How to reduce self-doubt and start believing in yourself

Doubting yourself again? Stop it! Your ideas are more unique than you could ever imagine.

Insead found that people “systematically underestimate their originality – a defining characteristic of creativity – throughout the ideation process”. We assume others are like us and think like us, and that that undermines our idea generation. Uncertainty creeps in at the beginning of the ideation process, and we start to doubt not only our idea but ourselves too. That means we don’t take the time to develop them or do our research.

An idea that might be ordinary in one field or market could be original in another. When we don’t know enough about the competition, we tend to assume others think like we do. It’s the false consensus effect.

As a freelancer, I’ve had to find ways to overcome self-doubt so I can confidently deliver new ideas to my clients.

Van Gogh is reported to have said, “If you hear a voice within you say ‘You cannot paint’, then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced”. By doing something regardless of what the voice in your head is saying, you’ll begin to silence your doubts and overcome your fears. And the more you do things when you doubt your ability, the more confident and skilled you’ll become.

Need more ways to reduce your self-doubt and start believing in yourself?

Limit procrastination time

Do the tasks you don’t want to do first. With the crap out the way, you’ll spend less time worrying about it and more time being productive. Most of the time, when it comes to actually doing something it’s not as bad as we’ve built it up to be in our heads. So grab a coffee (espresso, not Nescafe!), and get those awful things done.

Find your tribe

Freelancing can be an incredibly lonely thing. When you’re working in-house, you’ve got people around you to lean on, chat with, and learn from (unless you’re working from home thanks to a global pandemic, of course). Freelancers need that too. ⁠

There are a few ways to find your tribe. They could be an online community on Facebook or Twitter. Or you could start working from a co-working space and meet people IN REAL LIFE (OMG!)⁠

I found my tribe in a couple of Facebook groups, and through a mentoring program run by my local council. We support each other by listening, offering solutions when we’re stuck, sharing learnings and new perspectives, and talking about life, the universe and everything.

When you find your tribe, you’ll find a group of people just as scared to be trying something new as you are. But you’ll also find your cheer squad – people who know you can achieve whatever you put your mind to, and who aren’t afraid to remind you of that fact whenever you need to hear it.

⁠Recognise that self-doubt is part of being human

Everyone, even the most successful entrepreneurs, artists and celebrities, has experienced self-doubt at some stage. It’s part of being human. Pulitzer Prize-winning author John Steinbeck wrote in his journal, “I am not a writer. I’ve been fooling myself and other people.”

Don’t believe everything you think

Our inner voice exists to protect us. Our negative thoughts – “I can’t do that”, “I’m not smart enough”, “This isn’t a good idea” – are trying to keep you safe. Negative thinking is really good for helping us avoid life-or-death situations. But it’s also really good at stopping us from trying new things, taking on challenges, and believing in ourselves.

It takes great courage to challenge those thoughts with logic and win, and even more courage to blindly push through them and reach the other side.

Practice self-compassion

Remember that everyone stumbles sometimes. Mistakes happen. But that doesn’t mean you’re useless or flawed. You can have a bad day. Technology can fail. You need to forgive yourself for them and move on.

“Don’t beat yourself up for beating yourself up in the vain hope that somehow it will help you stop beating yourself up.”

Kristin Neff

Start before you’re ready

There’s no “perfect time” to start something – in life or in business. The idea that we aren’t ready prevents us from starting a project we’re more than capable of doing.

Women, in particular, suffer from this in their careers. As I’m sure you’ve heard, women only apply for jobs they meet 100% of the qualifications for, while men only need to meet 60% to feel confident enough to apply. And LinkedIn backed up this research with their own, showing that women are 16% less likely to apply for a job after viewing it than men, and apply to 20% fewer jobs than men.

So forget this “not ready”, “not qualified” thinking, and just dive in.

Train your brave

We build our confidence through the choices we make. When we get used to doing things that make us feel uncomfortable, we become more confident about taking on new tasks and tackling problems.

Think about attending interviews or pitching for projects. My first interviews way back when? I was a shaky, sweaty mess despite being more than qualified. But my last one? It was fun.

And I shook so much the first time I held a microphone to speak in public it hit my teeth (more than once), and then I dropped it. (This was way before mic drop was cool.) The last time I held a microphone I forgot it was even there.

We build our confidence and kill our self-doubt by doing. So do it! We don’t care if you’re a shaky, sweaty mess. We believe in you.

Boost your creativity

Find time each day to get your creative juices flowing. There are so many ways you can do this.

  • Head out for a walk in the sun.
  • Listen to podcasts that intrigue or entertain you.
  • Read blogs, news and books on how other people create, innovate and grow.
  • Paint, stitch, sew, sculpt, play and try new things.
  • Meditate and give your brain a rest for a while.
  • Try morning pages to get your brain babble and fresh ideas out of your head and onto the page every day.

The better and more relaxed you feel, the more your creative juices will flow, the more you’ll see the growth in your thinking, the more great ideas you’ll have, and the more you’ll believe in yourself. Just try it and see.

What are your best tips for shushing your self-doubt and letting yourself get out there, trying new things? I’d love to hear them.