Commentators often cast self-doubt as a negative. The prevailing idea is that people can do pretty much anything they want, if only they get over their fears and anxieties, and believe they can do it. But while this might sound like wisdom, there’s a stronger counterargument.
The truth is, most people aren’t equipped to do most jobs. Believing that you are when, in fact, you’re not, can set you up for disappointment. You might think that you have the skills and experience to take on a role, but there’s a real possibility that you don’t – and that’s okay.
Psychologists, therefore, are increasingly concluding that rational self-doubt is actually a good thing. It tells people when they need to go out and get more training and experience before they can take on particular roles. It is a healthy, reality-based response to a genuine lack in one’s skillset. It’s a realistic way of looking at the world and a person’s place in it.
So, with that said, here are some of the ways that self-doubt can be useful for your career choices.
The career choices for creative people are often limited not by a lack of opportunity, but by something called the “imposter syndrome.” The term imposter syndrome was first coined by psychologists who noticed that there were a large number of people working in jobs who had the unconscious belief that they weren’t up to the task, even if they had all the qualifications and experience that they needed. The syndrome can be crippling, preventing people from progressing in their careers and moving up to the next stage. They fear that colleagues will soon discover their lack of knowledge and oust them from their role.
Imposter syndrome seems like an example where self-doubt is harmful to your career choices. But, as always, it all comes down to how you deal with it. Imposter syndrome can be an opportunity for you to deal with the issues that are causing you to develop harmful mental habits and resolve them. Once you have a better understanding of your psychology, you’re much more able to move forward with your career and work your way up to better-paying job roles.
While self-doubt might not feel great (it’s never nice to admit your own deficiencies), it can be a sign that you are doing something right.
Think about it this way: imagine if you never did anything that has caused you to feel doubtful about your abilities. You’d float through life, doing things that were always within your comfort zone, never breaking out to try something new. It would be boring, and you’d never get to experience the thrill of success or the fear of failure. You’d continue to plod along with one day, blending into the next, without really experiencing any progress. Life would be a robotic and routine exercise, not something that felt emotionally real or valuable.
When you experience self-doubt, it’s a sign that you’ve broken out of this somewhat meaningless existence. It is an emotional signal that you’re trying something new and that you’re pushing the boundaries of what you think you can achieve. It gives you a sense of challenge and intensity that you don’t get if you’re resting on your laurels, only taking the easy options. It is, therefore, an overall positive experience, even if the direct sensation is uncomfortable.
Rational self-doubt – that is self-doubt that comes from a genuine reason – can be enormously helpful. You can use it to motivate further study, brush up on your skills, and get the training you need to continue to advance in your career. Far from being a problem, it actually could be the thing that you need to spur you to do better and build confidence overall.
So-called “negative” emotions, like self-doubt, are in fact, just information that your mind sends telling you that there’s something wrong in your environment. Self-doubt, therefore, is worth listening to, just like anger, rage, frustration, and anxiety. The feeling of self-doubt is trying to tell you that something isn’t right, and you need to take action.
If self-doubt is a rational feeling, then there should be concrete steps that you can take to resolve it. If you have self-doubt about your ability to do your job, then you should be able to eliminate those feelings with training, experience, and practice.
While we all might aspire to become shining archetypal personalities resplendent in glory to the people around us, it can be alienating. People don’t want to be around others that they perceive as “perfect.” They want to be around those who they see as relatable to them.
Being public about your self-doubt, therefore, can be a great way to make yourself more personable and approachable. It gives those around you the sense that they can talk to you about their weaknesses and about the faults that they see in you. People tend to respect those around them who can explore their flaws and accept them in a public forum. It takes an enormous amount of humility and self-confidence to pull it off and can be a powerful leadership tool.
As you can see, doubting on yourself once in a while is normal but it shouldn’t take a toll on who you can be. Use this negative emotion to your benefit by improving yourself, learning new skills and gaining more qualifications.
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