Productive Leaders

Ph.D., CSP, CDR, US Navy Ret.,
CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame

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How to Overcome Self-Doubt to Promote Your Ideas, Your Project, and Yourself

It is normal for many people to doubt themselves. If you have feelings of self-doubt, you are in good company.

Doubting yourself creates a host of unfavorable scenarios and prevents you from reaching your full potential. It holds you back. It wastes your time. Opportunities may pass you by because you feel as though you do not deserve them, you are not qualified enough, or that you are lacking in some way.

Self-doubt is especially prevalent in the presence of peers. It is easy for others on your level academically or professionally to challenge your self-belief, because they have their own set of accomplishments, and you may be comparing your accomplishments to theirs. You might feel like they are far ahead of you, even though you are on the same level.

Stop comparing yourself to others unless it is motivating or helpful.

Keep these concepts in mind to help you feel confident when trying to persuade others:

  1. You did the work. Remind yourself about how the work you have done and the effort it has taken to get to where you are. You eared the knowledge you have. You are the expert.
  • Whether it is getting through school or putting in years as a junior staff member, you have done it yourself. You have worked your way to where you are right now. Think about the obstacles you overcame to get to where you are today.
  • It was not easy, but it was worth it. And that is why you deserve every success that comes your way.
  • Avoid shortchanging the work you put in. Do not dismiss your own accomplishments.
  1. You have been validated. You earned your current status. Why are you questioning that?
  • If you have credentials, then the experts in your area of study have confirmed that you are knowledgeable in your field. Your certification/degree/promotion proves that you are good at what you do.
  • Did you receive an award or advancement at work? Your boss and leadership has acknowledged the quality of your work and rewarded you. Embrace it.
  1. Your history speaks for itself. Assess the path you have taken and the successes you have had along the way.
  • Where you are right now is impressive. Try to view your success from a stranger’s perspective.
  • Remember – it is hard for us to see our own progress. Our brain tends to dwell on everything else we need to do instead of what we have accomplished.
  • Consider how many other people benefit from your achievements. That is important to know. What we do affects other people. Who else benefits when we are successful?
  1. You deserve good outcomes from your effort and your work. That spotlight is just as much yours as it is anyone else’s. Embrace all the good things that are yours.
  • Use some of the time you spend praising others to praise yourself. Make a deliberate and focused effort to notice and acknowledgment the contributions of others.
  • Do not feeling guilty about speaking up for yourself and your ideas. People need to hear what you have to say. And just because others do not act right way on your ideas does not mean that your thoughts were not heard. Some things take time to be done right. Sometimes influence takes a process. Some issues need to be revisited.

Reward yourself in ways that works for you. What are ways that reward yourself to stay motivated?

It is up to us to find the opportunities that are waiting for us. New opportunities present themselves when you make room for them. As my friend Jess Pettitt says, “You are good enough now.”  Seize your well-earned confidence and move forward to your next challenge.



  1. Guyla Greenly

    Was my face looming in front of you when you wrote this? LOL
    Thank you for the insight!

    • Mary Kelly

      LOL, Guyla. Thank YOU for your comment. 🙂

      • Melissa K. Benson

        All of this, times ten in the performing arts industry. Thanks for the in depth reminder. It’s a daily struggle to run your own race.

        • Mary Kelly

          Yes. Thank you for your feedback, Melissa!

  2. Shannon

    Excellent insight. I would be interested to read your encouragement regarding working through the adversities often experienced as we progress in status. I agree we are our worst critic, and sometimes we have help from those who don’t want to see us be more successful than them. Thank you for this today!

    • Mary Kelly

      Thank you, Shannon. And thank you for the great idea for another article. 🙂

  3. Susan Koye

    Superb article on an issue that often plagues high achievers who often want to do more and more, reach higher, and continue to master their work and challenge themselves.

    • Mary Kelly

      Your comment on high achievers is right on, Susan. Thank you!

  4. Paula Monica Miller

    This article came at the right time for sure! Great insight! Thank you for the reminders!

    • Mary Kelly

      Glad to hear that, Paula! 🙂

  5. Joe M. Turner

    I definitely struggle with this, especially as so many of my peers are so highly visible online, at conferences, and on television. Comparing what I do to what they have done successfully is a trap that I fall into weekly if not daily. I will try to take your advice.

    • Mary Kelly


      You are one of the most talented people on the planet and you make a significant difference to so many people! I think it’s really hard, especially in our business, when we are constantly compared to other people. And then are rejected on a daily basis for events. We are told, “We went in another direction.”

      The difference between what we sell and what most other people sell is that we are selling us. So when people reject us, it’s not like they are rejecting the blender that we sell. They are rejecting us. And that can be hard.

      I think you’re amazing! We have to focus on the good that we can do. 🙂


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