Are you struggling with self-doubt and questioning your leadership ability?
Updated: Sep 30
We’ve all struggled with self-doubt. Especially when it comes to working with senior staff, taking on new tasks and projects, chairing meetings, dealing with conflict; it can feel like a never-ending list.
You start to think that you’re not good enough, someone else is better and you feel out of your depth. It’s even worse if you’re constantly overlooked when it comes to having your contributions recognised or acknowledged, or being discounted when it comes to a promotion.
When I was in my first leadership role, I struggled with self-doubt and questioned myself constantly. I was forever comparing myself unfavourably with others, feeling like I’d never get it together and be as poised and confident as other women seemed to be.
What can you do?
In this blog, I’m going to show you what you can put in place to make you feel like your leadership is less of a struggle for you. Empower you to know that you have great ideas and contributions to make, and motivate you to take action.
Recognise you’re not the only one
During the 8+ years, I’ve been coaching, one thing comes up time and again with my clients; confidence, or lack of more importantly. They need help finding their confidence again, in themselves, in their abilities and in their careers. They often feel like frauds in the workplace, someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing or where they’re going and they compare themselves unfavourably to others.
You can also be faced with the added pressure of a social media happy family where we see the perfect woman with the perfect house, husband, job, friends, hobbies, clothes etc.
But I want to let you into a secret…she will be feeling the EXACT same way you do! She will also be insecure about her looks, her abilities, where she’s going and whether she’s doing the right thing.
In fact, we all feel the same at one point or another. It’s exhausting, demotivating and unsettling to constantly feel like you don’t have the self-confidence to be able to achieve the success you want.
But, like I said, this happens to all of us. Every single one of us. Even the most successful women, women who have achieved great things on the world stage, women who are athletes, scientists, politicians, medics, women you look up to and admire. They have all felt a lack of self-belief and self-confidence.
On of the most important first steps is to stop comparing yourself to others. You are doing the best you can and will have naturally made progress even if it sometimes doesn’t feel like that. And if you do look at others then don’t compare yourself unfavourably, use that to motivate you to keep striving forward. Because if others have done it, then of course you can too.
Ask for help
Most of the women I've worked with who experience self-doubt (myself included) don't want to let on how they're feeling in case they look incompetent or lose the respect of their colleagues.
You might feel that there is no-one you can ask in your department or organisation.
However it's important to remember that you will have friends in other organisations who can support and guide you and who would be willing to act as or to recommend a mentor.
You can also make connections and build relationships outside of the workplace. One of the great things about technology today is that we are able to connect easily with others no matter where you may be.
I run a private coaching membership group for women like you called The Leadership Confidential and one of the biggest benefits is that members are able to gain support and encouragement from not only me, but from each other.
Being part of a community or like-minded women who are willing to share their knowledge and experience help you feel that you're not alone and that other women feel exactly the same as you.
You don’t have to start with something huge, start with asking for help, maybe for something small or inconsequential and let people be there for you.
Asking for help doesn’t mean that you’re weak and needy, maybe even a failure.
Think about the times when someone asks you for help. I bet you’re only too happy to help where you can. In fact, mostly you’re flattered and feel glad that someone recognises your worth. Other people are the same.
The strength of a leader is knowing where they need support and doing something about it
Don’t sweat the small stuff – and don’t obsess over what you’re feeling
Easier said than done I know but cataloguing every minute detail and emotion of your failure or mistake will keep essentially stuck there. I’m not one for stepping over your emotions so it’s important to take time to recognise and reflect on how you’re feeling. Equally important, is not staying and wallowing.
To change your perspective you might need to make a list of pros and cons, or a list of benefits and disappointments in order to collect your thoughts and make sense out of what happened. It might help to talk to someone impartial and objective.
Whatever you need to do keep taking steps forward to deal with it and move on.
Recognise that it’s up to you
When you’re mired in self-doubt it’s can leave you feeling lost. But doing something about it up to you and you alone.
You can of course ask for help (and as I mentioned, I thoroughly recommend you do) but you have to be the one who gets off the sofa and talks to someone in the first place.
Learning from failure and mistakes contribute to making you a more effective and generally better leader in the long run.
Having self-doubt can be a positive thing
As a final point, I want to mention that having self-doubt isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes it’s your intuition telling you that something isn’t quite right.
It’s worth making a list of the things that you’re worried or anxious about, evaluating what’s behind them and whether there’s logic to support your intuition. You might think it’s just a gut instinct but if you write down what feelings are coming up for you, then you might see the logic that supports that feeling.
This will help you identify what it is that needs to be addressed and you can put things in place.
The next time you accomplish something that was a challenge, that took you out of your comfort zone, don’t attribute your success solely to chance or having a good team. Acknowledge the hard work, skill and experience you have and which played a part in your success.
If you let it, the challenging stuff you accomplish can build inner confidence in your abilities.
I hope these have inspired you and got you thinking about what steps you can take next and I’d love to hear how you get on.
If you need any further focus or want more help with your leadership, please get in touch with me and book a free clarity call. This 30-minute call will help you identify the one thing that is holding you back right now and support you to work out what you can do to take action and you can schedule a time HERE
Later this month I’m commencing a series of free training sessions; the first one will be looking at the the essential qualities of a leader, then I’ll be focusing on what you can do to improve your communication skills especially when it comes to having difficult conversations, and the third one will be exploring what you can do to increase your confidence as a leader in the workplace today.
Look out for further information next week or contact me directly to be added to the mailing list so you’re the first to receive updates.