Personal Development

12 Steps to overcome self-doubt once and for all

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This is a true story about how one nerdy Asian kid who doubted himself and who was terrified of people overcame his fears and self-doubts to become a lawyer and speak in front of juries, judges and politicians.

I spoke to juries in defense of my clients' innocence and to hearing rooms filled with politicians about immigration policy and workers' rights.

You might have a lot of self-doubts, too.

You have dreams and know your life purpose and all of that, but when it comes to taking action you might be lacking in the confidence department.

self_doubtYou don't have the guts to stand up and speak in front of other people although you know you have a message and a talent for speaking.

You don't publish that blog post or book because you're terrified of the reaction.

You don't dare consider changing careers because you can't imagine taking so much risk. You don't believe in yourself enough to take big moves.

You don't talk to that dream woman in your office because you fear her reaction. It's likely the person you want to spend the rest of your life with, but hey, she might have a boyfriend or six. She might be married. She might like women. She might be planning to join the monastery.

My story

I wasn't always confident or sure of myself. Quite the opposite "“ I was terrified of people, scared in public and very nervous about taking any action.

This was the case even in my junior year of high school when a group of friends encouraged me to run for class president. I thought this idea was crazy because there was no way I was going to stand in an auditorium filled with hundreds of people I didn't know and give a speech about why they should elect me.

I knew that I was qualified to do the job, but I could not speak in public for the life of me.

After I felt enough pressure to run for this office and go through the election process, the big day came when I would have to give the speech.

Did I crush it?

Did I give the speech of my life and win the day?


A total bomb "“ I read my notes while speaking, talked too fast and overheard many students chatting to themselves during the speech, likely asking what it was that I was saying. A bad mix of my accent, my speed and my nervousness likely made it impossible for anyone to understand me.

The most unbelievable part of this process was that, ultimately, I won that election.

And in no way was it because of my speech.

No, it was more the politicking I had done outside of the auditorium that saved the day. Encouraging people who never participated in school elections, my friends, and students who never engaged themselves in anything school-related (again, my friends) was enough to get the necessary votes to win.

This one big win in my life "“ winning my high school election "“ was a confidence boost. It was a time when I went through the scariest event of my life, came out of it alive and won.

Since that time, I've had other small and big wins that helped eliminate the doubts I had about myself and enabled me to become the person I am today.

A memorable part of my journey toward overcoming self-doubt was Toastmasters "“ a public speaking organization I joined when I started college. This was a transformative experience in my life.

Imagine this "“ showing up to a group of 15 to 20 people on a weekly basis and speaking in front of them. Giving speeches so that you will receive evaluations and critiques after every one of them. Imagine standing up and giving answers off the cuff in front of this small group of people.

What I realized is that this supportive group of individuals helped change my life forever. Once I discovered that I could speak in front of small groups, I started going to other Toastmaster clubs and speaking to them. Then I spoke in a speech competition. Then I spoke in class. Before I knew it, I spoke a lot in my class.

Soon, I realized that I could speak to random strangers. And to end this story, let me say that my public speaking skills found a welcome place in law school, where I spoke in class, and then in my career as a lawyer.

I still recall in shock that I stood next to clients convicted of serious crimes, representing them in court in front of juries and judges, and made cases for their innocence.

I can't believe I did all these things, but I know it's possible from first-hand experience.

You too can join Toastmasters and improve your public speaking. It's all over the country and the world, and usually costs a very modest price "“ or is even free "“ to join in most locations. Public speaking can help boost your self-esteem and eliminate self-doubt.

In addition to Toastmasters, I want to reflect upon and offer other tips to help you get rid of self-doubt, attain confidence and start achieving things you don't believe you can do.

The benefits of conquering your self-doubt and believing in yourself.

Our self-doubts paralyze us regularly. We don't believe we can accomplish the things we actually can.

We know this deep down at our gut level, but our tricky minds and belief systems prevent us from going after our dreams and desires.

When we don't have strong beliefs in ourselves, we can't accomplish our hearts' desires.

Without strong self-belief, we think we can't accomplish what's right in front of our eyes.

We feel negative and frustrated about not being able to do those things that deep down we know we can do.

We play the small game and opt for our Plan-B or Plan-C life.

If you're tired of the small game and Plan B, here are 12 ways to overcome your self-doubt, believe in yourself and achieve your life's goals.

1.Focus on your own game (and life).

Just a reminder that you only have to play the game (of life) that's in front of you.

You don't have to compare yourself to others or judge what others are doing.

It's about your life, your courage, your fears and your dreams. As much as you feel the need to compare and judge yourself, don't.

You also don't have to engage or participate in any comments that others are directing toward you or the opinions of others about what you're doing.

Life's complicated enough as it is. Opt to listen to yourself and follow your truth instead of playing to the tunes of others.

You only get one life and it's yours.

2. Check your beliefs.

You may have strong beliefs that have developed throughout the course of your life.

Your beliefs may have developed out of failure, embarrassment or situations that made you retrench and retreat.

If you've had bad experiences publicly or had someone shut you down in front of a group of close friends, your confidence may have taken a beating.

Or as you observed people growing up, maybe you developed a belief that confidence are courage are natural-born qualities. Some people have self-belief and courage, and others don't.

Is now the time to look at these beliefs you've developed throughout the course of your life?

Are you willing to adopt the belief that you can overcome self-doubt through positive self-talk, practice and belief in yourself?

Do you now realize that you can alter your belief in yourself by working on it? You can practice and improve upon your self-belief and confidence throughout the course of your lifetime.

3. Keep your achievements in mind.

You may doubt yourself because you think you've never done well in social circumstances or the big moments in your life when you had to step up.

Instead of focusing on events when you might have let yourself down, focus on your achievements and when you really came through.

Remember when you completed that project with ease.

