7 Powerful Reasons Why Smart People Doubt Themselves

Almost everyone struggles with self-doubt at some point or another. And almost everyone thinks they’re the only one who does.

It’s freeing to know that self-doubt is a near-universal feeling. If anything, it’s the smartest people who doubt themselves the most. Here are some of the ways smart people give self-doubt a chance to take root:

They focus on the things they don’t know instead of what they do. Everyone needs to stretch out of their comfort zone, but if you spend most of your time working outside your expertise you’re likely to end up doubting yourself.

They tell themselves that others have more experience. Even if you aren’t the most experienced, if you have a skill or knowledge they lack, you’re the expert. Allowing yourself to believe that what you know is valuable and useful will give you the assurance you need.

They don’t believe they have the right skills. You have to start somewhere—whether it’s your first job or reinventing your career in a new industry. Virtually no one has all the skills required for being a great leader right from the start. Learning the skills you need in your current situation gives you power—and makes you a smart leader.

They care too much about what other people think. It’s easy to get stuck on what people tell you about yourself. If you focus too much on what other people think, you’ll never learn to think for yourself—and about yourself—on your own. Stop worrying what other people think and concentrate on doing your best.

They fear they’re not good enough. Especially when you’re faced with something new, you may experience a fear that you’re not good enough for the task at hand. This inner voice is your mind trying to protect you, but you don’t need protection. You just need to know you are good as you need to be, and then take a chance.

They allow a past mistake to loom over the present. Mistakes—especially those with lasting consequences—often leave people seriously doubting their abilities. Allow those mistakes to become learning lessons for the present and the future without dwelling on them. Sometimes things have to fall apart before they can be put back together.

They’re busy competing with everyone else. It’s always tempting to compare yourself with colleagues, but it’s much more productive—and healthier—to take stock of who you are and what you’re good at. Remember that you have strengths other people don’t possess and that the only person you can truly compete with is yourself.

As a coach, I define confidence as believing you are able and competence as knowing you are able. When you know you’re able, you can take action regardless of self-doubt. You can’t live your life for other people. You’ve got to do what’s right for you.

Lead from within: Even the smartest people need to remember that when they doubt their power, their doubt can be powerful.



N A T I O N A L   B E S T S E L L E R
The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness

After decades of coaching powerful executives around the world, Lolly Daskal has observed that leaders rise to their positions relying on a specific set of values and traits. But in time, every executive reaches a point when their performance suffers and failure persists. Very few understand why or how to prevent it.

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Lolly Daskal is one of the most sought-after executive leadership coaches in the world. Her extensive cross-cultural expertise spans 14 countries, six languages and hundreds of companies. As founder and CEO of Lead From Within, her proprietary leadership program is engineered to be a catalyst for leaders who want to enhance performance and make a meaningful difference in their companies, their lives, and the world.

Of Lolly’s many awards and accolades, Lolly was designated a Top-50 Leadership and Management Expert by Inc. magazine. Huffington Post honored Lolly with the title of The Most Inspiring Woman in the World. Her writing has appeared in HBR, Inc.com, Fast Company (Ask The Expert), Huffington Post, and Psychology Today, and others. Her newest book, The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness has become a national bestseller.

  1. Stacey

    03. Nov, 2019

    Thank you Lolly. Many of your tweets have helped shape my thinking. The feelings that come along with what you describe above can be almost debilitating if not outright paralyzing.
    I work in public sector in a quasi-OD role. I am shopping around for a Master degree that will deepen my knowledge and skills in understanding and connecting with people, neuroscience of change, complexity theory, Western and non-Western governance. Any suggestions?

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