5 Ways I Am Letting Go of My Crippling Self Doubt and Becoming a More Confident Person

All through my life, I have done pretty well on almost everything I have put my mind to. I won awards, prizes and registered record results at work and in my personal life. But none of that has ever been enough for me. I wanted admiration. I wanted my parents to be proud, my teachers to be impressed, my peers to be in awe. 

Almost everything I ever did was for the applause and not for the satisfaction of being good at something. Good grades in school, joining law school, everything of distinction I ever did, almost all of it was the joy of being congratulated.

I have never been addicted to or even drank any alcohol, never taken any drugs, never been into gambling or anything like that. But I have been terribly addicted to the approval of my family, friends, co-workers, bosses and just about any person I met.

I was hooked and when I did not get my fix, I was almost undone with self doubt. It was as if nothing I did mattered unless someone noticed. As if I wasn’t good enough until enough people said it. As if I could not do anything challenging until someone hyped me up.

As you can imagine, life after college is very hard for an affirmation junkie especially in the work place where recognition for doing a great job comes in the form of a paycheck at the end of the month. Worse still, when managing your own business, when times get tough and the numbers do not add up, there is not much you can look to for validation. 

Walking with a limp.

I am afraid of failing. It always feels like one little failure will break the fragile glass house reputation I have build over the years. That I will be uncovered as a fraud. ‘She was never as put together as she said she was,” I imagine them say.

This, I think, is essentially where my crippling self doubt comes from. The fear that I will wake people up to who I really am unless I tread lightly. So I shy away from trying things unless I am absolutely confident that I can learn them quickly and do them excellently.

There is a sort of anomaly about me in that, as much as I am often scared stiff of failing, I try anyway. My self doubt undoubtedly leads me to making wrong decisions and quitting too soon but it rarely stops me from trying. I know that I can do things even when I am scared. I call it walking with a limp. Self doubt and fear is like a limp. It does not mean I cannot walk.

Recently I have decided to face myself and to do some overdue inner work. Self doubt was one of my biggest source of anguish and poor decisions. Here is how I am learning to conquer it:

1. Clarifying desired outcomes.

Until recently, I had no idea what success meant to me and so I simply interpreted success as getting recognition for a job well done. Having a general idea of what it means to be successful for myself helps me to stop worrying about other people’s opinion and work towards something. Breaking this down into tasks I can do makes it even easier. 

Success to me means making a difference in the lives of those who need it the most, including members of my family. The tasks include working hard everyday to get a decent income to provide for my family and give to those who need it, volunteering at my church’s charity and educating myself more on effective ways to help. These tasks are subdivided into smaller tasks and so on until I have little to-do lists of things I can do and will try until I get it right.

Confidence comes from understanding and ignorance breeds fear.

In a job where you are not sure what your exact roles and responsibilities are, it is natural to always feel as if you are messing up somehow. It is hard to be confident that you are doing your job well when you do not understand what is expected of you. 

The solution here would be simply to read the job description and ask for clarification where there is ambiguity. The fact that you accomplish what you were hired to do should give you confidence that you are good at your job. Even if somebody else is achieving higher targets than you.

2. Experience

It will also build your confidence to become good at what you do.

Whenever I read my articles, I cringe. I have become a much better writer and that has given me the confidence to share my writing with the world. I expect to became even better. With experience comes mastery and with mastery comes confidence. 

Remember how scared you were the first time you drove a car. You had reason to have self doubt. You had a lot of potential to cause accidents. However, right now, you probably don’t even think twice before getting into a car to drive. Same with cooking, riding a bike and so many other things in life.

As a young adult, there are many things you are doing for the first time and it is normal to be apprehensive about starting your first job or your first business, dating seriously or managing your money. But you must walk with a limp here and you have to keep doing it and before you know it, you will be running.

3. Rethink Failure

Failure is an inevitable part of growing up. It can either be the thing that messes you up every time or the source of confidence and wisdom. 

When I quit my job to start a business, I was so scared that I would fail but I did it anyway and I failed, massively. I had always said that I was a strong person and that I trusted God with my life, but those few months when I had no money and no job to fall back on showed me that I was strong and I could rely on Him. 

Failing in my first attempt at business also taught me to be more strategic and to always come prepared for a fight when pursuing something worthwhile. 

Self doubt is a product of fear of failure or a pressure to succeed. You need to let these things go. Apply yourself to the process, give it your all and let the chips fall where they will. Often times, things work out okay. When they don’t, you learn valuable life lessons.

4. Stop obsessing over what other people think

The number one reason I had so much self doubt was because I had not learned to give myself pep talks and to be my strongest support system. I was so used to getting that from other people. There is a Bible verse that says, “encourage yourself in the Lord.”

I was always waiting to be encouraged and applauded. I was living for other people. I wanted to live my perfect life for them to see. To never fail publicly. 

Let go of your obsession of what people think of you and just live your life. Live responsibly even when nobody is watching and take risk even when everybody is watching. That is the essence of integrity.

Even in a work environment, determine to do your best work but that does not mean that you will not make mistakes or miscalculations. No matter how good you are at your job, when you make the wrong move, do not worry so much about being perceived as incompetent but spend your mental energy on finding ways to rectify the mistake and move on.

5. Kill perfectionism

Perfectionists are plagued with permanent discontentment. It is good to have high standards for yourself. But these standards need to be reasonable. Always focus on the progress made other than the result. 

Most perfectionist never see their progress or appreciate their achievements. They are hard on other people but even harder on themselves. Nothing is ever good enough for them and so they find it hard to have any confidence.

I am able to nit pick through my work and see all the things I could have done a little better. But I have learned to appreciate my work as a whole instead of only seeing the little parts that need improvement. That way I know that I am a good writer who still needs to learn something and who will get even better with experience. This way of thinking gives me confidence.

I do hope that you get the courage to do things even when they scare you. I hope that you get over wanting to impress everyone and actually put in more effort in trying to help as many people as you can and enjoy life as much as you can. I hope that you find something that is so important, so much bigger than you that no amount of fear or self doubt can hold you back.