The difference between successful entrepreneurs who smash their goals with ease and those who struggle for years to reach their next goal?
Successful entrepreneurs know how to overcome self-doubt. They too have that nagging voice in their heads making them doubt whether they can really do it. They just don’t let it stop them.
When I moved from Italy to London with only a small pink trolley and barely enough savings to last me for a couple of months, my brain was full of doubts.
Was I really making the right choice? What if I couldn’t find a job to support myself while I got my business off the ground? Would I end up homeless?
But I didn’t let self-doubt stop me. 8 years later, I’m still in London and building my dream coaching business.
Self-doubt is no indication of what’s possible for you. So, why do you experience self-doubt and how can you overcome it?
What Is Self-Doubt?
Self-doubt is a lack of confidence in yourself and in your abilities. It’s that nagging voice in your head that makes you question if you’re good/pretty/confident/whatever enough to reach your goals.
Self-doubt shows up as:
- Constantly questioning yourself and your abilities to reach your goals
- A loud inner critic who is super critical of everything you say and do
- Avoiding taking any risks for fear of failure
- Waiting for someone else’s approval before taking action on your goals
- Feeling like you’re not good enough
- Procrastinating on taking action towards your goals so you won’t make mistakes or be judged
- Comparing yourself to other people – and falling short
- Asking other people what they think you should be doing before making a decision
- Second-guessing every little decision and action you take
- Never acknowledging or celebrating your accomplishments – what if they’re flukes?
- Feeling like an imposter – despite an impressive record of success
- Downplaying your strengths and accomplishments
How many of these are you experiencing regularly? Everyone experiences all of this at some point or another. But if they’re persistent for you, you’re not alone. A whopping 85% of the population experiences self-doubt!
Why Do You Experience Self-Doubt?
Self-doubt is one of the tricks your mind uses to keep you stuck in your comfort zone.
When you’re thinking about going for a goal that’s outside of your comfort zone, something you’ve never done before, your mind gets scared. It starts telling you all the ways things could go wrong, so you won’t end up hurt or disappointed if it doesn’t work out.
Self-doubt is there to protect you from what could go wrong. But, in so doing, it also protects you from what could go right, so you never reach your goals.
How Does Self-Doubt Stop Your From Reaching Your Goals?
It’s normal to ask yourself, “can I really do it?” But when self-doubt becomes persistent, it has negative effects in your life and business:
- It erodes your self-esteem: You second-guess your abilities and attribute your successes to luck, so you never think you’re good enough.
- It slows down decision-making: You’re stuck in analysis paralysis and second-guessing every detail, so making decisions takes forever.
- It keeps you from reaching your goals: If you doubt you can reach your goals, you won’t be motivated to take action or keep going when you encounter a challenge – and so your goals always stay just out of reach.
- It keeps you playing small: You hesitate to take risks or think big because you don’t think you’ll succeed.
- It negatively affects your health: Worrying about everything that could go wrong makes you stress and anxious. Overtime, they may lead to all kinds of mental and physical health issues.
- It creates financial scarcity: If you always feel like a fraud, you won’t put yourself out there to promote your business. You won’t raise your prices. You won’t accept speaking gigs. You won’t be able to make the amount of money you want to make.
- It sabotages your relationships: Self-doubt makes you withdraw from social situations that make you anxious – and your world becomes smaller and smaller.
Self-doubt has a negative effect on every area of your life. The good news? You can overcome self-doubt.
How Do You Develop Self-Doubt?
Self-doubt isn’t innate. It’s learned.
Have you ever watched a baby as she learns to walk? She falls down a lot, but always gets back up – without beating herself up for her mistakes. There’s never any doubt in her mind that she will learn to walk.
Doubts come later. They come from:
- Past mistakes and experiences that make you question your abilities: Maybe your math teacher told you that you’re not good with numbers and now you’re an entrepreneur, fear of dealing with revenue/expenses spreadsheets is holding you back from making more money. You don’t reach your revenue goals and start believing that you really aren’t good enough to make it.
- Your upbringing: Maybe, like me, you grew up with a grandparent who always criticised every little thing you do and now you believe that, if you’re not perfect, your audience will do the same. You won’t do a live unless your makeup and hair is perfect, are constantly tweaking your sales pages, and rehearsing for a webinar for days.
- Comparing yourself to others: Maybe in your previous corporate career, you only saw your extroverted colleagues get promoted and now you’re worried no one will want to work with an introverted coach. You don’t put yourself out there as much and you’re struggling to get a consistent stream of clients.
You made up stories about yourself based on what happened to you in the past, the mistakes you made, and other people’s opinions of you.
As you grow up, these stories fuel your self-doubt and hold you back from reaching your goals. But, these stories are not the truth and you can change them.
How To Overcome Self-Doubt
You’re the writer of your own story. You get to decide who you want to be and what to do with your life. Here’s what’s helped me rewrite my own story and overcome self-doubt:
1. Acknowledge Your Thoughts
Don’t believe everything you think. Negative thoughts and self-doubts are not the truth. They’re your mind’s self-protecting mechanism, keeping you safe from potential failure, disappointment, and hurt.
Successful leaders and entrepreneurs understand this. They know self-doubt is there, but don’t make up stories about it or believe it’s true. They acknowledge the thought is there, but don’t buy into it or act on it.
When you believe self-doubt, you give it power. You start to second-guess yourself and procrastinate taking action. By simply acknowledging it’s there, part of the process of being human, you take your power back. You’re telling your mind who is in charge – and it’s not fear!
