12 Ways to Overcome Self-Doubt and Build a Profitable Business

12 Ways to Overcome Self-Doubt and Build a Profitable Business
Image credit: Aftab Uzzaman | Flickr

There's a tendency to assume that successful, confident people never have any doubts -- that they are decisive about every choice, never have regrets and always know what to do.

But that couldn't be further from the truth.

The fact is, everyone, even the most sanguine leaders, second-guess themselves. As they climb their personal success ladder, almost certainly they are haunted by indecision.

Self-doubt is a very human response to all the challenges life throws your way. Even still, it doesn’t have to stop you from overcoming obstacles and reaching your goals.

Here are 12 valuable tips for defeating doubt and directing your energy toward more productive ways of thinking. In due time, you’ll be just like all the entrepreneurs you have always admired.

Related: How to Deal With Self-Doubt

1. Know you're not alone.

First, acknowledge that everyone has doubts. It's isolating to believe that you're the only one suffering from a lack of confidence. You’ll sabotage your success if you feel like an outlier.  

2. Stop worrying about what others think.

When you spend all your time and energy trying to manage other peoples’ perception of you, you'll get stuck in an inadequacy loop. There will always be someone who appears to be doing better, getting further or having more. Do not benchmark yourself against others’ accomplishments and possessions.

3. Set immediate goals.

In addition to adopting ambitious, long-term goals, remember to establish attainable, short-term ones. It's easy to let doubt creep in when your big goals aren’t immediately realized. By achieving smaller goals along the way, you can constantly bask in frequent wins. 

Related: Victory Comes to Those Who Silence the Voice of Self-Doubt

4. Remind yourself of prior successes.

When the uncertainty inevitably hits, instead of dwelling on negatives, reflect on what went right and recent achievements -- with each accomplishment being another step along the path toward reaching bigger goals. Give yourself full credit for your triumphs.

5. Surround yourself with the right people.

No person is an island, as the saying goes, and that holds true for your business life as well. Keep the people who encourage you close and seek out their feedback on a regular basis. Distance yourself from individuals who are always pessimistic toward you, your business and your future prospects.

Related: How Entrepreneurs Can Stay Engaged and Happy

6. Be selective.

In a Psychology Today article, psychologist Leslie Becker-Phelps advises paying more attention to positive feedback than to negative responses. Take time each day to remember accomplishments, even small ones and actively choose to view the world around you in a positive way.

Always look for alternative interpretations of situations that didn't turn out the way you wanted. Things happen that are outside of your control, irrespective of your involvement.

7. Remember the rest of the world.

It can be hard to separate yourself from bad experiences. You might do everything exactly right and yet sometimes things simply don’t work out. Remind yourself of that when you begin to doubt your abilities.  

And it's important to take a step back and remember that you're not the center of the universe. Other people have their goals and achievements, troubles and interpretations of situations.  

8. Don't hinge personal identity to instant success.

Most people develop an idealistic image of themselves. When they fail to live up to that image at any point, doubt sinks in.

Despite your best efforts and intentions, mistakes happen and it doesn't make sense to dwell on them. Instead, learn from each blunder and actively develop better habits.

9. Forgive yourself.

A sure way to waste time is by beating yourself up and choosing to feel miserable. Give yourself permission to move on. One enlightening way to measure your self-compassion is to take a short test developed by University of Texas at Austin associate professor Kristen Neff.

10. Be decisive but don’t fear a change of mind.

When the time comes to make a decision, do not overexpend your energy dithering. In most cases, your first gut feeling is probably the right choice, so make a decision and move on.

But do not be afraid to change course if, down the line, you realize it wasn’t the right choice after all. That might seem like a contradiction, but it is not. 

Bob Johansen of nonprofit think tank Institute for the Future advises people to have “strong opinions, weakly held.” Be flexible in your views, as you acquire more information and gain new knowledge.

11. Distract yourself.

It's all too easy to become overly caught up in negative thoughts, which left unchecked can spread to all aspects of your life. Break the cycle immediately. A few ways to try to exit this self-destructive mental loop include taking a walk, moving on to another project or doing exercise. Experiment and find the technique that works best to quell pessimism before it consumes you.

12. Face your fears.

Finally, do not let fear or self-doubt dictate how you lead your personal life or operate your business. Regularly evaluate the worst-case scenarios as well as the risk-reward ratio and face the things that scare you head-on.

People who are afraid to fail never move forward or grow, personally and professionally. The more you push yourself, the more you'll realize what you are capable of. Eventually, you may even be able to reverse the negative effects of self-doubt and use it to challenge your limitations and achieve greatness.

Related: Why Fear Is the Entrepreneur's Best Friend