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10 Things to Do When Doubting Yourself

As discussed in my last post, negativity and skepticism of success is something to be avoided. However, we are only human and we are bound to encounter negative or doubting thoughts at one time or another.

Now that we have established the importance positive thinking is to your success, I would like to discuss some ways to combat doubtful thinking when it inevitably arises.

I find that I doubt myself quite frequently, and while I know how important it is to be positive, I can’t help but do it anyway.

Since it can’t be helped, it is important to look to stop these negative thoughts as soon as possible. Thus I came up with this list of 10 ways to stop doubting yourself.

1. Consult a loved one

I find this to be my most effective tactic for dealing with doubt. Consulting a loved one who supports and believes in you, yet honest and objective enough to know they genuinely believe you will succeed will definitely help relieve doubts in your mind.

Its not always advice that you seek but just reassurance that you are on the right track, despite any setbacks that you have faced.

I talk to my fiancée when I experience doubt in the success of my business and she usually reassures me that the difficulties I am facing are common ones and that I just have to be persistent and patient. I know she is being honest because she is as equally invested in my success as I am, so I know if she believes I am going in the wrong direction she will tell me.

2. Take a break and do something you love

Sometimes having a bad or not very productive day can effect your mood and make you more pessimistic. Take a break and do something you love and enjoy. It will put you in a better mood and better equip you to tackle the problems you are facing with a renewed sense of optimism.

Take a few hours, or confront the problem the next day. Make sure you are not still thinking about the day’s negative points and that you are approaching your business’ problems with a better mood.

3. Surround yourself with optimistic people

If you have friends, employees or family members that are generally pessimistic, they are the last people you should be around when you are doubting yourself.

If you are finished with work for the day, spend some time with more optimistic people, and maybe even consult them about your doubts (don’t do this too often or you may be labeled as pessimistic). You will find that their positive attitude will relieve you of many of your own doubts.

If you work with some pessimistic employees, try to distance yourself from them for the remainder of the day and instead consult your more optimistic employees.

Make sure that you approach your pessimistic employees later, when you are in a good and optimistic mood and make sure to help them establish a positive attitude. Remember, you want an encouraging atmosphere in the entire office.

4. Determine if your difficulties are normal ones

Sometimes the doubts you are having are the result of common difficulties that all businesses in your industry or age experience. Maybe you are experiencing growing pains, selling difficulties or difficulties finding funding.

These are all problems that newer businesses face. Maybe you are experiencing seasonal slowdowns or customer needs are shifting. This could be experienced throughout your industry.

If this is the case, you are not alone and your difficulties are normal ones. Do some quick research to see if these difficulties are normal for businesses in your industry or age group and see what your competitors/peers have done or are doing to deal with the situation.

5. Ask yourself if you are blowing things out of proportion

I do this a lot. Many people have a tendency to blow a problem out of proportion and think that it is a bigger issue than it actually is.

Recognizing that this might be the case with your present doubts will relieve some uncertainty in your mind and help you confront the situation more effectively. This often goes hand in hand with consulting a loved one since you often may need an objective set of eyes to point it out to you.

6. Fix what you are specifically doubting

You may have general doubts about the success of your business, but what specifically is bothering you about it? Is it key employees? A marketing campaign you are uncertain about? Advertising mediums?

Drill down and determine the source of your uncertainty and try and fix it. Sometimes just realizing what exactly is making you uncertain is enough to make you feel better. You may not even need to fix it since it the issue turns out to be smaller than you realized.

7. Consult a mentor or another business owner you know

Mentors are great to have. They have likely already traveled the path that you are treading now and will give you great advice and warn you of difficulties ahead. They will also remember the doubts and difficulties they faced and will be able to tell you how threatening they can be and how they can be addressed.

Similar holds true to other business owners you know. They have either progressed down the same road already or are doing it at the same time as you.

Knowing that other entrepreneurs are facing the same difficulties may help you feel better and help you realize that your problems are a lot more common.

8. Look at the successes of others

Looking at your successful competitors could discourage you, or you can use their history as an opportunity to learn from. They may have started out as a very humble, small company like yours. This alone can help you realize that you have the potential to grow this large.

