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Self-Doubt (Trust Yourself)

Updated: May 8, 2021

Are you worthy of greatness? Yes, you are. Sometimes it's just difficult to embrace our greatness. Albert Bandura, "the human mind is generative, creative, proactive, and reflective, not just reactive." There are many things to be enthusiastic about in life, but sometimes we experience a confidence crisis. Self-doubt may affect us in several life areas (academic, occupational, personal, performance, relationship). The confidence crisis may result from criticism from a respected colleague or consistently making mistakes that trigger self-doubt. The cognitive model (a situation, thought, emotion, behavior) may explain self-doubt. Something happens to the person; the person interprets the situation, arousing an emotion based on the interpretation. The feeling triggers the person's behavior. Although the human mind is generative, it is not uncommon to experience self-doubt that overrides your skills and abilities to perform a task.

When does self-doubt become a problem? Self-doubt becomes a problem when experienced too frequently and persistently. Consequently, affecting our ability to function in our daily lives. It may become unsettling for us, affecting our mood, motivation, and sense of self.

Self-doubt may lead to:

  • Procrastination

  • Insecurity – low self-confidence

  • Feelings of inadequacy – low self-worth

  • Seeking constant reassurances

  • Avoidant behaviors

  • Uncertainties about our ability to succeed

  • A lack of preparation because of a fear of failure

  • Anxiety

  • Depression

  • Negative self-evaluations

  • Lack of motivation

Self-doubt is an incredible paradox. Self-doubt is harmful if it leads to avoidant behaviors and instructive when used as an opportunity for self-reflection, preparation for uncertainty, and the willingness to take a chance. Hardy et al. (2015) framed self-doubt as "uncertainty about one's ability and capacity to succeed, not the certainty that one will fail" (p. 466). As proposed by Hardy et al., put into its proper context, self-doubt is a matter of judgment and evaluation about performance outcomes. The person's appraisal and assessment create uncertainty within the mind and inhibit performance.

General suggestions to manage self-doubt:

  • Identify automatic thoughts that support self-doubt (reframe those thoughts into self-affirming and actionable realistic thoughts/behaviors)

  • Identify warning signs of doubt (attitude, mood)

  • Triggers for self-doubt (where, when, who, what, how, why)

  • Monitor internal dialogue (self-talk, what are you telling yourself?)

  • Look for exceptions (times when you were confident and overcame self-doubt)

  • Use cognitive restructuring (change how you think) to challenge and change irrational thoughts that promote uncertainty

  • Identify safety behaviors that strengthen avoidant behaviors

  • Prioritize practice over perfection (parts vs. whole)

  • Minimize the urge to act alone and seek support when needed

To support someone struggling with self-doubt, empower not marginalize, or discourage the person by being critical. Be mindful self-doubt is about uncertainty, not capability or ability to succeed, therefore use supportive language and be realistic in your assessment of the situation. The suggestions to minimize the self-doubt must be practical and within the person's ability to execute. Otherwise, they may fail at the task and shy away from future responsibilities believed to be challenging. So, create actionable steps that decrease self-doubt. A relapse into old behaviors is not a sign of failure but an opportunity for self-reflection and reset. If you struggle with self-doubt frequently and persistently, seek professional help.

Stay Naturally Curious

Hardy, T. K., Govorun, O., Schneller, K. A., Fazio, R. H., & Arkin, R. M. (2015). (In)Competence Is Everywhere: Self-Doubt and the Accessibility of Competence. Self & Identity, 14(4), 464–481.

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1 Comment

Yes 2020 has not been a normal and adapting to our new normal is important to our mental health and adaptation. Thanks for this informative post.

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