Princess Leia - Came over her fear of loneliness and learnt to love herself

3 Ways to outsmart Self-Doubt at work

Princess Leia - Tazeen Ansari
May 20, 2022

One of the most outstanding scientists of all time, Albert Einstein, used to call himself an “involuntary swindler”, whose work didn’t deserve that much attention. Even the award-winning writer Maya Angelou couldn't escape the niggling self-doubt that she hadn't really earned her accomplishment. “I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out”, that’s what she used to say, in spite of writing 11 books and winning several prestigious awards.

Self-Doubt is extremely common.

Though accomplishments like Angelou’s and Einstein's are rare, their feeling of self-doubt is extremely common. Why can’t we just get rid of these feelings that we haven’t really earned our accomplishments, or that our ideas or skills don’t deserve that much attention?

The first one to study this sense of insecurity was a psychologist named Pauline Rose Clance. She noticed how many of her patients who were students or were about to step into the professional world shared a common concern: even after scoring high grades and securing spots in prestigious universities, they believed they didn't deserve it all. Some even went to the extent of thinking it was an admission error. Clance could clearly remember how she felt the same way in graduate school.

What does self-doubt looks like?
So where do these feelings of self-doubt come from?

People who are well skilled tend to think others are just as skilled, pulling them into thinking if they really deserve opportunities over others. And just like Angelou and Einstein, there’s no particular level of accomplishment that puts these thoughts at rest.

Feelings of self-doubt aren't just restricted to highly skilled people, either. We each doubt ourselves privately, but since no one is voicing their thoughts, we believe we’re alone in thinking that way. We don’t really know how hard our peers are working, how difficult they find certain tasks, or just how much they doubt themselves, which makes coming out of this feeling of incapability quite hard. And this very self-doubt prevents a lot of great ideas from coming to the surface, and a lot of talented people from applying for a job where they would have excelled otherwise.

So far, one of the best and proven ways to combat self-doubt is to talk about it. People going through this fear that if they openly ask or talk about their performance, their fear of being average will be confirmed. And even if they hear good words about their work, it fails to put their mind at ease. But hearing about the struggles and experiences of their seniors or mentors can help relieve those feelings. Even simply finding out that they’re not alone in this brings great sense of relief.

Here are 3 practical tips on how to keep those self-sabotaging thoughts at bay, and get a quick boost of confidence along the way:

  1. Fake it till you make it: For that immediate boost of confidence, picture yourself winning before even beginning the challenge. Strike a superhero pose for 5 mins, or listen to your favourite deep bass music, which promotes feelings of power.
  2. Believe that you can improve: There’s this concept of “fixed mindset” and “growth mindset”. People with a fixed mindset tend to give up before even meeting the setback because they believe they’ve met something they’re not good at. But with a growth mindset, setbacks are considered an opportunity to learn and grow. With a growth mindset, you’ve already won half of the race.
  3. Embrace failure: Don’t run from it. Face it. We all fail sometimes. And studies show that people who fail every once in a while and don’t give up on trying again are better at responding to setbacks in a more strategic way. They are open to constructive criticism and accept failures with wide open arms.
One of the most crucial aspects of dealing with self-doubt is having open conversations about academic and professional challenges. With increasing awareness of how common these feelings are, perhaps we can feel freer and be more transparent about our worries and start to believe in some common truths - you’re talented, you have what it takes, and you belong. And, remember -
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