Hybrid working has meant we do much more solo working than ever before and it can be easy to think that everyone else is confident and able when you are only interacting for a one-hour Teams meeting. Being self-aware is a pillar of emotional intelligence, so knowing when to catch this before it slides into unhealthy levels of self-doubt or over-thinking is an important skill for working well.
It’s important to limit the impact of self-doubt and how to overcome them. Some of the most successful people are full of self-doubt but have learned how to handle their inner voice and convert it from self-critic to self-coach. So how do you handle self-doubt?
From a coach perspective, self-doubt creeps into many of the conversations I have with clients on a daily basis. Often, we have to dig a little bit deeper to go under the surface with people because it comes from a variety of sources, and the main one is our past experiences. Something in the past either gave us a lack of confidence leading to low self-esteem or lack of self-belief. It’s important to ask yourself: Where are these feelings coming from?
Our own self talk has a massive part to play too. Self-doubt and negative self-talk can impact our performance or prevent us from stepping out of our comfort zone, going for a promotion at work or trying new things. If people are a bit worried about being a manager or leader – that has huge implications for workplaces and business successes – so it’s in everyone’s interest to overcome self-doubt.
Often people don’t think of themselves as a I’m a leader, but actually it turns out they’ve already demonstrated a raft of leadership skills. Look at your skills. Look at what you do bring, rather than what you don’t. A level of imposter syndrome can come into play, but evidence shows someone has got the job or promotion for a whole host of very good reasons. So, they’re not an impostor at all.
It’s all about challenging our beliefs and our ways of thinking. We need to unlearn some of those more negative or toxic behaviours which no longer serve us or are holding us back. We need to challenge our thinking because it may not have been challenged in the past. You need to think about how it impacts you and how you want to show up. We need to stop the behaviours which prevent us from being our best self.
One of the reasons why this is such a hot topic is that we’ve all been through lots of change over the last few years. Hybrid working means we are watched less than before and have much less feedback both positive and negative. At the end of the working day, you may feel that you’ve handled it all well, but you don’t have that immediate colleague’s feedback to know for sure. Too often we compare ourselves with colleagues which can lead to overthinking and unpicking something which can spiral, when often it’s completely fine and you handled it brilliantly.
There are three questions that I always recommend asking yourself:
- What was the output of what I did? As a result of my investment or my time with that individual, what was the output? So, you’re looking at what you did rather than what you didn’t do. What have I done that’s made that better than it was a moment ago?
- What did I make happen? Bring it into the now and acknowledgement that you made that great thing happen. Yeah, I did XYZ, because there’s an output as a result of my input.
- What have I done that’s made that difference today? Just check in with yourself. And the output was XYZ so therefore, who says I’m not brilliant, capable etc?
It’s essential to challenge those limiting beliefs that can start to grow and spiral out of control and to tap into your logical brain. Challenge what your anxiety is telling you – and ask yourself:
- Is what I’m thinking logical?
- Is it helpful?
- Is it true?
If you can answer ‘no’ to one of those questions, then you know that you can abandon that thought and you don’t need to carry it around with you for the rest of the day. I know a lot of people who have stuck these questions on a Post It note on their computer screen as a reminder for those moments they’re feeling plagued by self-doubt. These questions can help you get over yourself, move on and focus on what you want to do next.
One of the first things is recognising that you are talking to yourself in a negative way. It can be hard sometimes to notice, and maybe somebody else might point it out to you and assume that you realise you’re always putting yourself down. So, pay attention to those negative thoughts. By taking away the judgement, you’ve been able to see how incredible you really are. Often with all the noise that’s going around with our criticism and comparison, it’s important to challenge those self-doubts and ask yourself if it is true or not?
Also remind yourself about why you’re a high value person. If you were to consider yourself to be of high value what does that look like? How does that person act? What do you do already that’s high value? What else could you do? It’s important to practise self-compassion and be kind to yourself. Too often we don’t celebrate those small achievements, those little wins, the brilliant things we already bring to the table. Day to day you often have a positive impact on somebody else, without even realising it.
A great tool to use to ensure the good bits don’t pass you by is to list the Wins, Walls and Wisdoms. Which can help you process your path and all the things are happening. Think about the wins you’ve had today, this week, this month. Reflect on the wisdom you’ve learnt. Take a look at the highs and lows – and often you’ll realise how much brilliant work you’ve delivered and how much you’ve learnt and grown. It can be an invigorating exercise when you realise that you’ve been adaptable, resilient and got through tough times. If you don’t have that processing time, then your brain potentially can get into that sick feeling of doubt, when actually your wins and wisdom show how capable you really are. It’s a handy tool, not only to restore your self-belief, but it’s also a great way to start to team meetings if people are feeling a bit deflated or doubtful about achieving goals.
It’s important to take a moment and think about all the things that you’ve not acknowledged yourself for. So, write down in a list all the things that you’re super proud that you’ve actually made happen. It is such a powerful tool to overcome self-doubt because the evidence gives you proof on a page that says you’re okay or even brilliant. Doing this skills audit can help with any kind of interaction. Put your list at the top of your notebook page or have a pop up reminder on your phone, which shows you in black and white how great you really are.
Rather than just running on autopilot, challenge your negative thinking. Try to flip it into something positive using your evidence. We can be very quick to judge ourselves, especially on all the things that we’re not very good at. But if you flip that, the underside of that perceived weakness will be a lovely shiny skill. Don’t listen to your inner critic. Sometimes we need to be shaken out of that a little bit and acknowledge the fact that that’s appeared and then tell it you’re not going to listen because you have evidence that says otherwise.
Practice self-compassion and be kind to yourself. It takes practice and recognition when you do achieve something, which can ultimately help take away that self-doubt which too often can stop us doing the things we love. We need to be kinder to ourselves, and practise recognising what you do rather than what you don’t do. And make a list of all those things you do super well. And if you’re not sure, get five other people to tell you what you do. You may be pleasantly surprised!
Debbie Green is founder and wellness coach at Wishfish and co-host of Secrets from a Coach podcast. Working for years in HR & Learning & Development, Debs is a qualified wellness coach who works with individuals and teams to help them to maximise their potential. She loves helping people deal with challenges to become the very best version of themselves. With wellness at the heart, she enjoys working behind the scenes to help people deliver results. She is passionate about helping people live on purpose and supporting them through transformation.