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How Successful People Handle Self Doubt

What we create in this world, our relationships, our work, and our life experiences depend on how we handle, the ever-present, self-doubt. The best way to learn how to handle self-doubt is by learning from successful people who handle self-doubt effectively.

“Success Leaves Clues”

–Tony Robbins

“Self-doubt has always been my struggle, that feeling of I don’t belong here and I don’t deserve this. I don’t know why I’m so eager to undermine my own talents, I guess it feels easier to reduce my abilities than to step into the greatness of my purpose ”

–American actress Aja Naomi King 

…during her acceptance speech at ESSENCE Black Women in Hollywood awards. The actress from the TV show How to get away with murder spoke about her struggles with self-doubt during her entire speech, in a way, her speech sounded like her own statement against the doubting voices in her head. 

Every one of us struggles with self-doubt, but not everyone has the courage to talk about it. It’s evident from Aja Naomi King’s speech that successful people are not immune to self-doubt. The most important thing to remember is that successful people struggle with self-doubt just like all of us, and they chose to take action despite that.

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Self-doubt is not something that ever goes away, accept that it is part of everyone’s life. By remembering this we can then handle self-doubt without judging ourselves.

It’s easy to think successful people don’t have self-doubt. But as Steve Jobs said 

“Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it… Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.”

All successful people continue to do the work that they do despite the voice doubting their abilities. Many people have spoken about how self-doubt takes over their mind and the only thing left for them to do is to continue with their work regardless of the doubts.

“I simply remember this line I heard from Quentin Tarantino -Think of yourself as Pac-Man. I cannot go backward, I can only go forward in huge bites. Maybe you are not good enough at this moment, keep learning and keep growing and more importantly keep moving forward.”

–Larry Michael Hankin (American actor, performer, director, comedian and producer. Well known as Mr.Heckles from the TV show Friends.)

Having faith in a higher power is especially important when handling self-doubt. Have faith in yourself, in your reasons for acting, in the benefits of your actions, for others for yourself. Create faith to overcome self-doubt. The tiny mustard seed will grow into a large brush. Oprah often speaks about having the faith of a mustard seed as more than enough to carry on with your life.

Ariana Huffington uses humor to handle self-doubt. It is a much more light-hearted and a less serious way to take care of the voices in your head. Humor and seeing the doubts from a different perspective can help take the power out of those negative thoughts.

“Every entrepreneur I know, and I have to admit especially women entrepreneurs have this voice in our heads that I call the obnoxious roommate living in my head. It’s a voice of self-doubt, a voice of self-judgement,…… I find that having a sense of humor helps and recognizing that that voice is not the truth, and that voice is not who I am. The more perfectionist you are as an entrepreneur the more likely you are to hear that voice of self-judgment. So learn to deal with that perfectionism and realize that we are all going to make mistakes. Important thing is how quickly we course correct our thoughts, which makes it easier to deal with that obnoxious roommate.”

–Ariana Huffington (Author, columnist, founder of The Huffington Post and the founder and CEO of Thrive Global)

Self–doubt can be used as a tool. When the doubting voices tell you that you cannot do something, use it to drive and motivate yourself to prove those voices wrong.

“We all deal with self-doubt, it’s not something that’s ever going to actually go away so you have to figure out how you can reframe it, How to use self-doubt as a tool to motivate you, to stay driven, and even in those things that you are scared of and approach them with courage.”

Brendon Burchard (New York Times best-selling author, speaker, and High-performance coach)

When you start a business, or when you start doing an important task, remember why you started. This can be the best motivator to ignore the negative thoughts in your head and to give your best to the task at hand.

Often when you do something new, you get negative thoughts questioning your abilities. Read more on the relevant subjects, gain more knowledge and seek mentors. Gaining more knowledge on the relevant subject will give you more faith in your own abilities to handle any situation, and will give you more power over negative thoughts.

Popularized by Mel Robbins, the five-second rule is about counting backwards from 5 to 1 the second you start doubting yourself. Whenever you hesitate to do anything because of the negative voices, simply count backward and move forward with the task.

Tony Robbins claims that in order to change your mental state, you must change your physiology. Develop a power move, get active or simply change your body position, or act and pose with confidence. Feeling confident can disrupt any negative thought patterns.

Write yourself notes of encouragement, and leave them where you will see them daily. Be sure to read them whenever the criticizing voice starts talking.  Imagine the encouragement you would give a dear friend and change your self-talk from doubting to encouragement. 

 “Do not let in destructive criticism, don’t beat yourself up, don’t feel bad about yourself, instead of criticizing yourself, praise yourself. Nothing can build you up the way self-praise does.”

Marisa Peer (best-selling author, Rapid Transformational Therapy trainer and speaker)

We cannot change something if we don’t realize it is happening. Be sure to check in with your thoughts regularly and take notice of self-doubt. Give yourself a moment to pause and then reflect on what would be more useful thoughts to you right now and move forward.

“We all doubt ourselves, I doubt myself every day. I still do. It’s a work in progress, there are certain things you can do to train your thoughts. Recognizing that you are doubting yourself and training your thought to the positive side, that’s what it’s all about. There is no secret formula, but it’s about recognizing when you are doubting yourself and how to correct yourself and get back in line.”

Michael Strahan (Two-time Emmy winner, Super Bowl Champion and talk show host)

Always know that everyone is unique and has many different gifts. These gifts are meant to be shared with the world. When you hear the negative voice in your head remember that only you have this special gift that needs to be shared, discard the self-doubts. Share your gifts with the world.

On writing her best-selling book…

“My writing process is this intoxicating blend of despair and struggle and agony and total insecurity and overwhelm and panic with some subtle top notes of self-loathing. However, if you are feeling insecure about what you have to share, whether it’s your message or your writing or your product and you are debating about whether or not you should put it out there, remember that the world really needs that special gift that only you have.” 

–Marie Forleo (life coach, motivational speaker, author, web television host of Marie TV and named by Oprah as a thought leader for the next generation)


Even after reaching success according to societal standards, successful people still battle with self-doubt. Even Prince Siddhartha, while he was meditating to attain Buddhahood, was challenged with self–doubt. The story states that after several unsuccessful attempts, ‘Mara’ who was a demonic king tried to sabotage Prince Siddhartha and prevent him from reaching enlightenment. Mara’s final attempt to distract Siddhartha from attaining enlightenment was through self–doubt. Mara sent thoughts to Siddhartha doubting and questioning his ability to attain enlightenment and his worthiness to attain Buddhahood. The story states that prince Siddhartha with complete faith asked mother earth herself to witness and provide evidence of his work towards enlightenment. When the earth trembled with affirmation Mara and his forces disappeared.


No one can escape self-doubt, it’s a normal feeling for us all. Be kind to yourself, write notes of encouragement, praise yourself, recognize your successes every day. I started writing notes to myself on a daily basis, and I can already see how it changes the inner dialogue. Remember that successful people are just like us, they have the same self-doubts, and the only difference is they always take action despite what the voices have to say. 

Now that you know self-doubt is something everyone experiences, what will your strategies be to overcome self doubt and move on to success?

If that inner critic gets too loud you can even try yoga for self doubt and guided meditations.  Always remember that you are not alone. 

Tommy P.
Tommy P.

My very first thought when I became aware of my very own consciousness in this earthly world was... "whoa... why are we here? what's the meaning or purpose to life?" I was never able to shake these questions... So come join me on my podcast of rants on many different topics that will assist you in seeing things through a rose-colored lens and on living a life of well-being.

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