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How to Minimize Self-Doubt

Image by Nick-K (Nikos Koutoulas) (license).

.Self-doubt can be a troubling and persuasive voice that holds you back.

It holds you back from seizing your opportunities. It makes getting started or finishing things harder than they need to be.

It can sometimes be useful as it helps you to soberly see your current limitations or simply recognize a half-baked or bad idea. But mostly, it holds you back.

So how can you get around that, how can you keep your self-doubt to a minimum? In this article I’ll explore a couple of habits that have helped me to decrease that destructive inner voice.

Talk back.

When your inner doubts bubble up, be quick. Don’t let them spin out of control or grow from a whisper to a stream of discouraging sentences. Instead, talk back to that doubtful part of yourself.

In your mind, say or shout something like:

  • Stop it!
  • That’s just stupid and not true!
  • No, we are not going down that pointless road again!

By doing so you can stop that inner self-doubter from taking over. And after you have talked back you can refocus on the possibilities and reconnect with the optimistic side of things again.

Look to the past and awash yourself in the memories.

Another good way to to handle the self-doubt when it creeps up is to look to the past. To be real with yourself and ask yourself: how many times when I doubted myself or feared something would happen did that negative thing come into reality after I still took action?

The answer for me and probably for you too is: not very often at all.

Self-doubts are most often just monsters in your head that your mind may use to keep you from making changes and to keep you within the comfort zone. If you look to the past and see how well things have gone many times despite those self-doubts then it become easier to let go of them or ignore them and to focus on the more likely positive outcome and to take action.

Talk to someone about it.

When you keep your thoughts on the inside they can become distorted, exaggerated and not very much in line with reality or reasonable expectations.

This is very much true when it comes to self-doubting thoughts.

So let them out into the light. Talk to someone close to you about your self-doubts.

Just letting them out and saying them out loud can often help you to hear how exaggerated these thoughts have become. And by talking about those doubts with someone that is supportive you can get a change in perspective.

Keep a journal.

Keeping a journal can be helpful for many reasons. When it comes to self-doubts it can help you to:

  • Keep a realistic record of your life. And help you to remember the positive things and successes you have had if you are prone to remembering things with a negative slant.
  • Let out your doubts and thoughts into the light. The journal allows you to do that in way if you have no-one to talk to about your problem or if it is something you do not want to share with someone at that moment. Doing this can alleviate some of the doubts as you  let them out of your mind and on to the paper or computer screen.
  • Think about an issue and to gain clarity. It is often easier to alleviate fears and doubts and to gain clarity if you have an issue laid out on paper or in a computer document rather than if you try to go through it all in your mind. By making lists of pros and cons, going through your thoughts and emotions and similar events from the past and by writing down different perspectives on the issue it becomes easier to find solutions and to see your challenge in a clearer and more level-headed way.

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  • BalunS March 2, 2012, 10:13 pm

    Getting into a yelling match with myself in my head or on paper, hasn’t worked very well. My self-doubt puts some really nasty spin on my own memories so that doesn’t work. Now if I had a supportive person in my life talking to someone about it might actually work, but usually they just want to solve my problem and get me out of their hair so they can get on with it.
    What has helped me banish self-doubt for a few weeks at a time is to out-snark the snarkiness of my own self-doubt. Create your own worst but honest review of the situation or plan or whatever and I found that it tends to shut up the self-doubt for a few weeks, just because it can’t think of anything worse then that. But it allows me to get some work done.

    • Henrik Edberg March 5, 2012, 10:35 am

      Yes, what works for one person may not work that well for another. Thank you for sharing what works for you.

  • Galen Pearl March 3, 2012, 5:14 am

    I really like the “stop” technique. Sometimes I even say it out loud to myself. It breaks that inner chatter. Great advice.

    • Henrik Edberg March 5, 2012, 10:37 am

      Yeah, I say it out loud too sometimes. And after you have used it to break the inner chatter I find that is often relatively easy to refocus your attention on more positive things or optimistic points of view.

    • Tony March 8, 2012, 10:43 am

      I’ve noted being an observer of the self doubting thought is helpful, since my aim is not to become invested in or identify with it. The moment I do so, I yield power to it.

  • Betty the Hippo March 3, 2012, 1:53 pm

    I think that it’s important to accept that you are doubting yourself. We all do from time to time, it’s part of life (unless you’re a psychopath).
    Think: “Okay, so I doubt if this is the right thing to doo, or that I’m gonna make it. That’s only natural.

