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How To Overcome Self-Doubt: 8 Tips to Boost Your Confidence

“Nobody can give you wiser advice than yourself.” ~Cicero

At one point or another, we all questions whether or not we are doing enough, making enough money, or if we are going to be “successful” enough. I know this firsthand, as I’ve spent long periods of my young adult life in a persistent state of fear and self-doubt.

When I graduated from college, I worked 60, 70, even 80 hours a week in a corporate setting climbing the proverbial ladder. In my mind, I thought that was success—even though it wasn’t what I truly wanted for myself.

I held onto dead-end jobs, toxic relationships, and draining friendships because I thought that if I left them, I’d be a quitter.

I doubted myself to the point that I was making my decisions based on what others wanted of me, and not what I wanted for myself. I was constantly struggling with confidence and always second-guessing myself.

What I’ve learned from my experiences is that if I don’t nip the self-limiting thoughts in the bud right away, this “woe is me” mindset can become debilitating.

I’ve discovered a few things in my work to help with self-doubt and boost my confidence that may help you too:

1. Stop comparing your accomplishments to your friends’ and colleagues’ accomplishments.

I find that I doubt myself the most when I’m comparing what I’m doing with what other people are doing.  When I compare my accomplishments to a colleague’s, I start feeling inadequate. Your colleague’s accomplishments are not a litmus test to grade your own success.

One key thing to remember when you find yourself in this mental pattern is that everyone is on his or her own journey.

I find that I am most successful in my personal and professional life when I am following what works for me, and what makes me feel good, even if it is different from what someone I look up to is doing.

2. Forget about what everyone else is thinking of you.

When you care about what everyone else is thinking of you, you inhibit yourself. You’d rather do nothing and not get judged, than do something and risk criticism.

Worrying about what other people think of you will continue to hold you back from doing something potentially huge for yourself.

If you hold dreams for your future—which you probably do if you’re reading Tiny Buddha—then at some point you have to let go of everyone else’s opinion, otherwise, you’ll find yourself in a constant state of self-doubt.

3. Just make a decision, and then correct your course as you go along.

Getting caught up in a decision is another surefire way to water the seeds of self-doubt. It’s very easy to get stuck in trying to make decisions. This back-and-forth thought process—questioning if you should go with option A or option B—can exacerbate self-doubt.

What is the cure for this? Just make a decision already! Usually your first reaction is going to be your best since it typically comes from a place of intuition rather from the ego, and before outside opinions get in the way.

Rainer Maria Rilke says, “no feeling is final” and I feel the same could be said about your decisions. Just make a decision, and then fine-tune your course along the way.

4. Write yourself a hand-written letter.

Sometimes a kind word or compliment from someone can totally bring me out of a slump, and I’m sure you’ve experienced a situation where someone made your day.

But what if you’re feeling low and unconfident, and no one is around to pick you up? Well, there will always be one person left to uplift you and that’s you. A great exercise that I’ve come up with is writing myself a hand-written letter.

This negative, doubtful, scared part of ourselves is our shadow side, and we all have one. And just as we have a shadow, we also have a light side, the positive, optimistic and productive self.

What I do is actually write a hand-written letter from my light side to my shadow side basically saying that everything will be okay, and I even list all of the things I have accomplished recently to help me feel better. (It really does work!)

5. Listen and/or read positive material on a daily basis.

One of my quick go-to ways to boost my confidence in a jiffy is to listen to some of my favorite self-development books.  My favorite sources are:

I’ll put the audio books on my iPod and listen to them when I’m walking to work, taking the subway, or just strolling out and about in the city. I find it gives me a nice reminder of my potential. It’s an instant pick-me up

6. Write in a gratitude journal at the end of each day.

It’s far too easy to wallow in pity and focus on what we don’t have rather than what we do have. Giving those feelings energy will only create more situations in which we come up empty handed.

Instead of focusing on what you are lacking, focus on what you do have, and what you have accomplished. This fosters a feeling of gratitude, and when you invest energy into gratitude now, you’ll start to find that you’ll be rewarded in the future.

Feelings of gratitude put you in a positive frame of mind. When you’re feeling positive, you’re feeling good. And when you’re feeling good, good things happen.

