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.

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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 and 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!

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!

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.

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”.

How to Overcome Self-Doubt

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.

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.

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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.

However, 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!

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

Additionally, 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.

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.