Self-Doubt? Get Over It!

lipsLately I am feeling a little handcuffed by my self-doubt.  I know that I learned a lot of lessons over the years and have a lot to share, but I have this nagging voice in my head filling me with worry.  I am a successful person, but I have also had my share of failures.  What is it that makes the negative voice loud and the positive voice quiet now that I have been laid off?   Why is it that I keep thinking about all the things that could go wrong?

  • Will people actually buy services directly from me instead of a big corporation?
  • Will people respond well to what I write on the blogs?
  • How embarrassed will I be if I can’t get any clients?
  • What will I say to the critics that I know will come forward when I put my thoughts out on the internet?
  • Who do I think I am to advise people on their programs and business anyway?

The self-doubt tape keeps running through my head.  It is like a soft wave eroding my sandy beach of confidence.  I have always held myself to very high standards.  Is that the problem?  I know that there are always set-backs in any career, but for some reason, my self-confidence is being shaken by the negative messages.  Old tapes seem to be getting in the way of my focusing on the positive ones to help me move forward.


What I realize is that most of my fears are related to what (I think) other people think, about me.  Though I have tried to change, I am very sensitive to what people feel (empathetic, I think they call it).  I am driven by my need for people’s approval.  (Read my post on Self Worth Starts With These 5 Steps).   And, I think this is getting in my way of reinventing myself.

Dr. Tom Muha, a practicing psychologist and writer in Annapolis, Maryland, says negative self-talk like this “exemplified how people keep themselves from making meaningful contributions.”  He goes on to say that people “allow a toxic combination of self-criticism and comparisons to others to prevent them from taking a risk and putting their creative offerings into the public eye.”  (The Capital Newspaper, Sunday, August 4, 2013)

Everything I am reading and finding on the internet says that I just have to jump in with both feet and give up this self-doubt.  You can’t win the game, if you never even play.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”     ―     Theodore Roosevelt

When I think about it, I have been in the game for years.  Why does the fact that the audience has changed (no longer the corporate family) bring up so much fear and trepidation?  As an innovator and thought leader in Project Management and Learning Solutions, I had many of my ideas criticized and even shot down over the years at IBM.  It never stopped me before from finding new ways to get the job done.  What makes this any different?  What makes being outside the corporate structure so scary?  Criticism stings and it may set me back (it may even feel overwhelming at times), but not moving forward because of the fear would be the saddest thing I could do.

Are you dealing with self-doubt?  How are you getting through it?


Keep up the good attitude. See you next blog.

– Lorian





(All the Social Butterfly’s views are her own)

5 thoughts on “Self-Doubt? Get Over It!

  1. Very relevant post for me today! I am very much like you in how I worry about what I think other people think of me, and I too am very empathetic. I recently took a stress and mindfulness course at work before I was laid off, and it was helpful in controlling my thoughts and stopping them in their tracks. The trick is to remember to do that. 🙂

    • Yes Laura. Staying mindful is very important. I am currently doing Deepak Chopra’s 21 day Meditation (which started yesterday and is free). Staying centered is important when you need to expend a lot of energy outward.

  2. In the very first lecture I ever attended as an undergraduate student of physics the professor told us about the tremendous workload we have to expect as students of science – and about self-doubt we might encounter. In particular he said that it is very often the brightest students who suffer from that.
    And right he was. I graduated my PhD with very special and rare honors bestowed by the president of the state, and I basically excelled anything in terms of metrics that I ever embarked on – from corporate performance review to post-graduate degrees, including customers’ stellar feedback about my soft skills.
    But yet I often felt – and feel – the way you describe so aptly. It has become much better because looking at a track record helps. But on the other hand track record and reputation can turn into a burden – when anyone expects (or you believe than anybody expects) you to perform at the same level forever.

    I tend to think that self-doubt and accomplishments are really closely related: Self-doubt makes you focus on negative aspects – and their improvements – and this is probably what had made you successful finally. I typically analyze and dissect “failures” for hours (such as why could I miss 1% in a score of 99%… or pondering forever about that singular meeting in a large project that went not that well as all the others…) in contrast to my quick and often non-existent celebrations of great successes.
    I can’t say that I have found a perfect solution yet – I feel the advance of social media, personal websites and all kinds of online profiles has helped a lot as I had been forced to remember and describe milestones and achievements. On the other hand… too much indulgence in polishing profiles makes me finally feel a phone marketer and I start to distrust my own stories 🙂

    • You are so right that too much self analysis can also be a problem. Finding the balance, in all things, is not easy. I learned a lot about positive focus from being a parent and also training animals. Praising the good effort is much more rewarding than admonishing the failures. I agree that the more driven we are, the more we push ourselves, and the more we expect ‘perfection,’ which can be crippling. When training an animal to shake hands for example, I start by rewarding them for even the slightest movement of the paw off the floor. Then as they raise it higher and higher, I continue to reward, until they have reached my hand. There is no failure, this way, only success. I noticed how my kids tweet every small success. They are success junkies. Unlike me, they have a documented life of accomplishments (look at the great dinner I made, the great outfit I put together, the fun time I had with my friends, the good grade I got on this test). I try to learn from those examples and quiet the voices in my head that say…. “but, what about the burnt toast the other morning?” Thank you for your story. Reviewing and owning your accomplishments on paper twice a year is a good way to stay humble to your successes, and then, let them go. Failure is not the failing down, but the staying down – and if you have not fallen, how can you rise? – Lorian

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