Photo by Jaredd Craig on Unsplash

We all have been here.

Each day or at some point in our routines, we question our existence and evaluate our capabilities. Most of the times, we end up underestimating ourselves by constantly questioning whether what we do is good enough or no. Is it impactful? Does it make a difference?

We repeatedly doubt our choices and decisions, especially when we make life transitions. And the inner chatter goes like this. “I am just not good enough”.

This little monkey inside our mind is called “Self-doubt”.

Self-doubt occurs when there is an absence of confidence or we feel the lack of capabilities to do something we are meant to do. It also occurs when we want to achieve something larger than ourselves, something that allows us to rise above the trivialities of life but we know our inner foundations are shaky. People who grapple with self-doubt often panic about things that would go out of control. They fear damage to reputation when things don’t turn out as expected.

From a psychological perspective, a certain level of self-doubt is healthy as it creates a ground for exploration, personal strategy and roadmap for an immediate future. In other words, you can calculate your losses. (This doesn’t mean that what you are currently doing is not good enough). However, an endless amount of fear and self-doubt can negatively impact your life. You may not be able to get your plans off the ground ever and find yourself consumed with resentment.

Such was a close friend’s dilemma who was struggling with self-doubt in the middle of a career pivot.

The Story

Jane (name changed) was an accomplished Human Resources professional. We worked together in the past and I’d witnessed her zeal in navigating tricky business needs, communication with leaders and hiring the right talent for the business. She was a smart and hard-working professional. After a few years of her stint, she quit the organisation to start a family and a few months later wanted to get on the corporate horse. This time she contemplated switching gears and going independent.

But, she hit a wall! She was at a crossroads. On one hand, she could return to a full-time role in an organisation and on the other hand was to start her consulting business knowing that it could take months to pick up steam.  

When she consulted me on this, her first question was “Am I making the right decision? I’ve never done this before.”

The road to a career pivot isn’t an easy one. I’ve been there when I was pivoting from investment banking to people development and coaching. There’s familiarity, security and comfort on one side and the thrill of adventure and an enticing unknown territory on the other.

After a long conversation, calculating risks and an exercise in Strength Based Approach, Jane was ready to take flight.

  • Do you find yourself in a similar situation as Jane?
  • Are you contemplating a personal/professional pivot?
  • Do you often question your thoughts and actions?

It is not who you are that holds you back, it’s who you think you are not.

– Hanoch McCarty

5 Common Sources of Self-Doubt. What can you do about it?

1. Painful Experiences and Mistakes of the Past

Our bitter experiences of the past can limit our ability to move ahead. It influences the way we react especially if we’ve been passed over for a promotion, have had broken relationships, been laid off without reason. It can rattle our inner foundations and shake up our fundamental beliefs.

What to do:

  • Understand that life is full of transitions and your past cannot be re-aligned. Staying with it is doing no good but definitely causing harm
  • Repeatedly referring to the painful past in your communications in a sign that you’ve not moved on. Stay in the moment and focus on possibilities

2. Childhood Conditioning

Our formative years shape our personalities and habits. If you lived in an environment where your parents kept you away from opportunities and tell you that you are not good enough or you studied in schools with heavy emphasis on grades, then you may have developed the habit of questioning every move you make.   

 What to do:

  • Move Past It! You have grown up and capable of deciding for yourself. If you rely on people’s approval for the choices you make, you will never get a runway
  • Look at people outside your circle of influence for an objective opinion

 3. Comparisons with Others

In an evolving world, competitiveness and comparisons exist in every tribe we associate ourselves with. Thanks to social media that pronounces it even more. If you are working in an environment where performance benchmarks are measured with comparisons to your colleagues or your predecessors, then this can also have a negative impact on your confidence.   

What to do:

  • Comparisons are healthy if you want to chalk out your personal growth but excessive focus on comparisons will pronounce your anxiety and create feelings of envy
  • Appreciate yourself and make incremental shifts in your life

4. Inner Chatter

This is quite common as we continue to predict the results of the things we haven’t initiated yet. We think of our world turning upside down. If you have held onto security and stability for eons, the shift can be a daunting process especially when we have dependencies to deal with.

What to do:

  • Perceive a pivot as a chance to learn. If you don’t succeed you will still learn. But you will progress regardless
  • Remind yourself that it is okay to make mistakes. That way you will inevitably strengthen your resilience

5. Fear of Failure / Fear of Success

Elizabeth Gilbert in her book Big Magic-Creative Living Beyond Fear wrote, after tasting success of her book, Eat Pray Love, she wasn’t sure she could do that again. She was at the peak of her career with the book.

We continue to believe that our previous success is the best we could offer and there is no room for more. But that can be our biggest limitation for future success too.  

What to do:

  • Why replicate success? Perceive a new opportunity as a new ground to outperform your previous success   
  • Amplify your success than replicating it


It is normal and common to grapple with self-doubt but staying stuck will not get you results. Life is full of pivots and they require us to take action to avoid being deprived of opportunities. If you find yourself in the self-doubt loop, reach out to someone for a heart to heart talk.

Don’t stay put! And remember…

Friends ask you questions; enemies question you.

Criss Jami