Untangling Self-Doubt

“If you hear a voice within you say you cannot paint, then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.” ~ Vincent van Gogh


Have you ever doubted yourself?

In the past, maybe you have focused more on your fears or felt it was easier to hide your gifts and talents? Or possibly talked yourself out of opportunities you wanted to go for?

What if there was another way and Vincent van Gogh was right?

Are you Ready to Start Ruling Your Own World?

Yes, life starts get easier when you have a sense of inner confidence. I am not talking about arrogance or total self-absorption – just being comfortable in your own skin.

In this post I am going to discuss –

  • What is Self-Doubt?
  • What are Some Details of Self-Doubt?
  • What are Some Impacts of Self-Doubt?
  • What are Some of the Causes of Self-Doubt?
  • Can You Relate?
  • What is Self-Confidence?
  • 5 Tips to Start Untangling Self-Doubt.

Let’s get started…


What is Self-Doubt?

If you have lived with self-doubt, you will be familiar with the following definitions of self-doubt –

  • “lack of confidence in oneself and one’s abilities.”Google
  • “the act or state of doubting oneself.”Collins Dictionary
  • “a lack of faith or confidence in one’s abilities.”The Free Dictionary
  • the feeling of not having confidence in yourself or your abilities.”Macmillan Dictionary.

What are Some Details of Self-Doubt?

I say some details, because I can only share my lived experience and working with clients.

Some of the details (behaviours, feelings and thoughts) of self-doubt for me over the years have  included –

  • Behaviours/actions –
    • not-trusting myself in decisions I have made or how I am seeing a situation
    • keeping busy, exercising, eating or other ways I numbed myself so I didn’t have to face my deep fears or vulnerabilities
    • not speaking up with ideas and insights I have as I didn’t think they were “good enough”
    • not being satisfied with my work – very rarely have I been satisfied with what I have done as I have always thought I could have done better or made the wrong decision (yes I realise that is black and white thinking – see below, however it was true for me)
    • criticising myself harshly (um, see last comment and my inner critic has had a field day over the years)
    • procrastinating – for example: in my business it took me ages to start writing my journal as I was so scared/fearful of what other people would think and wanted approval as I didn’t know who I really was (that has passed now – but may come up again later)
    • a while back, I was also challenged by my expectations of others, however realised those expectations were my limitations.
  • Feeling –
    • a deep sense of unworthiness and not enough
    • like a failure for making mistakes and not knowing
    • stuck and a lack of clarity about a way forward
    • like an impostor for so many reasons…
  • Thoughts and thought patterns –

    • All or nothing thinking – for example “asking for help is a sign of a weakness” or “I’m never good enough” or “I don’t have any strengths”
    • Overgeneralising – for example “if it happens once, it will happen all of the time”
    • Disqualifying the positive – dismissing or ignoring any positive comment/achievement/compliment – see above in behaviours
    • Using ‘Should’ statements – thinking in terms of should, must, ought imposes a view about the way the world in which may not tie with reality, and which induces emotional unhappiness, resentment and guilt – for example “I should never make mistakes” or “I should have been able to pick that up before it happened”
    • Emotional reasoning – thinking that emotional states legitimately reflect reality. For example – “I feel it, therefore it must be true.”

The above forms or patterns of cognitive distortions (faulty thinking) are based on the work of Aaron Beck. Psychiatrist David Burns discusses the 10 forms of cognitive distortions in his book Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy. Over time, the cognitive distortions can be broken down or untangled through awareness and ongoing practice. If you would like to read more about them, click here.


What are Some Impacts of Self-Doubt?

Self-doubt can have a number of impacts. Some of these include –

  • not starting the business you would love to,
  • not commencing that course you have wanted to do,
  • not going for the job promotion you have dreamed about,
  • not asking for help from people who can support you,
  • not being paid what you are worth or by how much value you give,
  • not embracing your gifts and talents so you can share them with the world,
  • creating stress and anxiety for thinking you are not good enough, and
  • lack of boundaries in relationships.


What are Some Causes of Self-Doubt?

There are many causes to self-doubt including, but not limited to –

  • being a perfectionist and thinking you are not good enough
  • growing up with criticism (i.e. from a parent, teacher, coach, friend of family member)
  • having a tendency to think critically
  • being around people who put you down to try and make themselves feel better
  • experiencing rejection when you were younger (i.e not being picked for the sports team or as school captain)
  • feeling as though you are not accepted for who you are or your voice doesn’t matter.


Can You Relate?

If you have a number of the signs above, it may be time to learn to trust yourself and honour your own needs. Only you can answer this and it is important to be true to yourself (i.e. by having the courage to be truthful and honest).

For me the answer was yes and I am unravelling self-doubt and embracing confidence. Habit by habit I am learning to identify and honour my own needs and dreams.

What is Self-Confidence?

Self-Confidence is –

  • “a feeling of trust in one’s abilities, qualities, and judgement.”Google
  • “confidence in oneself and in one’s powers and abilities.” ~ Merriam-Webster Dictionary
  • confidence in one’s own powers, judgment, etc.” ~ Collins Dictionary.


 5 Tips to Start Untangling Self-Doubt

Self-doubt can be challenging to transform (well for me it has been), I hope the following 5 tips can help you start to transform it –

  1. Get to know your true self – how well do you know your strengths, weaknesses, needs, dreams and passion?
  2. Start practising self-acceptance – yes everything about you makes you YOU! Are you courageous enough to start accept everything about YOU?
  3. Surround yourself with people who lift you up – what would you prefer, living with people who lift you up and inspire you or people who drain you? Enough said!
  4. Keep a gratitude/success journal – why not start a gratitude/success journal? At the end of the day or week, write down 5 successes or areas in your life you are grateful for. Then when self-doubt comes knocking you can open up your journal for inspiration!
  5. Stop comparing yourself – there is only one YOU, you are YOU’nique! So, stop comparing yourself and as Dr Brené Brown says, “stay in your own lane”.


I hope this post has helped you get some clarity on self-doubt and also start identifying some ways to start moving towards self-trust. Remember – “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt.


If you are ready to take yourself on the adventure of getting to know yourself (your true self), why not join the Toolkit? A place where I share tools, inspiration and ideas to live a courageous and openhearted life.


Reference –

Burns, D. (1980). Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy. New York: New American Library.


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