Four Steps to Overcoming Self-Doubt

» Posted by on Jun 16, 2013 | 10 comments

Four Steps to Overcoming Self-Doubt

Self-doubt and lack of confidence arise from the way we see ourselves, and the way we see ourselves comes from the thoughts we have about ourselves. 

We often describe ourselves as ‘Oh I’m useless’ or ‘I’m such an idiot’. These descriptions particularly come up when we need to step out of our comfort zones. We make judgments on ourselves we would never make of others in the same situation, and this dialogue goes on in our heads for many hours a day till it feels like the ‘truth’. 

Step 1

Write down all the negative descriptions you’ve made about yourself either in your head or when talking to others. This might bring up some emotion but go with it – the next step will help you work through this.

Your thoughts might go something like this:

  • I’m too short
  • I’m a hopeless housekeeper
  • I can never say no to anyone
  • I’m such a blabbermouth
  • I’m a lousy cook
  • I have fat thighs and crazy hair
  • I am so wishy-washy
  • I’m getting more and more forgetful, I lose everything
  • I’m clumsy and I’m always late.

Write down as many self-criticisms as you can come up with. It can help to imagine yourself in a new situation that makes you uncomfortable so you can tap into the thoughts as though they’re happening now. Once this list is complete, go immediately to step 2.


Step 2

Read through all the thoughts you came up with in step 1 that stop you from feeling confident about yourself and your abilities. Do they sound accurate? Are they totally true? Usually these thoughts are extreme and not based on reality. 

Go through each one and change the wording to something factual, what you would say if you were a totally objective observer. What’s the real truth? What would an objective person actually see?

Here are some examples:

  • I’m too short = I’m 5ft 3
  • Crazy hair = Thick curly hair 
  • Fat thighs = 21 inch thighs
  • Can’t say no = Difficulty saying no to friends when they ask for help
  • Blabbermouth = Twice in the last month I told something I shouldn’t have
  • Lose everything = Once or twice a month I lose the car keys
  • Hopeless housekeeper = Dishes don’t get done every night, dining room table gets paperwork piled up on it during the week, I do a major clean-up on weekends

 Remember, we’re not looking for positive affirmations here – just the objective description of the way it really is.

This is an important step to master if you want to overcome your self-doubt.


Step 3

Once you’ve identified the objective truth about yourself and your abilities, try putting these observations into one descriptive paragraph about yourself.

For example: I am five foot three with thick curly hair and 21 inch thighs. I don’t enjoy housework or paperwork much and I let it build up during the week. I have difficulty saying no to friends when they ask for help, and twice last month I shared something I shouldn’t have. Sometimes I can’t find the car keys.

You can see how much more accurate, not to mention kinder, this is than:

I’m short with fat thighs and crazy hair. I’m a blabbermouth, I lose everything, and I can’t say no to anyone. I’m also a hopeless housekeeper.


Step 4

Now that you’ve outlined the accurate truth about yourself as you are today, you’ll need to reprogram your thoughts with this in mind.

Each time you hear yourself thinking or saying ‘I’m useless’ remind yourself that this probably isn’t accurate. You’re probably really good at some things, and struggle with other things, like all of us.

Remind yourself what’s really true – for example, when we say something ‘always’ happens, it’s probably more accurate to say it happens 25% of the time. When we say ‘everybody does this’, it probably translates to ’3 people at work did this’.

Be vigilant with your self-talk and keep it real. We’re not looking for positive affirmations, just objective language that describes what is. 

This helps us accept ourselves more as we are, and it also shows us areas we might decide to work on. If we say we’re ‘hopeless at housework’, that doesn’t leave us anywhere much to go with changing things.

It can help to write some of your objective self-descriptions out and put them up somewhere so you can see them regularly. The more you read them and say them to yourself, the more you’ll notice your thoughts about yourself changing. 


Useful Tips

If you need more time, you might like to go over the steps with someone who knows you well so you get an extra perspective.

If you’re feeling stuck and couldn’t identify any unhelpful thoughts, you need to go deeper. Believe me – if you’re doubting yourself, it’s not because you’re not good at things. It’s because you believe you’re not. You can’t change those false beliefs until you identify them.

Remember that the things we learned about ourselves as we grew up may not allow us to see or express ourselves clearly. Don’t stop working on this until you’ve got a more realistic view of yourself that you can begin to trust.


There are more activities in my e-kit Reclaim Your Truth – ten modules designed to help go even deeper into the real truth about yourself. Our old stories get so entrenched they feel true, but we CAN flush them out!


image courtesy of


  1. Leanne, You are so right when you say we often generalise our thinking to ‘everything, everyone or always’! and then believe that! it is so helpful to begin to notice objectively, the real truth.
    I like the way you have clearly identified the steps to change the thinking.
    Julie Rowlands recently posted…This is real…top tips for the rough bitsMy Profile

    • Thanks Julie, glad it was clear!

  2. Great post, Leanne. We are so critical of ourselves, and the truth is very different. Although when I read “fat thighs = 21 inches,” I had to laugh. Please up that a few inches! :-)
    Amethyst Mahoney recently posted…3 Business and Life Lessons from “Oz, the Great and Powerful”My Profile

    • Haha we talk in centimetres here so I’m not sure what 21 inches looks like. I do have clients though who think their very normal size thighs are ‘too fat’ so it’s good to be able to be objective at any size :)

  3. Changing our self-talk is so powerful! Yet it can make all the difference.

    Why is it always our thighs? !
    Darlene Cary recently posted…How to Create (Most) Days You LoveMy Profile

    • Those damn thighs! :)

  4. Great post (as always!), Leanne.

    One of the things I’ve learned to do is rephrase negative “I am” phrases with something that’s less permanent and not related to my core identity.

    For example, instead of “I am lazy”, I might say “I’m finding it hard to motivate myself”. Instead of saying “I am fat”, I try to say “Right now, I’m carrying more weight than I’d like to be”. And instead of saying “I’m totally useless at follow through” I might say “I’m having a problem following through on what I say I’ll do”

    By talking about a challenge in terms of how I’m experiencing it, rather than who I am as a person, I’m allowing the possibility for it to change. I’m also not making it a judgment of myself.

    I may still be having the difficulty, but at least I’m not also making myself miserable without actually changing anything!


    Tanja @ Crystal Clarity recently posted…4 things my UK trip taught me about making decisions and creating dreamsMy Profile

    • Thanks Tanya, I like that approach – it makes it less permanent and less personal. Most of our personality characteristics are really just a collection of behaviours, so ‘I am’ doesn’t really allow us the freedom to make changes.

  5. Loved this! Thank you for posting, I needed this reminder today!
    Dominee recently posted…Business + DepressionMy Profile

    • Glad it helped Dominee :)