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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

How Self-Doubt Keeps You Stuck (And How to Overcome It)

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How Self-Doubt Keeps You Stuck (And How to Overcome It)

We’ve all been there. At some points in our lives, we question whether we are doing well enough or are capable of facing all the uncertainties that might come up as we grow older. We experience feelings of self-doubt around decisions and choices we made or simply feel that we’re not good enough.

Self-doubt occurs when we lack confidence or feel incapable of doing things we need to do. People who doubt about themselves experience uncertainty around things they can’t control or worry about things not going according to plan.

A certain level of self-doubt is good because it indicates that you understand what you need to improve in order to do a better job. However, persistent fear and self-doubt can hugely affect your life in a bad way.

In this article, you’ll find out why self-doubt is holding you back from happiness and success and what you can do to overcome it.

How Self-Doubt Keeps You Stuck

Let’s picture this:

Your boss has assigned you an important task because he thinks you are the most suitable person in the room. But instead of taking it as a recognition of your work performance, you start to panic.

You panic about whether you are capable of doing a great job. You worry that failing to perform well will become a big joke at work. You spend time stressing over every single decision you make and picture how things might go wrong.

It’s not surprising that fear will then play a big role in your own little drama. It leads you toward procrastination. You delay your work and feel unmotivated.

At the end of the story, you hand in your work at the very last minute, and, of course, it’s not hard to guess that you will have the feeling of “I can actually do better than this.”

What causes self-doubt? Let’s find out!

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5 Common Causes of Self-Doubt

There are plenty of reasons behind self-doubt. We’ll go through some of them here.

1. Past Experience and Mistakes

Past experiences can have a huge impact on how we react, especially if you have had bad experiences before, like being in an abusive relationship or being fired without a concrete justification. Our mental health can take a huge hit in these cases.

Past experience can shake and rattle our beliefs. However, continuing to reference past experiences without learning from them is just a waste of your bright future!

If you struggle to let go of the past, get the Foolproof Guide To Reaching Your Goals This Year. In this free guide, you will learn how to make use of your past experience and mistakes to replan for your future so you will finally achieve what you want. Grab your free guide here.

2. Childhood Upbringing

Our upbringing plays a big role in shaping our habits and personalities.

If you were raised by parents that constantly told you that you were not good enough or were natured by schools that judged students heavily on their grades, you might have already internalized the habit of questioning yourself.

3. Comparisons With Others

It’s not unnatural for us to compare ourselves with others, because we are living in a world of competition.

We can easily compare our work performance with colleagues or simply in the overwhelming world of social media. It’s easy for us to envy others’ lives and think that we are not doing as well as they are.

When you’re comparing too much with others about what they have and what you lack, you’ll start to lose yourself.

4. New Challenges

This is a pretty normal case because we have no experience on how to react or what things we need to do. The feeling of uncertainty and insecurity will make you feel uncomfortable.

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5. Fear of Failure / Fear of Success

Take Elizabeth Gilbert as an example. She is the author of the book Eat, pray, Love that sold more than 10 million copies around the world.

However, in her book Big Magic-Creative Living Beyond Fear, she revealed that this success had also once become her biggest nightmare because she wasn’t sure whether she could replicate her success.

Even among successful people, previous success can become our biggest fear because we might think that’s the best we can deliver and that we will never produce anything that’s equally good.

This is an especially tricky area for women. One study pointed out that, in comparison to men, women “associate success with more negative consequences”[1].

How to Overcome Self-Doubt

What can you do to overcome self-doubt and be confident again, no matter how tough things are?

1. Ground Yourself and Say Stop!

Once you discover there are negative voices running inside your head, try to stay in the present moment and focus on the positives.

Try to prepare something positive you can go to whenever you feel negative or unsure of yourself. Ideas on what you can prepare:

  • A list of counter arguments, things like “I can do this” or “It’s just another chance for me to learn.”
  • A jar that contains happy memories
  • A file that contains all the photos that make you smile
  • A list of quick energy-boosting activities you can do
  • A box of healthy snacks that you can always go to

2. Take a Break and Get a Boost of Optimism

Sometimes the longer we feel stuck in a situation or emotion, the harder it is for us to come out.

Just take a moment to relax and shift your focus to something totally different. By doing so, it can allow us to clear out mind and look at things from a new and fresh perspective.

If you need an optimism boost, try make a list of things you’re grateful for. This will naturally shift your thoughts in a more positive direction.

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In one study measuring gratitude, hope, optimism, and life satisfaction, “Gratitude was determined as the most predictive variable for well-being”[2]. That’s a pretty great reason to practice gratitude!

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Seek Help

While it’s important to work on ourselves, it’s also a good idea to get support from your loved ones, including family and friends. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

They can be your partner, family members, friends, mentors, supervisors or even a coach.

