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Is Self-doubt Holding You Back?

Is Self-doubt Holding You Back?

BY Michelle McQuaid

When it comes to your work, are you sitting on a great idea? Perhaps it’s a question you think the business should be asking, or a new product or service your customers would love, or even a better way for you all to be working. So what’s stopping you from speaking up?

Let’s face it, due to the increasingly competitive nature of business today, most organizations are looking for ways to encourage their people to be more innovative at work. But even though your company might be encouraging you all to ‘fail fast, fail often’, the truth is that for many people their feelings of self-doubt and their fear of getting things wrong continues to undermine their ability to turn their thoughts into action.

So how can you develop the confidence to be truly innovative at work?

“Having the kind of confidence that gives you the courage to act in the moment when you have a great idea is really important for innovation,” explains Louisa Jewell a leading speaker and author on confidence and wellbeing, when I interviewed her recently. “It’s about overcoming your self-doubts by teaching your brain to say ‘yes’, even when it’s screaming ‘no’ at full force.”

Of course sometimes your brain may be saying ‘no’ to let you know that you’re not quite ready. In this case self-doubt can motivate you to ask more questions and fine tune your approach before you start sharing.

But when you find yourself constantly questioning your ideas, it’s likely that chronic self-doubt is undermining your ability to take action. After all your brain has discovered that failure hurts, with researchers finding that because you’re wired for social connectedness and belonging, the emotional pain from experiencing a social putdown or embarrassment can feel as real as any physical pain does.

So how can you teach your brain to say ‘yes’ when self-doubt and the fear of failure is actually holding you back?

Louisa suggests three ways to develop genuine confidence at work:

  • Build your problem-solving muscles – while it can be tempting to take huge leaps to reach a goal faster, it can also set you up to fail and dampen your enthusiasm for future actions. Instead taking baby steps that help you to try new approaches and build your problem-solving muscles over time through incremental successes.

What’s the smallest action you could take today to help solve a problem your workplace is facing?

  • Get comfortable with failure – practice a growth mindset by teaching your brain that failure is simply part of the learning process and nothing to feel ashamed or embarrassed about. We’re all failing some of the time, the only question is whether we’re growing from these mistakes or busy sweeping them under the rug or blaming others. Own your failures. Talk about what you’ve learned from the experience. Think about what you’ll do differently next time. Celebrate the fact that you were brave enough and confident to try something different.

How do you share and grow from your failures at work?

  • Rally the support of others – overcome your chronic self-doubts by having people around you who can offer you encouragement, support, guidance and feedback. Let your work colleagues know that you are trying something new and you need their encouragement and support. Louisa suggests that if people understand what you’re trying to do, why you’re doing it, and that you may need their help, they are more likely to be considerate and empathetic if it doesn’t work out the way you had hoped.

Who in your workplace could provide you with guidance and feedback to make learning less lonely and painful?

For more ideas on improving your confidence at work visit and grab Louisa’s book on teaching your brain to say ‘Yes’ in May 2017.

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