Dean Graziosi

What Causes Self-Doubt and How to Overcome It

By Dean's Team
woman standing alone

Sometimes, it can feel like two very different people live inside your brain: Your inner villain and your inner hero. Your inner villain is the little voice that whispers, “I’m not good enough,” every time you reach towards success. It’s the inner voice that highlights your flaws and ignites feelings of self-doubt. 

Your inner villain is balanced by your inner hero: the little voice that celebrates your strengths and boosts your self-confidence. Every time you battle stress and anxiety, your inner hero goes to war against your inner villain. When your inner villain wins, it can cause crippling self-doubt. And if your inner villain is constantly trampling over your inner hero, it can really limit your success. 

Just like Dean Graziosi always says, “We all have the villain living inside of us. But we also have this hero just waiting to be released… This is your chance to decide which one you feed, since that’s the one who will take ownership of your life!” 

If you want to learn how to banish your inner villain and let go of chronic self-doubt, you’ve come to the right place. Today, we’re sharing what self-doubt is and where it comes from. We’re also sharing ways to tell if your self-doubt is healthy or unhealthy. Plus, we’ve got 9 tips on how to get rid of the unhealthy feelings of self-doubt. Tell your inner hero it’s time to suit up because we’re getting rid of your villain for good!

What is Self-Doubt?

So, who is your inner villain, and what is self-doubt? Your inner villain is another name for your inner critic — the part of your subconscious mind that refuses to believe you’re good enough. It’s the little voice inside your head that’s always criticizing your performance and making you feel unqualified. Your inner critic is the main culprit of self-doubt. 

Self-doubt is a mental habit of constantly questioning your self-worth. It occurs when you lack self-confidence, or you feel like you can’t trust yourself to complete tasks that are well within (or just outside of) your skillset. Self-doubt also causes you to linger far too long in your comfort zone. You might do this because of a fear of failure or embarrassment when trying new things.

It’s a common misconception that self-doubt is tied to poor mental health. On the contrary, self-doubt is actually a normal part of being human! And sometimes, it can be a good thing — like when you’re trying something new that could be risky. For instance, a bit of self-doubt is normal before you make a big change, like deciding to move away and start over

However, there’s a fine line between healthy self-doubt and unhealthy self-doubt. Healthy self-doubt encourages you to test the water before you dive in head-first. On the other hand, unhealthy self-doubt discourages you from getting in the water, period. Let’s take a deeper look at the differences between the two.

Healthy Self-Doubt vs. Unhealthy Self-Doubt

This might sound surprising, but the ability to doubt yourself can actually be healthy. Without a bit of healthy self-doubt, you can become overly sure of yourself and ultimately make a ton of risky decisions. Healthy self-doubt sounds like a little voice in the back of your head that asks, “Are you sure?” before you take big risks. It makes sure that you weigh all of your options before doing something that could potentially cause harm.

However, self-doubt can turn from healthy to unhealthy without you noticing. Unhealthy self-doubt begins to creep in when you hear, “Are you sure?” before everything you do — even things that aren’t risky at all. When feelings of unhealthy self-doubt take over, you don’t trust yourself to make any decisions. This can lead to low self-esteem and self-confidence over time.

There are a few warning signs for when your self-doubt becomes unhealthy:

  1. If self-doubt is your first instinct.
  2. If self-doubt stands in the way of new opportunities.
  3. If your feelings of self-doubt impact your ability to focus and perform your job.
  4. If you doubt yourself in many (or all) areas of your life, from your professional to your personal life.
  5. If you constantly regret the choices you made because of your self-doubt.

If any of the above warning signs sound familiar, you’re at risk of your self-doubt becoming unhealthy. To turn down the dial on your self-doubt, you need to uncover what’s causing it.  

What Causes Self-Doubt? 

At this point, you might be wondering, “Where does self-doubt come from, anyway?” Feelings of self-doubt can be incredibly unique to each individual. However, there are plenty of common causes of self-doubt that many people share. Let’s look at where your feelings of self-doubt could be stemming from in the first place.

1. Past Experience and Mistakes

It’s no secret that past experiences can have a massive impact on how you feel today. This is especially true if you’ve lived through traumatic or embarrassing events. When you suspect you’re approaching a situation that feels eerily similar to your past negative event, those uncomfortable emotions can come rushing back. 

In moments such as these, your inner villain can really rev up your self-doubt. Your subconscious mind will want to do everything possible to avoid feeling those emotions again. But remember this: Your past does not define your future. If you constantly live by your old mistakes, you’ll never make room for new opportunities. 

2. Childhood and Upbringing

Aside from past experiences, your childhood and upbringing play a huge role in shaping your mental habits. Family members or friends who supported you daily improved your self-esteem. They fed your inner hero when they told you they loved you, were proud of you or were thinking of you. In comparison, people who constantly judged you or told you that you weren’t good enough fed your inner villain.

