How I Conquered Self-Doubt and How You Can Too

self-doubt

Ever since I was a child I struggled with self-doubt. That feeling that you aren’t good enough, that you can’t accomplish anything, that you’ll never be successful or happy. I wrestled with that feeling every day, trying desperately to not let it overwhelm me. Yet try as I might to avoid these thoughts I could hardly escape them. You see I was a dreamer. I would tell anyone who would listen all of my big hopes and dreams, my greatest aspirations, only to be met with cynicism and criticism. My teachers, my elders, my peers, would bombard me with phrases like “you need to be realistic”, “you’ll never be successful doing that” and “you aren’t capable of achieving that”.

Naturally, over time, these phrases eroded away what little sense of self-confidence I had. I tried not to become so easily dissuaded but their cold remarks and rebukes truly crushed me. It came to the point that whenever I tried to pursue a goal or a dream, I mentally defeated myself before I ever even began. Thoughts like: “you aren’t meant to be successful”, “you’re not good enough” and “why do I even bother” raced to the forefront of my mind, dashing any sense of hope with vicious immediacy. I felt hopeless and in my mind I was hopeless. In my mind, I was nothing more than a mere casualty in the war against self-doubt.

Because I felt I was succumbing to the negative thoughts that permeated my consciousness I became ashamed. Which of course exacerbated the feelings of worthlessness I had already developed. It was as if every time I failed to start something, every time I failed to pursue my goals, those feelings washed over me like a wave. A wave that came crashing down the moment I began to build up some semblance of self-confidence. Negative thoughts became a mainstay in my head. They had moved in and taken up residence. Unfortunately, for me, my brain was never all that adept at making evictions.

Meanwhile, I would see others around me succeeding. going to college, graduating college, becoming gainfully employed, and I resented them. I loathed them. And I loathed myself because of my inability to attain what they had. All I wanted was to be considered a success and yet I never even gave myself a real shot at it. Before long my defeatist attitude manifested into self-destructive behavior. I stopped going to school, I stopped showing up to my job, I blocked every positive influence out of my life. The downward spiral continued.

Until one day, I’m not sure what sparked it, but for whatever reason, I woke up and decided enough was enough. From that day going forward I decided I was going to change my life. I was so tired of looking at myself in the mirror and feeling disgusted at what I saw. I was so tired of talking down to myself. I was sick and tired of hating who I was. So I set out to wage war on the voice inside my head. I was going to do battle with my self-esteem and goddamnit I was going to win this civil war. Finally, The voice that for years was powered by the admonishments and condescending remarks made by myself, teachers, elders, and contemporaries would finally be silenced. I was on a mission.

I started by focusing on gaining little victories. I felt that if I could just remain positive while accomplishing little tasks then that would somehow eventually allow me to build confidence and remain positive when faced with larger challenges. So I made sure I woke up at 6:00 am every day. I made sure I worked out and exercised every day. I made sure I engaged in healthy behaviors as opposed to self-destructive ones.

Essentially, I began to organize my life. I showed up on time to work every day and doubled my output. I made sure my car was clean, my room was clean, I began to take pride in my possessions and in keeping things orderly. This taught me how to take pride in myself. As time went on I was getting in increasingly better shape through my renewed dedication to exercise, I was performing better at my job, and most importantly I felt more confident. I finally felt capable and in control.

To help myself stay on track (and keep the negative thoughts on the defensive) I bombarded my brain with positivity. Every day I would write down a list of the positive attributes and redeemable qualities I had. I would also write down everything I had accomplished that day in accordance with goals I had set. Which forced me to be accountable. As I achieved more and more  I felt incredibly capable —  like I truly had the ability to accomplish anything. The voice was still there. The self-doubt still existed. But I was driving it back, forcing it to retreat as I gained ground.

As my newfound confidence grew I looked at my goals and modified them. I wanted to set them as high as possible. I completely changed my attitude and my perspective. Now, anything was achievable. I kept encouraging myself and the little victories were piling up. I was losing weight, making new friends, smiling more, and remaining disciplined. To me, these little victories represented immense hope. The hope that these seemingly inconsequential insignificant victories would one day translate into me becoming financially, personally, and professionally successful.

