Combatting self-doubt in business

Self-doubt is a huge obstacle many of us have to face, whether it be as an employee or a business owner. It can prevent us from taking important steps forward, impact performance, and can even negatively affect the way others view us. While a degree of self-doubt and insecurity is a part of being human, letting it hold you back from success helps no one.  

In this issue of the Pulse, we look at self-doubt in business and how to combat it.  

What is self-doubt and where does it come from? 

Doubt is a lack of trust, certainty, or conviction; in the case of self-doubt, that’s directed inward. Even if, on some level, you’re aware of your skills and assets, there’s an underlying nagging sense that you’re not going to succeed or you can’t accomplish your goals.  

There are many potential culprits behind a person’s self-doubt: 

  • Negative self-talk – even if it seems in jest, putting yourself down and focusing on your weaknesses can have a long-term impact on your confidence.  
  • Past experiences – our brains pay more attention to negative experiences, like failures, than positive ones, like when things go smoothly.  
  • Comparison to others.  
  • Perfectionism – holding yourself to impossible standards makes achievable goals seem out of reach.  

There are a lot of reasons why a person might be generally insecure,  but when it comes to someone’s career, these factors are certainly counterproductive.  

How is self-doubt holding you back? 

On top of it being simply unpleasant, there are a lot of ways self-doubt is holding you back when it comes to business. Here are just a handful of the consequences to self-doubt in business: 

  • Reduced capacity for logical decision making, causing indecision, second-guessing, and potentially even missed opportunities.  
  • Increased anxiety and stress. 
  • Decreased confidence and self-esteem. 
  • Hindered personal growth, due to fear of taking risks, trying new things, and having experiences outside of your comfort zone.  
  • Increased strain on personal and professional relationships. 

All these facets are incredibly important to business success. Sharp, rational decision making is a crucial skill for any businessperson. Confidence and self-esteem are often needed to make successful pitches or stay afloat during hard times, while increased anxiety and stress can lead to the opposite. Personal growth is tantamount to growing your career, and fostering strong relationships is also critical in that process.  

All of this to say, in order to thrive, you need to find a way to combat self-doubt. 

First, identify the source of your self-doubt. 

If you’re caught in a loop of self-doubt – maybe it’s about a business decision, or maybe it’s anxiety before a pitch to a prospect – you have to stop and identify the source.  

Are you focusing on a similar time in the past that went poorly? Do you not have enough information to move forward comfortably? Are you, in general, paralyzed by a fear of failure? All of these are valid concerns – but can be addressed productively to move forward.  

Arm yourself with information.  

If the issue is that you just don’t feel like you have enough details to comfortably move forward in a given business scenario, then combat your doubt with information as your weapon.  

Educate yourself on any relevant topics, seek details and clarifications, and answer any questions you might have that could be contributing to your self-doubt.  

Don’t dwell on negative memories.  

Easier said than done, right? Well, chances are, if you were able to remember everything neutrally, there would be a higher number of times when things went well compared to when things went poorly. While our brains are easily drawn to the bad, if you take the time to list all the times things went well, where you succeeded and achieved your goals, you’ll find confidence comes a bit more naturally.  

Take the leap. 

If you’re stuck in the limbo of self-doubt and indecision, rip off the band-aid. Break the anxious thought loop, and do what needs to be done. 

Seek support where it is helpful, and not a crutch.  

Dealing with self-doubt is a universal human experience. Chances are there are other people in your circle who have experienced the same thing. Whether it be a close friend, a family member, a peer, or a colleague you can trust, opening up and talking about your self-doubt can be the first step in resolving it.  

The important thing to remember is to choose people who will be honest with you about your strengths and weaknesses, as well as challenge you to take those next steps and get outside your comfort zone, not hold you back.  

In conclusion… 

Falling prey to self-doubt – while a normal human experience – only holds you back when it comes to business. Finding strategies to combat it will improve your confidence and decision making capacity, all while opening you up to new opportunities.