Laura Petrolino

Celebrate Your Independence from Self-Doubt with These Seven Rules

By: Laura Petrolino | July 1, 2019 | 
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Celebrate Your Independence from Self-Doubt with These Seven RulesAbout once a quarter I go through a self-worth crisis.

I question everything about my worth as a professional and a human.

I’m full of self-doubt and feel like I’m disappointing everyone in my life and career.

I cause myself endless angst, worried I’m not contributing as much as I can or should.

Overcome Self-Doubt: Logic is Often Worthless

Now logically, I know this isn’t true.

I know I’ve really actually done, seen, and accomplished a whole lot in my life—more than many.

Daily, I work very hard to contribute the best I can, go above and beyond, and add value wherever and whenever I can.

It just never feels like it’s enough.

Logic often doesn’t stop that voice in your head which constantly reminds you, you could be more.

A few months ago, I had the realization that I will never, ever live up to my own expectations of myself, because I set them at such an impossible level it would defy time and space for me to achieve them.

That makes me successful.

It makes me constantly push for more.

But it also causes me to beat myself up a lot and constantly be disappointed in my own abilities.

It creates self-doubt.

I’m going to guess this same thing happens to many of you.

Can we all just start a support group?

Communications professionals going through self-doubt crises.

We can meet every other Tuesday and Instagram the crap out of our heavily branded meetings.

And then stress out that we didn’t nail the messaging well enough.

Or maybe not..

The Bad News About Self-Doubt

Well, is there really good news about self-doubt?

Not really.

But here is the particularly bad news: It’s a catch-22.

If you aren’t able to overcome self-doubt, it will prevent you from ever doing your best.

And ironically create the situation you fear the most: not doing your best.  

For that reason, I’ve put together six truths which help me when I start chasing myself down a rabbit hole of self-doubt—and which will hopefully also help you.

Success Doesn’t Always Have a Deliverable

One thing I have worked for a long time to overcome, is the belief that success must always have some type of deliverable.

It doesn’t.

In fact, often your biggest successes in life can’t be measured at all.

They happen on the journey, not the endpoint.

That might be sacrilege to say on a blog that talks about the importance of PR metrics.

But life metrics need to be measured on a different scale.

And if you want to fight self-doubt on even ground, you need to start to appreciate how awesome the process is.

I used to think everything I did in life had to have a clear goal, or it was not worth wasting time on.

I’ve since learned that’s not true.

Because if that’s your main filter in life, you’re apt to lose a lot of the joy.

You also lose the ability to see yourself struggle through a lot of difficult and uncomfortable things and learn that you can, in fact, do really hard things.  

The process of success is often just as important as the success itself.

The process is where you learn how capable, courageous, and strong you are.

And because of that, it’s in the process, NOT the goal, where you really gain confidence in yourself.

You are a Masterpiece

One of my favorite quotes I’ve seen floating around social is: “you can be a masterpiece and a work in progress at the same time”.

It resonates with me a lot.

I always try to focus in on it when I get into one of these phases where I question my self-worth.

You can want to be more, but still appreciate who you are right now.

Likewise, you can want to do more, but still give value to what you are already doing.

Watch Your Words and Your Tone

When we start to doubt ourselves, or get upset about not living up to our own expectations, we speak to ourselves in the most horrible manner.

Not only do we say awful things to ourselves, but we also say them in a condescending and hateful tone.

Everyone tells you to watch your self-talk.

But for me that never helped.

It’s hard to recognize, in the moment, how detrimental our words are for our goals.

What did help me was to watch my tone.

Once I became fully aware of the horrible tone of voice I used on myself, I was able to acknowledge and change the words I used, as well.

You can’t say hateful words in a supportive tone.

And so once I changed my tone, my words changed too.

Into words that cheered me on, versus ones that held me back

Life is Made Up of Moments for You to Maximize

I often like to tell the story of my “da Vinci Crisis.”

This was when I had a nervous breakdown on my birthday, because I wasn’t as successful or hadn’t contributed as much as da Vinci (yes, THAT da Vinci, go ahead and roll your eyes, I know).

I cried on the phone to my parents for a few hours, apologized for being such a disgrace of a daughter, and then spent weeks angry at myself for wasting my life.

Yes, I know.

This is absurd.

I get it.

But I also apologized to my parents for being a disgrace when I was seven and got a cavity, so it makes sense that at 30 I’d be overwhelmed by trying to live up to da Vinci.

During my breakdown, I had someone (not knowing I was in the midst of life crisis) comment on something little I had told them, and how it had changed the course of several really important things in her life.

That’s when it hit me.

I may not be able to paint the freaking Mona Lisa, but I can make a nano difference every day in the lives of people around me. 

Since that time, when I start to feel overwhelmed at not living up to my impossibly high expectations of myself,  I focus on moments.

The moments I can affect something and someone for the better. 

You Are a Collection of Your Failures

It’s really easy to get stuck in the trap of, “if only I hadn’t”, or “if only I had”.

Well, guess what?

That’s over.

You made a choice and it possibly was a bad one.

Really bad.

Potentially you also stuck with said choice for waaaaay longer than you should have.

It happens.

We all do it.

I’ve found in order to overcome self-doubt, I must appreciate the times I’ve walked myself into disaster (and there have been many).

Each one of those stumbles helped lead me down a path to something good—not to mention teaching me a heck of a lot.

Without my failures, I wouldn’t be me.

I wouldn’t be anywhere near as strong of a person, nor as compassionate.

I wouldn’t understand what I was capable of, nor have confidence in my ability to not just endure, but to overcome obstacles.

Often I try to remind myself—while I might not always understand the path—I always know I’m heading in the right direction.

You Can Reinvent Yourself at Any Time

You can.

And probably already have zillions of time.

Sometimes consciously.

Often unconsciously.

At least a few times out of forced circumstance. 

And hopefully several times because you made the choice to change.

Regardless of how, you’ve done that, and you can do it again.

You can choose to change.

Anytime you find yourself unhappy in your circumstances.

Anytime you realize you spend more of your time on things that drain you, then you do on things that energize you.

And most of all, anytime you find you don’t like the person you have become, or aren’t being the person you know you can be.

You can choose to change.

It just takes acknowledging that the choice is yours.

Once you do, any outside circumstances that held you back in the past turn into obstacles to overcome, not barriers.

Small Steps Still Move You Forward

One of the biggest mistakes we all tend to make is to believe “reinvention” and life change are only accomplished through big, bold, and striking movements.

That makes it really hard to overcome self-doubt and make a needed change.

It seems so momentous. 

There is never the right time.

And we never have enough courage, capability, money, or flexibility.

Luckily, this is false.

You can reinvent yourself on levels big and small daily.

Often the smallest change is all you really need to set things in motion and change your course.

Never underestimate the power of a simple step in a new direction.

Celebrate Your Independence from Self-Doubt

While not everyone celebrates Independence Day, we all know what it stands for.

So use it as your own holiday.

Your independence from self-doubt.

I know that sounds as cheesy as it gets, but I’m willing to be cheesy and symbolic if it helps me achieve my goals, build the career, and live the life I want.

Are you?

About Laura Petrolino


Laura Petrolino is the chief client officer at Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She also is a weekly contributor to the award-winning PR blog, Spin Sucks. Join the Spin Sucks   community.