When you doubt yourself it has an impact on every area of your life.
Being somebody who used to doubt himself deeply in my 20s, it was only in the past decade that I began to see all the ways I’d been sabotaging myself.
My low self-esteem and doubts about my value and capability had been holding me back in hugely impactful ways.
Looking back I can now see that self-awareness of behaviors holding me back and changing them was the key to changing this.
Here’s a summary about what I learned in terms of the top behaviors that hold you back when you have self-doubt.
1) Seeking validation
People who doubt themselves seek validation outside of themselves.
It makes sense if you think about it.
If a person doesn’t feel they are good enough or sufficient, they’re going to go on a lifelong search to find something or somebody who does make them feel good enough and sufficient.
This may be:
- Romantic partners
- Thrilling experiences
- Conflict and drama
- Religion and spiritual intensity
But even after all this, self-doubt always reemerges until it is faced head on and healed.
People-pleasing goes hand-in-hand with seeking outside validation.
It happens when a person with persistent self-doubts begins to seek approval from other people as their primary source of well-being.
In order to get that approval, the most direct route seems simple:
Make other people happy, fulfill other people’s needs, and agree and please other people no matter what.
This leaves the self-doubter feeling even more low value and torn, especially when somebody doesn’t like them (even through no fault of their own).
3) Deep fear of being disliked
The deep fear of being disliked and desire to people please runs deep in a person who doubts themselves.
This is because when inner insecurity runs rampant and it’s been built up by outside approval, any outside disapproval is like a glitch in the entire matrix.
What do I do now?
What if the naysayer is right?
What if my value really is as low or shaky as I suspect it might be?
This leads to the next point…
4) Filtering out positive comments and encouragement
One of the most discouraging parts of self-doubting people is that they will filter out positive comments and encouragement.
When they’re told that they are good-looking, intelligent, kind, wonderful, or any other compliment, they will tend to have an immediate doubtful reaction.
It doesn’t fit with the inner narrative which tells them something is lacking.
For this reason, they’ll tend to be hyper-focused on any criticisms or vaguely indifferent reactions and ignore those who have positive reactions.
This search for validation and approval while also tending to not believe the validation and approval they receive is the vicious cycle of a person with low self-worth and who is plagued by self-doubt.
5) Outsourcing decision-making
When somebody doubts themselves they tend to outsource decision-making.
Who they’re dating, where they’re working and other critical decisions in their lives are given to a crowd vote. They ask their friends, their family, and everyone else who’s in their environs.
The thing is that even when the majority agrees on a certain course of action, the self-doubting person tends to find even small decisions excruciatingly difficult.
This is because deep down they don’t believe in themselves, so how can they believe in what they plan to do?
6) Letting criticisms cut deep
As I mentioned, it’s very painful for a person with a lot of self-doubt when people don’t like them. Even the most cursory and surface-level criticism cuts deep and hurts a lot.
They find it hard to take that somebody, somewhere doesn’t like them or disapproves of them.
Even in a job context, it’s very hard for the self-doubter to be told that there’s something they could be doing better or a way in which they could improve.
“I’m a failure, I knew it!” they think to themselves in misery…
7) Intense concern or sadness over being misunderstood
People with a lot of self-doubt are very torn up about not being understood.
If they feel they have been misunderstood they will agonize over it and have sleepless nights.
The idea that somebody out there believes they are a bad person or adheres to a certain “side” that isn’t actually what they identify with drives them nuts.
Somebody out there thinking less of them or associating them with an ideology or action or belief that isn’t popular makes the self-doubter half-mad with worry.
8) Adding lots of qualifiers to sentences
I used to be one of the worst at this and still slip into it sometimes.
Adding qualifiers like “maybe,” “um,” “uh,” “I dunno,” and “err” or “kind of” and “I guess” dilutes and weakens what you say.
Compare the following sentences to see what I mean:
“The situation is really horrible and it needs to change as soon as possible.”
“The situation is kinda bad, and uh, I dunno, maybe people should do something about it. I guess that’s kinda what I mean, you know?”
The first says a straightforward statement of belief and doesn’t include negations. The second is full of unnecessary qualifiers that weaken and muddy the point being made.
9) Displaying submissive body language
Body language is another key area where self-doubters often slip up.
Hunched shoulders, averted gaze, fidgeting, inward-pointing feet, and slouching back are just a few signs of submissive, low-confidence body language.
This is highly important, as body language is a non-verbal communication that talks to everyone around us.
When we don’t feel well in ourselves and that manifests through a submissive, downtrodden physique, everybody feels it and it makes them feel less comfortable and happy as well.
10) Doubting their own vision
People who doubt themselves also doubt their vision.
What they want for their own life, what they believe, what they want to do in the future: These all seem out of reach, crazy or not attainable.
They begin to feel more and more that other people are made of some different substance that allows them to achieve their dreams, but it’s not in their reach.
In career, in love, in terms of finding where to live or how to live?
These all seem unattainable or at least just based on chance, and the self-doubter feels sure that their own ideas are unimportant or unrealistic.
11) Being hesitant in career goals
Career growth isn’t easy for anyone, and even the children of highly wealthy families and connected people actually do often struggle to find their niche and their passion.
But when you have self-doubt you tend to be very hesitant in career goals.
You doubt that your ideas for career will ever come to pass, and even when you get great opportunities you tend to undersell yourself and not take enough credit.
You also tend to be overly agreeable and settle for less than you deserve, which brings me to the next point about one of the dangers of being a self-doubting individual…
12) Settling for a low salary
Those who doubt themselves are quite vulnerable to be economically exploited.
They are often taken advantage of by bosses and superiors who undervalue their work or pay them much less than they merit.
But they accept this because they believe it’s the best they can get and they shouldn’t get ahead of themselves.
There’s value in realism and some grueling jobs certainly are part of the journey to better positions, but when a person chronically undervalues themselves it can lead to penury and even poor health in the long term.
13) Settling in relationships
Those who doubt themselves a lot tend to often settle in relationships.
In other words, they end up with a person they’re not necessarily in love with and maybe don’t even really want to be with.
But they need that validation and they also often have a deep fear of being alone or abandoned:
Therefore somebody is better than nobody, and their doubts make them feel highly skeptical about holding out to be with somebody they truly are attracted to and connected with.
So they settle and have a miserable relationship, feeling even more low about their own value…
14) Falling for gaslighting and emotional manipulation
Those who doubt themselves are very vulnerable to being gaslighted and manipulated.
Because they don’t believe strongly in their own worth or potential, people who are more at the predator end of the spectrum have a ripe target.
They can spread even more doubt and sell, convince or exploit this person in many ways that a more secure and confident individual would instinctively resist.