7. Identify your biggest fans, and then nurture those relationships.

No (wo)man is an island—meaning, you can’t do it all on your own. Sometimes all you need is a little reassurance, and your biggest fans are the people who do just that for you.

You first need to identify your biggest fans—the friends, family members, and peers who think you’re the cat’s meow, and who have always been there for you. Friend’s who tell you that you’re awesome, just because.

Then, put your energy into fostering deeper and lasting relationships with these people. We all have them, so nurture those relationships and draw strength and confidence from them.

8. Go to your mantras for support.

I have a set of mantras that I’ve come up with over the years that I basically repeat whenever I doubt myself. The mantras remind me of how far I’ve come, and that I’m doing great things for myself.

They also remind me to slow down, be easy on myself, and always listen to my heart.

One of my favorite mantras I use is, “You are loved.” Doubtful feelings can arise when we feel we’re not good enough, and that can stem from feeling like we are not loved. By repeating this mantra, I remind myself, that yes, people in my life do love me, that I am good enough, and that I need not doubt myself.

At one point or another, we will all find ourselves experiencing some sort of self-doubt; it’s part of being human. What I’ve learned as I continue on my own journey is that feelings of self-doubt usually arise when we aren’t fully feeling loved.

I’ve learned that by surrounding myself with my biggest fans, by focusing on my own goals, and by practicing gratitude I can experience love more deeply, minimizing feelings of self-doubt.

Photo by Arman Dz.

Avatar of Sirena Bernal

About Sirena Bernal

Sirena is a pilates instructor and nutrition coach based out of Boston, MA. Her specialty is teaching women how gain more confidence, increase energy, and lose weight without dieting and excessive exercising. She blogs regularly on her site, http://www.SirenaBernal.com.

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  • http://www.freehappinessspot.blogspot.com/ Chetan Sharma

    Forgetting what others think of you is a difficult thing to do, honestly. It is more easier said than done, because in the end we have to live among those people only. I’m not saying that you should do things always in approval by others, keeping a balance between the two viewpoints is required here. So it’s a pretty difficult task to have this balance.
    The point you wrote, going to our biggest fans, is what I always do whenever I’m in blue and it works all the time. :)
    A very nice post and while reading this I actually had my daily dose of reading something positive as you mentioned. Thanks for the wonderful insight Sirena! :)

  • ViridianGirl

    Wow, I really need to hear this today. Thank you!

  • lv2terp

    This is fantastic, thank you!!! :) Wonderful tips/reminders, thank you for sharing your wisdom! :)

  • CTAngels

    Amen!! Thank you for sharing your stories and wisdom. I

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=690393474 Gretchen Kron Dust

    Perfect timing for the fall blues!

  • http://twitter.com/all_the_steps Linda L.Christianson

    Thank you for sharing! This is encouraging and inspiring!

  • http://twitter.com/jaclynfett JACLYNFETT

    Great stuff here!!

  • http://www.sirenabernal.com/ Sirena Bernal

    Hi Linda! Thank you for your comment, I’m glad you enjoyed :)

  • http://www.sirenabernal.com/ Sirena Bernal

    For sure! Fall is a great time for self reflection :)

  • http://www.sirenabernal.com/ Sirena Bernal

    Hey there glad you enjoyed!

  • http://www.sirenabernal.com/ Sirena Bernal

    You’re so welcome, I’m glad you enjoyed!

  • http://www.sirenabernal.com/ Sirena Bernal

    It’s a great reminder for me as well.

  • http://www.sirenabernal.com/ Sirena Bernal

    Hi Chetan thank you for the note. I can understand that it is difficult to not care what others think, something I struggle with too. That’s why identifying your biggest fans is key!

    You’re off to a great start today w the positive reading material ;)

    Best always

  • http://www.sirenabernal.com/ Sirena Bernal

    Thank you, so glad you enjoy it :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/fionajohnstone Fee Johnstone

    I love point 7 – when you find out who your true friends are, remember to tell them you love them from time to time.

  • Kizel

    Thanks for this posting – we all need reminders from time to time to be kinder to ourselves and you provided this message beautifully.

  • Dana

    Hey this was most insightful … Thanks for sharing your story

  • Atul

    its toooo goodd, felng very confident

  • http://www.sirenabernal.com/ Sirena Bernal

    Thank you for your comment. This was I’ve had to learn the hard way after walking away from very dear friendships…made me realize I need to show gratitude for the people in my life who care about me.

