The fear that inhibits creativity and innovation goes by many different names:

  • The term "Impostor Syndrome", coined in 1978, describes a persistent concern of being exposed as a fraud.
  • For decades psychologists have referred a constellation of negative thoughts as the Inner Critic.
  • Author and screenwriter, Steven Pressfield, refers to it simply as "The Resistance".

Whatever term you use, the result is the same: self-doubt can hold you back from success.

High-achievers in particular are well-acquainted with the judgmental voice inside our head that speaks up and says things like, "who do you think you are to want to write a book", "this is a stupid idea", or "there's no way this business will ever work out".

Think about the last time you felt fear and anxiety take control of your day. Maybe it stopped you from making an important contribution in a meeting because you felt like your opinion wasn't worthwhile.

Or maybe a simple email took you hours to send because your inner critic kept telling you it wasn't good enough.

What did you do? How did you respond?

For a lot of us, whenever we feel bad, we think that we are bad -- as if having negative feelings somehow makes us weak or a failure.

Why Fighting Fear With Positive Thinking Doesn't Work

While there's no question that stewing in self-doubt can turn toxic, what's more problematic is the fact that we never learn to deal with this normal, expected emotion in healthy ways.

Instead we're bombarded with advice from leadership experts and self-help gurus that instructs us to eliminate so-called negative emotions. Just consider the number of pollyanna, overly positive headlines you read scrolling through your news feed every day that declare you need to "banish your fear" and "crush self-doubt".

Unfortunately, this approach can backfire. Research shows that whitewashing insecurities with positive thinking is merely a temporary fix that may help you feel good for a moment, but does nothing to equip you to constructively process your reactions when roadblocks inevitably arise.

A Better Way To Deal With Self-Doubt

Any change brings up worry, and the refreshing truth is, learning to cope with uncertainty is a skill. Luckily it's also one that you can get better at with practice.

Emotionally intelligent people use a set of strategies, known as cognitive reframing techniques, to deal with fear. By developing mental frameworks, one of which I shared in a recent TEDx talk on overcoming self-doubt, they develop skills to cope with uncertainty and thrive even in the face of stress and instability, which are common conditions in business today.

Using fear as a tool is how emotionally intelligent people rewire their brains for resilience. How could you do this for yourself? One specific technique is mental rehearsal, a practical process that involves anticipating obstacles and coming up with a plan for addressing them so you can react in healthy, productive way.

Analysis paralysis, averted.

Watch the talk to learn more about how to use mental rehearsal to deal with fear and self-doubt.

Published on: Mar 29, 2017
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