping. Being around negative people not only drains your energy but can increase your own self-doubt.
Spending time with people who scoff at others’ ambitions and abilities or constantly expect frustrations and failures instead of easy wins and success can really rub off on you. You might accept the idea that change is too difficult or “not for someone like you” because you are hearing it consistently.
There are many other reasons that self-doubt gets a hold of you too. These can include:
- Past experiences
- Your upbringing
- Mistakes you’ve made
- Living through stressful situations.
Ways to overcome self-doubt and lack of confidence
The main way to overcome self-doubt and a lack of confidence is to remember that both of these are states of being and we have the ability to change how we are or what we feel at any stage.
So, with that in mind, I’m going to share with you four exercises that I often suggest to or use with my clients to remind them of the power that they have to push aside self-doubt and get to the root of their lack of confidence:
Exercise #1: Catch any critical voices in your head and ask yourself if what you hear is true, or if what those voices are saying really reflect who you are. When we focus on critical voices that’s when lack of confidence or doubts come into play.
Exercise #2: Don’t spend all your time going over past events or experiences that did not go to plan. For example, a presentation that didn’t go too well, or a project you managed that your boss or client didn’t like. Being human means that we all make mistakes – yes, even your boss and that client! So just learn from your past experiences and move on.
Exercise #3: Recall a time when you doubted yourself. What prompted the doubt? Who was involved? How did you react at the time? What was the situation? What negative words came to mind at the time and even now as you’re bringing up the experience again?
Think back to what was going on at the time or, even, what is going on with you right now. Did you really doubt yourself at that time or were you listening to others’ doubts? Maybe you overreacted and in hindsight, you can see that if you had just taken a breath and kept going, everything would have worked out.
This is not another reason to beat yourself up. It’s a way to understand why you doubt yourself in certain moments.
You can just think about this or you can write it down in a journal if you find that it’s easier to make sense of your thoughts that way.
Exercise #4: Think about a decision you have to make. Be aware that as we recreate our past we can also create our future – So, how do you want your future to unfold?
How are you feeling right now? How do you want to feel? What do you need to change to feel how you would like to feel? Think about whether you are in charge of how you want to feel or whether external sources are. If you think that external sources are in charge, what small shifts could you make to empower yourself instead?
Because it’s only by empowering yourself that you will start to trust yourself more. And when you trust yourself more, self-doubt will stop raising its head at your every decision. But best of all, when you empower and trust yourself you will become more confident and much more willing to take the actions and make the changes in your career or life that you once doubted you could ever do.