How to deal with self-doubt: Confident people’s secret

When I was about to leave everything in Sweden and move to NYC, these doubts popped up in my head:

  • But what if I don’t make any friends?
  • What if I don’t like it there?
  • What if I don’t make any money?
  • What if I have to go back to Sweden and everyone sees that I’m a failure?

Here’s what I’ve come to learn about self-doubt:

  1. Everyone has it.
  2. Everyone who’s ever succeeded with anything has felt like this and followed their dream ANYWAY.

Life is about doing things DESPITE the feeling that we might fail.

Isn’t it crazy to let life be dictated by a negative voice telling us it won’t work?

And we go “Oh, yeah, you’re right, negative voice. I’ll ditch all my dreams because it might not work”.

I’ve developed a tactic to overcome this voice.

How to overcome the voice of self-doubt

I learned that there was only one way to deal with self-doubt:

I had to accept that those thoughts were there, but CHOOSE to act despite them.

I could have an internal dialogue like this:

“David, this isn’t going to work. There’s no point trying”.

“Ok, I understand that you think that way, voice. I’m going to at least TRY anyway”.

I call this doing despite doubt.

I saw a documentary about Jim Carrey the other day. He revealed that his father always hoped to make it as an actor in the USA.

But he decided to take a safer path and stay in Canada, working as an accountant and raise a family.

However, he lost his job at 51. After that, he became bitter.

Jim said:

“Not only was he compromising to raise a family, but when you compromise AND you fail, it really hurts. It hurts even more than failing at what you love.”

You know what else I’ve noticed?

It’s easy to get caught up in what might go wrong. In other words, the DOWNSIDE to doing something.

I’ve taught myself to think as much about the UPSIDE to doing despite doubt.

When I worried about what could go wrong with being better socially, I learned to think as much about what could go right.

I visualized myself a rich social life, having loads of friends, always someone to do fun stuff with and the life I’d always dreamt of.

I even wrote down what my dream life would look like.

That made me realize that the upside was way bigger than the downside – that doing despite doubt was worth it.

fear in social situations

Pancake brunch with friends here in NYC.

Now, I’m curious to know: What would the upside to doing despite doubt look like for YOU?

Let me know about a specific thing in your life right now where you doubt yourself!

By writing it down, just like I did, it becomes clearer if it outweighs the risk of failing.

And what’s your conclusion – does doing it outweigh the risk of failing?

I’m excited to read what you’ll write down!

David Morin is the founder of SocialSelf. He's been writing about social skills since 2012. Follow on Twitter or read more.

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  1. My anxiety doesn’t let me think of any good thing. For example, if I didn’t hold myself back and wasn’t afraid to open up or be myself, I could end up being beaten to death by someone who gets offended by something I say. Or, end up in jail for acting out and having too much fun.

  2. How can people see the good in me when I have no friends and support. And I feel I do not have any conversations.

  3. Hi I am a good person, but people only see my defects versus the good on me. I am in my late 50’s without a job, friends, family and support. I am getting tired. Is there hope to be what I want to be? I

    • I think there is always hope. Have you thought about therapy or getting a pet (if you don’t already have one)? A pet plus a good book make better company than some people… I found my boyfriend late in life and am only now slowly learning how to make friends. It isn’t easy and the reason isn’t always us. People aren’t always interested in seeing the good in others, they can be motivated by envy or the desire to make themselves feel better by excluding others. I hope things turn around for you. Don’t define yourself by what is missing in your life, you are still the amazing person you are whether someone notices or not…

  4. I’m an aspiring musician and I struggle with a lot of doubts in terms of whether I’m even any good or if I’ll even succeed, but I know that it’s something I’ve always wanted to do, and being able to overcome those doubts would put me on the right path to actually getting to do what I want with my life

  5. I worry a lot about rejection going to social. events. But the upside is if I go I get to 1) Practice getting better at making connections, 2) Learn more about people (everyone has a story), 3) Experience. different ideas and POV and broaden ideas, and 3). Actually experience the emotional comfort and satisfaction from connecting to another human being, 4) Be one step closer to my goal of finding a partner and being comfortable with opening up. Now I am excited!

  6. At the age of 52 I am back in school to get my cosmetology license. I am terrified that I am too old, not good enough, and not able to become good enough to succeed. I am doing it anyway. I need this for myself. The downside: I will be pretty much like I have been for the past 20 or so years. The upside: I will finally have a career instead of a crappy job, my own money, be able to stand up on my own, make myself and my children proud and make other’s feel beautiful. I really want to make others feel just a little bit better than they did before I had the pleasure of meeting them.

  7. I get anxious if I go to a social gathering of not knowing anybody. I fear others will be bored with what I say. At times, I think many of my relatives are more confident since they have friends than myself.

  8. I want to be able to approach someone I think is cute and connect with them without it being difficult for me. In my ideal life I am confident when I speak and with who I am. My social life is rich and fulfilling in the sense that I know that the people around me have my back and I have theirs. I do fun things with my friends that I might otherwise not do because of fear. I go out of my comfort zone. I am able to go to places alone and get to know people. Other people want to be around me and ask to meet up. I am no longer the quiet one in group conversations, but I am also a great listener.

