It’s easy to go through life with an expectation that we’ll grow, become more confident, and less insecure. Many of us would probably agree that we’re far more comfortable and confident in our skins now, than we were as teenagers desperately trying figure ourselves out. The very idea of self-doubt is typically conceived of as something undesirable. Who wants to lack self-confidence?
Whilst the last year of studying has been hugely instrumental in growing my own self-confidence, I stand now on the other side realising that the self-doubt I came in with hasn’t fully gone. It’s no longer paralysing, but it’s still there. And actually, through most of life, definitely over the past decade, it has always been there, perhaps simply changing form.
- As a strategy consultant every time I was thrown into a new industry I doubted my ability to know it well enough to deliver value to the client. Heck, even as 21 year old who was I to advise executives?
- Working in a startup, I doubted my ability to juggle a zillion hats, many which I felt unqualified to do – write curriculum, grow our educator network, hire a team and manage operations.
- A couple of years ago as I launched my coaching business I absolutely doubted my abilities as a coach – whether people would take me seriously and whether I could even do this work.
But in all these cases, I moved forward anyway. We created value for our clients, hit our ambitious goals in the startup and I’ve been humbled by the growth my coaching clients have experienced.
Over the past year as a student I have doubted my ability to go off and do the various projects I have been dreaming of, and found myself distracted every now and then by “stable” jobs and structured paths.
Doubt has never left, only changed form. Whilst I agree too much doubt can paralyse us from acting and hold us back, I don’t think the goal is to eliminate self-doubt altogether.
In fact I have come to realise self doubt can be quite a beautiful thing, perhaps even a friend.
You see self doubt has been a signal that I am out of my comfort zone. That I pushing myself beyond what I think I am capable of. That I am dreaming of new ways of doing things. That I am growing! An absence of self doubt in my life would look like a comfortable, stagnant, monotonous life. Not one that I want. So I guess, somewhat counter intuitively, I’d like a small dose of self-doubt to always be in my life!
In this light, how might we all embrace self doubt and befriend it? Realise that it can be a beautiful signal that we are out of our comfort zone. And in this awareness, rather than be paralysed, let us choose to show the courage to move forward and take action anyway, taking our friend self doubt along with us too.