Whether you're a small-business owner or the COO of Facebook, self-doubt can creep up and hold you back. It's even become a full-blown syndrome, dubbed Impostor Syndrome, and it can make the best of us wonder if our fantastic abilities and contributions are real or if we've been faking it the whole time.
Learning how to evaporate that self-doubt will allow you to keep having your best traits shine, and boost your success and leadership in the process.
Here's how some incredibly successful people overcame their feelings of self-doubt, and you can, too:
Keep it about the work
Even President Barack Obama admits to battling moments of deep uncertainty in the course of his career.
In a candid interview with Humans of New York, President Obama talked about how he tries to get out of his own way and focus on the important work at hand in order to cope with self-doubt, and that's advice anyone can follow:
"If you're worrying about yourself--if you're thinking, 'Am I succeeding? Am I in the right position? Am I being appreciated?'--then you're going to end up feeling frustrated and stuck. But if you can keep it about the work, you'll always have a path. There's always something to be done."
Trust your own voice
Ursula Burns, the first African American female CEO of a Fortune 500 company, found that staying true to her own individual vision and voice offered a way to tackle self-doubt when she felt out of place:
"I realized I was more convincing to myself and to the people who were listening when I actually said what I thought, versus what I thought people wanted to hear me say."
If you present your best ideas and provide value, you can feel confident that you aren't fooling anyone and that you do deserve every bit of success that comes your way.
Bye-bye, comfort zone
Leadership expert Brian Tracy once said, "You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you're trying something new."
He's right--think about the first time you rode a bike. It was scary, right? But now biking is probably a breeze. The same goes for anything in life--once you embrace that self-doubt as a feeling that will go away eventually, and one that actually marks progress, you can take baby steps out of your comfort zone to tackle new challenges.
Failure is an option
Paralyzing self-doubt often springs from the fear of failure. However, the most successful people of our time have found failure to be an important stepping stone on the path to success.
Take a page from massively successful tech entrepreneur Elon Musk, for example. When working on SpaceX, he said, "Failure is an option here. If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough."
By being practical and accepting that failure will happen at some point in everyone's career, you can stop being crippled by its inevitability and keep trucking forward instead.
Focus on what you can control
Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook and author of Lean In, gave a commencement speech at Barnard College encouraging the graduating class to not be stopped by self-doubt or forces we can't control.
"Let the barriers you face--and there will be barriers--be external, not internal. Fortune does favor the bold, and I promise that you will never know what you're capable of unless you try."
When you're an entrepreneur, there are a million and a half things that will be completely out of your control every day, no matter how much effort you put in. Instead of getting paralyzed by this, take a tip from Sandberg and only focus on what you can control.
Look at those other times you had self-doubt
We've all encountered unfounded self-doubt over a past task, and then gone on to tackle that project with flying colors.
That's why it's helpful to record those achievements that were thought "impossible" and revisit them when self-doubt creeps up again.
Psychologists call this journaling, and it's a proven way to boost your self-image and get rid of the feelings of Impostor Syndrome.
Seek the support of others
Seeking the support of others can help flesh out those fantastic traits that you're having trouble recognizing. As Oprah Winfrey wisely said, "A mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself."
A mentor who has walked in the same shoes as you can prove beyond valuable in these cases, so don't be afraid to reach out to others. Mentors often have a larger vision for us than we have for ourselves, and their confidence inspires us to reach higher than we could have imagined on our own.
Make self-doubt work for you
Believe it or not, not all self-doubt is a bad thing. A healthy, manageable amount of it can be valuable in keeping you sharp, focused, and inventive.
Actor Denzel Washington was quoted as saying, "That last five minutes before you go on that first [Broadway] preview, if you don't have that what the hell am I doing here [feeling], if you don't have that, then they say it's time to quit."
So let self-doubt motivate you to keep improving on the things you do best, while staying humble in the process. You don't have to let it bring you down.
Own your accomplishments
Amanda Palmer, punk musician, TED speaker, and author of the The Art of Asking, said it best when she wrote, "When you're an artist, nobody ever tells you or hits you with the magic wand of legitimacy. You have to hit your own head with your own handmade wand."
In today's busy world, others often won't take the time to shower you with praise. So just like Palmer, you need to become your own best cheerleader. Don't be afraid to give yourself a pat on the back for all the great things you're doing. No award or promotion will make you feel confident about your professional contributions unless you can admire yourself first.
Have you found any ways to eliminate self-doubt and become more successful? I want to hear them!