What causes self doubt?

Understanding the Sources of Self-Doubt

Self-doubt is a common experience that can impact anyone, regardless of their background, profession, or level of success. Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a business executive, or an employee looking to climb the corporate ladder, self-doubt can be a significant barrier to achieving your goals. I’ve worked with countless individuals who have struggled with self-doubt, and I’ve seen firsthand how it can hold people back from reaching their full potential.

In this article, we’ll explore the sources of self-doubt and provide practical strategies for overcoming it. By understanding the root causes of self-doubt, you can develop a targeted plan for building authentic, sustainable self-confidence that will serve you well in both your personal and professional life.

Negative Self-Talk

One of the most common sources of self-doubt is negative self-talk. This is the inner dialogue that plays in our minds, often without us even realizing it. Negative self-talk can take many forms, such as:

  • “I’m not good enough.”
  • “I don’t have what it takes to succeed.”
  • “I’m going to fail.”
  • “Everyone else is better than me.”

Over time, this negative self-talk can erode our confidence and make us doubt our abilities. It’s important to recognize when we’re engaging in negative self-talk and take steps to counter it.

Here are my tips for overcoming negative self-talk:

  • Pay attention to your inner dialogue. Notice when you’re engaging in negative self-talk and consciously try to stop it.
  • Challenge negative thoughts with evidence. When you think something negative, ask yourself, “Is this true?” Look for evidence that contradicts your negative self-talk.
  • Practice self-compassion. Treat yourself with the same kindness and understanding that you would offer a good friend.
  • Use positive affirmations. Repeat positive statements to yourself, such as “I am capable and competent” or “I trust in my abilities.”


Perfectionism is another common source of self-doubt. When we set impossibly high standards for ourselves, we’re bound to fall short, which can lead to feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt.

While striving for excellence is admirable, it’s important to recognize when perfectionism is holding us back. Perfectionism can lead to procrastination, avoidance, and a fear of failure.

Here are my tips for overcoming perfectionism:

  • Set realistic goals. Instead of aiming for perfection, aim for progress. Celebrate small wins along the way.
  • Embrace failure as a learning opportunity. Recognize that failure is a natural part of the learning process and that it’s okay to make mistakes.
  • Focus on the process, not just the outcome. Enjoy the journey and recognize that success is not just about reaching the destination.
  • Practice self-acceptance. Accept yourself as you are, flaws and all. Recognize that you are worthy and valuable, regardless of your achievements.

Comparison to Others

With social media providing an often exaggerated view of the world, it’s easy to fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to others. We see the highlight reels of other people’s lives and assume they have it all together while we struggle.

Comparison can be a major source of self-doubt. When we compare ourselves to others, we often focus on our own perceived shortcomings and ignore our strengths.

Here are my tips for overcoming comparing ourselves to others:

  • Recognize that social media is not reality. People tend to present the best versions of themselves online, and we don’t see the struggles and challenges they face behind the scenes.
  • Focus on your own journey. Instead of comparing yourself to others, focus on your own progress and growth.
  • Celebrate your strengths. Make a list of your unique talents, skills, and accomplishments. Recognize that you have value to offer, regardless of how you compare to others.
  • Surround yourself with supportive people. Seek out friends, colleagues, and mentors who uplift and encourage you, rather than those who make you feel inadequate.

Fear of Failure

Fear of failure is a common source of self-doubt. We may avoid taking risks or trying new things when we’re afraid of failing. We may also be tougher on ourselves when we do experience setbacks or failures.

Here are my tips for overcoming the fear of failure:

  • Reframe failure as a learning opportunity. Instead of seeing failure as a negative, view it as a chance to learn and grow.
  • Take small risks. Start by taking small, calculated risks and gradually build up to bigger ones. This can help you build confidence and resilience.
  • Celebrate your successes. When you do experience success, take time to acknowledge and celebrate it. This can help build your confidence and motivation.
  • Learn from others. Seek out mentors or role models who have overcome failure and achieved success. Learn from their experiences and insights.

Lack of Self-Awareness

Finally, a lack of self-awareness can contribute to self-doubt. When we don’t have a clear understanding of our strengths, weaknesses, values, and goals, it can be harder to feel confident in ourselves and our abilities.

Here are my tips for building self-awareness:

  • Reflect on your experiences. Take time to reflect on your past experiences, both successes and failures. What did you learn about yourself from these experiences?
  • Seek feedback from others. Ask trusted friends, colleagues, or mentors for honest feedback on your strengths and areas for improvement.
  • Take personality assessments. Tools like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator or the Enneagram can provide insight into your personality traits and tendencies.
  • Practice mindfulness. Pay attention to your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in the present moment. This can help you develop greater self-awareness over time.

Summing up

Building self-confidence is a journey that requires patience, persistence, and self-compassion. By understanding the sources of your self-doubt and developing targeted strategies for overcoming it, you can cultivate authentic, sustainable self-confidence that will serve you well in all areas of your life.

If you’re struggling with self-doubt and looking for support in building your confidence, consider working with a business coach. A skilled coach can provide personalized guidance and support as you overcome self-doubt and achieve your goals. They can help you identify your strengths, reframe negative self-talk, and develop a plan for building self-confidence that works for you.

I’ve seen firsthand how transformative it can be to have a supportive, knowledgeable guide as you navigate the challenges of building self-confidence. If you’re ready to take the next step in your journey, I invite you to book a free discovery call with me to discuss how coaching can help. Together, we can develop a personalized plan for building the confidence and self-assurance you need to achieve your goals and live your best life.