  9. I’ve been plucking up courage to text a friend of a friend to get to know them better. I have them on Facebook and I knew them from college but it’s been a while. I just keep thinking it might be awkward texting and that I may not always know what to say. I have Asperger’s syndrome so I naturally find it hard to strike up conversation or keep it going when under pressure. I’ve improved socially over the years but I still get nervous and think of all that could go wrong. I really love reading your emails, David, they are very beneficial and relatable.

  10. Well I always fear that I will make a fool of myself whenever I try socializing , as sometimes I stammer, end conversation abruptly because of fear of judging. I always doubt myself that will I be able to make friends or is there no point in trying only.

  11. At my age I should know how to ask someone to do so but every step feels like a different intimacy level. Small talk at lunch versus lunch out at a restaurant or having someone over for dinner. I really dont even know how to ask someone to do something together or the right timing.

  12. Hi David, I failed an exam this summer. I wanted to get into the best highschool but I didn’t. I got into my second option. I want to transfer from 10th grade but i’m so scared that I will not succed, because I started with a wrong foot. I mean, at the moment I don’t have good grades, and the semester is almost ending. I’m afraid that i will not achieve it, since I failed the first time, and it was much easier. And I really wish it, and it’s always stressing me that I will fail and spend another 3 years in a school that I don’t like. I used to love school, but now I don’t, and I know if I will succed I will be happy and enjoy highschool. Also, i’m not a native english speaker so if I made mistakes you know why. :))

    • Dear Maria,
      I just want to say that your English is very good. I know many native English speakers who do not write as well as you. The standard of writing of many native English speakers is very poor. So you missed the shift key a couple of times – that is minor – we all struggle with the capitalisation of ‘I’ when typing. I can tell from the clear way you write that you are intelligent and diligent so I am sure you will succeed – don’t give up.

  13. Hi David.

    For me, I can be a bit social but I get so nervous starting a relationship o even maintaining a friendship. Sometimes when I speak with even people I know, I tend to shiver and sometimes feel I have nothing reasonable to say so I rather just look and listen and feel intimidated when my friends speak. I know it’s something that has to be worked on. I believe it will be better soon.

  14. I am actually very interested in modelling but like i m too nervous for giving it a try coz i think that people would judge me i know it sounds weird… but as u said look on the upside so i guess that i should give it a try who knows that whatever i am thinking might be wrong

  15. Hey david so whenever i try to socialize with people i always think that i would be weird or i may mess up…but as u said that we should look on the upside so i guess from now i would just think like they like me and they have a lot of fun spending time with me and that they find me very interesting :))

  16. Oh David! I love your articles and emails; they are so enlightening and always speak directly to me. I hate to say this, but you need a proofreader. Aside from that, you are perfect! 🙂

  17. Thanks David,I can say that the OFC has really wiped out my nervourness am able to talk to strangers(Only to talk about something which general).I am many times scared to talk to ladies thinking that i will run out of things to say

  18. Best of luck dear! I promise you will nail it there and become greatest teacher of our time. (I’m a high schooler btw, lol). Good luck teacher!

  19. Hi David, hope you are well. This your latest advice has just come at the right time as I start a new job on Tuesday and feel anxious about whether of not I’m going to be able to do the job, but I have to give it a go and try.

    Thank you.
    Ms Judie Jacobs

  20. The thing i doubt myself in is to talk first or just trying to start a simple small talk or conversation. I always think what im about to say would just backfire and that people would judge me about it.

  21. I wanted to go into art – like visual art – but i eventually ended up in social science, i felt i wasnt capable of becoming the Leonardo Da’vinci of our time and that the pay is huge.
    But now i am interested in graphics art and programming, i would love to work with apps, but what if am not good at that too, the industry requires constant learning and re-learning.
    I want to start a business, but am not convinced of anyone. Please David any advice? Thanks for reading ?

    • Oops sorry I read that wrong my mistake buddy!! But I’m sure you will be good at anything you try u just might not like it. And if u don’t like it it is harder to excel at something but u won’t know until you try!

  22. Sometimes I feel so lonely when I’m at home doing my studies. I feel like I’m quite an egoistic person, not very open and friendly, who has some fears inside, but tries to look cool outside. Thoughts like these can get in my way any time. Also I
    it’s hard for me to concentrate on m6 goals. Btw, David, appreciate your content so far.

    • I know how u feel I am a friendly person who attracts the wrong people.I feel so lonely after my partner died I know people but not one personal friend thanks

    • Hey Vasyl, your comment reminded me of myself. I am a student too and I understand the pressure of studies as well as the goals. I have too spent lonely days with at my home and my books in front of me to dig your face in…and just nothing else. But you know, I then realized I was missing myself outand thought I could do something for myself! Like I could adopt a pet (its really fun..they make us feel enlightened!) or just something else I liked. Yup, I too felt like that egoist person but I just dropped that down and took my mind to something else. Just try it dear, when you do something which makes you happy and instead of thinking yourself as wierd..find some time to do something you like. I liked to draw sketches (anime..yeah) and liked to cook (even if it would go uneatable) but I did so..and it helped! Just go do some sketches or go for aerobics or you might learn kung-fu in your free helps a lot. Really! I think thebest way is to adopt a pet or if you have one just talk with it about your problems.. even if it won’t listen, you would feel good. TY..(My comment went too large, I see.)


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