4 Therapist-Approved Ways to Overcome Self-Doubt

self doubt cat

The tricky thing about self-doubt—ya know, that inkling of uncertainty about your capabilities—is that it can start out like a tiny seed. And over time, it can grow…and grow…and ultimately snowball into pervasive confidence issues that can even lead to significant anxiety and depression. So, how can you squash that self-doubt right from the start? (Because spoiler alert: you can do this.) Here are four steps that can help, courtesy of Dr. Candice Seti, a therapist, author, speaker and coach.

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1. Don’t Lose Sight of Your Strengths

As Seti notes, that regardless of who you are or what you’ve done, there are lots of fabulous things about you. “You have many wonderful qualities, you’re skilled in certain areas and you’ve had successes and achievements in your life, both big and small.” The problem, though, is that we often focus more on the things we’re not as great at. For example, you know that you’ve been crushing it at work, but as a result you feel like you haven’t been spending enough quality time with your partner. While it’s OK to identify that issue and work toward resolving it (weekly date nights?), it’s not OK to ignore the amazing things you’ve been doing in other aspects of your life—in this case, at work. Seti suggests taking the time to make a list of the things you’re really great at (maybe even with the help of another person). “Then, take a minute every day to read this list and remind yourself how great you actually are,” she says. 

2. Give Yourself Credit

You know that awesome feeling you get when your manager at work commends you on a presentation? Or when a friend shoots you a text after you helped her through a breakup? In the middle of a busy day, it’s easy to say “Thanks!” or “Omg, of course!” 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 things; it’s an awesome motivator to keep going. Seti even suggests taking a moment at the end of each day to ask yourself, “What did I do well today?” or “What am I proud of today?” She notes, “End your day on a positive note and feeling proud instead of beating yourself up and stripping yourself of your confidence.”

3. Discover Your Self-Affirming Mantra

Seti is a huge fan of fighting self-doubt with mantras. 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. 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. She recommends writing that mantra on your phone, your bathroom mirror or even a sticky note on your steering wheel. “Anywhere where you can talk to yourself and remind yourself of the truth and your capability.”

4. Avoid Comparisons

Comparison, as they say, is the thief of joy…truly. And Seti notes that our self-doubt is often magnified when we start comparing ourselves to others, noting, “It always seems to highlight the negative and help us ignore the positive—something that’s not even remotely helpful.” Instead of saying to yourself, Ugh, my sister is younger than me and is still way further along in her career, remind yourself that everyone’s journey is different, and everyone has their own personal strengths and weaknesses. (By the way, we’re willing to bet your sister envies certain aspects of your life too.) “By focusing on the success of another, you lose sight of their weaknesses and highlight your own,” Seti says. “Instead, refer back to what’s great about you and remind yourself that we all have different value.”

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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...