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How to Combat Self-Doubt

October 05, 2021 by Amanda Reill

Self-doubt spares no one: we all encounter it to varying degrees during different seasons of life. It’s sneaky...creeping in and setting up camp quietly. It may find its way in through an offhand comment made by someone you love, through subpar performance on an important task, or just through your mind’s spinning wheels. Before you know it, you’re paralyzed. You’re struggling to trust your decisions and lacking confidence in your ability to succeed.

In other words: you’re stuck. 

Feeling “stuck” is a fairly typical reason why clients seek out coaching. They need someone to ask them pointed questions and help them unveil their potential. A life coach’s purpose is to help clients evict the harsh voice of self-doubt and let confidence reign.

How to Combat Self-Doubt

Signs the Silent Bully is Lurking

Your client may not be able to immediately recognize that the struggle they’re experiencing is self-doubt, which can manifest in many different forms. Here are some of the most common:

  1. Indecision. Constant waffling in decision-making is a good indication that your client is dealing with self-doubt. This can be rooted in a mistrust of self. Avoiding commitment to a decision can feel like the “safest” option because you haven’t committed to anything. If you’re working from a growth mindset, you can be confident that you’ll be able to make the most out of your decision’s outcomes.
  2. Procrastination. If we haven’t started something yet, have we really committed to it? Procrastination affords us with a sort of blissful denial that can prolong self-doubt. If we don’t start, we can’t feel any negative emotions, but neither can we start feeling the positive emotions that success brings.
  3. Imposter Syndrome. Imposter syndrome crops up when you begin to question whether you’re really qualified for the task or job at hand. It’s a fear deeply rooted in the idea that you’ll be “unmasked,” revealed as a fraud. A frightening thought, and most often completely unfounded. 
  4. Comparison. Why try if someone else can do it better than you? At least, that’s the message self-doubt tries to peddle. When you see the successes of the person next to you, it can lead you to believe that there’s no room at the table for you. Or worse: that person’s success will cause your achievements to look dismal.
  5. Fear of failure. Many of the above items in this list can be traced back to a fear of failure, that little voice in our head that says: if you don’t start, you can’t fail. You can’t do this. Other people could do it better. Wouldn’t it be awful if you tried and it turned out terribly? Best to just not even begin.  

Overcoming Self-Doubt

Self-doubt can be a crippling thing, but it’s not irreparable. It can even have benefits, like motivating you to learn more about the task you’re attempting, if you can take on the right outlook. But when it’s hurting more than helping, what can you do to reveal it for what it is and help your client experience freedom? 

  1. Muzzle the Inner Critic. The Inner Critic - the voice in your head that makes pointing out your faults a full-time job - is the greatest enemy to confidence. A person struggling with self-doubt allows the Inner Critic to become the loudest voice in their mind, telling them that they can’t do the things they think they can do. When your client can recognize that voice as their Inner Critic rather than their true self, help them visualize locking it in a closet.
  2. Pass the mic to the Future Self. While the Inner Critic takes a seat, your client should be willing to listen to other voices. Namely, let their Future Self have a chance to speak. If they were able to craft their future the way they wanted, what would it look like? Letting the Future Self speak can be a great way to cut through the chatter and help your client see what they really want out of life, not just what their Inner Critic is telling them. 
  3. Be their cheerleader...mindfully. As a life coach, it’s important never to argue with your client’s Inner Critic by insisting they can do it. In doing so, you can end up coaching the problem instead of the client. Showering praise too quickly might sound nice on the surface, but it doesn’t convince anyone, especially a client struggling with self-doubt. Instead, champion your client’s actions, praise them for their steps, and encourage them to be their own cheerleader. 
  4. Don’t forget to celebrate! Along with championing their actions, make sure you’re celebrating every win. Celebrations, even small ones, give your client something to look forward to and incentivize their decision-making tenfold. Choose celebrations that are simple, fun, and unique to your client for maximum effect. 

Self-doubt is incredibly common; nearly everyone struggles with it at one time or another. But that doesn’t mean we have to let it get out of hand. As a life coach, you get to be on the frontlines in your client’s struggles with self-doubt, helping them stow that inner criticism, dream of a better future, set small goals and attain them, and celebrate every step of the way. With a bit of compassion and strategic encouragement, you can help even your most uninspired clients bloom!

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