TAKE ACTION NOW
When you’re thinking a negative thought, simply acknowledge it. Then thank your mind for trying to protect you and let it know you don’t need that anymore: “Thank you for trying to keep me safe, mind. But I can do this – and I will.”
2. Question Self-Doubt
Self-doubt is there to protect you. But, from what exactly? What are you afraid will happen if you take the action you procrastinate on? Take action and investigate:
- Maybe you’re afraid of being called out as a fraud for not being good enough at what you do.
- Maybe you believe that, if you don’t get every little detail perfect, you’ll be judged and criticised for it.
- Maybe you’re scared that, if your reach 6-figures, you won’t be able to handle it and lose all the money.
Once you know what your mind is afraid of, you can question those beliefs. Most of the time, you realise they’re false, outdated, or not even your own!
TAKE ACTION NOW
Pick a goal you’re not sure you can reach and then ask yourself:
- What am I afraid will happen if I take action and reach this goal?
- Do I have absolute proof that this will happen?
- What other scenarios are possible?
- If my fear came true, how would you handle it?
When you do this exercise, you realise that most fears won’t come true – and if they do happen (it’s possible you’ll get criticised if you do a live, for example), they won’t be as bad as your fear makes them out to be.
3. Reframe Self-Doubt
At its core, self-doubt is a lack of confidence in your abilities. Deep down, you don’t think you’re good enough at something.
Maybe it’s a skill or activity. You don’t think you’re good enough at coaching or public speaking.
Maybe it’s a way of being. You don’t think you have enough confidence, courage, extroversion to do what you want to do.
Maybe it’s an identity. You think you’re too shy, or too flaky, or too much of a rebel to achieve your goal.
Whatever it is, that’s a story you’re telling yourself. A story based on the meaning you gave to past experiences and mistakes and other people’s opinions of you.
Successful leaders and entrepreneurs don’t let past circumstances and other people’s opinions of them define them. They know they have the power to create their own life and their own story.
It starts with getting clear on the new belief you want to adopt, so you can act from that place. The trick is to choose a story your brain can believe.
If you don’t think you’re good at public speaking, then telling yourself you’re the best public speaker in the world isn’t going to work. Your brain won’t believe that. But your brain can believe that you’re getting better and better at public speaking every day – which you are.
And now you have a new story, you can act from that place. If you need to work with a public speaking coach to improve your skills, for example, do that.
Overcoming self-doubt doesn’t mean that you won’t have to do the work to improve yourself. It means you won’t let self-doubt stop you from doing what you need to do to reach your goal.
TAKE ACTION NOW
What’s the story you’re telling yourself? Change it into a positive story your brain can and will believe. Example:
Story: I’m not good at public speaking.
Unbelievable story: I’m the best public speaker in the world.
Believable story: I’m getting better and better at public speaking every day.
Once you have your own story, write it somewhere you’ll see it often. And then act on it. In this example, you can look for public speaking gigs, go live on social media to practice your skills, or join Toastmasters.
4. Anchor In Your Past Successes
When you’re doubting yourself and your abilities to make your goals happen, remind yourself of all the things you’ve accomplished in your life.
- The good grades you got at school.
- The skills you’ve accumulated over the years.
- The job interviews you passed with flying colours.
- The clients you helped.
- The businesses you built.
- The services you sold out.
- The friendships you’ve made.
- The publications you’ve been featured on.
- The foreign languages you’ve learned.
- The awards you’ve won.
Your mind has the annoying tendency to focus only on your past mistakes – and then blows them out of all proportions to scare you back into your comfort zone. By reminding yourself of all the things you’ve accomplished in your life, you realise you’re capable of more than what you give yourself credit for.
TAKE ACTION NOW
Here are a few ideas to celebrate your past successes:
- Write a list of accomplishments and hang it up on a wall where you’ll see it often.
- Collect every positive comment and email you get from clients.
- Create a visual board with all your wins.
As you accomplish new goals, add them to the list. And don’t forget to celebrate each one of them!
5. Make A Decision And Move Forward
Your brain loves certainty. It wants to know you have the guarantee of success before taking action. Without it, it’ll keep you second-guessing your every decision, so you won’t take any action and risk failure, making mistakes, and disappointment. You also won’t reach your goals.
Successful leaders and entrepreneurs don’t waste time second-guessing every decision. They know that, if they make a mistake, they can course correct. Failure is just feedback. It tells you what’s not working, so you can pivot and try a different approach.
By all means, take the time to evaluate your options and make an informed decision. But once you have all the information, make a decision and act on it.
No mistake is irreversible. The only thing you can’t get back is all the time you’re wasting not making a decision at all and staying stuck where you are.
TAKE ACTION NOW:
- Think of a decision you need to make. Maybe it’s what product to create or what client-attraction strategy to use.
- Give yourself a certain amount of time to make that decision. Maybe it’s two hours. Or two days.
- Get all the information you need to make an informed choice, including your own gut feeling.
- Once time is up, make your decision and act on it.
Wrapping It Up
Experiencing self-doubt is human. You’re believing a story about yourself that’s not true and that stops you from reaching your goals. To overcome self-doubt, acknowledge it, question it, and reframe the story you’re telling yourself. Anchor in your accomplishments to build your confidence in yourself and your abilities. And when it’s time, make a decision and move forward with it. Self-doubt will always be there, but now you have the tools to not let it stop you anymore.