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No Doubt: 4 Things You Must Know to Keep Self-Doubt From Winning

You can’t do it.

It’s no use.

You’re just not good enough.

Now ignore those first three sentences, because there’s no legitimate reason to doubt yourself. On the clock or off, we often become our own worst enemy, allowing self-doubt to creep in and consume our thoughts when we least need them.

In today’s world, it may happen more than ever, “thanks” to the omnipresence of social media. Scrolling through your Facebook or Instagram feed can make you think everybody is doing life better than you.

They’re not. You’re looking at a carefully curated “greatest hits” reel versus a warts-and-all documentary. And their successes neither undermine nor cancel out your own. You’re simply giving in to self-doubt.

But you don’t have to. And to know the following four truths is to don a coat of mental armor, piece by piece.

1.You’re not the only one

Hey, self-doubt happens to the best of us. The operative word there is “us,” as in “all of us.” To quote a Rolling Stones hit from 1989, you’re not the only ship adrift on this ocean.

Certainly you’ve heard the adage that admitting you have a problem is half the battle – granted, completely different circumstances, yet the idea remains the same: Only after acknowledgement and acceptance can you move forward.

Self-doubt can manifest itself as “the impostor syndrome.” In simplest terms, that’s when your brain convinces you that despite your accomplishments, you are a joke, a phony.

A couple of years ago, one incredibly successful man told NPR this: “No matter what we’ve done, there comes a point where you think, ‘How did I get here? When are they going to discover that I am, in fact, a fraud and take everything away from me?’ … It’s a high-wire act that we all walk.”

And that man was certified American treasure Tom Hanks. Tom Hanks! So relax: You’re in great company.

2. It’s only natural

 Paraphrasing a famous tagline for Maybelline cosmetics, maybe we’re born with it. Except strike the “maybe.”

Mind you, fear is completely natural; we emerge from the womb with it pre-wired. While we cannot rid ourselves of that emotion – or any emotion – entirely, we can learn how to overcome it when it does rear its ugly head.

As renowned psychologist Dr. Steven Hayes wrote in the 2011 book The Confidence Gap, “It is hard to be a human being. It is not hard because we have few resources, or because horrific things happen to us, even though sadly that occurs. It is hard for us all because it is tricky to have our logical minds – the source of our greatest strength and achievement – so seductively invite us into a trap.”

A little uncertainty about your potential is actually good. Last year, a scientific study published in the journal Psychology of Sport and Exercise found that “some self-doubt may be beneficial” as a motivating factor. And that makes sense: If everything were easy, would drive exist?

3. This, too, shall pass

Taking inventory of your insecurity is a simple exercise that breaks down the complex. First, make two lists:

  • On the first, write your most significant accomplishments.
  • On the second, write what you fear.

Then compare their contents as you ask yourself this question: How has anything on the second list kept you from achieving anything on the first?

Your achievements are forever. Fear, however, is fleeting; you have beat it before and will do so again and again.

4. Talk is cheap, so invest heavily

There is a reason Al Franken’s character of Stuart Smalley became a Saturday Night Live staple throughout the 1990s: Because, despite Smalley’s exaggerated personality, we recognized a bit of ourselves in him.

You may not have said Smalley’s exact words of “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me” – or maybe you did, we’re not judging – but who among us hasn’t given ourselves a pep talk at one point or another?

And there is a reason pep talks are “a thing”: They work. Again, science says so, per a study published in a 2006 issue of the Journal of Applied Social Psychology.

See, your own worst enemy also can be your biggest cheerleader. No one has more skin in the game than the person facing you within the mirror. So trying to close a huge deal? Psych yourself up. Interviewing for a dream job? Psych yourself up. Speaking in front of a crowd? Psych yourself up (and heed the sage advice of TV dad Mike Brady if you think it’ll help).

Because you are good enough. You are smart enough. And you know the rest.