Overcome Your Self-Doubt

George Washington is a Military general, Founding Father and First President of America. His face appears on U.S Dollar Bill and the capital is named after him. Such a tremendous man should have tremendous Self-Confidence. But George Washington had his share of self-doubt. He offered Congress with his acceptance of the appointment with the speech – “My Abilities and Military experience,” he said, “may not be equal to this extensive and important Trust.”  In a letter to his wife. He wrote that he tried to avoid taking that appointment to congress to the best of his abilities but he couldn’t do it. He also said, it could be his destiny and hoped some goodwill turn from accepting his role.

Eddie Redmayne acted in many movies already. He took the opportunity to play Stephen Hawking’s character in the movie  – ‘The Theory of Everything’. He said you pretend to be confident playing such a role. But that excitement lasts for only one millisecond and after that, you get a punch from self-doubt. He was not sure how he could play such a genius and thought people would find out he is fake. 

Stephen King says writing fiction is lonely, it is like crossing the Atlantic Ocean in a bathtub. You will feel the same when you try working on anything for the long term. You will have plenty of time for self-doubt.

Writers like Margaret Atwood, Steven Pressfield has self-doubt. Vincent van Gogh, the great artist who did influential work in art (one of his paintings was sold for $152.0Mn) talks about self-doubt.

Here are a few examples of how self-doubt looks like. It is when you feel you are not doing a good job. It is when you feel you are not a good partner. It is when you feel you are an imposter. It is when you cannot take credit for yourself. It is when you feel you are good for nothing. It is when you look down your past miles stones and worry only about things you can’t do. It is when someone makes you feel down and you actually believe it. It is when you need to ask your friends about your self-worth/value than finding it yourself. And so on.

Self-doubt is a perspective on our own selves. If you can be a bit egoistic about yourself, not too much but just enough to float you up and have self-esteem.  Great Creators and Leaders have their own mechanisms to overcome self-doubt. Here are a few that should help you overcome self-doubt. 

Self Consciousness: 

The best way to end something is to recognize it. Ask yourself why you feel that way in the first place. Steven Pressfield says he recognizes this as a Resistance. He would say that self-doubt may have some real elements too but that’s not for him to Judge but is for others. He would go on a self-check mode and says to himself. Why is this not working? What is wrong? And self-introspects. Every Creator and Leader have their own way of acting after Introspection. You need to find what suits you best at that given moment. Identifying why you feel that way is the first step. Next comes working on a remedy.

Accept Self and Everything else:

As Epictetus, A stoic philosopher said – “It isn’t events themselves that disturb people, but only their judgments about them.” Venerable Wuling, a Buddhist teacher and author of Path to Peace, wrote, “In a task, we can control the effort but not the outcome.” This philosophy of putting your work and not stressing on the outcomes is preached in a few religions too.

Mark Mansion, in his book, mentions why believing ourselves to be perfect stresses us out. No one is perfect. The more imperfections we accept in ourselves, the better we will do. You might be flawed in certain kinds of work in your job. You might be a leader and you may have completely screwed up something. This doesn’t mean you are failing your job or your leadership. It’s okay. The best of the best and greatest of the greatest had self-doubts and screwed up sometimes. To have less stress from self-doubt, accept your imperfections and situations.

Take Breaks:

Paul Tremblay is author of many horrors, dark fantasy and science fiction books and is a jury for Shirley Jackson Awards. He says Self-doubt is normal and when he gets it, he usually goes for an exercise.

John Skipp who is an author, songwriter, screenwriter, film director, and film producer. He knows when he feels like stopping. It is either because a) he did not do enough good research or b) He doesn’t feel like working. Former is dealt with by doing more research work while for the later, he takes a break.

Damien Angelica Walters, author of many books. When she feels self-doubt she waits until that feeling melts away. Once that feeling fades away, she remembers why she started writing. Which is the fact that she loves writing. And then she gets back to writing.

When your mind is overwhelmed with work and self-doubt. Take a break.

Start Working:

Vincent Van Gogh once said, “If you hear a voice within you say you cannot paint, then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.” Steven Pressfield says his role as a writer/artist/entrepreneur is to do his work despite his resistance and self-doubt. He advises you to fight the resistance by putting in work.

Serena Williams advice women to push themselves past their self-doubt and put in work. This works not just for women but for everyone too. She carried this attitude in Career and Life when she faced these obstacles.

Push through the resistance and put in work despite self-doubt. Not only do you build confidence, but your work will also be on wheels towards completion.

Don’t ask your friends:

Steven Pressfield says he doesn’t ask his friends for feedback. He says that is for him to think and what others think only will confuse him. One of the worst things you can do is to ask your friends about your self-worth or for validation. You can have a lot of self-doubt in yourself. But before asking someone else, it is your job to engineer a mechanism that breaks your self-doubt. Once you break it, you will be on your feet again to work.

Trust Yourself:

Seneca a Roman Philosopher and statesman sin one of his articles mentions a word ‘Euthymia’. It means “believing in yourself and trusting that you are on the right path, and not being in doubt by following the myriad footpaths of those wandering in every direction.” Stoics live by trusting themselves and following their hearts.

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross a psychiatrist and author of many books. She is known for her book on five stages of grief. She said “People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.”

You need to light up yourself from within by trusting yourself.

Cue Card:

This is the simplest and yet a powerful technique I came across on self-doubt. This technique is a part of CBT Training(Cognitive Behavioral Therapy). It says for every distorted thought, you need to come up with a rational response.

Distorted Thought: I did a bad job, I don’t fit this role. I am faking it.

Rational Response: Just because I did a bad job doesn’t make me not fit for the job. I just need to analyze what went wrong and I can see it won’t repeat again in the future.

Now you know the foundation of the Idea. Here is how the Cue Card Technique works. When your mind is sane and when you have no self-doubt, you will write a Cue Card with the following format.

Just because _______ doesn’t mean _______

You need to fill up the blanks. Example: a) Just because someone criticized you doesn’t make you a bad person in that situation. b) Just because you are lost in life doesn’t mean that defines you as a person, you will find away.

When you have self-doubt, read this Cue Card. This will remind you of your Rational Response to your situation and helps you get out of the Self-Doubt pit.

PS: If you found this article helpful. Comment your thoughts here. Share it with your friends too, you can help more people. I would appreciate that.

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4 years ago

Beautiful and very much needed. Thanks for putting this together Manoj.

4 years ago

I must say this is very well written. Lot’s of research goes into this and in the end its an immense gain for my mind by reading and comprehending this post.
Thank you.

Saranya Ravva
Saranya Ravva
3 years ago

Yes, loved the article, how can we not? Amazing insights! Also, sharing it with my friends!!!

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