Three Steps to Overcome Self-DoubtLaura Petrolino

I’m pretty sure there are two types of people in this world—those who pretty much stroll through life thinking they are the bombastic bomb at everything they do, and those who constantly have to work to overcome self-doubt.

The first group can only reach a certain level of success, because they never take the time to evaluate what more they could do, or how they can improve.

The second group constantly strives to do more, be more, bring more to the table.

I’ve never met a high achiever who doesn’t doubt themselves at some point (and normally frequently).

In fact, I’m pretty sure high achievers ARE high achievers because they doubt themselves.

This self-awareness drives to daily push limits and live life with the constant fear of failure, but ready to do it anyway to accomplish more.

As Henry Ford said

The way to succeed is to double your failure rate.

Sink or Swim: Two Sides of Self-Doubt

For all my #PetroPower-ing, about once per quarter I go through about two weeks or so of thinking I’m an absolute and complete failure at everything I do in life.

If you pay close attention you’ll see it through my writing here.

Sometimes I even write about things like dealing with failure, or the like….

Self-doubt is normal, especially if you are the type who constantly pushes to achieve more.

And what I’ve learned is I can either use it productively to help me grow and become better, or let it sink me.

The choice is mine.

It’s really easy to let yourself fall into a “woe is me,” mindset when you are trying to overcome self-doubt.

And, because you often create your own reality, that type of perspective will only further give you evidence to further fuel your internal critic.

So I’ve developed a few techniques for when I go through a phase like this, to help me come out in a stronger place vs. a weaker one.

Overcome Self-Doubt Step One: Take a Time Out

When you have a job that’s about relationships and working with people (as we do in communications) a good portion of what we do in a day has to do with confidence.

And I’m talking confidence, not cockiness (which are two very different things).

It is very important to have an inner confidence and the sense of direction, focus, and assurance it brings.

If you aren’t confident, how can you expect your client to be?

Or anyone working to develop and execute a successful strategy?

This type of confidence takes time, education, and experience to build.

The good news is, while it can’t be built over night, it also can’t crumble overnight….or if you have a day high on self-doubt. However, how you project yourself in your interactions can and will change.

This is why I will literally give myself a time out.

This is normally only a few minutes of stepping back, regrouping, and smacking some sense into my brain.

One mistake people often make when trying to overcome self doubt is they just keep pushing until they wear themselves out.

And exhaustion—both mental and physical—only fuels self-doubt further.

So take a step back.



Overcome Self-Doubt Step Two: Watch Your Tone

Just like your mom used to say growing up…”watch your tone!”

In communications we focus constantly on the tone we project to consumers, which is why it’s so odd we don’t often look at the tone we speak to ourselves in.

This concept was first brought up to me by my awesome friend Jessica Dolce , and ever since it’s something I think about constantly.

What tone do you speak to yourself in?

It makes a big difference.

Spend the next week and be extremely self-aware during your self-talk.

Is the tone you speak to yourself in one that you would use with your team? Client? Friend?

In most cases, you’ll find it’s not.

And this is especially true when you try to overcome self-doubt.

Your tone often becomes hard, accusing, demeaning—none of these are productive to your goals.

When I give myself a time out, the first thing I do is look at the tone I’m using with myself—and change it.

Change your tone, change your life.

Overcome Self-Doubt Step Three: Self-Proof File

I have a file with comments or compliments people have given me that really meant a lot.

  • They might be in areas I’m unsure of myself in.
  • They might be from people whose opinions I really respect and value.
  • They might just be fun little tidbits that help me re-focus.

But they are all productive comments someone in my life has given me (so if you’ve ever complimented me, thank you….your words have probably boosted me up when I really needed it).

I go to this file and I read.

Because, while I might not trust myself during a time of self-doubt, I have no choice but to trust the words of others.

There is a reason this is the final step, so don’t try to push it up on the list.

Until you step back and change the way you talk to yourself, you won’t be able to accept these compliments. Instead you’ll make excuses for these nice pieces of proof that you are on the right track in life.

Trust me, you will. Don’t try to cheat the system.

Stop, Drop, and Roll

I think of these three steps much like a “stop, drop, and roll.”

They get me out of my own, non-productive, head and help me put things in context.

They give me the sense of space to evaluate what the real reason for the doubt is and where I need to improve in order to push through that next boundary.

What tips would you add? How do you overcome self-doubt?

Laura Petrolino

Laura Petrolino is chief marketing officer for Spin Sucks, an integrated marketing communications firm that provides strategic counsel and professional development for in-house and agency communications teams. She is a weekly contributor for their award-winning blog of the same name. Spin Sucks. Join the Spin Sucks   community.

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