When you’re not given the proper support as a child or young adult, you can develop a habit of always questioning yourself. And with your inner villain at the reins, your self-doubt can run unchecked. This is why it’s so important to spend time working on your mental health and personal development. 9-year-old-you may not have been able to defeat your inner villain, but as an adult you certainly can. 

3. Comparisons to Others

Let’s be real: We all compare ourselves to others every now and again. We compare our work to our colleagues’ or compare our lives with people’s lives on social media sites like Instagram or LinkedIn. We mentally challenge ourselves to outsell, outperform or outwit or competitors. However, not all competition is healthy competition.

Healthy competition pushes you to try your best and improve your performance for your own greater good. Unhealthy competition forces you to compare yourself to others. If you lose in healthy competition, you just have something to continue to work towards. If you lose in unhealthy competition, you deem yourself unworthy. Remember, when you constantly compare yourself to others based on what you think you lack, you’ll never be enough. Only compare yourself to who you were yesterday.

4. Leaving Your Comfort Zone

Your ‘comfort zone’ gets its name for a reason: It’s where you feel the safest. There’s no need for any self-doubt when you’re in your comfort zone, because it’s your home turf — you know the playing field like the back of your hand. But once you begin to leave your comfort zone, that’s where feelings of self-doubt creep in.

Feelings of uncertainty or insecurity can make you feel vulnerable. Even worse, these feelings can cause your inner villain to convince you that you won’t succeed. You begin to think that you’re unable to tackle anything outside of your comfort zone. However, you have to leave your safe space to find opportunities to grow. Self-doubt prevents you from leaving your comfort zone, and that’s just one of the many ways that self-doubt can hold you back in life. 

How Can Self-Doubt Hold You Back?

There’s a reason why successful people protect against self-doubting thoughts — those thoughts aren’t productive! Self-doubt can have you feeling like both feet are totally stuck in the mud. If you’re not sure what we’re talking about, consider this scenario:

After months of hard work at your job, your efforts are finally starting to pay off. You’ve been assigned a leadership position for a new initiative you suggested to your manager. In the perfect world, you’d take this opportunity to celebrate yourself — after all, this initiative was your idea and now you get to spearhead it! 

But instead, your inner villain flares up and sends your self-doubt into overdrive. Suddenly you’re overwhelmed with thoughts like, “What if this was a bad idea?” or, “What if they find out I’m not smart enough for this role?” You start to panic and worry that you’ll fail and look like a total joke. Your fear causes you to procrastinate, which causes you to stop building momentum before you even start.

Sound familiar? If so, you’re not alone. This cycle of self-doubt affects millions of people on a daily basis. However, this thinking process sabotages your success. Instead of remaining confident and trying your best, you work half-heartedly in fear of failing. And instead of seeking new opportunities to grow, you remain stuck in your comfort zone indefinitely.

This is just one of the many signs that self-doubt is sabotaging your success. Let’s take a look at a few more.

Signs that Self-Doubt is Sabotaging Your Success 

Just as there are multiple causes of self-doubt, there are several signs that self-doubt is sabotaging your success. These signs are predictors that you’re allowing your fears to hold you back in life and business. If you’re curious whether your self-doubt is holding you back, take a look at the following signs.

Difficulty Taking Compliments 

Over time, self-doubting thoughts can convince you that you’re not worthy of compliments — or that you’re not as talented, smart or funny as you truly are. If someone gives you a compliment and you immediately become anxious or ashamed, it could be a sign that unhealthy self-doubt is sabotaging your success. Not to mention, it could be a big sign of impostor syndrome: one of the biggest forms of self-doubt among employees and entrepreneurs. 

Impostor syndrome is an irrational fear of being a fraud. It makes you feel like you don’t deserve your accomplishments. Impostor syndrome can make you feel as though you’re not as talented as your peers. For example, no matter how high you climb in your career, you constantly feel like you’ll make a mistake that will expose you as a fake.

Impostor syndrome is a type of self-doubt. It stems from the habit of constantly doubting your own abilities and accomplishments. Plus, those who struggle with impostor syndrome often have trouble taking kind words from others. Instead of feeling like a compliment, those kind words can feel like a lie. If this sounds like you, self-doubt is likely holding you back from reaching your full potential. 

Constantly Seeking Reassurance

Another sign that self-doubt is sabotaging your success is feeling like you constantly need reassurance. If you need to ask for reassurance each time you make decisions, you likely don’t trust yourself or your abilities. Of course, it’s normal to ask friends or family members for their input sometimes — but if you never trust yourself to make the right call, it’s likely because self-doubt is holding you back.

Difficulty Giving Yourself Credit

Similar to having a hard time accepting compliments, difficulty giving yourself credit can be another sign that self-doubt is sabotaging your success. If you regularly struggle to give yourself props for a job well done, or if you don’t take the time to celebrate an achievement, your inner villain might be to blame. 

Leaving your inner villain unchecked, drowns out anything positive that your inner hero has to say. Instead of allowing your inner hero to celebrate your accomplishments, you question if you have anything to celebrate at all. Doubt simply becomes your go-to way of seeing your success.

