Do you doubt yourself more than you should at work? How to combat self-doubt for greater productivity and wellbeing

All of us experience self-doubt sometimes, no matter how confident we are.

But when self-doubt creates anxiety, prevents you from taking action towards desired goals and/or distorts how you or your competence is perceived by others, it’s time to explore why and take steps to counteract its affect on your wellbeing.

Here are our tips on how to do just that.

 1.  What’s triggering your self-doubt?

Start by taking a moment to think about the last time doubt about your ability to achieve a task crept into your mind. Ask yourself, what preceded those thoughts? What seemed to trigger them?

If you’re unsure as to the answers here’s a few possibilities to consider.

External triggers for self-doubt:

  • Real or perceived criticism from others
  • A lack of positive feedback about successful achievement
  • Being overlooked for promotion and workplace rewards
  • Other external events that fuel your sense of ‘not being good enough.’

Internal triggers for self-doubt:

  • A combination of negative self-talk
  • Unhelpful beliefs or thoughts about your capability
  • Over-emphasis on mistakes
  • Neglecting your successes
  • Unfavourable comparisons with others
  • A lack of perspective about the consequences of a mistake.

2.  How to manage your self-doubt via self-regulation.

Self-regulation strategies can alleviate self-doubt and make you feel better. Here are some ideas on how you can circumvent negative talk:

  • Ground yourself in the now. Stop fretting about the past and the future – just concentrate on the present moment.
  • Balance negative thoughts with positive things about yourself and your capabilities. Focus on what you’ve accomplished rather than what you’re lacking – foster feelings of gratitude for what you have.
  • Take a break. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, go and do something totally different. You might return with a new perspective.
  • Nurture yourself. Self-care helps manage the negative ‘voices in our heads.’ Eat well, exercise and get some extra sleep.
  • Embrace a little self-doubt. Research has shown a little self-doubt can actually bolster performance. Recognise it as a helpful motivator that keeps you from being overconfident.
  • Examine the evidence. What evidence have you got that you can’t do this? What evidence do you have that you can? What examples of previous successes can you draw on?
  • What’s the worst-case scenario? What’s the worst that could happen? How bad is it in the grand scheme of things and how likely is your bad outcome of actually happening? Keep things in perspective.
  • Monitor your emotions. Pay attention to how your emotions influence your beliefs about your capabilities. If your anxiety rises, take steps to calm your body and mind (breathing, exercise, distractions).
  • Stop comparing other people’s outsides to how you feel inside. Other people’s apparent confidence, capability and accomplishments are not a litmus test to grade your own success. Remember that everyone is on their own journey.
  • Forget what everyone else thinks. Caring too much about what others think of you only inhibits you. Would you rather do nothing and be judged for that or do something and risk getting it wrong?

3.  How to manage your self-doubt via other people.

While you’ll need to tackle internal beliefs yourself, others can also help you manage and overcome self-doubt. Here are some approaches to try alongside strategies you implement on your own.

  • Connect with others. Seek support and reassurance from family, friends, colleagues or professionals. Or simply spend time with your biggest fans, those with whom you can be yourself and not feel judged.
  • Clarify expectations. If you’re feeling inadequate and floundering with how to get started on a task, perhaps you need to clarify what’s expected of you. What are they really looking for? What’s realistic in the timeframes and conditions you’re operating under?
  • Seek validation and feedback from others. If your sense of capability is flagging, be brave and ask for feedback from colleagues, peers, stakeholders and your manager.
  • Seek external expertise/ knowledge. Ask an expert to help you tackle your problem or task. Find out what’s been done before, explore sources of information and ask for insights. You’ll build your own expertise and confidence for next time.

Insecurity and lack of confidence kills more dreams and ambitions than lack of talent and capability ever does. Unhelpful beliefs about your competence can often become a self-fulfilling prophecy, preventing you from achieving what you are capable of.

Our heading contains just one of the 121 questions the MEWS asks. For details on the other 120 questions designed to tap into what’s impacting your wellbeing at work and home, get in touch!