Identifying Self-Doubt: Do You Always Think You Can’t Do It?

Written by Amelia Putri


Photo by Kat Jayne on


Doubt VS Self-Doubt

We all have doubts, despite all the knowledge, skills or experience we have. Although the word ‘doubt’ may sound negative, it actually has a positive side. Doubt will make you think twice before making a decision. Doubt will push us to think about the consequences of our actions. Doubt will make us clarify the truth when we read a broadcast message in our WhatsApp. A Persian proverb says, “Doubt is the key to knowledge” because from doubt we have the feeling to know about something and perhaps will lead us to get clearer knowledge or new knowledge. Without doubt, the knowledge, science and theories wouldn’t have been evolved as they are today.


But self-doubt can be different. Self-doubt has been defined as uncertainty about one’s abilities, potential for success, or competence in performance situations. Self-doubt occurs when we lack of confidence or feel incapable of doing things we need to do. So, no matter how excellent the skill we have, or how good the plan we have made, we may feel that we are not good enough, not skilled enough, not experienced enough, we are afraid that we can’t perform well enough on any given tasks. Let alone achieving the goal that we or other people set for us. This act truly comes from our own judgment.


We Are Our Own Supporter and Hindrance

Self-doubt can be helpful in some cases, as it often leads to introspection and enhanced performance. Those who worry about not performing well on a given task may spend more time preparing and thus improve their execution of the project. However, persistent fear and self-doubt can hugely affect your life in a bad way.


When we have a hard time seeing our own good traits, qualities and other good things about ourselves, we begin to “stand in our own way” – we become a hindrance to ourselves. When this happens, it’s difficult to maintain motivation. Unhealthy self-doubt can be compared to a greedy parasite that consumes more and more of us, feeding on our self-esteem, self-worth, and self-efficacy. Slowly, if it’s not treated, it can get worse and lead to anxiety or depression.



We can identify if we develop or have self-doubt by acknowledging the acts or phrases that we often do and say to ourselves.


  • The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

The core words of this are: “I can’t”. The feelings that we can’t do it, we can’t make it, we’re sure that this plan won’t work, et cetera. If we always have a feeling that we are unsure of our abilities, potentials and performance, even though we haven’t tried it out or we have made a thorough plan, it means we are making a prophecy out of our own judgment. We unconsciously fabricate a belief that we can’t do it. This, of course, can lead to lowering our self-esteem, anxiety or depression.


  • Self-Sabotaging

Self-sabotaging emerges from a fear of failure. It loves procrastination. Instead of doing the work, we avoid it, because we’re afraid of making a mistake. For example, we have a design commission. It’s a big deal and it’s offered by a big company. We are on the right track – doing what we love to do as our job. But then we start worrying if we can do it, if our work will fulfill their expectations. We’re circling with these thoughts over and over – we don’t even start doing the work. You will begin to believe that you’re incapable of success because you have forgotten how well you do when you try.


  • Unworthiness

If we feel that our achievements are gotten just by luck rather than our personal effort and ability, this is what the Impostor Syndrome really is. There is an unreasonable feeling of being a fraud in disguise, making us believe that we are unworthy of our achievements, life, position or partner. The common words for this are: “I’m not worthy.”


  • Lack of Self-Love

We often deny our achievements. First we thought that we were being humble by not bragging our achievement. But unconsciously, by time, we stop giving ourselves the credit of our own effort. While we usually are very supportive to our friends, we tend to be much harsher with ourselves. No matter how many praises we receive from other people, we actually need to be proud of ourselves, and give ourselves a pat on the back.


  • Dependency

People with high self-doubt have a greater need for approval from others. We tend to worry more about failures and negative evaluations and are very harsh in our self-judgments, so we need other people’s opinion to ease our solicitudes.


If low self-esteem, indecisiveness, mood swings, a loss in motivation or concentration, guilt and shame occur, these traits are also parts of self-doubt patterns. We can overcome self-doubt by the help of others who are positive and supportive. But when self-doubt becomes overwhelming or has severe negative impacts on our mind, body, soul and life, we need help from professionals, such as psychotherapists, to get ourselves out from the self-doubt pattern. Therapists can make one feels understood and can help alleviate feelings of self-doubt. They may also be able to help us strengthen our sense of confidence and develop greater faith in our own abilities. But most of all, therapy can help us discover and address the core source of the self-doubt.




UKEssays. (November 2018). The Purpose Of Doubt In Knowledge Philosophy Essay. Retrieved from

Iresearchnet. (2021). Self-Doubt Definition. Retrieved from

Roush, Sherrilyn. (2017). Epistemic Self-DoubtThe Stanford Encyclopedia of PhilosophyRetrieved from

MindDoc. (2021). When Self-doubt Consumes You – Identify and Stop. Retrieved from

Chui, Anna. (March 2, 2021). How Self-Doubt Keeps You Stuck (And How To Overcome It). Retrieved from

Good Therapy. (September 23, 2019). Self-Doubt. Retrieved from






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