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How self-doubt is stalling your career growth – and how to overcome it

You’ve been in your current job for several years. Yet you never speak up in meetings, and you keep your ideas to yourself. You’ve never petitioned for a raise or negotiated a salary increase. You always ask your coworkers for a second opinion. Even though you’re not happy with your career, you avoid networking meetings, and you don’t apply for the job you really want or pursue the career path you’re truly passionate about.

Sound familiar? These are all ways self-doubt can stall your career growth. Your fear keeps you playing small and staying in a safe but (incredibly) unfulfilling job instead of making changes and finding the right career.

Everyone experiences self-doubt from time to time–world-class athletes, famous celebrities, successful business owners–but when the thoughts prevent you from taking action or improving your situation, you’ve got some work to do.

Here’s how to overcome your self-doubt and propel your career.

Realize it’s in your head.

Choosing to believe the thoughts of self-doubt can easily stop you from pursuing your best career. You might spend too long in a job you dislike because you feel unqualified for a new career you’re more passionate about or unconfident in your interview skills. You might feel like you haven’t contributed much or your resume isn’t strong enough. You see your coworkers get salary bumps and promotions for the exact same ideas you had but were too afraid to share. Your doubt about your capabilities could prevent you from asking for a promotion or even from making connections that could further your career.

But self-doubt is self-inflicted. The sooner you understand you’re your own worst critic, your feelings of imposter syndrome are unwarranted, and your fear is just your own demons rearing their ugly heads, the sooner you can overcome it. Because self-doubt is absolutely something you can manage.

Ask why. Repeatedly.

If you’re ready to overcome self-doubt, the first step is to figure out the root cause of your fraudy feelings. Sometimes self-doubt stems from low self-esteem, a lack of confidence, or a bad experience you had, but you need to find the source before you can fix the problem.

One of the best ways to do this is a simple exercise that involves asking yourself “why” several times.

For example, let’s say you’re always hesitant to speak up in meetings. You ask yourself, “Why do I doubt myself when trying to speak up in a meeting?” You might answer, “Because I don’t know if what I’m saying sounds smart.”

That answer then becomes the basis of the next question: “Why do I think what I’m saying isn’t smart enough?” Maybe because you’re not confident in your abilities and think that your coworkers are smarter and have more impressive credentials.

Then, you ask, “Why do I think they’re smarter and have more impressive credentials?” Your answer could be, “Because I feel like they know exactly what they’re doing...or at least they seem like they know what they’re doing.”

Your next question is: “Why do I think other people know what they’re doing?” You could be making an assumption. You might realize you’re comparing yourself to your colleagues, but it’s actually illogical. You have a track record of success! Your coworkers are just people sharing their opinions–and what they’re saying isn’t necessarily right. So you should speak up about what you think, too!

Keep asking yourself why until you find a source. (Hint: It’s usually a story you’re telling yourself based on something that happened in your past.) Once you’re clear on where the self-doubt is coming from, figure out why it’s illogical.

You can do this by writing down this sentence: “My self-doubt is illogical because…” and then listing out reasons why. You should be able to find several reasons. Using the speaking up in meetings example, you might find your self-doubt is unfounded because your coworkers always praise you for your ideas and appreciate your willingness to brainstorm.

Manage your thoughts.

Now that you know where your self-doubt is coming from and why it doesn’t make sense, your next step is to design a plan so you can continuously work at preventing it.

What will you do when you feel the self-doubt creep up again? Is there a phrase or sentence that can help you remember why the self-doubt is illogical? Do you need to start a mindset or journaling practice to help you work through your feelings?

Set aside time each week to reflect on your accomplishments and positive feedback you’ve gotten. This simple practice will help you see that you are smart, capable of choosing (and succeeding in) a new career, and a valuable addition to any team. You might even start to see that no one else is doubting you!

Self-doubt can be good–if it drives you to be better or learn something new. But if you find you’re listening to the voices in your head too much, it’s time to confront your self-doubt and banish the negativity for good.

Have you been successful in overcoming self-doubt, or are you struggling with it? If you're looking to overcome your self-doubt, learn how our career coach can help you by booking a free consultation.

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