    But I’m gonna do it anyway!”

    Jäkligt snygg site!

    • Henrik Edberg March 5, 2012, 10:39 am

      Good one, acceptance is helpful in many situations and as you say, some doubt is only natural.

      Och tack så mycket! :)

  • Justlife March 3, 2012, 3:54 pm

    Find the reasons why you want to achieved the goal and write it down in your planner or paste on the wall. These reminders help me to reduce the doubts or worries and move on.

  • Daphne Gray-Grant March 3, 2012, 7:28 pm

    Some great suggestions in here, Henrik! I think they are particularly important for writers. So many people write with a negative voice chattering in their brain saying things such as, “This will never be good enough,” or “my boss/client is going to HATE this,” or “my writing is soooo boring.”

    That’s no way to write!! It’s really important to tell that voice to stop. If it won’t listen to you then make a deal with it. Say, I’ll talk to you when I’m editing, NOT when I’m writing. That usually works for me.

    Thanks for raising this important issue.

    • Henrik Edberg March 5, 2012, 10:43 am

      Thanks a lot!

      I agree, that negative voice can easily get to you when you write. So thank you for adding the tip about making a deal, sounds like it could be quite effective.

  • Geraldine March 3, 2012, 8:08 pm

    talk back to ourselves…good advice as long as we stay on a positive keel. it’s so easy to downplay our good points and play up the bad ones. very good advice here as usual. something to keep in mind on the “doubting” days.


  • DVineWrite March 4, 2012, 6:25 pm

    So happy I found your blog. Keep inspiring our lives, Henrik! The world needs more people like you. God bless you

  • Robin March 5, 2012, 11:43 pm

    The destructive inner voice is the ego and will eventually dissipate if you remain aware of it with sufficient intensity. I am a strong believer in the teachings of Eckhart Tolle and his methods regarding seperation from the ego through sustained attention. To be able to listen to the voice in your head impartially is the greatest of skills and – like everything else in this life – gets far easier with practice.
    No-mind is the reward and it is blissful.

  • Jeromy March 6, 2012, 1:40 am

    Great suggestions! A lot of self-doubt seeps in without recognition. It can simply be considered a part of one’s normal thought process. Recognizing it is key to realizing the negativity that it creates and starting to change that. Realize and then adjust. Instead of focusing on it, which almost encourages negativity, focus on the upset, what is positive about the situation, how you can affect or change it, and move on. Look up!


  • Kris March 6, 2012, 9:53 pm

    This is a great post – thank you for the tips on how to break those cycles. My inner critic often taunts me! I also find it helpful to picture whatever is troubling me as a small point on a larger grid of life. If you can visualize how this (insert negative thought/scenario/problem here) is just a blip on the radar of life, it can help put things into perspective. The “stop” technique is also very helpful for me too.

  • kiapop March 7, 2012, 3:22 am

    Thank you kindly, Henrik. I appreciate your help and assistance in sculpturing us into positive and more adjusted beings. With love kay

  • Bellaisa March 7, 2012, 10:54 pm

    I like to look to the past. I find that I remember other times that I was doubting myself and succeeded. I even have a statue of buddha sitting on my desk that reminds me of the very first time I took a risk online that had self-doubt all over it…and succeeded (the situation had to do with a website called tiny buddha so…)

  • Priscilla March 8, 2012, 5:52 am

    Very true, I use the stop technique always, acc to Rhonda Byrne, Thank u for ur reinforcement

  • Ian March 8, 2012, 10:10 am

    These self doubts are often called “Fear” but this is not the true meaning of fear. We (most of us) very rarely encounter fearful situations. The day to day stuff we call fear is really an anacronym (that I can’t spell!!!) that is:


    Now who is really afraid of an ancroynm?

  • Dominica Applegate March 8, 2012, 2:56 pm

    hey there! i find that when i am tired i tend to be more negative and believe those negative thoughts, but i am learning to recognize this, so when they come, i ignore them because i know in the morning i will have a brighter perspective.

    thank you for your wonderful information!

  • zeus March 12, 2012, 12:12 am

    great advice. It’s similiar to a current article I wrote

  • Vish March 21, 2012, 6:38 am

    I guess self-awareness is the key to keep away these inner thoughts (self doubts) before they become habits !