A Coaching Power Tool By Cassie Sandor, Women in Hospitality Coach, UNITED STATES
How to Coach Someone With Low Self-Belief vs. Self-Doubt
Every time we read, see or hear a new piece of information we process it and form an opinion in our mind about ourselves, others, and the world around us. Most of the time we do not even notice these thoughts as they are merely observations of the information we have taken in, such as when we see the weather forecast for rain and think “oh it’s going to rain tomorrow, best take an umbrella with me” other times these thoughts start to form conclusions of what might happen, and we start to think and feel the worst. This is when we can get struck with Self-Doubt that could prevent us from achieving our outcome.
What Is Self-Doubt
Self-Doubt is created in our minds because of a connection we make between a situation and a perceived outcome. Usually, this outcome is based on thinking about the negative consequence or worst-case scenario. The result is a thought that we tell ourselves, this thought then drives our emotions and behaviour towards the situation the resulting Self-Doubt is our mind’s way of keeping us safe from potential risk.
If we think “I am going to fail” it is our mind thinking and telling us of the worst-case scenario, but what risks could we potentially be trying to avoid?
Sas Petherick founder of Self Belief School is a coach and host of the podcast Courage & Spice with a special focus on self-doubt and self-belief. She suggests that when we are in Self-Doubt there are 7 risks that we are trying to avoid, these are Rejection, Failure, Conflict, Success, Judgement, Complexity, and Disappointment. We may be aware of one or more of these risks, or they may be unclear and are only discovered when we start to unpack the meaning behind our Self-Doubt.
If we consider these 7 risks what could our Self-Doubt be trying to tell us:
Rejection “I won’t be accepted onto the course”
Failure “My presentation will be a flop”
Conflict “If I say something, someone may get annoyed with me”
Success “I’m not ready for the promotion”
Judgement “People will think my work is rubbish”
Complexity “It’s too hard, I don’t know where to start”
Disappointment “No one will like my Instagram post”
I have identified that when we are in Self-Doubt, we are trying to avoid a known or unknown risk. Our minds activate the worst-case scenario which in turn activates our emotions and Self-Doubt, resulting in behaviours or how we deal with the Self-Doubt.
Own Illustration: How Self-Doubt Occurs and Associated Behaviours
Our Behaviours When in Self-Doubt
When we find ourselves in Self-Doubt our reactions or behaviours are driven by our need to stay safe, we may have the same course of action each time we are faced with Self-Doubt or we may use different behaviours at different times or in different situations. It may be obvious by our behaviour that we are in Self-Doubt or it may just be an ingrained habit that we are unaware of. Some examples of behaviours that we may adopt when dealing with Self-Doubt are:
Head in the Sand – Ignoring the situation hoping that it will go away.
Stand Still – Not knowing how to move forward and just being stuck in inaction.
Procrastination – Doing everything but the thing that is needed to be done. This could be with other productive tasks, or it could be total avoidance like cleaning out cupboards, watching tv or scrolling the internet.
Perfectionism – spending an extraordinary amount of time ensuring you or the work is perfect this is in response to trying to make sure that the worst-case scenario doesn’t come true.
Putting Others First – By choosing to do things for other people there is an excuse for not spending time on myself.
Imposter Syndrome – Feeling that even if we are successful that it was by some fluke and that there must be a mistake and eventually, we will be found out
Other Enhancement – Blaming other people’s advantage for our failure. This creates a false safety net as we deflect our doubts onto someone else.
It is worth noting that for some people procrastination is a form of motivation, they wait until the last minute as they thrive under the pressure and are still able to produce a successful outcome. When procrastination occurs due to Self-Doubt it is a form of Self-Handicapping where subconsciously we are providing an excuse for poor performance or failure.
People who fall into the bracket of perfectionism may feel that they have a handle on Self-Doubt and they can push through and produce a good result. However, as they will not be able to tell if the success, they achieved was because of the extremely hard work they put in or their natural ability and performance each time the Self-Doubt appears their course of action is to aim for perfection.
Believe you can and you’re halfway there. Theodore Roosevelt
When researching Self-Belief, many articles or information also includes reference to Self-Confidence and Self-Efficacy, it becomes clear that these 3 words are interlinked, with the word belief present in definitions for both Self-Confidence and Self-Efficacy.
The Psychology Dictionary states that Self-Confidence is 1. Our self-assurance in trusting our abilities, capacities, and judgements. 2. the belief that we can meet the demands of a task. To be confident in what I have done is okay.
In 1977 Self-Efficacy was defined by psychologist and professor, Albert Bandura as “an individual’s belief in his or her capacity to execute behaviours necessary to produce specific performance attainments”
Self-Belief could therefore be viewed as the result of finding ways to accomplish our goals, trusting our abilities, and being open to discovering what the outcome will be.
