Tips To Combat Self-Doubt From People Who Know

***Rachel Khoo would like to thank all the inspiring people who helped make the Khoollect studio a hive of creativity. Although the Khoollect studio’s doors have now closed, you can keep up with Rachel’s newest adventures on and on Rachel’s Instagram and Facebook pages – and, continue to enjoy the Khoollect website’s stories and recipes, which will remain available.***

Starting a new business, working in a creative field… or just the pressures of everyday life can all be recipes for self-doubt to creep in, so we spoke to the successful women we most admire to get their advice on overcoming it.

If you think back to the times when you’ve not shared an idea in a meeting thinking it wasn’t good enough, or put off sending an important email because it seemed too overwhelming or even simply stopped yourself short from posting on Instagram because you’re afraid of what people might think, you’ll know the feeling of self-doubt can be truly debilitating.

Being in a creative field or opening your own business almost sets you up as extra vulnerable to these feelings of self-doubt. When you’re putting yourself out there, it can be hard not to doubt what’s on offer – especially if you’re working alone and don’t have that support network to lift you back up.

One thing to remember though, you’re not alone. Even the most successful people have moments where they want to put down their laptop, stop everything and curl into a protective ball. The late formidable Maya Angelou famously once said: “I have written eleven books, but each time I think, “Uh-oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.”

Coach and mentor Sas Petherick -a regular on Sara Tasker’s Hashtag Authentic and with a podcast of her own ‘Courage and Spice’ dedicated to self-doubt – knows a thing or two about overcoming it. She says it’s important to realise that “self-doubt has absolutely nothing to do with your talent, capability or level of success. It is a completely understandable, logical and sane response to taking any kind of psychological risk.”

She’ll be sharing some practical tips to deal with self-doubt but first, we spoke to some of the women we most admire to candidly talk about self-doubt and how they’ve personally overcome it. Because we believe that by normalising these feelings and sharing what we’re all going through, we can overcome it as a community.

how to overcome self doubt

Freya Dowson, International Editorial Documentary Photographer

“Self-doubt is something I worked for years to get over because I thought that was the first step to creating the life I had been dreaming of as a freelance photographer – a life free of doubt and full of confidence. But what I discovered is that it never really goes away but it does become less important. You just have to make a plan and start from the beginning, even when you’re scared you’re going to fail. And the only way to quiet that doubtful voice in your head is to get to work on what you love, work hard, and the more you accomplish the less that doubt seems to matter. And one day you find yourself giving that doubtful voice a cheeky wink when it comes around, because you’ve got stuff to do and you don’t have time to listen.”

Holly Wulff Peterson & Erika Raxworthy of Rye London

E: “I think the main thing is just saying it. As long as you name that beast it’s a lot easier to handle.”

H: “Maybe we’re a bit older and not caring as much. We’re just very open about it with each other and actually, the more you do that, the more people notice and respond. Having people you can talk to, communicating it and making fun of it. It’s so easy to look on Instagram and social media and feel like other people are doing a much better job and having such good ideas but you just have to remember other people will always feel that way about you even if you don’t see it yourself.

Maxine Thompson of Polka Pants

“I think the best way to get over self-doubt is to a take a deep breath and step back. Looking at the situation from outside in often gives you a new perspective and new confidence. Taking one step back is the best way to take 3 steps forward.”

Louise Lockhart of The Printed Peanut 

“Self-doubt can trickle in when you’re least suspecting it. Sometimes you think everything’s going great and then all of a sudden you begin to start questioning your own style. When I first started working full-time as a designer, I found it quite isolating working from home. I’d often spiral into a Pinterest vortex looking at other people’s work and I would compare it to my own, thinking mine wasn’t as good. What you don’t realise is that it takes years to build up a solid body of work and what you see on the internet are finished pieces or products. You never see the work in progress or a number of hours (and often money, blood, sweat and tears!) behind it. In the end, I realised that the only way I can be happy with what I’m producing is if I am true to myself, my own style and what I like. There’s no point following trends because anyone can do that. What can you offer that other people can’t? Don’t lose sight of why you started your business in the first place. The chances are if you’re doing something that you can do really well and that you enjoy, you’ll go far.”

how to overcome self doubt


5 Steps To Combat Self Doubt from Sas Petherick:

So now you know it’s OK to feel it, this is how to control it. Say explains: “I know this seems simple – but don’t let it fool you – when you take small, achievable action steps towards your goal, you begin to expand your levels of psychological safety. Self-doubt is inherently protective and is always on the lookout for any risk of loss, disappointment or rejection, so when you start by taking small, doable actions you are increasing your tolerance for taking risks. This is where resilience and self-belief are cultivated.”

1. Choose one goal that your self-doubt is holding you back from.
2. Write a list of all the ways are you protecting yourself (what do you do or not do when it comes to making progress towards your goal).
3. What is the first, safest, smallest step towards your goal (choose something that feels completely doable).
4. Choose a reward for completing this (this really matters – choose something that has meaning for you).
5. Within 24 hours complete your smallest safest step and enjoy your reward.

Have any tips of your own for dealing with self-doubt? Comment in the section below. 

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