I’ve been wrestling with self-doubt for as long as I can remember.
What if I mess up? What if I make a fool of myself? What will people say? What if they don’t like me? What if I’m just deluding myself that I can do this? What if I’m just not smart enough, talented enough, capable enough?
Chances are you’ve had similar thoughts yourself. It’s partly why I do what I do… because I meet so many talented people (particularly women) settling for less than what they want or are capable of achieving because they fear they don’t have what it takes to do more. Doubt wins.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with self-doubt. In fact too little of it can be outright dangerous. We need to question the choices we’re making and the actions we’re taking. Yet left unchecked the fear that fuels self-doubt can drive us to be over cautious and hold back from doing the very things that would help us and serve others.
Like to pick up the phone and make the call. Extend the invite. Raise your hand for promotion. Say no. Say yes. Push back. Move on. Step up. Dive in. Pick up the pen!
Speaking of which… I remember being consumed by doubt when the idea of writing a book first took hold of my imagination. “Who am I to write a book?” I thought to myself. I’d never studied writing and finished my high school education in rural Australia without ever learning where to put all the apostrophes. As much as the idea of sharing my insights on finding courage to face our challenges and pursue our dreams inspired me, I felt inadequate for the task (not to mention that I had four kids under seven at the time!). It was only when my husband Andrew said “Why don’t you give yourself permission to write an imperfect book?” that I decided to take the plunge. Find Your Courage is now in six languages.
While none of us are immune to self-doubt, we all have the ability to reign it in and keep it from directing our decisions and shaping our lives. So how do we banish the doubt? We don’t. What we do is learn to reclaim the power it can hold over us. Here’s how to do just that.
1. Embrace doubt as part of being human
So as you think about the things you’d most love to achieve or change in your life right now, just know that self-doubt is there to protect you from the humiliation of falling flat on your face. So don’t beat up on yourself for doubting yourself. Embracing doubt as part and parcel of what it is to be human is crucial to reclaiming the power it may have held over you up to now. You are human. You will doubt. It’s what you do next that matters. Which brings me to the second step…
2. Doubt the doubts
Your doubts are just the fear-fuelled stories you create about who you are, what you’re worth and what you’re capable of achieving. They are not the truth. Let me repeat that:
Your doubts are not the truth.
In fact, more often than not, they’re just the opposite. So next time you start to doubt yourself, take a moment to challenge that thought. Ask yourself “What if just the opposite were true?” What if, in fact, you were more than prepared to for a bigger role? If you had everything it takes to build that business? If what you had to say was extremely important? If you were more than talented-worthy-clever-(fill in the blank) enough to pursue this goal?
3. Call out your critic
Often we hear our doubts relayed through the voice of our ‘inner critic.’ You know the one… it’s constantly pointing out your faults, questioning your worthiness (it’s the chief culprit fors Imposter Syndrome) and urging you to play it safe. While you can’t permanently silence it, you can dilute its power by giving it a name. Doing so helps you distinguish who you are from the fear and doubt you feel. I call my inner critic my “Small Poppy Committee” because it’s terrified that if I pursue my biggest dreams I’ll end up cut down like a tall poppy, publicly humiliated and shamed for my audacity to think I could succeed.
4. Make your mission bigger than your fear
Why would you bother to speak up and risk rocking the boat or being rejected? Why would you lay your reputation on the line? Why would you take a chance on that dream? Only when you are clear about your big ‘Why’ can you find the courage needed to step through your doubts and risk failing. You need to be able to find a clear and compelling answer to the question “For the sake of what am I willing to be brave?” Doing so will help crystallise why must take action despite your doubts, knowing that if you let them win, you will run the bigger risk of one day looking back and wondering ‘What if I’d tried?’ Letting self-doubt sit in the driver’s seat is a sure-fire recipe for regret.
5. Build a tribe of believers
You shape your tribe and your tribe shapes you. As I wrote in Make Your Mark: “Mastery of life is not a solo endeavour. When you surround yourself with people who bring out your best and embolden your thinking, you can do more, be more and give more than you ever could otherwise.”
The people you hang out with will either fuel your self-doubt or fuel your confidence. So if you’re ready to make a change or take a chance, make sure you surround yourself with people who will help get and stay in action despite your doubts. Avoid those who won’t!
6. Train The Brave. Daily.
BJ Fogg at Stanford University found that by scaling back bigger behaviours into really small actions we can create dramatic shifts that last. Accordingly, there is no magic bullet for overcoming self-doubt. Doing so requires lots of small actions backed by a deep commitment to taking action in its presence. Or put in other words, to building your courage muscles for life – to ‘training the brave’ – on a daily basis.
The best way to ‘train the brave’ is to start right where you are right now with whatever problem or opportunity you are facing and to asking yourself “What would I do right now if I were being brave?” Chances are your doubts will be screaming at you to do just the opposite. Thank them for trying to protect you then tell them you’re not here to live a safe life, you’re here to live the biggest life you are capable of living. Then put your hand on your heart, imagine your success, take a big long breath and then, JUST DO IT! As research has found and experience has taught me, every time you take action in the presence of your doubt you dilute their power and amplify your own.
Only when you dare to do the very thing you doubt you can do, will you realise how little you ever needed to doubt yourself.
Margie Warrell is a bestselling author, international speaker, author of four bestselling books and our resident women’s leadership coach at Business Chicks. If you’re interested in attending her Live Brave Women’s Weekend next May 2018 please register your interest here.