Having Self-Belief means that instead of being stuck within Self-Doubt and choosing behaviours that keep us safe (from a perceived risk) we can instead notice the Self-Doubt, acknowledge its presence, and find a path to move forward. Self-Doubt doesn’t disappear but our belief in our self, our abilities, and our performance become stronger.
Self-Doubt doesn’t disappear but our belief in our self, our abilities, and our performance become stronger. The voice inside our head changes from one of catastrophising to one of the positive emotions this enables us to step back and see other possibilities or outcomes.
Moving From Self-Doubt to Self-Belief
The expression “Life begins and the end of your comfort zone” or “no pain no gain” makes me think of white-knuckling our way through a situation, which sounds like a test of endurance rather than one of learning and growing. Therefore, I don’t believe that to switch from a space of Self-Doubt to Self-Belief is as simple as taking a deep breath and saying “I can do it” and expecting to automatically transfer to a state of Self-Belief. These two factors may well come into play in helping us change our perspective, but they are part of a package and not the only answer.
Activate Self-Belief in 7 Steps
Understand the Self-Doubt
To be able to move from Self-Doubt to Self-Belief we must first be able to identify what is occurring. Both in what Self-Doubt is telling us and the behaviour is carried out. This may be obvious and the Self-Doubt can be identified easily. Or it may not be so obvious and the situation and the behaviour that is present requires further curiosity.
Questions that can help to understand the Self-Doubt
- When do you think about this situation what comes to your mind?
- What are you telling yourself about this situation?
- What emotions are present for you?
- What steps have you taken to work towards this goal/task/situation
- What progress have you made so far?
Name the Risk
We have considered that Self-Doubt arises when we make a connection between a situation and its worst possible outcome and that there is normally an underlying risk associated with this thinking. Helping the client to name that risk allows them to go deeper into the reasons behind this thinking and to see if it is true.
Questions that can help identify the risk
- What is telling you (that this is hard / you will fail/ etc…)
- When you think of the worst-case scenario, what do you think is behind this thinking?
- What name would you give this fear/risk?
- I notice that your Self-Doubt is telling you (X)what is your biggest fear about this coming true?
- Does it seem like your Self-Doubt is coming from a place of (risk) what comes up for you as I say that?
Imagine a Different Outcome
Visualisation either via picture imagery or just described in words is a powerful way to rewire our thinking and move us from a fixed to a growth mindset. When we are in a growth mindset we view our capabilities as not fixed and this results in a higher likely hood of working towards our goals.
If we can start to let go of the Self-Doubt belief such as “I can’t do this” and move towards “I can do this” belief and imagine what that looks and feels like then we are more likely to then design actions that support us achieving this.
Questions to help visualise a space of Self-Belief
- What would be possible if you did not have this Self-Doubt?
- What would being successful in this situation look like for you?
- If you imagined that all the doubts were gone what would you do?
Set an Intention
An intention is a commitment that we make to ourselves as a way to give us purpose. By having an intention, we are also providing an alternative thought when the Self-Doubt voice tries to intervene. The intention could be a direct opposite of Self-Doubt, or it could be something that resonates with how you see yourself when in the mindset of Self-Belief.
Questions to help from an intention
- How can you reframe Self-Doubt?
- What would you say to yourself if the Self-Doubt voice reappears?
- What intention can you now set for this matter?
A Small Step
Now that we are in a place of Self-Belief it is time to figure out how we can now move forward. Often when Self-Doubt occurs the task at hand just seems so overwhelming. To prevent overwhelmingness and with it, the Self-Doubt creeping back in it is helpful to just think about a small step that can be taken, this is especially useful if your Self-Doubt has resulted in being stuck or procrastinating.
Questions to identify a small step
- What is one small step you can that will move your forward?
- If you were to break the end outcome down, what would be the first step you could take?
- What now feels like an achievable first step?
The previous 5 steps are not a magic formula for moving from Self-Doubt to Self-Belief, what is uncovered and identified will need to be experimented with. What is key is being open to holding onto the visualisation and intention and actioning the small step identified.
Reflect and Evaluate
Once you have moved into Self-Belief and used both the “intention you have set”, and “A small step” take some time to reflect and evaluate what you have learned about yourself and this situation. In doing so you can identify what worked and what maybe needs tweaking for next time you are faced with Self-Doubt.
Questions to support the reflection and evaluation
- Where you able to achieve the goal/task that was causing Self-Doubt
- Did your worst-case scenario come true?
- What have you learned during this process?
- What will be possible for you now the next time you are feeling Self-Doubt?
How to Overcome Self-Doubt
We can all find ourselves in Self-Doubt at some point in our life, sometimes we can recognise that we are in that space, and other times it is not so obvious that the actions we are taking are driven from a place of underlying risk aversion. By taking the time to identify what is happening at a deeper level we will be able to move into Self-Belief more easily and equip ourselves with tools that can be applied the next time we find ourselves in a space of Self-Doubt.