We all have limitations, but when you’re facing severe self-doubt you might be distorting the reality of your actual abilities. Some things are probably unattainable for you, but you need to remember that the number of them is fewer than you think.

Self-doubt is being uncertain about your ability to do something or even being unsure about your ability to do it well. When you lack the confidence to do what you either need or want to do, you can feel stuck. In this article, we will look at 5 things to remember when you are faced with self-doubt.

5 Things to Remember When Faced With Self-Doubt

Self-doubt is perfectly normal. Most of us are less than 100% confident all of the time. Even Brown University Philosopher David Christensen wonders if an ideally rational and intelligent person would be able to avoid self-doubt. Being uncertain, and trying anyway, is kind of what makes us human.

Then again, people confident in their intellect are usually not competent or well-accepted socially. Nobody likes a smarty-pants who is right all the time. Think of the social awkwardness yet righteous insistence of TV’s Sheldon Cooper, the smart-but-anxious character of The Big Bang Theory.

If your fears and doubts are limiting your ability to thrive in your life, now there’s something you need to do about it. When you are holding yourself back from trying due to fear of failure there are 5 things you need to remember when self-doubt creeps in.

1. You are more likely to believe people who lead you to doubt yourself

Do you think you might pick up on doubt signals from someone else? When you speak, do you notice that the listener’s facial expressions make it look like they disagree with you? When faced with self-doubt, it can be challenging to remember that not everything someone else says about your capabilities or their facial expressions is a negative statement about you.

Researchers at The Ohio State University studying self-doubt found that they could introduce doubt in a situation, and those with lower self-esteem would be more likely to question their own abilities. When you have self-doubt, you must doubt your ability to judge someone else’s opinion of you too.

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Think of the few people you trust who you believe would give you an honest, fair opinion of your skills. To check your self-doubt, ask one of these people to give it to you straight. If the opinion comes from someone else, remind yourself that this person’s opinion is not valuable to you.

2. You are more sensitive to cues that reinforce your self-doubt

The scientists at The Ohio State University say ‘Cues that provoke feelings of self-doubt may be more readily noticed by high-self-doubt individuals, who are particularly sensitive to such cues, than by low-self-doubt individuals, who are not.’ You are likely to be taking a lot of words personally.

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They found ‘evidence that self-doubt is implicated in behavioral strategies (e.g., self-handicapping) that are designed to protect self-esteem but that do so at the cost of sustaining self-doubt.’ In other words, people who doubt themselves might sabotage themselves so they are prevented from failure, which would hurt their self-esteem even more. You already doubt yourself plenty, so there’s no reason to add to your pile of evidence by failing even to try to succeed.

3. You may have missed opportunities, but there will be more

Even if you passed up the chance to do something because you were faced with self-doubt, you could be sure that you will have another chance. Life is filled with second chances. Even the IRS lets you file an extension, after all.

From missing the chance to tell someone we love them to take a chance on skydiving, you can always decide to do it later anyway. When you’re faced with self-doubt, remind yourself that you can choose to try whenever you’re ready.


4. Conquering self-doubt is about changing your thought judgments

When you doubt yourself, you are engaging in meta-cognitive thinking. For example, let’s say that you doubt your ability to sing. You have judged yourself to be a bad singer based on whatever evidence you have.

To resolve your feelings of self-doubt, remember 8 different times that you sang and felt good about how your voice sounded to you, how you felt when the music expressed your emotions and the sensations in your body while that was happening.

Researchers in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin also found that people with lower self-esteem had difficulty remembering times when they had previously performed well. If you can try to focus on remembering times when you were confident, you will be more likely to convince yourself to be brave.