Why a small dose of self-doubt can be good for you

There aren’t many people I know who don’t get hit with a case of self-doubt regularly. I think that’s a healthy, and sometimes, wonderful thing. Let’s face it, those who strut around town declaring “I got this in the bag - now step aside young grasshoppers!” are more annoying than an alarm clock accidentally going off at 6am on the first day of school holidays. (My bad.)

Sometimes, having a (short-lived) pang bit of self-doubt means that you're simply acknowledging you don't know it all. It means you’re open to learning new and improved ways of doing things that will see you grow personally, and professionally. And it means that people might feel more inclined to want to sit next to you at the office Christmas party this year, because no one likes a know-it-all Nellie.

But self-doubt needs to be kept in its place – ideally in an old, empty shoe box, under another shoe box full of sentimental trinkets under a bag of old clothes you meant to take to the op-shop last year, inside your closet. You know it’s there, but it doesn't need to be out on display, shouting from the mantle-piece that you might just want to re-think those plans you have about making a difference in your world.  I mean, who needs to hear from you when we already had so many people create amazing things for this world, well ahead of you? Boooo! (That’s the self-doubt talking, not me. )

And that’s the thing with self-doubt. It has a couple of drinks, gets a little cocky and keeps shooting off at the mouth. Meanwhile, you stand, wide-eyed and frozen to the spot, unable to retort to its witting, free-flowing commentary.  At worst, it stops you from doing anything other than lying face-down on the couch, taking a nap, and shelving those plans you had in the pipeline, entirely.

While people are generally happy to sit with me at the office Christmas party (I work from home so this year it will be my kids, husband, plus a few of neighbours who I’ll bribe with free booze) people are surprised to hear that I too suffer from pangs of self-doubt. Often. In fact, every single time I step up to deliver a coaching session or email through a completed copywriting project, the sweaty palms kick in. Can I do this? What if I fail? What if my work isn’t good enough? Will they like it? Do I know enough? Am I enough?

But I’ve learned how to trick that noisy little bugger that lives in the shoe box in my closet. And yes, I’m still talking about  my self-doubt here, people. You’ll be relieved there’s nothing else held captive in my closet other than that, too many shoes, and a few ill-fitting pants BNWT I’m sure I’ll get good use of next year. Sigh.

I use self doubt as a guide. When it starts throwing out muffled questions about perceived lack of abilities, I use that to question what more I can do to deliver my best possible work. What have I missed? How can I make this better? Is the best I can deliver with the skills that I have? And if I can spot gaps in my service, what new skills can I acquire so I can grow and improve some more?

Stand still (or lie face-down on the couch) and that voice will get louder and you’ll be left like a deer in the headlights on the M1. You’ll stop creating. You’ll stop delivering. And your business and your dreams will be splattered across the bitumen, with the crows picking at its remains. That ain't pretty (but it is wildly dramatic, isn’t it?!).

The trick is to keep moving. Use self-doubt as your own personal trainer – albeit one bound, gagged and just outside of arm’s reach. If you listen to it selectively as you persist and continue to toil away, your voice of self-doubt may just be the key to you creating the most amazing work imaginable.

And if you don’t have any plans for your solo-office Christmas party this year, hit me up. I’ll pop your name on the VIP list.