Fortunately, that’s just what happened. I parlayed my newfound work ethic, discipline, and positive attitude into starting my own successful company. I have a beautiful girlfriend and loving friends, I am living a dream that seemed so far beyond the realm of possibility just a few years ago.  All because I was able to change the narrative in my head. I went from hating myself and thinking negatively about myself to loving and accepting who I am and thinking positively.

I hope this post can encourage you to remain positive and fight the good fight against self-doubt. For anyone wondering the most significant changes I made were as follows:

  • I learned how to accept myself for who I am as an individual instead of trying to fight it.
  • I learned how to accomplish little manageable tasks to build my self-confidence.
  • I discovered the benefits of positive self-talk. I simply kept referring to myself in a positive manner even when faced with negativity. It did wonders for my self-esteem.
  • I started to believe in myself and my capabilities. I stopped listening to what other people had to say about me. They weren’t me. I am in control of what I do with my life Not other people.
  • I never quit. I decided to make a change and I stuck to it. I did everything in my power to accomplish my goal and view myself and my abilities in a positive light.
  • Most importantly I learned how to appreciate and love who I am.

Have you or are you struggling with self-doubt? If so, just know, you will beat it. I have faith in you, now it’s time for you to have faith in you.

20 thoughts on “How I Conquered Self-Doubt and How You Can Too”

  1. Hi Zakk,

    Thank you for this wonderful post! It was very uplifting and exactly what I needed to hear. I too struggle with negativity and a lack of self confidence. I was wondering if you could elaborate more on what concrete goals you made to improve your confidence?

    Thanks,
    Shay

    1. Sure shay,

      Thank you for the kind words I’m really glad my post helped you. I made sure I set really small manageable goals at first. Like showing up on time to work everyday (I had a real problem doing that for a long time). Any little thing that would help me organize my life so that I felt more in control. I set a goal to lead a healthier lifestyle so I started eating extremely healthy and cleaned up my diet. I made a goal to get into shape and weigh a certain amount. I had a goal to be more social and make more friends so I made sure I went out more and met at least one new person a week.

      I soon learned valuable lessons from trying to accomplish these goals. I learned the value of discipline and developed increased mental fortitude and a better work ethic. My confidence naturally began to grow as I accomplished more. Slowly but surely I started thinking Bigger and bigger I kept setting goal after goal and thankfully I made sure I knew the steps it took to accomplish each goal and I made sure I followed through until I accomplished them. It sort of had a snowball effect. I really think setting goals is extremely important in relation to staying motivated and helping overcome self doubt. But goals don’t mean anything unless you are actually taking the steps to achieve them. I hope this helps.

      If you’re interested I host a brief 10-15 minute podcast everyday that’s designed to help people stay motived, stay positive you might want to check it out. The link is in my bio. I think it might help you :)

  2. Zakk,

    I struggle with everything you mentioned in this post and not to mention telling everyone else around me exactly what I have been told over the years. The negative voice in my head has conquered every part of my life. Fortunately, I have a strong wife who understands what I deal with and does her best to help me with my struggles even though I can be the most difficult person in her life. I came to a similar conclusion last year. I had been drinking heavily to ease the stress of the work day. By heavy I mean that I would average $400 to $600 a month in alcohol expenses. This choice of life had been going on for roughly 5 years for me until the end of September of 2015. What happened? A mountain of events transpired that caused me to reflect upon the errors of my life and where I had gone wrong. Again my wife was there to help.

    What happened 5 years ago you may ask? Well to keep the story simple and focused. I had changed career focuses in 2011. While I stayed in IT, I went from Client-Side support to Infrastructure Engineering. Many would think that the change itself would be incredible and motivate someone to do more. On the surface it did, but what I did not do was research what to expect from such a change in daily routine.

    I found myself working at a dead-end place for about two and a half years after the initial change and it was completely demoralizing. The change itself was not demoralizing but the environment was, which lead to a weekend abuse of alcohol. Granted I was at this job for almost three years, the abuse of alcohol did not start right away. I believe it started 8 to 12 months into the job and did not end until just last year.

