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Self doubt, the nemesis of progress

Updated: Oct 5

Do you avoid speaking up, despite knowing the answer? Do you keep your ideas to yourself? Have you become comfortable in a job? Did you change career paths, and worry about starting back at the bottom? Do you avoid pursuing the career path you are most passionate about because you don’t feel that you are qualified? Do you feel your resume is simply not good enough? Do you think you lack interview skills? Do you always ask for a second opinion, like getting someone to check your answers, or responses, whatever it is? Do you avoid networking, or making connections of any type, like they are the plague?

Sounding familiar to anyone? I am definitely raising my hand.

“Do I believe in myself?” is a big question for me, and unfortunately the answer is what has probably been holding me back on the career front for a few years now. What it all boils down to? Self doubt! That lack of confidence we experience when it comes to our abilities and our decisions, that ultimately hold us back and stop us from taking action, improving our situation, or progressing (both personally and professionally). Think about it! The brain and body is wired to look out for danger, and primarily avoid it. To go into defence mode. So it’s understandable that trying something new and scary, and going outside your comfort zone - like speaking up and sharing your ideas in a meeting, or pursing a new career - will be met with a natural response of avoidance. But we shouldn’t let a fear of the unknown hold us back. Career related or otherwise. Even if in order to reach those scary places we have to go against our instincts. Listen to me, I sound like I totally back myself! Trust me, I get that it is easier said (or written) than done. I am the queen of avoiding the unknown. But here are some tips I have learnt along the way, and I am trying to put into place. Identify the “why” Like most things, you need to identify the cause of the issue before you can attempt to manage or improve it. Self doubt is no different. Identify whether it maybe stems from low self-esteem? A lack of confidence? Or could it be linked to a past experience? Maybe you suffer from imposter syndrome - feeling inadequate, essentially like a fraud? Me?! Maybe just re-read those introductory questions - they may provide a little insight into where my self-doubt has, and still does, stem from. Work on your thought patterns Stop and give yourself time to acknowledge your thoughts. Chances are you probably made up a lot of the negative thoughts that are buzzing around in your head. So why not simply try asking yourself what is the evidence for those thoughts. This is giving you the opportunity to challenge and reframe your thoughts into positive ones. One thought I am always battling with is the idea of being “under-qualified”. It often stops me from applying for particular jobs, or progressing in general. The evidence? Not a lot really once I start reiterating to myself my work experience and education. You really are your own worst enemy sometimes! Write down your career and/or academic achievements This is a simple one. Just write down your achievements - work or education related - every now and then, and remind yourself that your are amazing! Stop comparing yourself to others Ergh! This is one of the worst things we do, and we are all guilty of it. The result, more often than not, is a drop in our self confidence. A good tip is to become aware of who you are comparing yourself with, and working to avoid or remove those triggers. Maybe it is a brand, or a particular individual you follow on Instagram. It therefore, might be worth having that conversation with yourself about whether it is really healthy continuing to have them in your feed. One thing I am terrible at, is simply comparing myself to anyone my age, and thinking “This is where I should be by now”. One of my #lifegoals is to achieve a PhD. I might look at some who is 30 who has done just that and wonder why that isn’t me? Instead of focusing on the negative, I should be focusing on my strengths, and what I have achieved academically. Just because I didn’t follow a typical academic path doesn’t mean I don’t have anything to offer. My degrees actually place me in good stead in the the future to pursue a PhD.

Set some goals Give yourself something to work towards, a direction, and be persistent even when faced with inevitable obstacles. Self doubt is about lacking self confidence, so my suggestion is to break your big goals down into smaller milestones. This will provide you with more opportunities to boost your confidence every time you smash those smaller goals, and then eventually that big one. So one of my “big” goals it to pursue the career path I am most passionate about, but in order to achieve this I have a few milestones to accomplish first. From nailing my CV, to speaking to particular people "in the know" for support and advice. In doing these smaller tasks I will hopefully be giving my confidence a boost a long the way.

Face your fears Put yourself out there more and give things a go. What is the worst that could happen? Hey, maybe something good! I hate networking, and showing my face on social media in general. But I was recently invited to take part in an IG Live, and it was exactly the kind of push I needed. I won’t lie, I doubted myself right up until it started recording. “Why would someone want to speak to me?”, “What do I have to offer?” You name it. The result?! Sure, I stumbled on a few answers, didn’t even answer one of them, but I learnt a lot, and will only take these lessons on to the next one! Let me know if you have found these useful, or if you have any tips for overcoming self doubt that you have picked up from your own experiences. I would love to know!


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