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Why are we plagued with self-doubt?

Why are we plagued by self-doubt?
Why are we plagued by self-doubt?
photo by Scott Liddell

If jealousy is green and anger is red, then what color is self-doubt? Maybe it’s grey, because self-doubt is a smear campaign on clarity.

You just got that fabulous new assignment. You are jazzed. A million things are running through your mind; planning the approach, back scheduling the time line. You can see the delivery and boom, you deflate. What were you thinking? You can’t handle this. You’ll fail.

What is the difference between your self conviction and failure? You. Nothing else changed, only your thoughts. We process about 50 thousand thoughts daily. Most are innocuous and deal with processing the routine of daily life. But patterns can cement when strains of thought are consistent and continuous. And a negative thought with an emotional charge can injure self-esteem and redirect behavior.

Self-doubt is often a reaction to anxiety induced by a risk laden situation. Risk induces stress related to outcome. Risk assumes an unknown outcome akin to gambling. We can become paralyzed by the “pro and con”, the “back and forth” brain chatter that weighs the failure against the success. The fear of failure halts us in our tracks and makes us reassess the desire to move forward.

So, how do we overcome it? Feel the fear and do it anyway? Push through it? Turn off the chatter in your head? Yes, all of these. You may not be able to eliminate it, but you should be able to tame it to serve you.

Self-doubt can help you from pushing forward without reflection. Doing the mental check list on being prepared helps to minimize the possibility of failure. Processing due diligence to avoid disaster works to our advantage whether it’s a self assessment of skills or a business deal. Taking care isn’t a bad thing. Make your self-doubt work for you, not against you. Use it to help you “dot your i’s and cross your t’s,” not to stop writing all together.


  • Profile picture of Stephanie Lowrance-Henckel
    Stephanie Lowrance-Henckel 4 years ago

    Excessive self-doubt can be debilitating. Unfortunately many of us have experienced a number of traumas, failures, or loved ones who have criticized harshly criticized us; in combination these incidents have caused us to second guess our every decision, because we have learned to mistrust ourselves.
    The good news is that while we are fallible, we are also intelligent beings with the ability to learn, grow, and recover from our mistakes, i.e. “when you know better, you do better.” So accept that you might have made mistakes, but you have learned from these experiences. And realize that you may very well make others, but it will not be the end of the world; instead you again will learn, grow, and recover.

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