The River

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Down in Des Moines - Dealing with Self Doubt

May 04, 2024

Dear Tony,

I have always been filled with thoughts of self-doubt about my job, most important tasks, and my career overall.  What can I do to overcome self-doubt that has been with me all my life?

-Down in Des Moines


Dear Down in Des Moines,

First thing I would tell you is that you are 100% normal.  Everyone deals with self-doubt.  The difference between successful people and those who struggle is how they respond to it. 

At its origin self-doubt is one of the healthiest aspects of having a great career and a fulfilling life.  It is the “secret sauce” that helps bring out your A-game by always asking you if you are really up to a task, challenge or life event.  It creates internal energy that can be channeled in either a positive or negative direction.  But at its core, it’s there to help you go far in life.   So take note and be comforted that you are not dealing with some type of derailer in your career.  Self-doubt is there to help you. 

Having said that, self-doubt can turn into shackles that overwhelm you if you let it.  It can hang over you like a cloud of negativity if you let it dictate the story of your life.  It can become “the” narrative that goes way beyond creating energy for you.  It can stifle your positivity and confidence if you allow self-doubt to equate “the story in your head” to “the outcome” of your life. 

The key is to realize that self-doubt is there to help you, and to respond to that inner voice with a response that brings more energy and ideas to move you forward in your life.  A few appropriate responses can be: 

  1. Never let self-doubt equate to self-worth.  You are worthy all by yourself. 
  2. Take a glance back to past successes and how you navigated feelings of anxiety or self-doubt in the past. 
  3. Don’t get paralyzed by your self-doubt, take an action to get started in a positive direction however big or small the step may be.  Action creates new thinking, and enthusiasm for taking another step after that. 
  4. If it helps, talk to someone you trust about your self-doubt. It will most likely help you process your feeling and channel them into a positive direction. 
  5. If you have had a series of negative experiences with self-doubt, remind yourself that your future does not have to equal your past.  Today is the first day of the rest of your life, and every day builds upon the previous.  Everything that happened in the past makes you who you are today.  Make the tuition you paid in the past create new dividends for tomorrow. 

Self-doubt is one of the greatest internal gyroscopes for your future success and fulfillment.  Make sure that it becomes your ally instead of your saboteur so that you can use it for a force for good in your life.