Here’s a fact about self-doubt: Everyone has it.
Even some of the most famous people have suffered from self-doubt. Lady Gaga revealed in her documentary that she “sometimes feels like a loser kid in high school.” Arianna Huffington calls the negative self-talk in her head her obnoxious roommate. And like the supreme athlete she is, Serena Williams manages to pull through physically to overcome a negative mental state.
There’s plenty of great advice on ways to conquer it. But—bear with me here—it actually has some benefits if you learn how to think about it the right way.
So before you swat that “negative” feeling away and let it cripple your confidence, remind yourself of these four things:
Doubting yourself every once in a while makes you want to continue to better yourself—for example, questioning a skill you have and deciding to take a class on it or being unsure about a strategy and asking your co-worker for advice. Without it, your skills and knowledge would stagnate. There’s nothing like a little self-doubt to spur you to put in more effort, try harder, or pick up some extra training to stay fresh.
This ultimately makes you feel confident, sets you up to move forward in your career, and, better yet, opens doors that can lead to the discovery of a new field you might enjoy.
You’re human, which means that you’re aware that you’re going to make mistakes and not know certain things. And that self-awareness and honesty makes you someone people can trust, count on, and feel comfortable working with. After all, no one wants to hire a narcissist—imagine the poor team skills!
Self-doubt also encourages you to see all sides of a situation—you’re willing to consider options outside your expertise and thus able to make smarter decisions. Think about it: When’s the last time you ran an idea by your boss or colleague just to be sure it was a good one? Did that conversation help you to refine and perfect your idea? Chances are it did—or at least forced you to ask yourself more questions and try different paths.
If you find yourself feeling really insecure about something, it’s possible that you’re working on something you’re not qualified to do or you’re in the wrong role or at the wrong company.
Knowing this encourages you to take actions to actually fix it. You might decide to move on to work that brings you more satisfaction. Or, you might decide to talk to your boss about your concerns. Either way, you wouldn’t improve your situation without a little self-doubt.
If you’re doubting yourself, this can spur a much-needed conversation with your boss about your career trajectory, your workload, or your current assignment. Perhaps she’s given you a stretch assignment that’s caused you to feel anxious or said something in a meeting that put you off. An open and honest discussion might prompt her faith in your ability to overcome your fear and be the insight and boost you need to move forward.
Count the number of times you pursued something, anything—a course, a new hobby, a new job. Did you go into it with 100% certainty that you could do it?
Of course you didn’t. But that bit of self-doubt made the experience that much more enlightening and challenging.
It’s OK to have self-doubt sometimes, and accepting that will put you in a healthier position to assess your career goals and refresh how they align with your strengths. Remember that everyone and everything is a work in progress, so the next time you feel a bit of self-doubt creep in, don’t let it overwhelm you—use it to your advantage.
Regina Duffey Moravek is an experienced and authentic leader skilled in career development and human resources. Prone to interviewing people at social events, it pains her to meet people unhappy in their careers or work life. Life is too short to not enjoy what you’re doing! A graduate of Cornell University’s ILR School, Regina has made her career mission to champion your world of work.