By David Cox | January 4, 2021
How can managing your self-doubts prove beneficial to your career success?
Self-doubt and the inner critic
The term inner critic is certainly not an original term. I use it to describe the voice in my mind that expresses my self-doubts whenever I consider a new career opportunity.
My inner critic gives voice to all the reasons I will most likely fail if I choose to pursue the opportunity. It also reminds me that if I stay in a role that is familiar, it will seem safe and comfortable.
The value in listening to self-doubts
There is some value in doubting yourself. There are benefits in admitting that you need to learn more and improve. However, you don’t want self-doubts to keep you from moving forward.
For example, let’s say you can’t stand your present job and want to pursue a new career. You may have doubts that may concern you about “starting over.”
Some of your doubts may involve financial requirements, family obligations, inadequate talent, or a lack of essential educational background. These are examples of issues that you must resolve or adequately address before pursuing your next step.
Unfortunately, many use self-doubts as a convenient excuse to procrastinate and avoid the risks associated with change and starting a new career.
For instance, when generalists start pursuing a new career interest, we feel the need to master its information and skills inside and out. This approach seems practical. After all, learning and preparation is often a key to success.
However, at some point, learning ceases to be a positive endeavor. Instead, it merely justifies inaction. In other words, you need to know when to stop learning and start doing.
Learning how to manage your inner critic
Some individuals surrender as soon as their self-doubts arise. The closer they come to making a decision that calls for change, the louder their inner critic becomes, allowing it veto power over your career decisions.
If you want to limit your inner critic’s negative influence, I encourage you to learn how to manage your self-doubts. Here is one strategy that has proven effective for me.
Acknowledge your self-doubts and respond to them
You cannot manage a doubt you refuse to acknowledge. Subsequently, you must identify your self-doubts objectively so you can effectively respond to your inner critic.
For example, I recognize that I am not a great writer. Yet, I’ve always wanted to make a living with my writing. Whenever I consider writing for a living, my inner critic prompts the following questions and statements in my mind:
- Do you honestly believe you have the talent to become a writer?
- Why do you think you have anything to say that the world needs to hear?
- Why would anyone pay for anything you’ve written?
- The world doesn’t need another “wannabe” writer.
- Since you’re either going to fail or give up later, why bother trying?
Once I acknowledge my doubts, I write them down and consider how I want to respond to each of them. Reflecting on these self-doubts helped me develop the following responses:
- I feel I am a much better writer today than I was when I started working with clients four years ago.
- I believe I have something to say that can potentially help others, but I need to improve my ability to express it effectively in writing.
- I’ll let the market determine whether a sufficient number of people will pay for what I write, rather than my inner critic.
- There is always a place in the world for a good, substantive writer.
- These two assumptions are baseless. Thus, they have nothing to do with whether or not I should try to make a living as a writer.
I’ve discovered that any doubts I can resolve or actively address are no longer an issue. If my doubts indicate a need to change or improve, I can begin such processes immediately.
Living with your inner critic
If you respond to self-doubts, you will not achieve perfection, but you will improve. Just remember, nothing changes for the better unless you do something to make it happen.
Don’t waste time because your inner critic has convinced you that you cannot pursue your career interest until the timing and circumstances are perfect. That will probably never, ever happen.
It’s never too late to get started. Maybe it’s time for you to begin managing your inner critic. If you have self-doubts you need to resolve or address, that’s where your work must begin.