Self-doubt says, "You can't do that."

Self-doubt comes from worrying about what others will think if you try and fail.

Self-doubt is paralyzing, even for the best of us.

But self-doubt is just that -- self-imposed doubt.  It keeps us prisoner in a cell with no lock and no guard.

That's because it's not the doubt of others that keeps us from trying; it's our own doubt about what others will think if we don't succeed that keeps us from wanting to try.

The reality is -- and this is where it gets exciting -- there's a scientific hack that can eliminate most self-doubt if you just know how to apply it.

Luckily, I learned it early on in my career.

People pay a lot less attention to us than we think.

Many years ago, a colleague and I showed up at a business trade show in Orlando. At the time, we were a fledgling startup that was desperate to get attention and customers.

Knowing our competitors would be outspending us at the trade show by tens of thousands of dollars, we were determined to stand out -- in spite of our lack of money.

So what did we do? We showed up in black suits, white shirts, orange ties, and orange socks - and were carrying $700 in one-dollar bills to hand out to attendees.

With that, we set out to infiltrate the conference floor and draw attention to ourselves as much as possible.

It worked, better than we even imagined.

In fact, we had so many attendees seeking us out during the breaks that the conference organizers and other vendors were not happy.

At a certain point in the trade show I asked one of the conference-goers seeking a one-dollar bill how she found us -- was it our orange ties, orange socks, and black suits that made us stand out in the crowd?

Looking me over, she replied, "Hmm ... I hadn't noticed what you were wearing. I just was looking for the guys handing out the money."

And with that I learned what science has proved: People pay a lot less attention to us than we think, and are always more consumed with what's happening to them.

The spotlight effect.

Thomas Gilovich (Cornell University), Victoria Medvec (Northwestern University), and Kenneth Savitsky (Williams College) have done extensive research on what is known as the "spotlight effect."

Their findings: We are naturally absorbed with what we're doing and how we're feeling and believe that others feel the same toward us. But the reality is that's rarely the case. That's because they, like us, are more consumed with their own lives.

Just this morning I watched as a woman crossed the street in the middle of a busy intersection. As she did so, she visibly straightened her posture, pulled on her shirttails to make sure they were covering the right areas, took a deep breath, and stepped into the crosswalk.

You could tell from her face she was expecting all eyes to be on her.

But the reality of the situation?

The car to the left of me had a man picking his nose (gross, but true). To the right was a man shoving an entire muffin into his mouth, crumbs flying everywhere. Both men were self-absorbed and oblivious to the woman crossing the intersection.

But to this woman, all eyes were on her. Judging her. Condemning her. Fortunately, reality tells a different story for all of us.

What would you do if no one were watching?

They say in life we'll regret the things we didn't do more than the things we did do.

What would you do if no one were watching and paying attention? What would you do if there weren't judging eyes?

You're in luck!

Remember this simple hack: People aren't watching, at least not to the degree your self-doubt tells you.

So get out there and try it -- whatever it is. You'll be surprised at the confidence you find when no one is watching.

Published on: Jun 2, 2016