Or when you gave a presentation to your managers and they implemented your ideas.

Think about the time your manager assigned you a difficult project because he or she believed in you.

You can choose which stories about your past you want to give power to; choose the more powerful ones.

4. A state of self-belief.

Imagine what it would be like to believe in yourself. What do people who believe in themselves look like? What do they talk like and walk like?

You can create this state in which you believe in yourself.

You can acknowledge yourself for every achievement or success you have "“ celebrate them.

You can also boost your state of self-belief by improving your posture and adopting the body language of confidence.

Remember how it felt during those times when you really believed in yourself and felt confident in a situation? Imagine those feelings, that body language and that posture, and try to implement them in your life today.

See more in number 12

5. Change the stories you're telling yourself about the past.

You are telling yourself a story about the past that may not be true.

If you're re-playing a story in your mind about how much you don't believe in yourself and how afraid you've been your whole life, you're going to act from this place of uncertainty and doubt.

If you remember those confidence highs in your life and think about each and every time you took confident action and believed in yourself, you are likely to see better results now.

If you can identify that disempowering story, change it. Change it by focusing on different stories of the past. The past doesn't exist anymore, so you get to choose which experiences you are going to remember and how you're going to remember it. Stick with the positive, confidence-boosting experiences.

6. Keep the naysayers far away.

You already have thoughts that are sabotaging your mind and inner dialogue. You don't need external critics and naysayers to add fuel to the fire.

Think about who makes you doubt yourself and feel extremely low about yourself. Who asks personal questions to compare, undermine or make you doubt your abilities? Those people "“ keep them far away.

Don't pick up the phone or answer the text. Yes, one day you can work on the divine practice of ignoring or loving those individuals' irritating behavior, but today may not be that day. Create physical barriers between yourself and people who bring you down.

7.Stay true to who you are.

If you're uncertain about yourself, you might not know who you are.

I don't know if one post can help you discover yourself, but I'm telling you that one exercise can. The DNA that runs your life (unseen and unnoticed) is your values.

Get to know what yours are "“ what you value in life will give you insight into what's important to you, what will be there to help guide you. It will be great to know your values so that you'll learn whether what you're doing jives with who you are.

If you're doing something that's not in alignment with your values, you're going to doubt yourself. Instead, work with a life coach or sit down with a book about values and map yours out.

Life will be easier once you're in alignment with what's important to you. You'll believe in yourself more when you believe in the work you're doing.

8. Work on self-compassion and self-acceptance.

Much of our self-doubt stems from the critical voice inside our heads.

It's our consciousness or inner-selves that we've compared, judged and berated since our childhoods.

Our inner voices find the most negative and judgmental things to say in any given situation because that's how society has trained them.

Our inner voices came from our parents, teachers and others who raised us. Their voices became our own voices.

This voice needs love. The art of managing this voice requires recognizing it, loving it and inviting it to leave after it's overstayed its welcome.

You can thank it for coming into your mind and reminding you of the dangers or fears involved in a situation, but then bid it farewell.

At the same time, continue to reaffirm yourself and show compassion for yourself through the way you talk to yourself.

Be mindful of the thoughts that enter your mind and show kindness to the negative ones that pop up.

9. Work on embracing uncertainty and failure.

This is no easy task, but it can be done.

Often we are unsure of ourselves because we fear the unknown and failure.

How do we transform the way we think about these things in our minds?

If you start thinking about the unknown as an adventure or a game of life, it's easier to embrace. Instead of "what now," why not consider, "what is life going to surprise me with?"

And as far as failure goes, instead of viewing it as a disappointment, you have the power to reframe it as a lesson.

Not "what am I going to fail at next," but "what am I going to learn today?"

If you can think of uncertainty as adventure and failure as a lesson, you're going to be better able to navigate the world.

10. Practice confidence.

If you think speaking in front of a classroom is terrifying, practice raising your hand in a small group and speaking up.

If you would never talk to strangers, start a conversation with the teller at the bank or the cashier at the supermarket.

If you could never do a presentation in front of a large room, lead the conference call on the telephone for a day.

Start boosting your self-belief by taking small steps of confidence.

Every time you speak to someone, take responsibility in your life and step up your game. The more you do this, the more belief you'll have in yourself.

It's not going to happen overnight, but it can happen over time if you are committed to improving yourself and boosting your belief in yourself.

11. Visualization.

See it, imagine it, believe it and feel it.

Yes, today you might not have all the courage and belief in yourself that you want to have, but can you see it in your mind's eye?

Start there. Visualization is a powerful exercise that allows you to see a future that is not yet here.

What would it feel like to believe in yourself and go about your life with confidence?

How would you look? How would you speak? How would you walk? What would your body language look like?

Visualize this place in your mind and strive every day to get closer to this vision of yourself.

12. Act confident.

Much of our self-doubt has to do with our mindsets and our thoughts, not our body language or our demeanor. But what if we reversed it?

What if our body language, stance and the way we present ourselves in the world got a boost? We would naturally have more self-worth and self-belief.

Start walking (yes, physically) like you're on top of the world.

Use gestures as though you're the world's surest leader.

Speak with gusto even it's to your wife, your parents or colleagues at work.

Yes, you'll feel like it's superficial and inauthentic, but here's where you can fake it until you make it.

The bolder the actions you take and the more confidence in your step, the bolder and more courageous you'll feel internally.

You can overcome self-doubt with practice and work. You can build up confidence within yourself to go about the world. As you know, mastering self-doubt will allow you to do better at work, get raises, meet new people and have richer experiences.

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About the author


Vishnu Subramaniam is the writer behind the popular self-help blog where he writes about starting over in life. For Vishnu's latest book, Does True Love Exist: 15 Simple Ideas for Finding Your Life Partner, click here.