    So why did it stop last year? Honestly I think like you I got tired of waking up the next day feeling like I was hit by a freight train the night before and could not remember what my wife and children discussed. I wholeheartedly believe that the memory loss that I experience even to this day is not because of age but because of the abuse of alcohol. Each night I’d come home to drink away the stress of not knowing how to deal with this new-found career and again with each passing night I’d pass out drunk as a skunk. I just got fed up with my life. End of story.

    What have I done to combat the urges of drinking and the negative thoughts in my head? Well with the first part, I still drink; however, not nearly as much and not nearly as often. Instead of the nightly bourbon and seven, or mostly bourbon, I enjoy a drink of wine. Weaning is what I am trying to accomplish here because I know deep inside of me I crave the most mind controlling, nerve altering substance that I know of. This is the only way that I know that I can win against my problem. Have I had any relapses since September? Yes. I had a drink of bourbon on Thanksgiving. Do you know what happened to me? I became violently sick that I could no longer tolerate the taste of it! My body was trying to tell me that bourbon was no longer allowed. What is even funnier though is, life for me became hectic, scary and damned near impossible to live around early December that same year. That same year that I decided to quit drinking like it was going out of style and since then I have not touched, tasted or smelled bourbon since then. Have I thought about drinking it? Yes. I’d be lying if I said no. The thought of drinking it makes me sick though and as long as that makes me sick I will no longer lust after it.

    So where am I at now you may ask? Well my weeks are still challenging. I’m at a new place in my career. After December of 2015, I had to leave my former employer against my own will (different story all together) and seek employment elsewhere. This new place you might ask? Don’t laugh. My wife works for the same company. Since the career-focus change I’m on my 3rd employer. As sad as that sounds, I struggle with the feeling of “not good enough” for even this company. Though my peers are decent and my boss seems decent, even though I have not yet met him in person. This company is not perfect, neither am I.

    That’s the mantra that I have to keep repeating to myself over and over again. I am flawed. I am not perfect. I am only human, accept me for me and only for me. Love me for who I am and not for what I am. Easy to preach but hard to live by I know, but it becomes easier to live by the more you repeat it within your own mind.

    I appreciate the post you shared. I feel like I am not alone in my struggle now. Thank you! I wish you well on your journey.

    Thank you,

    Paul

    1. Paul,

      Thanks so much for sharing your story. I swear we are living the same life right now!
      It was refreshing and encouraging to see that someone else could go through something so similar and keep the optimism and hope alive.

      Every day can be a struggle but I keep my shoulders back and my smile on because I know nothing can be perfect but it will be better.
      Like Zakk and Yourself, I recently just had a morning that a subconscious thought finally bubbled to the surface and forced me to take an emotional inventory. It wasn’t great. A lot of things I once had a re missing or broken and now I feel like its time to reevaluate what I mean to me.
      I know Im taking the first steps on a long path but I know its going to be a beautiful journey.

      Keep on doing what your doing, Paul. We all have our thing but we are not alone.

      Sincerely,

      Blayne

      1. Awesome Post Blayne. I’m glad you liked my article and I wish you well on the new journey you are embarking on. It’s great to know you’ve been through a similar situation as me. It’s nice to know that I’m not alone in this. If you’d like you can look in my bio, there’s a link to my podcast titled “Daily Dose Of Motivation” its all about helping people stay motivated and inspired and be positive. I’d love for you to take a listen and tell me what you think. Thanks again for commenting.

        -Zakk

    2. Paul,

      You must be a very strong person to have quit drinking. I know many people who have struggled to and have come up short. You’re right no one is perfect but I’d wager you bring a lot of value to the company that’s why they hired you right? There’s no shame in working for multiple companies. I think there’s far greater shame in stagnating and playing it safe in the same place than taking a chance or making an adjustment and working at a new place.

      Your story is awesome and I’m glad mine helped you because yours definitely helped me.

