We’ve all been there. That paralyzing thought that we’re not good enough. It can be fearful and crippling all at the same time. I don’t know about you, but I love reading self-help books or biographies where the author admits to their own failings and mistakes. It makes me feel normal. Occasionally, there are those books where the author never seems to stumble, never falls short of their goals and this seems so far removed from reality that it’s hard to really believe in their story. There may be some perfect human beings out there- but I doubt it.

No one’s Perfect

The fact of the matter is these feelings are normal. We will never be perfect, but that doesn’t mean we can’t keep on learning, growing wiser and taking action, even when we don’t feel like it.

‘Fake it till you make it.’ It’s a common phrase and one that is meant to inspire us to keep going. Overcoming doubt and a lack of self confidence should not be about ‘faking’ but being true to yourself and handling fear in a way that enhances what you are doing, not constantly fighting against it. If we wait until feelings of confidence take hold before we start to do something, then we may be waiting forever. Actions come first, feelings later.

Five Reasons why we Doubt Ourselves

There are five main reasons why we may doubt ourselves:

  1. Excessive expectations- perfectionism
  2. Harsh self-judgement
  3. Fear
  4. Lack of experience
  5. Lack of skills

So how do we move forward when we are faced with such strong feelings of self-sabotage?

The key is realising that all five reasons are a normal part of being human. When you step out of your comfort zone, take a risk, face a challenge, you will feel fear, you will judge yourself and maybe place unrealistic expectations on yourself. Why? Because your brain is hard wired to do this. It wants us to be perfect, to eliminate our flaws and weaknesses but our reality doesn’t have to cater to what our subconscious mind is telling us.

Perfection doesn’t exist in this world. It is the stuff of fantasies. It is not fear that holds us back, it is our attitude towards it. If we can accept fear, without constantly struggling against it, then we have the ability to take effective action, guided by our own values. Genuine confidence is not the absence of fear, it is accepting that fear is normal and using this energy for our own benefit.

Five Solutions

Just as there are five main reasons why we may doubt ourselves, there are five main solutions:

  1. Acknowledge our expectations but don’t be bound by them
  2. Accept that we will make mistakes, feel fear, screw up, fail and even get hurt- it’s normal! Be kind to yourself
  3. Fear is not your enemy- use this energy to enhance your actions
  4. Stepping out of your comfort zone may be challenging but you can learn new skills and gain the experience you require just by taking small steps. Rome wasn’t built in a day. It takes time and practice to build up your confidence.
  5. Take action: Practice, Practice, Practice. Failure is a wonderful teacher. It doesn’t make the pain go away but we can learn from our mistakes, engage in the process and task at hand and keep moving forward.

We spend so much time fighting against ourselves believing that somehow, we are different from everybody else when we succumb to feelings of doubt and lack of self confidence rather than accepting that we are all imperfect. There will be times when we give up, feel lost and want to quit. The key is being able to recognize these feelings. We can always start again.

Anyone who has ever been on a diet or who has tried to loose weight knows these feelings intimately. We start with a great mindset- this time… We eat healthily, exercise regularly, loose some weight, feel great. And then, we lapse, start eating chips and chocolate, don’t exercise as much, binge on all the things we have been trying to avoid and head off into the wilderness. The healthy track is lost- again. And the cycle repeats itself. It’s not ideal but beating yourself up about it is not helpful nor is it going to change the result. So, should we just give up?

Absolutely not.

Try Again

We can try again and the next time we can be more aware and take actions to improve. That’s life, that’s normal.

Sir Winston Churchill sums it up beautifully: “Success is not final; failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.”

And above all, be kind to yourself and hold yourself gently.