Here, Richard explains how we can overcome our self-doubt.
Are most of us faced with self-doubt at times – is it normal?
Richard Reid (RR): “It’s absolutely normal. Our brains are predisposed to think the worst about situations and ourselves at times. We’re pre-programmed to doubt ourselves – it’s a natural tendency.
“Positive feedback from others helps us to overcome that. Often we only feel as good as the last feedback we received. What we’re not naturally good at is letting go of criticism and failure. We also need to hang on longer to positive feedback and our successes. We don’t tend to give ourselves positive feedback as often as we should.”
When does self-doubt become abnormal?
RR: “When it’s too regular and begins to affect our self-esteem, confidence and ability to function and perform – when it stops you from being the best version of you that you can be. Self-doubt can mean we avoid putting ourselves out there, doing things we regard as threats, an example might be pitching to new customers or making a presentation. We don’t tend to reach out to others when we doubt ourselves and we’re low on confidence.”
What causes self-doubt?
RR: “It can be the result of your upbringing, for example, if your parents were very critical. You might have a partner, colleagues or others around you who criticise you a lot, which can make you doubt yourself. Often we don’t think enough about the people we surround ourselves with. We each need to be in environments that bring out the best in us.
“Sometimes if you’ve previously given a presentation that hasn’t gone very well, you dwell on that and it leads to self-doubt. Self-doubt encourages us to focus on threats rather than opportunities, and the great things we do and have done. Mistakes should be looked on as opportunities to reflect, learn and grow rather than blame, criticise and punish.”
Do certain situations make it worse?
RR: “Situations where we’re more exposed, for example, when we have to speak in public, can amplify our self-doubt. Heavy workload and demanding deadlines, where we feel more under pressure, can also make us doubt our own abilities and value, or maybe when your business isn’t doing very well, you doubt yourself more.”
What effect can self-doubt have?
RR: “People tend to procrastinate a lot. Self-doubt also tends to affect people’s creativity and willingness to offer new ideas. Self-doubt prevents us from fulfilling our potential, and, ultimately, of course, it can damage your business.
“And employees look to their managers for leadership and inspiration, but if you look like you don’t believe in yourself, why would they believe in you? Self-doubt isn’t just an internal thing – it reverberates. Your self-doubt can even come across in client meetings, which can make customers less likely to trust, believe and buy from you.”
What practical things can small-business owners do to overcome their self-doubt?
RR: “Begin by trying to recognise when self-doubt arises. The more you can do that, the more you’ll be able to pause and step back. Too often we get a negative thought and we engage with it, and it gets more of a grip on us, physically, mentally and emotionally. What you have to do is provide a counter argument. Pause and remind yourself of things you have achieved, rather than just focusing on negatives.”
Do you have any other final words of advice?
RR: “Keep your expectations of yourself realistic. If your workload or deadlines are unrealistic, inevitably you’re setting yourself up for failure, which fuels self-doubt.
“We’re predisposed to focus on things we didn’t achieve, rather than the things we did. So, every day, look back and reflect on what you have achieved, what you have learned, how you’ve moved yourself and your business forward. This helps to build our resilience and prevents us from getting bogged down in short-term setbacks.
“Self doubt is often expressed by a little voice in our heads, which follows us around like a bully. You need to learn to recognise when that internal voice is speaking – and provide an alternative voice. We’re often far kinder to other people than we are to ourselves.”