Starting a business can be daunting, and all-too-often, we consider self-doubt as the enemy of action or success, because it reminds us of all the things that could go wrong. However, what happens when we change the narrative? Consider self-doubt as an ally in your business journey. It keeps you listening to ever-vital feedback, and can encourage you to ask yourself those all-important questions when you’re taking big decisions.
Dr. Suzanne Doyle Morris is a best-selling author amongst professional women, and someone who has done over 2500 hours of executive coaching with her clients. She has coached hundreds of professional women, most of whom have asked how to have more confidence, a question often asked on her ‘Get a Promotion in 6 Months or Less’ programme. Turns out, she says- we’re looking at it all wrong. Instead of wanting more confidence, we should be embracing our self-doubt. After all, if you manage it right, it can pay dividends towards proving your competence, the key factor in feeling more confident. Keep reading – it will all make perfect sense!
I’m going to give you 3 of the best ways you can have confidence by embracing your self-doubt. Read until the end to understand what the one or possibly two personalities whom you share a bed with (if you are like me) are telling you about the value of self-doubt in the middle of the night.
Our biggest mistake is thinking that successful people somehow magically just have more confidence, but often they’re just successful in getting others to THINK they have more confidence. They are experts in using their self-doubt to their advantage, and becoming more competent in the areas in which they are lacking.
So instead of only striving for more confidence, here’s how you can use your self-doubt to your advantage.
Self-doubt is productive for three key reasons.
First, it keeps you trying harder. In theory, having a lot of confidence sounds great, but it most often stops that drive to improve. In fact, confidence and competence are inversely related, which means the more confidence you have, the less likely you are actually work on improving your competence.
So the tip here is to think about how YOU are representing yourself, proving your knowledge and answering questions whether it’s in business meetings, or questions from clients.
Share a story explaining what you did or learned form a particular experience. Frame your answers as something evidence-based, not solely on how you feel about a topic. Using story to illustrate, your competence in the topic will shine through, and people will value your experience way more than interpreting your answers as your ‘feelings or opinions’ – a common way women are dismissed when speaking on a topic.
The second reason you should embrace self-doubt is that it prevents you from taking risky liberties. The public downfalls of businesses are often related to leaders acting as if they were above the law or that their judgement shouldn’t be questioned. Confidence can quickly turn ugly, and give people a sense they’re beyond reproach – which again, should be a concern for businesses both from a reputational, not to mention financial damage, perspective.
So the practical tip in this one is think back to a decision where second guessing yourself actually led to a better result than it would have done, if you’d confidently blazed ahead assuming you were in the right.
We all have moments of doubt, so don’t fear the feeling. Instead be afraid of the people who say they’d do everything all the same again. Sure, making mistakes can make you better, but you have to be self-aware enough to ensure you don’t make the same mistakes again – and that self-awareness is only helped if you have a bit of self-doubt!
The final way to embrace self-doubt is by using it as the amazing self-awareness tool that it is.
This is where a journal comes in, and the fastest way to re-frame the challenges of the day. If your self-doubt is causing you anxiety, start a gratitude journal ‒ list out three things that happened that day for which you are grateful and one thing you can do tomorrow to address a worry. By reflecting on your doubts or anxieties, you can turn them into something more productive, helping you fix the “niggles” which are holding you back. This is where it pays to have a tough conversation with a colleague or in my case, the client, who I worry has been ignoring me. That’s only when I discover the obvious truth – they have other priorities too and almost never avoiding me that way I assumed they were.
By using self-doubt to turn those negative thoughts into productive actions, you can embrace that questioning voice in the back your head, and turn it into a crucial ally in your journey to start up a business.
Once you’re more aware of the specifics that are keeping you up at night, you can address them – usually by becoming more competent in them… which if you don’t already know… will lead you to having more confidence.