  • jljski

    You touch on some very valid points. Excellent blog. Thank you for putting this out there!

  • Fin

    Very good words of advice, thank you

  • trish

    Thank you for sharing these warm words of encouragement. :)

  • CathyLove

    I totally agree with #7. Wonder if anyone has similar situation but I only have one friend who I can confide. While I treat her with respect she always put me on tentative. We used to be very close but as we grew older priorities changed so I’ve decided to let go…and this may not be a bad thing…I’ll focus on other fans like my family…

  • stali

    Many Thanks ! this just made my day

  • Zeejet

    As long as you define success by a personal gauge, the first few points make sense. Unfortunately for a lot of us, personal success is another word for “settling”. Success in reality IS comparison with others and separating yourself from others through superior achievement. If your personal definition of success isn’t to exceed the norm, then what is the point? Success if excelling and accomplishing. Never sell yourself short by saying “this is good enough for me to consider success”.

    I will agree with every other point here though; that you need to reinforce positive thinking and work ethic. It is possible to positive AND realistic. The average person can be extraordinary with the proper work ethic and state of mind. People who tell you that you will fail are haters and either don’t have the fortitude to strive higher or fear that their achievements will be diminished if more people like you succeed.

  • Lux

    What if we don’t have any fans, or the people you expect to be your fan is actually the person who puts you down often

  • vinay

    hey buddy,,, that writing the letter to myself was really really helpful… grrt… thank u, thnk u,,, thnkkk u……..

  • Lyra

    Maybe you’re looking at the wrong place? I think we have to be a fan of ourselves before we can have others as our fans. First, be the person you would love to hang out with, and then, eventually, more fans will come along. :)

  • Nguyen Minh Dang

    This is all what i need Thank you for sharing

  • Anon Ymous

    Thank you for writing this!!!! It helped me.

  • KA

    Really liked these tips! Thank you :)

  • rt

    Sirena love the idea on having mantras to support me,thank you.

  • anon

    I have a slightly more abstract self-doubt problem, I think. I never doubt my talent or ability, or that I’m a good person, I’m very confident about all of that. But I doubt my emotions and thoughts – so I doubt whether or not the emotion/thought I’m having is normal and then I’m worried about letting it affect me or other people finding out about it in case the emotion/thought is “crazy” or it clouds my judgement. I’m much more comfortable relying on total objectivity, but this is difficult because some things just aren’t objective. I don’t doubt things like my opinions when it comes to music, film, politics etc. – I guess what I doubt is my sanity. I’m really ashamed to have had mental health problems and I guess I worry that they’re not gone or that they might still be there and I don’t want to be “one of those people” any more. I know I shouldn’t look at it like that, but I’m finding it impossible to change that thought. Even though I can be compassionate towards friends who have mental health disorders, I don’t actually want to be around them, to be honest, and I notice that the friends I really like – and who are supportive of me – are very judgemental about people who I think are just in a lot of pain. So the shame, I guess, comes from the fact that I know it’s not ok to other people and that I will be judged for it. It feels like I can give myself all the compassion in the world (and I try to) but that won’t change reality – no one wants to hang out with a nutcase. My friends promise me that I’m not crazy at all and the vast majority of people describe me as a very positive, laid back person, very emotionally stable etc. (composed is what I usually get), but it just makes me feel like if they found out, I’d have to move house or something, I’d have to get out of the city and start again until someone else found out.

    I know it’s ridiculous, all this stuff, and the reason I know it’s ridiculous is because it is exactly these thoughts that make me feel bad and make me act “crazy” on the rare occasions that I do get like that (I have to be hit in the “you’re a weirdo” place before I’ll really go crazy, and fortunately that doesn’t happen very often). If I could just forgive myself and start believing my emotions and thoughts are ok and stop judging them – maybe even listen to my emotions sometimes – I’d feel better. But with all the mindfulness and meditation in the world, I’m finding it so hard!

  • anesehoward

    Hi! These are lovely words! I hate it when I come across plagiarism, so I thought I’d let you know that a girl named Ashy Bines stole this direct quote from you and posted it on her instagram. She did not credit you for it. Her name is @ashybines. You should have a look. Xoxo