But remember that you have a choice. You can choose to feed your inner villain or your inner hero. So, take a look at these 10 strategies for how to overcome self-doubt and let your inner hero come out on top. 

How to Overcome Self-Doubt with 9 Strategies

It’s time to stop the cycle of self-sabotage and lower your level of self-doubt for good! And the trick to defeating your inner villain is to find strategies that work for you. So, consider this list of 10 proven strategies and identify a few that seem like a good fit. Then, try working them into your routine in small steps. 

1. Embrace Your Self-Doubt

Yes, that’s right — if you want to beat your self-doubt, you’ve got to embrace it first! Though it might sound counterproductive, it’s important to get comfortable with your uncomfortable feelings. 

When you experience self-doubt, it’s easier to run away from it than confront it. But that won’t make the feelings go away. Each time you avoid negative thoughts or feelings, chances are, they’ll come right back with a vengeance. 

So, instead of running for the hills, face your self-doubt head-on! By being willing to confront your negative thoughts, you show your inner villain that you are good enough, you do want more for yourself, and you are capable. 

2. Stop Interpreting Thought as Fact 

Did you know that the average person has more than 6,000 thoughts in a single day? That’s a lot of thoughts, right? Some thoughts are helpful, like when you’re problem-solving or having a conversation with a friend. Other thoughts — like, “I’m going to mess this up so bad” — are a lot less productive.

This is why you must stop interpreting every thought as fact. A thought is just that — a thought. It’s a mental habit you’ve learned over the years, not reality. And fortunately, habits can always be unlearned. So, be sure to stay a little skeptical of your thoughts, especially the self-doubting ones. Before long, you’ll rob those thoughts of the power they hold over you.

3. Generate a Positive Mindset

To conquer your inner villain and banish self-doubt, you’re going to need a positive mindset. A positive mindset can help you remain skeptical of your thoughts and fight back when you feel self-doubt. One way to generate a positive mindset is to reframe your negative thoughts in a more positive way.

For example, after making a mistake on a report, you might fear that your boss now thinks you’re not fit for the position. Your self-doubt makes you think, “My career is over.” Instead, restructure that thought to be less negative and more realistic. You can reframe it as, “I made a mistake, but it’s a chance to improve. My boss knows that I’m an asset to this company and one mistake won’t ruin their perception of me.”

4. Find Your Sense of Purpose

All too often, self-doubt can falsely convince you that you’re not good enough or talented enough to reach your dreams. And that can make you fear seeking out your passions or your purpose in life. Take this as your sign to connect with your sense of purpose! Your purpose will fuel you with a fire that will make even the toughest inner villain back down. 

5. Surround Yourself with Positive People

Your self-doubting thoughts can be downright mean sometimes. With negative thoughts running through your head, it’s key you surround yourself with positive people. By hanging with a more positive crowd, you’ll become more adjusted to hearing positive things about yourself. You can learn to take compliments and, in turn, start giving those compliments back to yourself.

6. Choose Confidence-Boosting Affirmations

You can also encourage positive thoughts with confidence-boosting affirmations. Affirmations are positive, short phrases you repeat to yourself as mantras each day. When you put 100% of your belief into your affirmations, you begin to convince your subconscious mind that they are fact. So, when you say, “I am enough” or, “I am worth it” each day, you can drown out your negative thoughts — and fuel your inner hero.

7. Participate in Healthy Competition

Earlier we mentioned that not all competition is healthy. Unhealthy competition is when you compete against others strictly to prove something to them. In comparison, healthy competition is when you’re competing against yourself, nobody else.

The purpose of healthy competition is to become a better version of yourself. That means you compete to hone your own skills or develop new abilities. By learning to participate in healthy competition, you learn to not judge your worth on your performance. Plus, you show yourself that you can do anything when you put your mind to it!

8. Practice Self-Compassion

Self-doubt makes feel like you’re unworthy or incapable. Over time, you can begin to not like who you are. But remember this: There is only one you in this world and that is your superpower. Start to practice self-compassion — like by reminding yourself of your favorite qualities or personal accomplishments. It’s important to realize that you have an inner hero buried underneath that self-doubt — you just need to release it. 

9. Keep a Gratitude Journal 

Last but not least, overcome self-doubt by keeping a gratitude journal. A gratitude journal is a dedicated space where you list out all the things to be grateful for. You can journal about anything: Your sense of humor, your job, your family or anything else you love about your life. The purpose of a gratitude journal is to remind yourself of all the good that surrounds you — even when your self-doubt has you convinced that nothing is going right.

Move Forward Past Your Self-Doubt Today 

This is your chance to decide which you feed: Your inner villain or your inner hero. When imposter syndrome and self-doubt come creeping in, remember that you hold the reins. Stop letting your inner villain dictate your life, and add some of these 9 strategies into your daily routine.

Are you feeling inspired to fuel your inner hero over your inner villain? 

Text #InnerHero to 480-400-9019 and your message will go straight to Dean’s personal cell!

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