Could self-doubt be the grace note in your business song?

by | Feb 5, 2012

Self-doubt is especially frustrating—and embarrassing—when you have a high degree of self-awareness. It seems to fly in the face of all the work you’ve done on yourself.

But self-doubt can actually be a grace note, an ornament to your business identity.

Self-doubt doesn’t negate your emotional intelligence

The first thing to realize is that self-doubt doesn’t negate your emotional intelligence.

You’re a complex being. The fact that you can reflect on the experience of self-doubt is proof of emotional intelligence, not a contradiction.

That doesn’t make it fun, but it does offer some perspective.

Self-doubt is an experience, not a characteristic

In Learned Optimism Martin Seligman observes that pessimists habitually think that negative experiences are persistent, pervasive, and personal. That habit of thinking turns the experience of self-doubt into an enduring characteristic of your personality.

It’s just not true.

When you are caught in that habit of thought, pay attention to the experience itself, rather than your thoughts about the experience. Tune into the body feelings and the ebb and flow of emotion around self-doubt. This awareness puts some space between you and the experience of doubt.

In that space you are free.

Which brings us to the next principle.

Do what you know to do; rinse and repeat

As an emotionally intelligent person, you doubtless have a number of ways of working with self-doubt. You’ve learned them from therapy, spiritual practice, or simply from life experience.

The thing is, you may have formed the expectation that, once you’ve become skillful at a technique for dealing with self-doubt, the results should endure.
Maybe that’s true in some universe. In this one, thoughts—including doubting thoughts—happen regardless of how evolved you become. There’s no escape from the human condition.

So reach into your tool bag and do what you know to do. This calls for humility and perseverance, which you’ve got plenty of when you remember to look for them.

Get out of your self

It’s self evident that self-doubt can only occur when you’re thinking about yourself. That’s not a bad thing, but it can be a royal pain.

When you are seized by self-doubt, shift into service mode.

Volunteering is one obvious way to serve, but there is a less obvious way that applies especially to the accidental entrepreneur.

Reconnect to the ways you serve through your work.

Think about the times when you’ve been particularly effective at what you do. Bring to mind the joy and satisfaction you’ve brought to clients that fit just right.

Then do something that reinforces your experience of service. One way is to read, practice, or otherwise polish your skills.

Let self-doubt be the grace note in your story

The persistence of self-doubt is a reminder that you are human. That’s incredibly appealing to other humans. And when you can, however briefly, accept your self-doubt, it can be pretty appealing to yourself as well.

It can be a grace note, and that’s a good thing.

Photo by Colleen Lane via Flickr