Self doubt in the workplace can be one of the most destructive and negative emotions of all.
Self doubt can creep into every area of your life, undermining and holding you back. But nowhere is it more insidious, more lonely, or more frustrating than when it affects your livelihood.
When self doubt strikes in relationships you can discuss it with your partner, friends and family. You can acknowledge that if affects you. You can joke about how you struggle to make decisions, how you procrastinate and how sometimes you even get a little paranoid.
But in the work place you cannot admit to these things. Because these are the things that you and everyone else judges you against.
Your performance is so closely linked to being able to take decisive action based on your faith in your own abilities and judgement. A good employee should be able to operate based on the evaluation of cold hard facts and not on an emotional level. Right?
Self doubt sucks
When self doubt takes root it breeds procrastination which is closely followed by self pity and regret. This makes you react on an emotional level as you explore why you can’t be like everyone else. You project your own doubts about yourself onto others. After all, if you don’t think you are good enough why should they?
This kind of mind-set and behaviour kills personal growth, self -development and creativity. And self doubt –becomes a self fulfilling prophecy!
You lose the confidence to make decisions – so you don’t make them and you are labelled as indecisive. You are frightened to put forward ideas in case they are wrong or sound stupid – so you don’t offer them up and you are accused of not taking part. You are frightened to speak up when you see an issue in case you are in the minority – so you say nothing and it looks like you don’t have anything of value to offer.
But self doubt is a normal part of being human. It happens to us all from time to time. It is a normal experience that most people go through as they navigate through uncharted territory in their lives.
But when you experience it in day to day scenarios, when it dominates significant areas of your life on a regular basis, then it is time to take action. It is time to release the power it has over your life, your chance of success, your sense of well being. By recognizing and acknowledging that self doubt is an issue for you – you can start the process of releasing it and fight it’s ill-effects more easily.
Say stop to your inner voice
Your inner voice is conduit for all of your self-doubt.
It might be a harsh critical voice which tells you in no uncertain terms exactly what you are not capable of. It could be a cautious, timid voice which urges you to take care, be careful and not put your head above the parapet. It could be a voice that ridicules and sneers and makes it perfectly clear what it thinks about your pathetic attempts to get things right, move things forward and generally live a normal life like everyone else.
Whatever your inner voice is telling you – if the message is not helpful, positive and supportive it is like having your worst enemy take up residence in your head.
It is that bully from the school playground, the strict disciplinarian teacher who thought you would never amount to anything. It is the sneery sibling who undermined you at every turn.
And it is NOT helpful. You need to tell it to STOP!
You need to replace it with the kind teacher who encouraged you always. Or the parent who believed you could do no wrong. Or that friend or child who simply believes in you. You could even replace it with the voice of someone from history who you would like to have inside your head cheering you on!
Remember that making a mistake does not make you a failure
Everyone makes mistakes!
No-one, absolutely no-one, is infallible.
In fact making mistakes is how we learn. We learn that hot things can burn and we keep our distance. We learn to drive but we never get it right first time. Lurching down the road, taking corners too wide, braking too sharply. But we learn – we grow and we evolve.
Making a mistake does not make you a failure – it is simply an opportunity to learn and move on and up. It is all about how you perceive it. When your self-confidence is low (as it often is when you have self-doubt), you beat yourself up for getting it wrong. Instead of accepting the mistake as part of a learning curve.
It’s not all about you
No-one else is in your head!
No one else is as keenly focused on what you are doing and how you are doing it as you. They simply don’t have the time to examine in detail every aspect of your work, your behaviour, your achievements or your lack of them.
Self-doubt makes this difficult to do, but it’s probably true to say that unless you are being told otherwise (out loud, to your face, by real people – not by your inner critic) then you are probably doing fine.
If you were absolutely honest with yourself – the people at your place of work are probably NOT thinking about you in any great detail at any given point of the day. They are no doubt too busy managing their own hefty workload and focusing on their own self –doubts and insecurities.
Oh yes! Other people are insecure too. Honestly – it’s not just you. You are not alone. You might be surprised to know that some of the most confident people you know suffer from a good dose of the self-doubt shivers as well.
After all – you don’t publicly and openly talk about your self-doubt do you? Maybe your colleagues think you are more self- assured than you would ever give yourself credit for!
Write it down – journal – or just make notes
You know those conversations you have in your head? The ones that will probably never take place in real life? The ones where people (or just you) are saying horrible things about you? Have you ever written them down and then read them back to yourself out loud? It’s pretty powerful stuff I can tell you.
It is amazing how accepting we are of that voice in our heads. After all it has been with us a long time right? Why would we doubt it? It is so certain it knows what it is talking about. It is always there. It must be right.
But when you take that voice out of your head and put it on paper, when you give it a different voice – suddenly you start to question how true it is. You cringe a little at how hurtful if can be, how critical. You wouldn’t speak to your worst enemy like that (well maybe you would – but they might deserve it and you don’t).
If one of your friends spoke to you in the way that inner voice does, you would fall out pretty quickly.
So write it down. Put pen to paper. See that voice through a different medium and you will be surprised how quickly it loses it’s power.
Keep track of the things you do well
So whilst your inner voice is slagging you off, making you second guess yourself and generally causing havoc in your life – it is really difficult to focus on anything else.
Those things that you do do well are hard to detect amongst the deluge of negativity that is self doubt.
And so you come to believe that you really can’t do anything right. That you are not as good as the person sitting next to you. That it is all so much easier for everyone else. You buy into your own doubts and breed them.
A great way to negate this and balance it out is to start to look for and record the positives. Take note of and write down those things you have done well. At the end of each day do a little stock take.
Whilst often, at the end of your work day it feels like you have achieved nothing – that simply can’t be true or you wouldn’t still be in a job.
Track what happened. You sent emails, you finalised something, you chased stuff up, you gave customers what they needed, you sold stuff, you answered questions. Whatever your job entails – make note of what you have achieved that day, big or small.
You will soon start to notice the shift in your mindset.