6 signs you’ve been selling yourself short in life, according to psychology

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We all have it, and yet so very few people fulfil theirs.

The rest of us? We just slowly and painfully give up on our dreams until we’re “too old” to be such “naïve dreamers”.

But what if I told you that it’s never too late?

What if I said that maybe, you’ve been underestimating yourself this whole time?

Maybe, you just need to believe in yourself a tiny bit more and finally take the leap.

This is where it all begins.

Here are the 6 signs you’ve been selling yourself short in life.

1) You think you’re not “one of those people”

Growing up, I had really ambitious dreams.

I lived in a small town in a tiny country, my English was abysmal, and I had no clue how to achieve my goals – and yet I dared to dream.

I now live abroad, write for a living, travel around the world, and live the exact life my younger self dreamed up.

Some of my friends from school who were just as intelligent and had just as much potential aren’t so fortunate, though.

They are stuck in jobs they low-key hate, they spend 70% of their time daydreaming about something better, and yet they take no action to turn their lives around.

The main difference between me and them?


My friends always used to look at successful CEOs, famous artists, or celebrities and say, “Things like that don’t happen to people like me.”

I, on the other hand, looked at my idols and thought, “How can I achieve this exact lifestyle?”

In short, I believed in my uniqueness. I believed I could achieve whatever I set my mind on because I absolutely *was* one of those people.

Therapist John Amodeo, Ph.D., MFT, agrees: “We have our unique special way of being in the world,” he writes. “We’re irreplaceable. It’s a tremendous relief to realize that we have worth and value without having to be better than others.”

2) You don’t believe in the “fake it till you make it” rule

Imagine you see a job advert.

The position sounds absolutely perfect for you and your qualifications meet some of the most important requirements.

But then there are a few things that make you doubt yourself.

You only have one year of experience, not three. You’re not exactly a pro at Excel Sheets.

And you’ve never done some of the tasks they mention.

So, you click away. You don’t even bother applying.

You probably wouldn’t get the job anyway.

But that’s a huge mistake. Moreover, it’s a sign you’re selling yourself short.

People with much less experience than you may have applied for the same job and got it simply because you decided to cross yourself out of the equation.

Sometimes, you’ve just got to fake it till you make it. And in many cases, it actually works.

As Clifford N. Lazarus Ph.D. explains, “In behavioral psychology, the idea of ‘act as if’ and ‘fake it till you make it’ can be a pivotal therapeutic intervention. This is simply because it is much easier to act ourselves into feeling better than to think ourselves into feeling better, or be talked by someone into feeling better.”

If you act like you can totally smash this job, you’re more likely to apply, put yourself out there, and actually get it.

So what if you’re not great with Excel? Take a YouTube crash course, and in a few days, you’ll reach Excel mastery.

So what if you don’t have three years of experience? If you have what it takes, your interviewer won’t care.

Just do it. Throw yourself into the deep end. Before you know it, you’ll learn how to swim.

3) You downplay your talents and experience

“I suppose I’m pretty good at X and Y, but that’s nothing special,” you might think. “So many people are better or more experienced than me.”

Once upon a time, my thought process was very similar.

Then I realized an important truth: someone would always be better than me.

Yes, there are better writers out there in the world. Yes, my French will never be as fluent as that of a bilingual or a native speaker.

Yes, I’m a pretty rubbish singer when compared to most people.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t go and pursue those things. It doesn’t mean I can’t get amazing opportunities, progress further in life, and apply myself.

All your talents, all your experience, all your passions… they’re all worth something.

Stop tearing yourself down. Hype yourself up.

You’re amazing in your own way. You will always bring something unique to the table.  

4) You expect the worst rather than the best

“What if I go ahead with this and realize I’m not up for the challenge? What if I take a risk and then lose it all? What if I put my faith in a dream that turns out to be unrealistic?”

Trust me, everyone has doubts like this. Even I doubt myself at times.

But then I always remind myself that pessimism doesn’t really lead anywhere.

Sure, things may not end up the way you planned.

But at least you can say you tried. At least you won’t spend your whole life wondering what if.

This is why I love being a realistic optimist.

Every time doubts begin to swirl in my mind, I direct them elsewhere. I tell myself, “What if everything pans out exactly the way I planned?

What if I achieve goals beyond my wildest dreams? What if jumping on this opportunity will open up doors to experiences I’ll remember forever?”

Then the realism part kicks in. “Yes, it will be hard,” I remind myself. “I might struggle, I might cry, I might go through a crisis.

But as long as I keep going, I’ll eventually get there.”

Realistic optimism is the art of expecting the best while acknowledging all the hard work that will go into it.

It’s how I’ve managed to achieve everything I’ve ever set my mind on.

5) You feel unfulfilled on a fundamental level and constantly dream of a better life

Look, not everyone wants to be a millionaire or a musical genius.

And that’s completely fine. Just because you have a job that society considers to be “average” or “boring” doesn’t mean you’re selling yourself short in life.

Some people love to work in admin, others enjoy housekeeping, and others still like to do some hard construction work.

Every job is important and valid.

It all depends on whether you feel fulfilled by what you do.

While Sarah may love being a bartender, Katie might dream of working in an animal sanctuary while pouring shots of vodka and feeling miserable.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • Does the idea of doing your job for the next five years fill you with dread?
  • Do you often catch yourself daydreaming about going on a holiday or doing a completely different job?
  • Do you hate Mondays?
  • Do you count the minutes until the end of your workday?
  • Do you feel like you’re meant to be someplace else but don’t know how to get there?

If your answer to these is “yes”, it’s another sign you’re not fulfilling your true potential.

It means you haven’t yet found or pursued your purpose.

6) You’re stuck in your comfort zone

Let’s be honest with each other for a second.

The main reason you’re underestimating yourself is because you’re terrified.

I get it. Uncertainty is scary.

Throwing yourself into the unknown makes you want to hide in a cave and never come out.

You’re used to the way things are now, and even if it sucks overall, at least it’s safe.

At least it’s comfortable.

And maybe you can go on living your life like this. Maybe this isn’t so bad.

Maybe, if you ignore the existential dread, you can settle for what this life has to offer.

This is delusion and fear speaking.

And it’s about time you stop listening to them.

I suggest you zoom out. Look at how vast the universe is.

My friend, you and I live on a floating rock.

One day, we won’t be here anymore, our bones will turn to dust, and no one will remember us.

This life might be the only thing you have.

Make the most out of it.

Mia Zhang

Mia Zhang blends Eastern and Western perspectives in her approach to self-improvement. Her writing explores the intersection of cultural identity and personal growth. Mia encourages readers to embrace their unique backgrounds as a source of strength and inspiration in their life journeys.

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