Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt. – Shakespeare
You’ve put in the hours. Your work commands the respect of your colleagues and teammates. You’re known and respected not only for your professional knowledge and expertise but also for the way you care about your team and treat your consumers.
So they gave you the plum promotion. It’s totally the obvious next step for you professionally. Everyone’s high-fiving you and slapping you on the back.
And even though you know you have the skills, talents and know-how, there’s a little part of you saying to yourself: “What, who, me? Did they get the right person?”
It’s like you’re living the adage: “Be careful what you wish for – you might just get it.”
When I look back at my own career, most of the early leadership roles I took on weren’t ones I actively sought out. The more likely scenario was that someone tapped me on the shoulder and said to me, “Have you thought about this? I think you could do this. I think you’d be good at it.”
And I’d be looking around and back over my own shoulder wondering who on earth they were talking to or about. And my head would start talking to me. Loudly.
Expect and celebrate doubt
From my own experience, as well as what I’ve seen in my clients, when we start to step into something big and new, like the work we were born to do, it’s natural to get a little freaked out. Or to start to doubt ourselves.
It’s completely normal: Expect doubt when you are in the midst of change.
And when you feel completely in over your head and wonder, “What on earth have I gotten myself into?“, it’s actually something to celebrate.
Because fear actually means you’re up to something. Something big.
Like your purpose, perhaps.
Just because you’re scared or doubting yourself doesn’t mean that you’re on the wrong path. Tweet that!
Fear and doubt are just mental habits you created, probably a long time ago, or keep you safe and in the status quo.
However, adhering to the status quo rarely equates to making significant change in the world. And the inherent role of a leader is to constantly step into the unknown and the new.
So, when you’re doubting yourself, know that there’s an opportunity become more aware of your beliefs, thoughts and emotions, and to learn how to work with yourself more intentionally and skillfully.
When you find yourself in imposter syndrome:
- Notice and name the thoughts you have when you’re doubting yourself. Such as: What on earth were they thinking? What a joke! If only they knew I’m a complete fake.
- Notice and name the emotions that come with each of your thoughts. Is there sadness? Anger? Vulnerability? See if you can name the specific feeling associated with each thought. If you get stuck here, check out this list of feelings to help increase your emotional vocabulary.
- As you become more aware of your thoughts and feelings that surround your doubts, shift your awareness to your whole body. Notice what you are feeling in your body when you have these thoughts and feelings, and where you feel any sensations or contractions. Name what those sensations are. Breathe, and stay with the experience.
- Imagine that only 2% of your self-doubt was true. For example, what if it was true just 2% of the time that you don’t know what you’re doing? Imagine that the self-doubt you’re feeling has some information for you: what’s the value you hold that’s just underneath the doubt? What’s important to you about being competent?
- As you gain some insight into your own experience of self-doubt, what is kindest, most positive response you could give yourself?
Regardless of what your doubting self has to say, know that as you take a giant step into your next big thing, trust that the doubt will be temporary, and that the world needs your unique brand of you out here changing the world.
In the Comments below, I’d love to hear your take on this topic.
What do you do when your doubts get the best of you?
Which of these ideas do you think might be most useful for you when you’re mired in doubt?
And if you need a hand calming your jitters as you step into what’s next, consider some 1:1 leadership coaching with me!
P.S. Pass it on!
Loved this post? Then use the icons below to tweet it, like it on Facebook and send it to specific friends via email.
And leave your email at the top or bottom of this page to be first to hear about more articles like this.
Photo credit: -mrsraggle- / Foter / CC BY-ND
I really like this way of working with self-doubt Hanna. There’s something very powerful about both naming it and reframing it in the way you suggest. I particularly like the 2% idea; such a simple way of saying this isn’t as big as I felt it was. I find separating that voice of doubt from the voice of certainty helps with clarity, and knowing that fear is a normal part of change too.
Hanna Cooper says
Thanks, Matt! Yes, 2% seems about the right amount of validity to give to our doubts, don’t you think? Glad you liked it and found it helpful!