Getting advice and reassurance from others can also improve our self-confidence and keep us motivated.

The 21-Day Challenge on Regaining Self-Confidence

I have this one great approach that has successfully helped me to build my confidence and overcome self-doubt.

I write things down, and it’s just as simple as it sounds.

By writing down things that make me question myself and review weekly, I am able to identify what makes me scared, which helps me develop ways to improve myself.

By writing down things that I am grateful for, I start to appreciate myself more and focus on what I have instead of what I am lacking.

I even stop comparing myself to others because, by looking at what I’ve written, I remind myself that I’m happy with my own life.

This is my 21-day plan on regaining self-confidence and you should give it a try too!

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Days 1 to 7: Write 3 Things You’re Grateful for Each Day

Review them at the end of the week, and you will soon realize that the more you write, the more you will see there are actually a lot of things that can make you happy.

Days 8 to 14: Write Times You Feel Unsure About Yourself and Reasons Behind Them

At the end of the week, you should be able to identify your biggest fears and moments that make you feel stressed.

During the review process, you can start to think of ways to solve your problems. It can be “focusing more on myself” or things you think you need to improve on.

Days 15 to 21: Write Steps You’ve Taken and How You Feel

No matter what you’ve done to overcome self-doubt, write them down and recognize yourself!

We all need motivation along the way, and no matter how small the steps you have taken, they indicate that you are one step closer to what you want to achieve!

Doing so not only motivates you, but it helps you to stay on track with your progress. You can try goal setting after 21 days to continue marching forward.

Final Thoughts

It’s common and normal to doubt ourselves, but you need to understand that staying stuck and panicking for too long won’t do you any good.

Try to get out of the loop as soon as you can and spend time on improving yourself. Self-doubt doesn’t have to hold you back.

More Tips on Overcoming Self-Doubt

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

More by this author

Anna Chui

Anna is the Chief Editor and Content Strategist of Lifehack. She's also a communication expert who shares tips on motivation and relationships.

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Published on October 14, 2021

How to Silence the Impostor Syndrome

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How to Silence the Impostor Syndrome

Do you ever worry about being exposed as a “fraud?” You’re not alone. It’s actually quite common for people to feel like imposters. In fact, approximately 70 percent of people admit to having experienced impostor syndrome[1] at some point in their lives — a Twitter poll found that 87 percent of people have experienced this.[2] Even successful and famous people like Tom Hanks, Howard Schultz, and Natalie Portman suffer from imposter syndrome.

But, what exactly is imposter syndrome. And, more importantly, how can you silence it?

Originally coined in 1978 by psychologists Pauline Rose Clance, Ph.D., ABPP, and Suzanne Imes, Ph.D., the term “impostor syndrome” describes symptoms that include being unable to internalize accomplishments and being afraid of being exposed as a fraud.

The individual may also be plagued by chronic self-doubt and believe that they’re unqualified for success despite evidence to the contrary. Inadequacies, fears of failure, and disbelief that success is a matter of luck or timing are also common.

If you don’t address this phenomenon, feeling like an impostor can prevent you from achieving ambitious goals. Moreover, those experiencing these feelings tend to over-prepare or procrastinate — which obviously hinders productivity and reaching goals. And, as if that weren’t bad enough, imposter syndrome prevents you from pursuing new challenges and opportunities.

Do you feel like you’re suffering from impostor syndrome? If so, don’t beat yourself up. After all, there are effective ways to overcome these feelings in a healthy and proactive way.

1. Don’t Hide It.

“Firstly, acknowledge it,” advises Claudine Robson,[3] the Intentional Coach. “You give strength to imposter syndrome by letting it continue to peck away at your confidence unchecked.” It can only be banished if you acknowledge it as soon as possible and break the silence.

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“Then you need to separate your feelings from facts,” Robson adds. “One thing imposter syndrome does very effectively is to mix up your perceptions of reality.”

If you can, take a step back and look at the situation objectively. “Recognize when you should — and when you should not — feel fraudulent,” she says. Appreciate and acknowledge the task, intellect, and insight that have led to your success.

You might even be able to take action by recognizing that the reason you feel fraudulent is that you’re new to a task. “That gives you a path forward; learning is growth, don’t deny yourself that.”

2. Implement the STOP Technique

In her book Cognitive Enlightenment, Melinda Fouts, Ph.D., outlines a technique to overcome imposter syndrome using what she calls the STOP technique.

“STOP is an acronym for ‘silence the oppressive player,” Fouts explains in Forbes.[4] “You need to eradicate this tape that is playing 24/7, whether you are conscious of it or not. It plays loudest when we are tired, hungry, or feeling defeated.”

