Somewhere stuck between confidence and motivation lives self-doubt. Nestled deep within, doubt surfaces in moments of weakness. As a professional, doubt hurts emotionally, both at home and in your career.
We all deal with self-doubt differently. Some of us bury it so deep that it almost never comes out, while others have to wage regular wars with self-confidence to get through the day.
Recently, someone told me that my doubts were beginning to show and that those insecurities were jeopardizing some of my best qualities. So I set out to remove doubt from my life by looking at its cause and then developing a series of steps to help me reach my goals in a healthy way. I’ve listed those steps below:
Power appeals to our instinctual need of feeling in control. We associate it with success and respect and that leads us to compete with others, rather than work together. The less power we have as individuals, the more we doubt ourselves.
Tom Nixon, founder of NixonMcInnes, writes about corporate structure on Medium:
Masculine competition is built into the operating system. You have to compete with others to move up the chain of command. There are far fewer rewards for collaboration and compassion.
Many others have noticed, researched, and written on the challenges of current corporate management structures.
In fact, much of the reason why we all seek power is because we’re told it’s essential to success. We don’t feel that creativity, passion, and collaboration can help us reach our career goals. Therefore, we protect ourselves from self-doubt by seeking power over others, despite the harm it causes both in team development and in long-term career growth.
Lesson 1: Give up power and control for the greater good of the team or personal relationship.
Nowadays goals cannot be too out of reach or else we’ll set ourselves up for failure.
Back in 2014, when I was asked to set metric goals for the work I do, I greatly undershot what I knew was possible. Part of me didn’t even realize it until I took a second and looked at the data.
I didn’t set low benchmarks because I was afraid I wouldn’t reach them; I set the bar low because I wanted to look good every time I surpassed expectations. I thrive on praise, and by default, I look for easy ways to get approval from my team members. Looking back on this, I realize the biggest mistake in setting low goals is not that I painted a different picture to those around me, but that I limited my success by not pushing myself to strive for what may seem impossible.
Vineet Nayar, former CEO of HCL Technologies, summarizes this realization well:
Companies often have to consider doing what others believe is impossible; they can’t change radically by thinking within the boundaries of reason.
While Nayar is speaking to the need for corporate transformation in his recent Harvard Business Review article, his advice applies to individuals as well.
Lesson 2: Learn to set uncomfortable goals for yourself in spite of self-doubt.
Doubt forces us to compare our accomplishments and skills to those we perceive to be most like us. As if somebody else’s professional growth can impact our own.
But science tells us that this behavior isn’t all bad. According to recent research, we’re more motivated in the workplace by our frenemies (ambivalent relationships) than we are by our friends or enemies.
Measuring ourselves against those we see as our competition serves as a metric by which we calculate our self-worth. And when we see others reaching milestones, we react in fear and begin to question our goals and skills.
Lesson 3: Remember your goals are unique to you. No one else can achieve what you can, exactly, because you write your own script.
Doubt can hurt us, and we’ve let it hurt us before. But the more we work to overcome doubt and surrender our old ways of thinking, the happier and more successful we’ll be.
I’ve begun to make these changes in my life and have regained qualities I thought I had lost. I challenge you to do the same: Give up control, push your boundaries, and remember your goals are unique. With these lessons in mind, you’ll learn to doubt yourself less.
—Ted Karczewski is a writer and marketing strategist who focuses on bridging the gap between the creative and business worlds. Ted is the managing editor of the Content Standard, a media site covering creativity, innovation, leadership, and business transformation for Skyword, a content marketing platform and services company.