Boosting career confidence: 5 factors that foster self-doubt

Is self-doubt stopping you from reaching your full professional potential? Are you not where you want to be in your career because of that little voice in your head telling you that you're not good enough and keeping you stuck? You're not alone.


Self-doubt is a complex psychological phenomenon that involves a lack of confidence in one's abilities, decisions, or judgements. It can be influenced by various cognitive, emotional, and social factors, which we'll dig into in just a minute. But I want to start by saying that self-doubt is normal. We all get it. Nobody is free from self-doubt 100%, but it is possible to dial it down to a level that is positive and serves us, and not negative to the point it's holding us back.

Your mind uses a small and healthy dose of self-doubt to keep you safe. For example, if you're venturing off to do something for the first time, it assumes that your unfamiliarity with the task can pose a risk, so it discourages you from pursuing it. In this scenario, self-doubt is a useful tool as it motivates you to gain more clarity before blindly jumping into something unfamiliar.

The problem happens when this inbuilt response gets out of control. If you answered yes to the first couple of questions of this article, I suspect this has happened to you.

If left unchecked, self-doubt can become a limiting factor in your life.

It can hold you back from taking action and seizing opportunities. It makes starting and finishing things harder than they need to be. Instead of keeping you safe, it chips away at your confidence and makes you overly question yourself. It's therefore important to spot unhealthy self-doubt and understand what causes it and what you might be doing to make it worse.

Understanding the factors that fuel self-doubt is an important step in addressing and managing it. Self-doubt can be fuelled by a variety of factors, both internal and external, that interact to create feelings of uncertainty and insecurity.

As a leading career confidence coach for women, I support women in dialling down their self-doubt and building up their confidence daily, so this topic is something I am very familiar with. Unfortunately, there are lots of things that fuel self-doubt and make it worse. Here are the top five I see.

1. Comparison

This can be the comparison to others, but also to your past versions of yourself. Every single minute you waste comparing yourself is a minute that you could have spent getting closer to your goal.

2. Criticism

This can be other people such as your friends, your partner, your parents, your boss... The list is endless, but the biggest thing I see is self-criticism. Women are unkind to themselves, judging themselves, and speaking unkindly to themselves.

3. Avoidance

The absolute worst thing you can do when you don't feel confident in something is to avoid it. I know it feels the safest and most comfortable thing to do so we do it, but it makes the problem so much worse!

4. Lack of self-care

Neglecting your physical, mental, or emotional well-being can contribute to negative self-perception. Taking care of yourself, meeting your needs, and engaging in activities that bring you joy can help boost your self-esteem. Every time you put yourself last you are sending a message to your brain that you are not as important as everyone else and that you don't matter as much as everyone else, and over time that chips away at your self-worth.

5. Limited self-reflection

Not taking time to reflect on your accomplishments and progress can make it easy to overlook your successes and reinforce feelings of self-doubt. It's therefore important to make celebrating your wins (large and small) a regular part of your routine. Otherwise, you will continue to overlook your successes, doubt your abilities, and not recognise just how brilliant you are.

So, what about you then - what are you doing that is fuelling your self-doubt and stopping you from achieving your career goals? Is it comparison, criticism, avoidance, lack of self-care or limited self-reflection? Maybe it's all of them, or maybe it's something else entirely.

If you're reading this thinking you're not entirely sure, something that works well for my clients is keeping a 'trigger tracker'. Every time you notice those feelings of self-doubt creeping in, pause and look at what's happened in the lead-up to it, who are you with? Where are you? What task are you doing? Notice what you notice!

Tough love is incoming…

I hate to be blunt, but the fact is, if you keep doing these things, you will continue to doubt yourself and you will not be able to build up your belief in yourself. This means you will find it incredibly hard, if not impossible to achieve your career goal.

By raising your awareness around what things are fostering doubt, you can take positive action steps to turn the volume of the doubt down in your mind. This will leave you feeling empowered enough to leverage self-belief and self-esteem in ways you never imagined possible before and you will start living with more happiness and impact.

If you'd like to chat about how I can support you, please get in touch to arrange a complimentary 30-minute chat.

If you're not ready for one-to-one or group support just yet, you can access my free weekly career confidence-building support, The Boost. The premise for The Boost is simple. Every Monday, I'll share a powerful tip, tool, or technique that you can implement right away to boost your career confidence. Visit my website to find out more.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Life Coach Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Shipley, West Yorkshire, BD17
Written by Leanne Cooper, Career Coach for Women
Shipley, West Yorkshire, BD17

I'm Leanne, a leading Career Confidence Coach, Mentor, Speaker and Trainer for women and founder of You First Coaching.

I help women who want more to get more by supporting them to boldly step forward and confidently claim the life and career they deserve.

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