Six Steps for Dealing With Self-Doubt Once And For All

by Ben Holt on March 1, 2012

Self-doubt is Insidious.

You start out with a great idea and begin doing the work to bring it to fruition. The idea gains traction and you gain momentum. You hit a milestone or two and maybe start getting feedback from your first readers/viewers/listeners. At some point you’ll hear this niggling little voice in the back of your brain.

“Unoriginal,” it says. “Who wants to see more of that drivel?”

But you keep pushing forward, writing, recording, drawing, editing. The idea is still good and fresh, and yet the voice of doubt persists; grows, even.

“What am I actually adding to the conversation? This is just more of the noise I myself hate seeing. Bleh.”

You slow down. The words and ideas don’t flow quite as easily. You miss a day. The 9-5 grind starts to look more appealing. After all, you can just follow the directions, like making a TV dinner. You miss another day.

Why is this happening?

After all, you love what you do. This is your passion, right? Well, it doesn’t matter. Nobody is immune to self-doubt.

“Someone else is already doing this better than I ever could.”

You do more busy work to avoid the more difficult task of creation. Things begin to feel just a bit more… empty.

I’m assuming that you want to continue.

So what can we do when self-doubt sets in?

Here are some things that have worked for me:

1) Recognize doubt for what it is: a primitive defense mechanism.

Nothing more. Your lizard brain is trying to protect you from failure, from ostracism. Humans are stronger in groups and those left on the outside will starve or be eaten. And, while that is just as bad as it sounds, it’s far from the reality of our modern society.

At this point, it’s best just to acknowledge it, laugh about it, then…

2) Remember your fans.

Re-read positive comments and emails. Think back to times when an idea which seemed obvious to you created a light bulb moment for someone else.

Remember: somebody will benefit from what you have to express. This is why I’m doing what I do. How about you?

3) Relive your best moments.

Remember your last victory? Even just a small one? Hold onto that memory, and think of the things you did to get there. Remember how it felt and what you learned along the way.  If you did it once, you can certainly do it again, probably bigger and better this time.

But don’t worry if it’s bigger or better, so long as it gets done. This leads me to…

4) Stop comparing.

Sometimes it’s easy to feel like you need to continually out do yourself or others. Stop that. Know what you do and do it the best you can. It’s more difficult to be an original when you’re busy watching everybody else.  Besides, we want to see what you have to offer.

5) Do less, but make it count.

Self-doubt can dig its claws in deeper when you’re buried in work. Say “no” to a few things for a while. Get the most critical one or two items done, then relax.

With the few tasks that you do choose to focus on, make sure they pack a wallop. Cut out the fluff and make each component of your work earn its keep.

6) Get back to the basics.

Along the lines of trying to do too much is trying to be too sophisticated or complex. If you’re seriously doubting yourself, it’s no time to try to push your limits. Leave the fancy stuff for later.

There’s beauty in simplicity.


Self-doubt doesn’t mean you’re on the wrong track – it means you’re about to have a breakthrough.

Until tomorrow, keep up the good work.

Next post: Making Hard Decisions Easy