What Does Self-Doubt Feel Like?

Picture walking on a cloudy June afternoon.  The air is humid and the temperature is hovering around 80 degrees.  While you’re busy replaying a conversation with your boss in your mind, you notice the clouds transform from gray to black, and you hear a crack of thunder nearby.  You pick up the pace knowing that the storm is moving in quickly, but before you get another 50 yards, the rain starts pouring down.  This is not good.  You are far from home and you’re not sure what’s moving in behind the squall line that has developed to the east.  Suddenly you hear it, the plinking of glass.  No, you FEEL IT.  Dime size hail starts pelting you from every direction! In desperation, you quickly hunker down and cover your head with your arms for protection.  You’re stuck and afraid, and praying that some good Samaritan will drive by and offer you a ride.

Dealing with self-doubt is as uncomfortable as walking in a hail storm when you’re a mile away from home.  It’s painful.  Wondering whether you’re good enough, smart enough, talented enough, rich enough, privileged enough?  It can take a toll on you and wear you down.  More importantly, it can crush your dreams till they are no longer recognizable.  So, who needs self-doubt?  What purpose does it serve?

I argue that everyone does (I’ll explain why) and there’s honestly no way to avoid it . . . unless you stay where it’s safe and comfortable all the time.  But that gets boring, so who wants that?  If you want a life of adventure; if you want to reach your full potential; if you want to move past the doldrums of today, you must get proficient at dealing with self-doubt.

[ctt template=”8″ link=”fYlfe” via=”no” ]“Self-doubt is the uncomfortable space between where you were and where you want to go.”   ~Andrea Cadelli[/ctt]

The Day I Told Self-Doubt Who’s In Charge:

When I was 30 years old, I left my secure, comfortable career as a Communications Manager at the Sam’s Club Home Office to pursue my Masters of Fine Arts degree in Theater Directing.  I knew going into this I was taking a risk.  And being a non-traditional student, I would probably be the oldest person in my program.  I loved directing plays, but I wondered if I still had it in me.  How would I stand up to the younger students who were just coming out of their undergraduate program and had more recent experience?  I was full of self-doubt.  But I wanted to do this.  It was my dream.  So, I decided to go for it even though I wasn’t sure how successful I would be as a Director.

“Everything you want is on the other side of fear.”   ~Jack Canfield

As it turns out, I wasn’t the oldest person in the program.  I finished with top honors in my class, receiving the MacGruden award upon graduation for exceptional academic performance.  And since then, I’ve directed dozens of plays and corporate videos and produced two full-length films.  None of this would have happened if I hadn’t been willing to step outside my comfort zone and tackle my feelings of self-doubt.  Looking back at my career, it’s one of the best decisions I made.  Here’s what I learned about it along the way.

Mind The Signs And Harness The Power:

If you’re holding yourself back from something truly worth pursuing, here’s three ways to quieten that little pessimist in your head.

  1. Self-doubt Indicates Growth. No one likes the uncomfortable feeling of self-doubt, wondering whether you’re capable of accomplishing something you desire. But it’s a positive sign that you’re headed in the right direction, you’re headed somewhere new and worthy.  It’s a sign that you’re growing personally or professionally.  Acknowledging this truth will subdue this emotion and motivate you to keep going even when times are uncertain.  Remind yourself, “knowledge is power.”
  2. Self-doubt Arises From Fear. The neurological makeup of the brain is designed for self-protection.  Any time you make the decision to step out into the unknown and pursue your passion, you can be certain that self-doubt will come knocking on the door to dissuade you.  It’s what the brain does best.  Expect this from the beginning and acknowledge that your feelings of uncertainty are a natural response to the fear of stepping out of your comfort zone.  By bringing this into your conscious awareness, you disarm the fear response and move forward more easily.  Remind yourself, “Fear is not a rational friend.”
  3. Self-Doubt Requires Action. A tightrope walker is a great example of this.  To do this successfully, the tightrope walker must do two things.  Always focus ahead and continue to move one foot in front of the other.  Of course, they can stop and perform amazing balancing feats along the way, but the act of walking the line requires focused action.  The same is true in dealing with self-doubt.  When you feel the emotions of fear and uncertainty creeping up, make an action plan that will keep you focused on moving forward.  See, here’s the thing, you can trick the brain.  Truthfully, you can.  The brain is not good at multi-tasking, so if you’re taking action steps and moving forward, the brain is less likely to perceive a threat.  It’s when you stop on the tightrope and look down that you get into trouble.   Another benefit to taking focused action is that it builds your confidence along the way so that you experience self-doubt less frequently in the future.  Remind yourself, “Action leads to Growth.”

If you’re feeling self-doubt about what you’re pursuing, know that you’re on the right track.  Growth requires learning to get comfortable being uncomfortable, so acknowledge this and move on.  Bringing this into awareness and making an action plan is one of the best ways to put self-doubt in its place.  Once you get skilled at this, there’s nothing stopping you!

Wishing you love, peace, and happiness!


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Andrea Cadelli

Andrea is a speaker, author, and storytelling expert. She loves helping you embrace your authentic voice and make an impact with your message. Through the power of story and the art of storytelling, she helps you ignite emotions, inspire change, and influence results. Follow her and unleash the power of your story.


Ruthie McRae · June 21, 2017 at 8:12 am

I experience self-doubt often. Though I am retired it still affects me in my life in the realm of volunteerism. Thanks for your help.

    andreacadelli · June 21, 2017 at 5:14 pm

    Well you’re not in that boat alone, Ruthie. Self-doubt affects everyone at some point or another in their life, typically when they try to step out somewhere new. Retirement is definitely a whole new territory for many people who have lived their whole adult lives focused on their careers. Step out boldly and you will be surprised at what lies on the other side of the tightrope!

Cori-Leigh · June 26, 2017 at 9:13 am

Hi Andrea, Great post and topic! I enjoyed reading it this morning.

    andreacadelli · June 26, 2017 at 3:39 pm

    Thank you, Cori! Glad you enjoyed the article! Hope you have a great week!

Debby Woods · June 26, 2017 at 10:59 am

Great article. I have self-doubt many times and you are correct…it comes with fear. But the older I get the less fear I have! Great quote by Jack Canfield.

    andreacadelli · June 26, 2017 at 3:42 pm

    Thank you, Debby! I agree that the older we get, the less fear we experience. I wonder if that comes from wisdom or self-acceptance? Maybe both.

Anonymous · August 2, 2017 at 1:56 am

I am out of that self doubt after going through this wonderful article,

Thankyou and keep it up.

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