10 Ways to Battle Crippling Self Doubt

Photo: boram kim

Let’s face it- at some point in our lives, we all have our moments where we wobble in the face of self reflection. It can range from a fleeting concern to expansive periods of paralysing fear, but ultimately it’s something we each deal with. Those closest to me have always reproached me for being too hard on myself, but that’s never enough to actually stop having those negative thoughts. So, having just come out of a week-long pity party I thought now would be a great time to share my tried-and-tested ways to beat this trap and recover faster.

1. Indulge It

This may seem counter productive, but sometimes we just need to be totally childish and let it all boil over. It’s ok. As long as your indulgence is controlled, not harmful to you or to others around you, there’s nothing wrong with being a little selfish and pouty. Have a cry, eat some chocolate, be comfortable being an emotional, imperfect human from time to time. Just as long as this little self-directed mollycoddling is temporary, it can be a fast and effective way of getting it all out of your system.

2. Analyse It

If indulgence isn’t your style, or it hasn’t particularly helped, it’s important to start addressing the issue head on. Have a really hard think about where this has come from. What is it exactly that’s eating at you? What’s the source? Sometimes, the mere act of labeling your fear can take it from a lofty, unfathomable terror to a manageable blip in your path. And if it is something you have control over, you can make steps towards changing it. If you don’t have control over it…

3. Accept It

Sometimes, we cannot change the circumstances and environment around us. That doesn’t stop us being affected it by it, but any energy spent worrying and obsessing over factors beyond our control is wasted. I understand it’s easier said than done (I still lapse in this more often than I care to admit) but it’s important to give yourself credit for how far you have come in spite of these factors. Make peace and move on.

4. Stop It

The paralysing fear is often a result of attaching too much self worth on a certain thing, and too much pressure on yourself. When you allow yourself to believe that “unless I achieve ____, I’m a complete failure” or “I can hardly call myself a ____ if I can’t even ____”, you lock yourself into a destructive mindset. Don’t do this! Everybody has days where they feel their work isn’t up to scratch, your idols included (in fact, probably especially your idols). Nobody’s journey is without hiccups, and everyone who has achieved anything has countless anecdotes about the times they failed. Humans are fragile temperamental creatures, accept that it wasn’t your greatest work and learn from it.

5. Learn From It

Ok, how do we do that? In a world where there is a seemingly endless supply of people doing what we do better than we do it, how can we possibly know how to improve next time? Quite simply- examine your mistakes and make that the focus of your studies. The next time you work, make sure to improve the thing that held you back. Success is incremental, so build t one triumph at a time.

6. Stop Comparing

Comparison is venom. So what if someone else is better/more successful/doing what you want to do? Envy won’t give you what they have. There is usually a long journey behind the people you compare yourself to. The only way to get what you want is to work hard on your own journey. Comparison is never a good thing. Ever.

7. Mix It Up

If you throw all of your energy into one pursuit, then a bad day is going to hit you hard. If you identify only with your work, you’ll take it personally. Finding other ventures spreads that self worth out a little bit and softens the blow on a bad day. Working out, picking up hobbies, learning new skills, being a good friend/spouse/parent etc. are great ways to find validation outside of your work. Do not let work define you.

8. Look Back

Perhaps the greatest way to lift yourself up quickly is to reflect on how far you’ve come. Mark your success and remember how a past version of you would have been incredibly proud to be in your position.

Indulge me in a metaphor- if your goal is to reach the summit of a mountain and you spend the whole climb staring at the summit, you’ll never see the beautiful view en route. You’ll feel like you’re moving slowly, if at all, and you’ll have no idea how high up you already are. Slow down, look around and enjoy the view. There is beauty in every step.

9. Trust The Process

Perhaps the greatest self-help book I have ever read is The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson. It is probably the only self-help book that completely changed my life (and I’m saying this nearly a year after first reading it). Understand that every journey is made of tiny steps. Do not let results drive you, or you will lose faith in the journey. Trust that the process will take you there, find ways to enjoy that process, and be surprised when you arrive at your destination.

10. Back To Basics

I’ve often struggled to get motivated because I have attached too much importance in achieving my goals and forgotten why I set them in the first place. If you feel disconnected from your passion, spend some time away from it and remind yourself why you got into it in the first place. When this happens to me, I stop all work for a day and allow myself to doodle. I drop the necessity to create good work and just create. Let yourself enjoy it without any pressure.


I hope this helps you find your groove when fear is holding you back. Let me know if these work for you, or if you have any methods of your own. Feel free to drop me an email if you need any further advice.

You can do it!