Why your self doubt could be a good thing

Updated to Life on December 27, 2022.

“When you doubt your power, you give power to your doubt.” —Honore de Balzac


Take my advice…I’m not using it.

That old joke comes to mind every time I step on stage feeling completely void of a single thought worth sharing. Or when I sit down to write this blog.

Of course, nobody’s perfect – that would be both irritating and boring.

The perfect person leaps out of bed 1 minute before their alarm at precisely 6:59 to a tightly scheduled regimen of: muscle pounding P90X workout, followed by a 20 minute Vipassana meditation, dairy-free protein smoothy, bullet-proof coffee and then attacks everything on their To-Do list with without a moment of hesitation and with railroad-straight precision.

That’s not me.

I’m as flawed as a 1992 Chevy Impala that’s spent half it’s life rusting in an abandoned field.

When I teach productivity I’m well aware my sadly delusional audience assumes I’m practicing everything I’m talking about.

Silly them.

Some days I feel like such a fraud I want to throw down my PowerPoint clicker and come clean in a dramatic Peter Finch “I’m mad as hell…” rant—“Okay – let’s get real here!” I would shout to a stunned audience “I’m afraid you’re going to find me out anyways so I might as well tell you now how pathetically unproductive I can be.”

We all have it—we all have selfdoubt.

It’s the little voice that keeps us throwing all our savings into Cannabis stock – it’s the new oil! – or hugging everyone we pass on the sidewalk. Just like fingernails and peripheral vision, I’m guessing self-doubt is some weird gift designed to keep us safe.

After all, we don’t want to be TOO SUCCESSFUL because then we might make a shit load of money and live on an island in the Caribbean paid for in cash with a dozen staff running around.

Oh yes, that would be awful.

I have self-doubt when I accept a speaking contract. I have self-doubt when I hire someone to our BlogWorks team (will there even be a company 6 weeks from now?) And I certainly have self-doubt when I create my Flight Plan for the week.

The good news is that self-doubt makes us do a double-take on life.

“Wait a minute,” you think, just before you make a complete fool of yourself, “maybe the joke about the priest and the dog isn’t such a great idea after all.”

And just so we’re both on the same page here, I’ve given you a space to fill in your self-doubt here (you’re welcome):

“I admit it, when it comes to __________________ I have self doubt.”

Good. Now that we’ve both come clean let’s look at the self-doubt disappearing act.


Here’s the weird thing about doubting yourself…

When you feel the doubt but move forward anyways – even doing something pretty small – doubt starts to disappear just as quickly as it appeared.

Like at a party when you introduce yourself to someone you don’t know and it turns into an interesting conversation. Or when you make that first sales call and the person you’re calling doesn’t hang up on you.

When I wrote my book Give me a Break and received my first 3,000 copies it was a big deal. I was an author! How did I know I was an author? Because there were 60 boxes of books stacked in my office.

I remember that feeling of cold sweat when it dawned on me I needed to sell those suckers. Somehow, in my fixation of finishing the book and getting it printed I’d cleverly avoided the selling part of the deal.

I had images of flogging my book at garage sales “Productivity! Fix your life – over here – only $5!”

Only two weeks later, just as I was wrapping up my keynote, I nervously held up a copy of my book and mumbled something about the back of the room. Minutes later a line up of people where tossing $20 on the table and politely waiting while I practiced my signature.

I emptied the first box.

I felt the doubt, did it anyways and since then I’ve never doubted my book is good.

And that leads me to the good news. Yippee!


It’s kind of ironic that what holds us back can also fuel us and make us stronger.

When I put my hand up to volunteer, of course, I will be full of self-doubt. But when I make some traction – even just the beginning of some success – not only does the doubt disappear but I feel even more confident.

The same thing happens when I make ambitious sales goals or commit to facing a staffing issue. It becomes a predictable doubt to confidence building cycle. “Self-doubts grow larger,” wrote former Microsoft Director Ravi Raman, “when we forget, even momentarily, the purpose behind what we are doing.”

You have to keep moving forward.

Here’s the good news: if you are willing to put your hand up, make the goal, pick up the phone or face your Tigers you will become stronger.

At the time it may not be obvious and that nagging pain in your shoulder that you go to see the chiropractor about but she tells you it’s only stress might be warning you to walk the other way.

Keep moving forward.

It is only through action – feeling the doubt every day and doing it anyways – that the doubt dissolves and we discover what’s waiting for us on the other side.

And I really like what’s waiting for us on the other side.

“Our doubts are traitors and make us lose the good we oft might win by fearing to attempt.” — William Shakespeare


If this article didn’t annoy you enough, here’s even more:

How to (finally) get your To Do list out of your head, organized, and done.

The hidden blessing of not getting what you want.

You already have what you need (money, time, health and sex)


Feature Photo by Tim Foster on Unsplash