If you are questioning your ability to achieve your goals, this article is for you. I talk about how to overcome self doubt and increase your confidence; what is self doubt and how does it show up in our lives; what effect does self doubt have on success; the 5 steps that successful people use to overcome self doubt and increase confidence; and how you can go about achieving your goals without letting self doubt hold you back.
When I was in my first year of university, the Universe decided to test my strength. While most of my classmates were figuring out how to balance partying with coursework, I was rumbling with how to raise an infant and finish my degree. Actually, scratch that, not even finish, I was just starting.
Yep, the ‘straight As, do no wrong, keep your head down, do your work, and follow the plan’ 18 year old version of me was suddenly thrown into a situation she never imagined she would be a part of.
Teenage pregnancies are for people who sleep around, not people who have only ever had one boyfriend, I told myself.
Teenage pregnancies are for people who grow up in an uneducated household, not people who earn straight As, complete the most challenging high school academic programs in the world, and pursue a University degree in 3 years instead of 4, I told myself.
Teenage pregnancies are for people who screw up in life, not people who have big dreams and are out to make the world proud, I told myself.*
*Note: these statements are not my opinion of anybody in this situation currently, or in the past, and I do not intend to offend, but have the utmost compassion. They are, however, the raw, unfiltered, thoughts that were going through my mind as I stared at a positive pregnancy test.
As reality started to push out the disbelief, I had to make a choice.
Do I give in to the stereotypes of teenage pregnancy that I had created in my mind and allow my future to be dictated by a statistic? After all, less than 2% of teenage mothers ever earn a college degree (source).
Or do I decide to go for it, and find a way to work through all of the self doubt that was crushing me?
Although this is far from my only experience with self doubt, it was definitely a pivotal moment in my relationship with the voice in my head that likes to whisper you can’t do it.
Since those years, I’ve been fascinated with the psychology of achievement and the role that confidence and self doubt play in the game of life.
In this article, my aim is to outline what self doubt is and how self doubt presents itself in different situations, why self doubt is crushing your ability to reach your potential, and how to overcome self doubt and create confidence so that you can achieve your biggest goals.
At the end of the post, I’m going to share how my personal story ended, so that you can see the power behind overcoming your self doubt.
What is self doubt?
Self doubt is the opposite of confidence.
It’s a pattern of thoughts that question not only your current abilities, but your capacity for developing new abilities.
It’s the voice inside your head that tells you you’re not cut out for this, and reminds you of it whenever it gets the chance.
Self doubt holds so much power over us because we believe it to be true.
We’ve created evidence to support this belief, and continue to create this evidence with every opportunity. Then, when we feel challenged or pushed outside of our comfort zones, we hold up this evidence to reinforce the self doubt and point out all the reasons why this new idea is not going to work.
Our brain is a powerful tool that excels in its role of protecting the status quo, so that we don’t get eaten by tigers. But in a day and age when tigers aren’t showing up at our caves quite as frequently, our brains keep us from living more than they keep us alive.
The Lies We Believe About Self Doubt
For some reason, we tend to think we are the only ones who struggle with self doubt.
When we notice successful people rocking it in their goals, we assume they do not question their ability to succeed. We think that when someone reaches a certain level of success, they are all done with insecurity.
The truth is, whenever you decide to level up in your life, you will run headfirst into self doubt.
It’s a given. It’s part of the process. And it’s 100% normal.
How self doubt affects our goals
I believe that everyone has a dream that was planted in their heart because they were made to achieve it.
You were put on this Earth to succeed in the thing that lights you up when you talk about it.
The world is just waiting for you to step into your full potential and leave the mark you were born to leave.
Everybody has a mission. Everybody has a calling. Everybody has a direction that they would love to take their life in.
It doesn’t have to be Mother Theresa level glamorous. We’re not all going to save starving children, and that is A okay. Writing a cookbook is just as powerful as building a well in Africa, if that is what lights your heart on fire.
What the world needs is people who have come aliveHOWARD THURMAN
But do you know what percentage of people actually go out and chase their biggest dream? Less than 3% (source). Incredible.
PS – If you’re one of the 3% setting goals and chasing them, grab this free goal setting template and success checklist!
When you join the Move Your Mountains email community, not only do you get this free template, but you get so much more! Motivational Monday emails to help get your butt out of bed, research backed advice on how to succeed in life, and all of my personal tips and tricks on how to get past your excuses and build a life exploding with joy.
The power of self doubt is absolutely incredible. And that’s why I’m so passionate about breaking it down for you right here.
So many people avoid setting goals and chasing them because they don’t want to have to deal with the self doubt over and over and over again. They don’t have a process for doing the thought work to overcome self doubt, increase confidence, and succeed.
