FANNING: Make your self-doubt become an advantage


By Ben Fanning, contributing editor  |  I know sometimes you doubt yourself.  I know that you loose sleep sometimes when you’re taking on a taking a business risk, preparing an important presentation, or when your back is up against the wall with the looming deadline of an ambitiously project.

And I know the familiar questions that probably come up in your head.  Can I really do this? What if I fail? What if I make a mistake that cost me my job or business?

Channel your self-doubt into something useful

There’s an alternative that most people never realize that can help you channel all that self-doubt into something really helpful.



It’s a technique that worked for me when I was preparing for an important presentation I made a little while back.

I remember feeling sort of lost in space then start questioning myself.  My self-doubt shook my confidence, kept me up at night, and started to zap the joy out of my preparation.  But then, when I worked through the steps I’m going to share with you I was able to refocus and even have fun with the task at hand.

I suddenly felt like self-doubt was an ally…heck it could even be a friend.  Here they are:

  • Appreciate your self-doubt
  • Pay attention to what it’s telling you
  • Take action

But here’s the thing about these steps. Even if you only get one of the three steps, your day will be a lot better. I’ll break down each step for you here.

Step 1: Appreciate your self-doubt

“To doubt is human.” Doubt is a basic human emotion that we all feel. Learn to recognize how it shows up for you and you’ll start to feel more at peace.

You can notice self-doubt as that nagging inner voice that says “can I really do this?”

Or it can show-up physically as the tingle in your chest or the tightness in your back when you think about an upcoming presentation, a complicated project, or even a big tennis match.

Instead of burying it or replacing it with some kind of fake confidence…try embracing it. Turns out, self-doubt even has some benefits:

  • It let’s you know there’s something else to learn.
  • It’s useful for your decision making process because it makes you more aware of the next step.
  • When you express it to others, it helps you connect over a shared human experience.

Step 2: Pay attention to what self-doubt is telling you

Too often when people experience self-doubt it’s leads to negative thoughts like “this is going to be bad for me.”  These thoughts can spiral out of control if left untended.

Instead of defaulting to the thought that this could be bad, consider that self-doubt is just telling you to pay closer attention.  What’s it telling your pay closer to attention too?

  • What can you prepare for?
  • Where do you need to focus most?
  • What should you prioritize?
  • What can you practice?
  • Where can you let go?

Step 3: Take action

Taking action is the final step that turns your self-doubt into confidence.

Once you’ve asked yourself what to pay closer attention to. It’s important to do something with that new understanding.  Instead of investing your time in worry or analysis paralysis, try one of these actions to move you forward and boost your confidence:

  • Learn something new
  • Ask for help
  • Practice the stuff that’s new

And that’s it! Now if that feels a bit overwhelming to you, I want to remind you that “Rome wasn’t Built in a Day.”

Again, you don’t have to adopt all three steps (although the combination is really potent).  Even taking on one can make a big difference in your work day.

Try this quick exercise

Here’s a quick exercise for you:

Where in your work are you experiencing self-doubt? Go through the steps above. See how it can increase your confidence level.


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