15 Ways Founders Can Curb Feelings of Self-Doubt

 YEC (Young Entrepreneur Council) surveyed some folks about how they deal with self-doubt in work and in life. Here are their responses.

How do you conquer self-doubt?


1. Focus on Logic Rather Than Emotion

Self-doubt is anchored in emotion, and that’s when you risk making bad business decisions. Although your gut comes in handy once in a while, remember to focus on the numbers and stick to the rationale behind the decisions you are making with your business. If in doubt, an impartial third party can help you see some sense.
– Thomas Smale, FE International


2. Visualize Achievements

Visualize yourself achieving whatever you’re having doubts about. For example, if you’re doubting yourself about landing a specific deal or creating a new product, visualize yourself actually doing this (in detail) every morning and every evening. Subconsciously, you’ll set yourself up to achieve that task and carve a pathway to doing so. It’s very powerful — give it a try!
– Alex Miller, PosiRank LLC


3. Lean on Professional Support

Whenever I’m struggling, I try and take a breath and remind myself that I have coaches, therapists and mentors in my life for a reason. Having bounce boards who know me well and are willing to challenge me is invaluable. If we are not living in doubt, we are not growing, so I also try to remember that pain is a gift.
– Corey Blake, Round Table Companies


4. Set a Small Goal

When things get tough (and they usually do), long term plans can seem unobtainable. This is when I say, “We need a win.” To accomplish this, I usually set a small goal and crush it. This usually builds back some self-esteem to fight the bigger wars.
– Brendon Schenecker, Travel Vegas


5. Make a List of Everything I’ve Done

I do my best to be aware of doubtful thoughts and remind myself that they are not real. Then I replace my doubtful thoughts with new ones. I do this by keeping a list of everything I’ve done to this point in my life and documenting previous ways I’ve overcome doubt to succeed. If you can’t write your own list, have a friend or significant other write it.
– Andrew Thomas, SkyBell Video Doorbell


6. Remember “This Too Shall Pass”

In times of self-doubt or fear, I often tell myself, “This too, shall pass.” We all have moments of doubt, fear and anxiety. For me, it’s important to acknowledge, feel it and then let it go.
– Zachary Burkes, June


7. Trust the “Yaysayers”

Our “yaysayers” — those people who believe in us and are cheering us on — tend to view us more positively than we do ourselves. In their eyes, we’re capable, resilient and successful. So when I’m doubting my own capabilities, I trust that their view is correct rather than my own and proceed as if it were true. They’re right more often than my self-doubt is.
– Charlie Gilkey, Productive Flourishing


8. Lean on Friends and Colleagues

Leverage both your personal and professional relationships for advice. Having multiple, different points of reference can help you evaluate situations through different lenses. And remember, what’s the worst that can happen?
– Zach Robbins, Leadnomics


9. Embrace It

Conquering self-doubt is akin to conquering any human condition — it’s simply not possible. Instead, embrace self-doubt as something you will live with as long as you pursue the startup dream. Treat and manage self-doubt by reminding yourself every day what you’re doing and why. If you’re honest with the perspective, self-doubt can serve as a gauge for how you make decisions, and can help you succeed.
– Yossi Fishler, Andy OS, inc.


10. Tie My Motivation to a Deeper Cause

I think self-doubt often comes from tying our confidence and motivation to things that aren’t meaningful enough to us. That’s why it’s important to have a reason behind what you do that goes far deeper than money. If you really believe in what you are doing and why you are doing it, your passion will generally build enough momentum to carry you through the rough patches.
– Jesse Lear, V.I.P. Waste Services, LLC


11. Put Myself in Scary Situations

Every time I’m scared to put myself in a professional situation (a conference, a keynote, etc.), I know that’s my self-doubt talking, so I lean into the situation. Once I’ve done it, it’s no longer unknown and helps me to see myself as more capable. I can also refer back to it when I feel doubts creeping in again.
– Darrah Brustein, Network Under 40 / Finance Whiz Kids


12. Prepare

Becoming prepared for a situation helps to overcome a lot of scary feelings. Whether it’s an important meeting or a crucial business decision, the more preparation and research I have conducted, the less self-doubt there is. Before a meeting, practice what you might discuss, and when creating a business strategy, analyze all possible scenarios. The doubt lessens when you eliminate the unknowns.
– Shawn Schulze, SeniorCare.com


13. Have the Right Mindset

The mantra “everything that happens to me is the best possible thing that can happen to me” is a lifesaver. Realize that if you’re doing your greatest work and giving it 110 percent, there will always be a road to success, even if it doesn’t seem like it at the time. Look at all the other successful entrepreneurs with rocky beginnings when you’re feeling doubtful.
– Elle Kaplan, LexION Capital


14. Exercise

Once you recognize that you are having feelings of self-doubt, you should try and figure out why. Exercise has always been a great escape for me. It clears the mind and motivates you for the day but also provides time to reflect. On your way to a meeting, or, in the morning before you leave, a quick workout has always been a winning move for me.
– Kevin Henrikson, Outlook iOS & Android @ Microsoft


15. Imagine the Worst Case Scenario

Figure out what the worst case scenario is and imagine everything that could go wrong, does go wrong. Now come up with at least a few ways that you could overcome this failure. Most failures and worst case scenarios seem more frightening than they actually are. Once you stare your doubts and fears in the face, they go away.
– Richard Lorenzen, AchieveIconic.com



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Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective (http://businesscollective.com), a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

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