You know those moments when you feel like you can’t do it, whatever “it” may be. Those times when you can’t see the forest from the trees and don’t see a way. Or those instances when you feel like you’re not enough, you can’t measure up, or you simply don’t have what it takes. We all do know these, because at one point or another of our lives and careers, we all have experienced them.
Some of us are better at dealing with these times of self-doubt, or concealing them. The rest of us have a hard time letting it go. All of us must work on it. It’s called self-doubt, and it’s ruined many a promising future, career or business. It’s this implacable sense that who we are, what we have and where we’re headed is not enough. These voices in our heads that keep telling us we can’t be everything we want to be. The fear and negativity that keep us from living fully and enjoying the journey.
As hard as it is for me to admit, I’ve always been plagued by self-doubt. In my career, business and everyday life, I, like so many others, must fight thoughts such as:
“Can I do this?”
“Will people like me? Will they like what I produce?”
“What happens if I fail?”
I’ve learnt a while ago that self-doubt is natural. What’s not natural is allowing it to overcome our lives and take away every opportunity to better ourselves. The point is, it’s not so much that self-doubt will come, because it will.
The point is, we must move forward even as we’re tempted to be paralyzed by self-doubt.
We must keep pushing, even as we’re terrified, scared, and downright ready to quit and run the other way.
I’m still learning to overcome my self-doubt. I don’t believe I will ever be done. Over time, and after so many failures, here are some tips I have picked up to overcome self-doubt and build confidence as a working woman:
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HOW TO OVERCOME SELF-DOUBT AS A WORKING WOMAN
Start with your why
I often mention how important it is to know your “why”. When you’re defying stereotypes and working to rise above societal expectations and norms, knowing your “why” and trusting your values is crucial.
Many times, I have to ask and remind myself: “Self, why are you doing what you are doing?” When I’m reminded of my purpose, most often through prayer, It’s easier to let go of self-doubt.
Allow yourself to feel self-doubt
This may sound counter-intuitive. However, taking the time and allowing yourself to feel self-doubt is actually healing. You cannot fight what you don’t know. Many of us choose to ignore our feelings. Instead, we drown them with work, a busy social calendar, or excessive social media use.
I’ve learnt to sit down with my self-doubt and look at it in the face. “Why am I feeling this way?” “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” “Would it even matter in five years?” All these are hard questions to ask oneself. Yet, they can put things in perspective. It’s never as bad as we may think. Everything is “figureoutable”.
Stop comparing yourself to others
One of the worst initiators of self-doubt is comparing ourselves to others. It’s natural to do so, especially in the age of social media. I mean, how can you not compare the glamorous (and largely made-up) pictures on Instagram with your quiet Friday night at home with your family?
I’ve learnt that comparing myself with others is denying my uniqueness. It’s denying that I’m doing the best I can where I’m at, with what I have. It’s violating my own unique purpose. I know this sounds harsh, but it’s a reality.
Life simply happens, and it’s not a race! Stay in your lane, do your best, and keep true to your purpose in life. You’re already amazing!
Just do it
Once you’ve allowed yourself to feel the weight of self-doubt and deal with it, it’s time to walk the walk. This means that you must do whatever it is that you have decided to do, regardless of the circumstances at hand or the negative voices screaming in your head.
I’ve learnt to put on blinders, shut down social media and distractions, and just work through it. Very often, it doesn’t look anywhere near perfect, but it gets done. The more I do it, the more the self-doubt melts away. It’s not pretty and the process can be downright painful at times. Yet, it’s in those moments when we’re not motivated and still push through, that our best comes out.
Take care of you
Don’t underestimate the power of self-care to overcome self-doubt. Feeling exhausted, depleted and low energy does nothing to help you be more confident. Instead, take some time to be compassionate towards yourself. Do something nice for yourself as often as you can, even if it’s just reading a book you like or taking a warm bath.
I’ve learnt to keep reminders of things that lift up my spirits. For instance, I keep a list of my favorite and most uplifting Bible verses. I also keep a list of the major accomplishments I’ve done throughout life to remind myself of past victories. Pictures of testimonials from happy clients that I can look at when I’m feeling low always bring a smile on my face too.
As strong working women, we may be tempted to keep our vulnerabilities to ourselves. However, there are times when sharing our self-doubt can not only make us feel better. It can also help us learn from someone else, and help them in the process too.
I’ve learnt that pride does not help with overcoming self-doubt. While I don’t necessarily share all my struggles with just anyone, I do have trusted people I confide in. Writing in this blog also warms my heart and helps me in the process.
Break up with toxic people
There are confidence-suckers out there that will only increase the self-doubt in you. These are people who are experts at making you feel like you cannot do anything right. These toxic people don’t help you become more confident at all. You can tell by the way you feel after interacting with them: unmotivated, low and conflicted in yourself.
I’ve learnt to recognize the confidence suckers in myself and remove them from my life. This doesn’t mean being dramatic or argumentative. However, distancing yourself from those toxic friends and family members who feed your self-doubt can literally save your life. Trust me.
Let go of expectations
You may not have realized it, but you grew up with sets of expectations about our lives. These are timelines, deadlines and aspirations that were chosen for us before we could even decide. Or it’s simply the need to compare ourselves with others and keep up with the Joneses. My mom always wanted me to be a doctor. If you’re from West Africa, most parents want you to either become a doctor, lawyer or engineer. I became neither.
I’ve learnt to release expectations on my life that don’t align with my God-given purpose. I’ve stopped praying for things that are not for me. I’ve also stopped trying to fit in instead of charting my own path.
Release the past
In the same way, our pasts often keep us imprisoned in self-doubt. Our past failures, hurts and disappointments stand in the way of us taking risks and living our best lives. Instead of moving forward and trying again, we play it safe, afraid to get hurt.
I’ve learnt to stop letting my past dictate my future. Every time I’m tempted to retreat because of a past mistake or experience, I remind myself that today is another day. As much as I may be scared, I also know that things will work out differently.
I love reading inspirational books, articles and posts about people who’ve overcome struggles and achieved their dreams. It may sound cliché, but some things will speak to you in a way that can change your entire life. For me, it’s being inspired by achievers and leader-servants. For you, it may be something entirely different.
I’ve learnt that the right inspiration for you will keep you motivated even when you’re feeling low and unproductive. Whether it’s listening to a podcast, music, watching YouTube videos, or reading a book, pick a source of inspiration to keep self-doubt at bay.
Self-doubt is a normal part of our lives, careers and businesses. However, the better we can manage it, the more we can fight it and build more confidence.
How do you fight your own self-doubt?
To Your Success,
The Corporate Sister.