Self-doubt is reality. No matter how confident we may seem, there is almost always an inner voice trying to belie good intentions. That question of inauthenticity leads us to wonder if we are who we claim to be. We experience dark moments that prevent us from believing in ourselves. We all doubt ourselves occasionally. But believe it or not, that’s not such a bad thing.
Doubt is OK
But what if we could embrace self-doubt and not allow insecurity to invade our thoughts? In her story, “5 Ways Mentally Strong People Conquer Self-Doubt,” psychotherapist Amy Morin, a lecturer at Northeastern University, says that even the most confident people experience self-doubt but have learned to accept it as part of the human psyche. It’s not necessarily a bad thing to doubt yourself occasionally. It might enhance what you do, both personally and professionally.
Morin says that self-doubt can be a sign you need to work harder to hone a particular idea or smooth out the rough edges. She advises those with self-doubt to “examine the truth behind your thoughts. Ask yourself, ‘What evidence do I have that I can’t do this?’ Then ask yourself, ‘What evidence do I have that I can do this?’ Write down your answers on a piece of paper.”
I worry like most of us, and I can bring myself to imagining worst-case scenarios. What happens if I go this way? Who will be affected by my actions? Could something I do or say be misinterpreted? Morin reminds us that even if something does go wrong, it’s probably not a life-altering situation. “Losing a game, stumbling over your lines, or failing to get a promotion probably won’t matter that much in a few years,” she writes. “Keeping things in proper perspective can help calm your nerves.”
I’m not perfect, and I can bet safely that no one else is. We’re human, and there is beauty in recognizing our strengths and weaknesses.
Psychologist Karen Gillespie of GLWS, a group that “provides a complete view of the factors affecting energy, resilience and wellbeing and the resources to meaningfully improve them on an individual, team and/or organizational basis,” according to its website, reminds us that leadership without self-doubt is questionable. In her article, “Breaking News: Self-Doubt Is Good for You,” Gillespie asks readers to think about bosses who never doubt themselves. “Believing they are always right, not listening or encouraging input, imposing their views on others, failing to consult or collaborate because of their deeply-held confidence in their own capabilities, never expressing uncertainty or vulnerability, not seeking learning or development and so on,” she writes. “If these tendencies were truly held and played out in the same person, I don’t think we would be looking at a high-performing leader, would we?”
We would not. Gillespie’s interviews with clients revealed that there are positive outcomes of self-doubt. It leads us to ask for input, collaborate, and even demonstrate humility. I have known successful women who admitted that self-doubt humbled them yet made them stronger. They taught me that doubting oneself need not be limiting; it can make us more productive.
But I must add that the women who were brave enough to admit to self-doubt were also incredible leaders who inspired those around them. We’re hard on ourselves — too hard, sometimes. Knowing these incredible women, I must conclude that people don’t find as much fault in us as we do in ourselves.