What You Should Know about Self-Doubt


“Don’t ever doubt yourself because you can always do anything you put your mind to,” are the words I often tell myself and people around me whose thoughts are cornered by doubt. 

Growing up, I used to seek validation through everything and everyone around me. To make sure that whatever I was doing and about to do was fine, that I was doing good, and I did great. That I could conquer every obstacle I would face because back then, I was not very sure of myself. I doubted myself so bad that it obstructed me from growing. I was trapped by my doubt and fear that it controlled me from doing what I always wanted to do. My life was controlled by doubt and fear until I finally realize that what I had been feeling is what people called self-doubt

Before all of these, I was not aware of how harmful self-doubt can be. I thought that every doubt I had in my mind was indeed the truth, but in fact, my mind was not always right. So, in this article, I want to encourage you to recognize your doubt so that it won’t prevent you from growing to be the better version of yourself by defining self-doubt, knowing what causes it, and how to overcome it. 

Defining Self-doubt

Self-doubt can be described as a state of uncertainty regarding one or more aspects of ourselves. A feeling when we feel uncertain about the truth of anything: our thoughts, decisions, self-views, beliefs, or any “truth” that we have in our minds (Davis, n.d.). It is said that it is normal to experience self-doubt whenever we encounter new or challenging situations, but it does not mean that self-doubt is harmless.

Jennice Vilhauer (2020) in her article wrote that self-doubt stops us from being secure enough to dream bigger and take action to develop ourselves to live the life we always want to live. It prevents us from chasing our goals. Ultimately, if it gets too much, it can make us feel overwhelmed, anxious, unable to make clear decisions, demotivated, emotionally unstable, lack of self-esteem, and worse it can lead to depression. But, she also stated that “what most people do not realize is that self-doubt is caused by a chronic pattern of thinking that, once we know how, can be shifted.     

So, what causes self-doubt?

Based on Jennice Vilhauer’s statement in the previous paragraph, self-doubt is caused by a chronic pattern of thinking that we can control our thoughts once we are aware of how to do it. In addition to that, she also stated that there are two basic ways of thinking that lead to self-doubt: negative self-talk and selectively filtering our environment with a situation where it matches up with our negative self-image. 

“It is inevitable that if your head is filled with a loud inner critical voice and you are always looking for evidence to confirm that self-view, you will be filled with self-doubt.”

Another source also noted that it could also be caused by our prior negative experiences in life or from our attachment style issues. Those who grow up with insecure attachments may undergo things that can lead to self-doubt later in life. 

“If someone has been told in the past that they’re “not good enough” or incapable of something, then this can have a large negative effect on their self-worth. We also have a deep societal pressure to achieve, which can be more harmful than motivating for us.” 

Why should we know about self-doubt? How do we handle it?

After all of the research I did and the experience I have been through, I can say that being aware of the existence of self-doubt is important for us. If you are aware of its existence in your mind, you won’t be controlled by the doubt you have in mind. So, we will finally realize that we are the ones who are in control, not the other way around. 

You may wonder what we should do to handle self-doubt. But, worry no more! I am here also to give you some tips to overcome self-doubt! But before that, please take note that not all the steps I give will probably help you. If you find yourself still having a hard time quieting your mind from doubt, I recommend you to reach out and get professional help. 

Below are 8 steps you could do to overcome self-doubt!

1. Stop the negative self-talk 

Remember that we are the harshest critics of ourselves. Negative self-talk is the inner critical voice that scolds you harshly by saying things you would never say to anyone else besides yourself. You can stop this voice by noticing it first, then talking back to it. Every time you acknowledge your inner critic and talk back to it, the more control you will get over your mind. Please remember that the inner critic is not your authentic voice, it is not the reality. It is shaped by outside influences, such as your environment, society, people’s expectations, and even your family.

2. Surround yourself with supportive people

You can do this step by finding yourself a mentor or someone you trust to ask for advice, or simply just letting your heart out. Besides that, it is also important to have a group of supportive people. People that know your worth, support you, and encourage you to do better. People that want to grow together with you, because having a toxic surroundings could lead to insecurity, negative self-talk, and self-doubt that could prevent you from growing.  

3. Forgive yourself

By not dwelling on our failures, we can transfer the energy we spent on blaming ourselves, feeling guilty, and self-criticism into the positive aspects of our life and we can eventually move on, “because self-compassion is allowed.” So, forgive yourself like you will forgive others because you deserve the love you give to those around you. 

4. Set reachable goals that you can achieve

Why reachable goals? Because in life, we need the feeling of having purpose and feeling content with our accomplishments. So, give yourself a chance to try new things with realistic possibilities. Our goals should be able to move us to a new space outside our comfort zone, but always remember that we indeed can do anything, but not everything. So, be realistic. Take baby steps and don’t forget to reward yourself afterward.

5. Pay attention to your breath 

This step may seem insignificant, but the truth is finding your breath could keep you be in the present time. Whenever you feel overwhelmed, take a deep breath to reduce stress and self-doubt. Be here, in the present time. 

6. Self-reflection by writing it down

We all know that what is in our minds is abstract. We can’t exactly see the manifestation of our thoughts. The therapeutic act of writing by pouring your thoughts into words can help you figure out what is running through your mind. Because now, you finally can see your thoughts-both negative and positive-through the words you have written. That what you have thought is real; it is there inside your mind. 

7. Stop trying to please everyone

Do not place your happiness in the hands of everyone else, because people are hard to please. Whenever you fail to make someone happy, you will always end up feeling an extreme level of self-doubt. You will start wondering what you did wrong? Whereas truth, you did nothing wrong. So please, respect yourself first and prioritize your happiness. 

8. Seek professional help

Last but not least, if you feel your self-doubt is getting out of hand, that you can barely function in everyday life, seeing a professional may help you overcome your feelings of doubt. They will always have some form of therapy that can help to overcome self-doubt, one of them being Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) which is known as a popular form of therapy that can help specifically with self-doubt.  

All in all, what I can say to wrap this up is don’t be afraid to ask for help. Don’t let your doubt and fear control you, because being controlled by doubt is the most unpleasant feeling in the world. I have been there once, it may take time and won’t be one-hundred percent gone, but if there is a will, there is a way. You can always do everything you put your mind to. You will eventually get there, where you are finally free from being controlled by doubt and fear because by then you are finally the one who is in control.   

Further Readings:


Clemons, T. (2020). My Best Friend, Self-Doubt. Matter, 2(1), 7–9. https://doi.org/10.1016/J.MATT.2019.12.002

Davis, T. (n.d.). Self-Doubt: Definition, Causes, & How to Overcome It. The Berkeley Well-Being Institute. Retrieved March 27, 2022, from https://www.berkeleywellbeing.com/self-doubt.html

Eugene Therapy. (2020, October 29). 10 Tips to Overcome Self-Doubt. Eugene Therapy. Retrieved March 27, 2022, from https://eugenetherapy.com/article/overcome-self-doubt/

Jantz, G. L. (2015, July 1). 7 Ways to Beat Self-Doubt. Psychology Today. Retrieved March 28, 2022, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/hope-relationships/201507/7-ways-beat-self-doubt

Vilhauer, J. (2020, June 28). 2 Steps for Transforming Self-Doubt Into Self-Confidence. Psychology Today. Retrieved March 27, 2022, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/living-forward/202006/2-steps-transforming-self-doubt-self-confidence

Writer: Marsha Almira

Editor: Andrrea Zelina