But you will.
How To Overcome Self Doubt
If self doubt is holding me back, how can I overcome it?
Step One: Understand Self Doubt Is Part Of The Process
The very first step in overcoming self doubt is understanding that it is normal. And by this I don’t just mean telling yourself it’s normal and moving on to the next step. I mean really, truly, believing that every single person faces self doubt whenever they push themselves to evolve. It’s not just you.
Some people have a better system for dealing with it, and others let it kick their butts. Either way, you get to decide which group you’re going to fall into.
For whatever reason, most people picture chasing their dreams will be a journey full of butterflies and rainbows. I think it’s because we spend more time dreaming than going for it. After all, dreaming is the easy part.
The dream is free, but the journey is notJOHN MAXWELL
If you’re under the impression that working toward your goal, stepping into your full potential, living out your truth is going to feel like sunshine on a warm summer’s day, you are not ready for what’s to come.
Achieving your dream is 20% happiness and unicorns and 80% a long, slow, grind.
What I see my coaching clients do time and time again is fall into this trap of thinking: if I’m doubting my path, I must be on the wrong path.
This is the BEST form of self sabotage. But I’m calling you out on it.
When you set a goal, you are SUPPOSED to question whether or not you can achieve it. You are supposed to feel challenged. You are supposed to have doubts. Think of them as being there NOT to stop you in your tracks, but to help you identify the obstacles and create a plan to overcome them. That is all.
The things that potentially could hold you back are coming out and saying “hey, nice to meet you. I’m here to see how bad you want this dream, so just as a heads up, I’ll be popping up now and again to make sure you’re still as passionate a month from now as you are today. See you again soon!”
Dreams expose our doubts so that we can tackle the obstacles head on. Self doubt is a good thing, as long as you don’t let it stop you.
So now you know the secret: self doubt is just part of the process of achieving your dreams. It will always be there and you can use it to succeed.
Let’s examine the next part of overcoming your doubts…
Step Two: Understand What You Are Capable Of
I love Brooke Castillo’s podcast on Self Doubt, which has inspired much of my reflection on the topic. In it, she asks “How do you know what you’re capable of?” and her answer is “You’re capable of the things you are willing to repeatedly try until you increase your ability to do them.”
Let’s unpack that.
How do you think about yourself when you think about yourself?BROOKE CASTILLO
Does your definition of yourself include words like courageous, determined, passionate, hardworking, confident, and successful? Or does it include words like confused, unable, incompetent, full of doubt, easy quitter, and failure? For most people, it’s a bit of both.
Here’s the basic foundation of all of life coaching, and I’m about to let the cat out of the bag.
Take the time to change your perception of yourself by rewriting “I am…” in a positive way. Read it every single day so that your brain can focus on finding evidence to support thoughts that serve you instead of creating evidence to support thoughts that hold you back.
You need to know that you are 100% capable of achieving anything you truly want. And by that I mean you are capable of achieving anything you are willing to keep trying to achieve.
So, when you think of a goal and run into your self doubts, ask yourself this: are you willing to try 100 things, 1000 things, a million things before you deem yourself incapable, unworthy, or incompetent?
The only difference between you and the people who already have what you want is that they kept trying and you gave up. That is all.
Stop buying into the idea that if your goal isn’t easy then you aren’t cut out for it!
Have an honest discussion with yourself; How many times are you willing to keep trying? How many hours are you willing to put into this? How many mistakes are you willing to make and learn from? How many things are you willing to attempt differently?
Step Three: Understand How Self Doubt Affects Your Actions
Think of a dream that you have, and write down every single doubt that comes up, every single excuse for why you can’t achieve it, and every single reason why you shouldn’t try at all. Write it all down. As much as you can. Don’t worry, I’ll wait.
Now, notice how you’re feeling. Are you pumped to get out there and take massive action toward your dream? Or are you absolutely discouraged, want to take zero action, and would like to go eat a cookie instead?
Feeding self doubt causes you to take very little, if any, action, which yields very small, if any, results, and reinforces your self doubt and the certainty that you can’t succeed.
Tony Robbins outlines this in his 4 squares model.
Dan Sullivan outlines this in his 4 Cs model.
All the smart people in the world of psychology and success have figured out that believing you can’t do it will lead you to fail and believing you CAN do it will lead you to succeed.
Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re rightHENRY FORD
So if self doubt feeds half *ss action which creates lame results and reinforces the self doubt until we spiral downward and give up on any dreams we’ve ever had, what does the opposite?
Step Four: Understand You Are In Control Of Your Thoughts
Confidence is a choice.