      -Zakk

    3. Paul,

      You must be a very strong person to have quit drinking. I know many people who have struggled to and have come up short. You’re right no one is perfect but I’d wager you bring a lot of value to the company that’s why they hired you right? There’s no shame in working for multiple companies. I think there’s far greater shame in stagnating and playing it safe in the same place than taking a chance or making an adjustment and working at a new place.

      Your story is awesome and I’m glad mine helped you because yours definitely helped me.

  3. Hi Zakk,

    Thank you for the incredibly inspiring post. I could relate to everything you wrote about since I’ve struggled with deep shame since I was really little. I think so many of us who go through it often end up suffering so much that we hit a breaking point sometime in our adult lives, and then the pain stemming from fear of wanting to change becomes more unbearable than the shame/self-doubt itself. That’s what inspires real change.

    There will always be critics, and that’s what I’m focused on learning to deal with now. It took me a long time to learn that all that really matters is what you think of yourself, and I’m still trying to drill that truth into my subconscious. Reading about other people’s stories always helps!

    Thanks again,

    Elise

    1. Elise,

      You’re absolutely right. It’s how we feel about ourselves that truly matters. People that put you down or are negative to you are doing so only because they feel inadequate or dissatisfied with themselves and their own life. Their opinions are not valid trust me. I’m glad my post helped you. We are definitely not alone.

  4. Hi Zakk,

    I can’t ‘thank you’ enough for writing such a positive and insightful article. Much of the challenges you’ve endured growing up as a child are also reflective in my own life. I’ve read over many writings from other authors throughout the years, but your’s really stood out for some reason. Hard-to-explain, yet, just the inspiration I was looking for along with a simple road map to follow. Thank you my friend.

    Cheers,

    Chris

    1. Chris,

      I’m really happy my post was helpful to you. I love to write and I love helping people cope with the issues I’ve dealt with my entire life so its awesome to see you enjoyed with I wrote and that it resonated with you. If you like this post I think you’d really enjoy my podcast. You can subscribe to it on iTunes. It’s called Daily Dose Of Motivation. You can subscribe and every day I do a show on a topic relating to all the crazy emotional and personal things we deal with in life and how to stay motivated and inspired to be the best you can be. Thank you for the kind post too.

      -Zakk

  5. Thank you for this wonderful post. I have been struggling a lot of self-doubt and negativity since in my high school days. This article is very inspiring and helpful to me. Keep it up :)

  6. This is a really great article Zakk and it demonstrates how a change in attitude can really positively affect your life in a good way. As someone who was an introverted, insecure, very unconfident child/teenager/young adult, I can really relate to this. Being around positive people who demonstrate great attitudes themselves also helps as well as continual self-improvement and membership of professional development associations where you are encouraged to stretch yourself (like Toastmasters International).

  7. Great post on how little steps can lead to the path of inner success. What’s good, is that it outlines the steps one can realistically adopt to achieve more.
    Thanks for sharing!

  8. Happy you overcame your self-doubt Zakk. I know people your story will help. I’ll share this with them.

  9. This is actually true.. sometimes when you are hurt by a thing you lose your confidence. All you need to do is to remain uplifted, get over any sort of negativity , stop getting affected !People or instances that they create (which bring our confidence down) should never have the authority to sadden us , it is we who are responsible towards our feelings and emotions. Do not let anything let them go down.
    You are important , get that embossed in the mind & Heart !

  10. Hi Zakk – Brilliant approach to life. Sometimes I think it takes a setback to get you back on track. I had a similar thing when I was 18. Had my mind set on being an officer in the British Army. Passed the 3 day assessment course, went to Sandhurst (Military Academy) and got chucked out after 3 months. Massive hit to my confidence and self-esteem. Embarrassing too, particularly as my family are all in the Navy or Army. Spent a year drifting. Then did what you did. Decided to act. Wouldn’t accept defeat. Went to University. Joined the army as a graduate. Spent 4 years as an army office. Set me up for life. I now teach confidence and leadership.

  11. hey Zakk,
    nice to know you overcame your self doubt..I’m trying my best and you inspire me and your post helped alot.

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