Education resources › Blog › 6 ways to conquer self-doubt

6 ways to conquer self-doubt

6 ways to conquer self-doubt

4 min read
  • Motivation, Resilience & Growth Mindset
  • Stress management & well-being

“Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win by fearing to attempt”
– William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure

Everyone has moments of self-doubt, be it a student before an exam or an athlete before they compete. For some, these thoughts are fleeting and quickly pass. For others, like William Shakespeare suggests, they can have a more debilitating effect. So what simple things can you do to conquer self-doubt? Is a bit of self-doubt always a bad thing?

6 Ways To Conquer Self-Doubt

A little bit of self doubt is good

Self-doubt hasn’t always been found to be a negative thing; in fact, an element of self-doubt may cause people to put in more effort. The relationship between doubt and performance is not a straight line. Over-confidence can be dangerous as it may make you think that not as much effort is needed for the task, resulting in poorer performances.

Next time you have moments of doubt, remember that a little bit of self-doubt can actually be beneficial in your learning and performance, especially if it acts as a call to action and results in you putting in more effort. 

Weigh up the evidence

Weighing up the evidence, by challenging how logical and rational your thoughts and doubts are, is a great technique widely used by psychologists. Irrational thoughts can cause an increase in anxiety. That is why it is important to challenge irrational thoughts and doubts. 

This can be done by firstly recognizing which thoughts are unhelpful and then replacing them with more accurate and helpful ones. Check out our helpful blog on challenging unhelpful thoughts for more.

Write out your nerves

When individuals become anxious about an upcoming event, these worries can disrupt their focus on the task at hand; however, a solution to this has been found in that simply writing about your worries before an important exam or competition can boost test scores and performance. By getting your worries and intrusive thoughts out on paper, you are addressing, making sense, and eliminating them before you even perform, giving you better focus and attention on the actual upcoming important event.

We will teach your students to thrive under pressure with key stress management skills. Ideal in the lead up to exams.

Don’t sweat the small stuff

At the time, your worries and doubts make the situation seem far worse than it actually is. Many of us have looked back on an issue a couple of months later, and thought “why did I worry so much about that?” Further down the line, most do not think about, or even remember, the worry at all. So instead of exaggerating your doubts, try to be more realistic and see the concern as a minor obstacle. Trying to see a situation from a different perspective or point of view will help you to understand what is important and what is irrelevant.

Be kind to yourself

Psychologists use the term ‘self-compassion’ to explain how well you can comfort and care for yourself when faced with doubt, failure or hard-times. How self-compassionate you are has been found to be a big predictor of how much self-doubt you have.

Some tips to improve your self-compassion include being kind to yourself after you fail, recognising that everyone fails at some stage, focusing on the bigger picture, and acknowledging that it is unreasonable to expect yourself never to make a mistake.

Focus on your preparation

By focusing on how well you prepare for an event (be it revision before an exam or training before a match), you can strengthen your confidence. The more prepared you are, the more confident you will be.

One great technique to encourage preparation is goal-setting. It helps to provide a structured plan for your personal aims, keeps you organised and on track to meet those aims, and increases motivation. Check out our blog on how to do goal setting right to ensure you are setting goals properly. 

In addition, being prepared helps you to stop focusing on the potential negative consequences and things that you cannot control, hence reducing unwanted distractions. Thus it encourages you to concentrate on the present moment and the things you have control over, leading to more positive outcomes.

Final thoughts

Self-doubt doesn’t need to be a traitor that snatches defeat from the jaws of victory. A little bit of doubt can help you perform better. If those doubts get too much, then weigh up the evidence, write out your nerves, don’t sweat the small stuff, be kind to yourself, and focus on your preparation.

About the editor

Bradley Busch

Bradley Busch

Bradley Busch is a Chartered Psychologist and a leading expert on illuminating Cognitive Science research in education. As Director at InnerDrive, his work focuses on translating complex psychological research in a way that is accessible and helpful. He has delivered thousands of workshops for educators and students, helping improve how they think, learn and perform. Bradley is also a prolific writer: he co-authored four books including Teaching & Learning Illuminated and The Science of Learning, as well as regularly featuring in publications such as The Guardian and The Telegraph.

Follow on XConnect on LinkedIn