How often do you remind yourself that confidence is 100% a feeling that YOU generate with YOUR thoughts?
It is not something to go out and find, as a prerequisite for taking action, it is something you create by deciding to believe in yourself.
Where most people go wrong is that they look for confidence in their past.
If I’ve successfully run 3 miles before, I will be confident that I can run 3 miles again. But what if I’ve never run 3 miles before? What if I’ve never run half a mile before? Then I need to find confidence in my future.
I need to go to the place where I’ve already succeeded and use that energy to fuel my confidence right now, so that I can eventually end up in that place of success.
Confidence inspires action. Self doubt creates inaction.BROOKE CASTILLO
This is where a lot of people get stuck. They have a hard time believing that your thoughts are your creation.
If we have not focused on developing a mindfulness practice, or done the thought work to understand the voice inside our heads is not us, or had the luxury of working with an experienced life coach, we mistake our thoughts for the truth.
It feels like they are happening to us, not that we are creating them ourselves. But that’s just an illusion.
Ask yourself, do you WANT to believe that you can’t be successful? Do you want to think that you can’t leave your miserable job? Do you want to think that your husband is annoying? Do you want to think that you’re not capable of being a patient mom?
Do you want to continue to believe the negative thoughts or do you want to change them?
I think you’re here because you want to change them. You’re tired of your old definition of yourself, you’re tired of self sabotaging, and you’re tired of letting your dreams slip away while you sit here and wonder “what if…?”
So, let’s get to the crux of the article. What’s the final step to overcoming self doubt?
Step Five: Decide What You Want To Believe
This is where the magic happens.
You get to choose what you will focus on.
When you reach for a goal and you run into self doubt, you get to DECIDE whether that means you’re on the wrong track, or whether it’s just part of the process. You get to DECIDE the meaning that you will assign to self doubt and you get to DECIDE the impact that it will have on your pursuit of your goals.
Will you let self doubt kick your butt? Or will you work through it, create an action plan for overcoming your obstacles, and generate the confidence to succeed?
You are in control of your thoughts. Use them to serve you in your pursuit of your dreams.
Quick Guide To Overcoming Self Doubt
- Write down your great, big dream.
- Write down every single reason that comes to mind of why you can’t achieve it.
- Write down how you’ve benefited from buying into these excuses to date.
- Rewrite your internal narrative of how you NOW choose to feel about these excuses.
- Rewrite your personal definition of YOU and what you’re capable of.
- Go to the future where you’ve succeeded in your goal and feel the feelings that come with that achievement
- Now, from that emotional state, create an action plan for how you will overcome each obstacle and embrace success.
I walked across the stage on a warm and sunny day in May, holding my 18 month old son on my hip (covered in pee, because apparently a diaper cannot hold out the length of an entire graduation ceremony), and proudly accepted not only the diploma that I had worked my *ss off to earn, but also the Lieutenant Governor’s medal for the most outstanding student in the faculty, having earned the highest GPA in my entire program (4.2 out of 4.3).
How does that happen!?
How does someone go from being just another teenage pregnancy destined to a mediocre life of struggle to graduating at the very top of her class with a Bachelor’s degree that she earned in 3 years instead of the typical 4?
In honesty, I cannot point to one specific reason and let it carry the entire weight of the accomplishment.
In reality, there were many many many factors that helped me realize the success I did.
I had an amazing support system and I can’t thank my family enough for the countless times they babysat my little guy so I could focus on school work. I had a wonderful relationship with my now-husband who took on so much when I needed to take on less. I had amazing friends who lifted me up and said you’ve got this when the rest of the world said your future is over.
But I know, without a single doubt, that this story started with a tiny seed of a thought that quietly whispered “I think maybe you could actually potentially kinda do this” and ended better than I ever could have predicted.
It all started with overcoming the self doubt.
And that’s where it starts for you too. That’s where it starts for anyone who is ready to grow into a new version of themselves.
Your dream, whatever it looks like for you, is 100% available to you.
The only thing keeping you between what you want and what you have now is the belief that you can’t have it/do it/be it.
I love what I do. I love helping people eliminate the excuses that are holding them back because I can very clearly see what my life could have looked like had I not done it for myself so many years ago.
If you’ve got a dream on your heart that seems IMPOSSIBLE to achieve, we need to talk. I want you to leave the legacy you were made to leave.
- How To Break Down Big Goals and Actually Achieve Them
- The 4 Biggest Things Holding You Back In Life
- 17 Ways To Change Your Life
How have you overcome self doubt in the past? I would love to learn a bit about your story. Let me know in the comments below!