Julie Tucker
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How to overcome self-doubt at work

Almost everyone has doubted their own abilities at some point. Whether we lack the confidence to speak up during workplace meetings or fear we’re not able to complete office tasks successfully, self-doubt is a human experience that we can all relate to.

Unfortunately, it can be very damaging at work, because while most of us are able to do our job, the actual feelings of self-doubt can impact mentally on our abilities, so it becomes something of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

How common is self-doubt at work?

Research shows around 70% of people experience self-doubt or “imposter syndrome” at some point in their careers. Imposter syndrome is a recognised psychological condition characterised by the experience of recurring thoughts. They include doubting your accomplishments, chalking success up to luck and fearing being exposed as a “fraud”. It is something that people with extreme self-doubt are likely to suffer.

The tech industry has the highest percentage of employees with imposter syndrome. Psychologists say this is because they constantly have to adapt to new technologies and infrastructures that few people have worked with before.

People with self-doubt are more likely to suffer burnout, stagnancy and general dissatisfaction with their job. They become more reluctant to seize opportunities, feel continually unprepared for assignments and may even turn down a promotion because they fear they’re not up to it.

Some describe their self-doubt as being like a small voice from within telling them they won’t be able to do something because they’re not good enough.

Can coworking help people overcome self-doubt?

As an entrepreneur or startup, it’s too easy to start questioning whether you’re doing the right thing. This happens when you no longer have the safety net of working for someone else – it can feel like a lonely and daunting time.

It can feel isolated working from home, an environment that can make self-doubt worse. Being based in a coworking space encourages you to collaborate and encourage one another. The atmosphere won’t let you lapse into self-doubt and sabotage your own efforts to be successful.

Managing self-doubt takes practice and time. You can’t eradicate it overnight. Whether you decide to work with a professional to analyse why you feel this way is entirely down to personal choice. Some people can lift themselves, while others may need help.

There are lots of steps you can take to start managing the problem.

Look for evidence

When you start doubting your abilities, look for evidence that this is the case. The chances are you won’t find any! For example, if you’re worried about giving a presentation in case you mess up, consider what evidence there is to support your fears. This should make you realise you do know your stuff and have spoken in the past at meetings, so why should it go wrong now?

You can even create a self-belief folder to remind yourself how great you are! Create a folder of positive emails, or screenshots of positive feedback, so you can read through them when doubting yourself.

Take small steps

You need to take time to build your self-belief. One way of doing this is to create small challenges for yourself. With everything you achieve, your confidence will grow. For example, try speaking up in a meeting, even if you feel nervous, to prove to yourself you can overcome your fears.

It isn’t easy to change the way you think, but it’s possible if you go about things the right way and recognise it will take time.

Harness your “inner cheerleader”

The next time your inner critic pops up to make you think you’re not good enough, counter this with your “inner cheerleader” to remind yourself of the times you have proved how capable you are.

If you’re struggling, imagine what you would say to a friend who doubted their own abilities. Say to yourself what you would say to them to boost their morale. Tell yourself, “I can do this.”

Talk to colleagues

In a coworking space, you’ll be surrounded by other business owners, entrepreneurs and teams who can help you to overcome self-doubt. Regardless of what industry you work in, everyone faces the same problems, so discussing how you feel with someone who understands can help you get through the times when you’re in a negative mindset.

Learn how someone else overcame their self-doubt and moved on to better things. When you engage with others in a coworking space, where there’s always a lot of energy and a positive outlook, this will improve your own energy and put you in a better frame of mind.

Avoid being a perfectionist

This may seem like odd advice, because surely everyone wants to be a perfectionist, but extreme perfectionism can be a symptom of self-doubt. If you don’t move forward with a project until it’s absolutely perfect in your eyes, this can indicate you’re spending too much time on that one task.

If you’re over-analysing and you don’t believe the work you’ve done is good enough, you’re doubting your own abilities. Check it through to ensure it’s accurate, but never spend days making minor tweaks, or you’ll start overthinking. Ask one of your team to take a quick look if you’re struggling, but don’t get bogged down by going over everything multiple times.

Once you start moving forward and overcoming the obstacles, it will gradually become easier to have faith in yourself again. A conscious shift in thinking, progressing from reactive to proactive, will open up a realm of new career opportunities. Believe in yourself: you can do it!


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