You don’t have to look at your competitors though. Apple Computer was started in a garage, Google was created by two college students in a dorm and both Bill Gates and Steve Jobs were college dropouts.

All of these successful companies/business owners have humble beginnings themselves. Don’t let your humble beginnings discourage you from thinking that you have the ability to grow to be just as large.

9. Look at what your competitors are doing

This is different than that last one. Number 8 addressed what your competitors and other successful businesses did. This is about what your successful competitors are doing now.

You larger, established competitors have an extensive budget and a lot more consumer data than you. You don’t need the same. How they are marketing and positioning products are a result of these massive budgets and years of accumulated consumer data.

Knowing this, take notes on their tactics and take on a similar advertising strategy. You will save time and money and you will enjoy the same successes as they have (relative to the size of your business).

If you found yourself doubting an ad you are going to run, or a product you are going to launch, seeing what your competition is doing can either ease your fears or assist you in showing what it is you need to adjust.

10. Get your customer’s opinions or do market research

If you are in doubt about an advertisement, or your product’s ability to meet market demands, ask one of your good customers their opinion. Your good customers will be more than happy to advise you on what they do and don’t like about your product, if they would buy a new one that is launching or if they do or don’t like an ad that you have run.

If you are just starting out and don’t have any customers, do some market research. AdWords for Dummies author Howie Jacobson advises advertisers to consult blogs, check Google Trends and user groups to see what it is customers demand and what they react to.

Bonus: Read an inspirational book

Inspirational books are designed to do just that: inspire you. They are there to make you feel more energized, confident, optimistic and less doubtful. If you have one, pick it up and read it. If you don’t, pick one up from the library or buy one (you can always reference it later in this case).

Tim Ferriss, author of The 4 Hour Work-Week recommends the book The Magic of Thinking Big, by, David Schwartz. I have bought it, but have yet to read it (when I do I will post a review). However, going by Tim’s review and what I have read about it, it sounds like a great read for those who are doubting their business’ ability to grow.

Do you have any tactics you use for stopping doubts? Post them in the comments below!

10 comments… add one
  • Dania Salguero November 12, 2008, 12:20 am

    I been trying very hard to start my own business and it is discouraging when you find yourself getting no where. Thank you for such helpful information/advice. It gave me motivation to keep trying, after all it is very difficult to make it on your first few tries.
    Please keep posting, I am sure many people will find it helpful.

  • Matt Thomas November 26, 2008, 11:27 am

    Thank you, Dania for your kind words. Best of luck in your business and as long as you keep persisting and remaining optimistic, you will get to where you want to be!

  • Brad Garland February 8, 2010, 12:03 am

    No agenda, just wanted to say I appreciate the post Matt. It was what was needed.

    • Matt Thomas February 16, 2010, 12:24 am

      Happy to hear you liked it! Any particular step you found most useful?

  • Bernard Osisek April 12, 2010, 4:38 pm

    Thank you! That was really informational, I just bookmarked your url.

  • José July 23, 2010, 4:19 am

    Doubting oneself is the beginning of knowing oneself. What one must do when doubting oneself is to stop and rather doubt what one knows about oneself

    • Matt Thomas July 23, 2010, 4:41 pm

      If your doubts on the success of a project are valid and based on something tangible or measurable, then it is important to reflect and maybe even divest. Conversely, it becomes a problem if one is doubting their success due to a lack of confidence in them self.

  • Ray August 27, 2010, 12:40 am

    Great Post – I’ve recently sold my business which I started years ago as a new division in conjunction with a large corporation. I’m now looking to go on my own; it’s challenging; posts like yours go a long way for people in my position.

    Thank you,


    • Matt Thomas August 27, 2010, 12:58 am

      Thank you for the kind words. Best of luck on your new venture! It can be very easy to doubt yourself when going out on your own, but as soon as you move past those doubts, you’ll surprise yourself with how much you can accomplish. Try to recognize doubts for what they are: warnings. I feel doubts can be useful in that they prevent us from being impulsive, but if you let doubts get the best of you, they will only paralyze you. Do your best in striking a balance: listen to your concerns, but also learn to trust yourself to make the right decisions.

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