5 Things to Do to Get Over Self-Doubt at Work

woman sitting at her desk

You walk out of an important meeting at work. You think it went well, but the more you dwell on it, the more you convince yourself that you said something wrong, or you weren’t assertive enough or you just generally didn’t make a good impression. Ugh. Feelings of self-doubt at work are super common, but that doesn’t mean you have to let them interfere with achieving professional goals. Here are five simple ways to quell negative feelings at the office.

1. Take Time To Celebrate Your Achievements

You know that awesome feeling you get when your supervisor commends you on a presentation? Or when someone on your team takes the time to tell you your last proposal totally crushed? In the middle of a busy day, it’s easy to say “Thanks!” and immediately forget about the compliment. Don’t. Really focus on internalizing supportive words from those around you. Not only is it a good reminder that you’re doing great work; it’s an awesome motivator.

2. Come Up With A Mantra

This doesn’t have to be in the form of an official transcendental meditation-type mantra, but find a couple of words of encouragement you can say to yourself whenever you’re feeling unsure at work. It can be as simple as “You got this,” “I’m a total badass” or “I deserve to be here.” Adopt a brief pep talk for whenever doubt creeps in. The more you say it, the more you’ll believe it—trust.

3. Choose Your Work Friends Wisely

This one is obviously not totally in your control, but try to gravitate toward coworkers who will lift you up instead of tearing you down. Note that “tearing you down” doesn’t have to mean actively trying to undermine your work, but Debbie Downers and Negative Neds will only feed your self-doubt. Try to surround yourself with coworkers who believe in celebrating one another and succeeding together.

4. Set Realistic Goals

The easiest way to feel inadequate at work is to set pie-in-the-sky goals that no one could realistically achieve quickly. When you inevitably fall short, you’ll likely beat yourself up for not living up to your own sky-high expectations. Instead, break your goals down into smaller, more attainable chunks. For example, instead of saying, “I want to become the head of my department,” set goals along the way, like “Increase month-over-month productivity,” and pat yourself on the back when you accomplish those.

5. Lean Into It

No matter how closely you follow the advice above, you’re always going to feel self-doubt at work from time to time—that’s totally normal. “Most people don't talk about it," says psychologist Suzanne Imes, PhD, who coined the term "imposter syndrome." “Part of the experience is that they're afraid they're going to be found out,” she says. Try to remember that everyone feels this way sometimes. The key is to acknowledge it and move on. Instead of letting it control your actions and stop you from succeeding at work, recognize that it’s there—and that a certain amount of self-doubt is completely OK.

5 Easy Things to Do Every Morning to Get Over Your Self-Doubt

sarah stiefvater
Sarah Stiefvater

Wellness Director

Sarah Stiefvater is PureWow's Wellness Director. She's been at PureWow for ten years, and in that time has written and edited stories across all categories, but currently focuses...
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