Steps to implementing the STOP technique and rewiring your brain are as follows:

To replace the tape of not good enough, you need a “launch sentence.” “I’m more than good enough” would is an example of a solid launch statement.

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Put your launch sentence in prominent locations, such as your car’s dashboard or computer. How come? The reason is that as the tape plays, you won’t be able to remember your launch statement.

Continue to say “stop” until you recall your launch sentence, says Fouts.

Put your launch sentence into your own words and pontificate.

While going about your daily tasks, like while driving or exercising, practice your launch sentence so you can recall it when you need it in the future.

“I am told this sounds simple and it does,” she adds. However, this technique is challenging when your negative tape is playing. You will not want to replace the tape every day while your brain is rewiring itself. “It is these moments you can’t give up.”

3. Distinguish Humility and Fear

When it comes to hard work and accomplishments, there’s humility, and then there’s fear. In other words, having a high level of competence can lead one to discount its value occasionally. However, as Carl Richards wrote in an article for the New York Times,[5] “After spending a lot of time fine-tuning our ability, isn’t it sort of the point for our skill to look and feel natural?”

The problem is that we feel unworthy from time to time. But, as Seth Godin explained in a blog post,[6] “When you feel unworthy, any kind response, positive feedback or reward feels like a trick, a scam, the luck of the draw.”

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Feeling worthy without feeling entitled is possible. And, finding the right balance between them is critical for overcoming impostor syndrome. “Humility and worthiness have nothing at all to do with defending our territory,” Godin continues. “We don’t have to feel like a fraud to also be gracious, open, or humble.”

4. Keep a “Brag Sheet”

When you were sending out college applications, did you build yourself a “brag sheet?” If not, here’s a clean description from Shawna Newman,[7] “A brag sheet is very similar to a student resume – it highlights your accomplishments, key experiences, leadership skills, and employment throughout your secondary education.” In short, “it’s a quick reference guide with all the details and achievements for someone trying to get to know you better.”

While it may be awkward at first, you can apply the same concept when coping with imposter syndrome. Just compose a list of your accomplishments, activities, skills. That’s it. Just remember Godin’s advice and also be humble and gracious.

As an added perk, besides being an effective way to talk myself up, I’ve also found that this has helped me stop comparing myself to others. Instead of harping about other people’s milestones, I’m honing in on what I’ve done.

5. Celebrate Wins, Period

Speaking of accomplishments, they shouldn’t be categorized as small or big. After all, you feel as if you don’t belong when you have imposter syndrome. So, the more you celebrate your wins, the more confident you’ll become.

Furthermore, accept compliments without qualifying them and practice listening to praise every day. Finally, become kinder to yourself by saying at least one kind thing to yourself daily. And, give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back.

6. Assemble a Legion of Superheroes

“You know how corporations have a board of directors to — in theory — make them stronger, maintain checks and balances, leverage resources, and help advance the organization’s vision?” asks inspirational speaker, speaking coach, and creative consultant Tania Katan.[8] “Why not assemble your own board of directors to leverage resources to help make your career stronger, keep you in check and balanced, and advance your vision?”

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“My friend Alison Wade, president of conferences, training, and consulting at Techwell, calls her personal board of directors her “front-row” — those are the people she invites to sit spitting distance from the stage, cheer her on, challenge her, and review her performance,” Katan writes.

As for Katan, she calls hers a “legion of superheroes.” The reason? “I dig the idea of joining forces to do good in the corporate galaxy.”

It’s important to have a diverse group of individuals who will defend you. Ideally, they should be varied in all dimensions, such as cultural background, way of thinking, and skills.

Katan recommends that you meet together frequently, whether if that’s once a week or every quarter. “Share your experiences, fears, creative ideas, aspirations,” she adds. “Celebrate each other’s accomplishments.” You also need to both support and challenge each other. “Discover what you are capable of doing when you combine your powers.”

7. Visualize Success

Follow the example of a professional athlete by imagining yourself crushing that presentation or project. You’ll enjoy the relief from performance-related stress. And, more importantly, it can help you avoid focusing on the worst-case scenario.

Final Words of Advice

While there’s no single formula to cure imposter syndrome, the tips listed above are a start. After all, your success depends on your ability to fight the negative effects of it. For example, feeling unworthy over time can lead to crippling anxiety and depression if left untreated.

If you’ve tried the above, then make sure that you speak to someone about what you’re experiencing, whether it’s a mentor, peer group, or licensed professional. And, above all else, there’s a place at the table for everyone — no matter what your inner voice is telling you.

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How to Silence the Impostor Syndrome was originally published on Calendar by John Rampton.

Featured photo credit: Laurenz Kleinheider via unsplash.com

Reference

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