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Overcoming Self-Doubt to Achieve Your Greatest Potential


We all face self-doubt. Even the most confident people have moments where they doubt their capabilities. The key is to recognize when self-doubt is kicking in so that you can deal with it before it prevents you from accomplishing your immediate or future goals.

When I thought of self-doubt I always considered it in the context of my professional life, until a few weeks ago. I was at the gym, as I am every morning, when I sat down for wide-grip lat pulldowns. When I sat down I instinctually set the rack to the same amount of weight that I’ve been lifting for months. In that moment I realized that I doubted my ability to lift anything heavier. With that realization I switched up the music that was coming through my headphones, tightened my lifting gloves, adjusted the weight by 30 pounds and with a deep breath, I performed 8 reps with perfect form. As I heard the sound of the stack hitting for the final rep, I felt a huge sense of accomplishment.

Since that morning, I have successfully broken through personal bests in almost every exercise. My lifts have been stronger and I have seen a noticeable difference in muscle gains over that period of time. Almost everything else has stayed consistent over that period of time including sleep, diet and supplements. Actually, my diet has slipped more than I would ideally like.

I had been telling myself that I was hitting a plateau when really the only thing that had been preventing my growth was myself. I was defeating myself.

Maybe you’re not able to make a connection between fitness and something that you’re going through so let me offer another example.

I have gone most of this year without writing. Sure, work has been demanding the majority of my waking hours. I would tell myself that I didn’t have the time to write. In reality it was self-doubt that was getting in the way.

I questioned my writing capabilities. Told myself that I didn’t like writing even though I’ve published hundreds of blog posts and wrote a book. I admired my friends whose words appear as they just flow onto the screen. People connect to their words. I doubted that those reading my writing connected in the same way. Instead of letting my thoughts become published posts, I would question whether anyone would find them helpful. I wasn’t writing because I doubted myself.

And then over the past couple of weeks a few people reached out to me to tell me how much they enjoyed the content that I created. They were connecting with what I was publishing, even though I hadn’t published anything new for months. As I processed their positive feedback, I realized that I was doubting myself too much. I was comparing my writing style and the areas of life that I’m passionate about to those around me. It’s healthy to learn from those around you and to be influenced by those you admire. It’s not healthy if that learning becomes comparison paralysis.

Stop for a minute and think of when this has happened to you. How did you move past this moment of doubt? Or maybe you haven’t moved past it and it is preventing you from obtaining your personal or professional goals. Here are a few tips for moving past your self-doubt that have worked for me:

  1. Acknowledge it. You won’t be able to move past your self-doubt if you don’t acknowledge it for what it is. It’s ok. No one is going to judge you negatively. It’s not something to be ashamed of or to beat yourself up. You’re going through a moment of self-doubt. Great, now that you’ve acknowledged it, you can push through it.
  2. Do something about it. The best way of overcoming self-doubt is to do the very thing that you’re doubting. Take a small step and make it something that is obtainable. I only intended on doing a single rep to prove to myself that I could lift the heavier weights. I ended up with 8 reps, new personal bests and muscle growth.
  3. Talk about it. Express your self-doubt to those around you. Tell your spouse or your friends or your mentor. Write it down and publish for all to see, as I am doing now. Chances are that someone else is going to identify with it. Your acknowledgement of it will help someone else.

It is by acknowledging and conquering our self-doubt that we gain more confidence. And with greater confidence we have the ability to achieve our greatest potential in both our personal and professional lives.

Photo Credit: Luc De Leeuw

  • http://www.spindows.com/ Clay Hebert

    Great post, my friend.

    The only thing holding any of us back, from anything we want to accomplish…is ourselves.

    That’s why (like your last post highlights), keeping a food journal helps so much. Just the act of having to write down what we eat can be enough to trigger small behavior changes and healthier choices.

    Maybe start a writing journal…like a food journal for writing?) Also, I know there’s 750words.com and Srini is working on something around writing 1,000 words per day since his Medium post on that topic did so well.

    Love your writing, bud. Keep it up.

  • Jessica Gioglio

    Great post, Justin. You have a wonderful way with words (say that 5x fast!) and should not doubt your writing ability. I was so happy to see a blog post in my inbox this morning – keep it up. You know, in your “free time.” Haha ;)

  • http://justinrlevy.com/ justinlevy

    Of course, because you dared me to say that phrase 5x fast, I sat here trying to do it. I’m so glad that you enjoyed the post!

  • http://justinrlevy.com/ justinlevy

    Thanks, my friend. It was actually Srini’s Medium post that inspired me to sit down and write. It’s just about sitting down and putting my fingers on the keyboard.