Self Doubt: How to Manage it in a Workplace Setting

Written by Calvin Bowers

Self doubt is something that many people suffer from in many and varied aspects of their lives. Even the most talented people can sometimes believe that they are only “winging it” and that somehow they will be found to be inadequate at what they are doing. 

Many people base so much of their identity on being good at what they do for a living, so to feel inadequate at doing their job feels like they are failing at life. It is important to remember that you are always so much more than just your job.

Self-doubt can also take the form of impostor syndrome, the feeling that you are faking it and that everyone else is better at their jobs than you are. A study published in 2020 states that between 9% and 82% of people struggle with this. While impostor syndrome and self-doubt can sometimes be useful in the workplace, they can also cause difficulties and we have included some ways to combat them below. 

Self Doubt – Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

This is quite important, and it is something that many people struggle with. If you feel that a project is difficult or that you are not sure how best to proceed, there is no shame in asking for help or clarification. Doubling down when things aren’t working will just make for more difficulty in the long run. 

Admitting to a colleague or line manager that you are not sure how to proceed and asking for their advice will actually earn you respect, and should help to get you any assistance you need to get past what is causing you difficulty. 

If you have asked for help and haven’t received any, keep a note of this and raise it with your line manager if the matter is mentioned again in the future. 

Realise that Nobody is Judging You for Self Doubt

When starting off in a new job, it can feel as if you are under immense scrutiny, and that can be true to an extent for a training or trial period. Once you have passed that and are a permanent member of the team, you will no longer have your work scrutinised in quite the same way. Hitting targets and being able to report to your line manager on progress should ensure that you are allowed to continue doing your job as normal. 

It can be tempting to feel that your performance is being analysed a lot more than it is but most people actually have their heads inside their own tasks and will be concentrating on completing those. Few people have the spare time to scrutinise and micro-manage others to the kind of extent that you may expect.

The harshest critic tends to be the self-critic. Once you understand and accept that nobody will ever judge you as hard as you do yourself, this should help you to place your self-doubt in the correct box. It doesn’t mirror the perceptions of others about you, this is purely an internal thing that you have to work through. 

Ask for Any Reasonable Workplace Adjustments

Many who struggle with self-doubt in the workplace are neurodiverse people who tend to be somewhere on the autistic spectrum. If this applies to you, take a look at what you struggle with at work and the factors that are causing you stress at the moment, and ask for any reasonable workplace adjustments that can help you to flourish. 

Reasonable adjustments are provided under UK employment and equalities legislation and are changes that your employer should consider putting in place to make your working life easier if you request them. These can include, but are not limited to:

Ask for a static workstation rather than a hot desk. This is because people on the autistic spectrum often thrive on the routine and the familiar and not being able to sit in one place all of the time may cause you to feel unsettled.

Request to be seated in a quieter part of the office. Excess noise and sensory stimulation can play havoc with the ability of neurodiverse people to get their jobs done and this may be leading to feelings of self-doubt in the workplace. 

Clear routine and structure. Many people with neurodiversity find it hard to know what to prioritise or when to deprioritise one thing in favour of another. It is also common to value routine. If these things are not in place, it can contribute to a feeling that you aren’t doing as well as you might. 

Consider Asking for Additional Training

If you are genuinely concerned that you may not be making the grade, consider asking for additional training for your role. Most workplaces will look kindly at continuous personal development (CPD) and may fund the training courses that you need. 

You don’t even have to mention that you feel that you are struggling, in order to request these. It is possible to frame it as wanting to be the best that you can be at your job and you feel that training in a particular area will help you with that. Your line manager may see this as keenness and a desire to succeed, and it may actually increase your future prospects at the company. 

Focus on Your Transferrable Skills

Even if you are struggling with some aspects of your job and may doubt your ability to do it at times, take a long hard look at exactly what you do bring to the table. Think about your transferable skills, those that you have carried with you and built upon throughout your work career. 

Are you a good contributor to meetings? Can you help other members of the team with their motivation to get tasks done? Are you the person people go to when they need reassurance? Are you a really good communicator? These all come under the heading of transferable skills and can balance out any shortcomings you may feel that you have. 

Revamp Your CV

Even if you don’t plan on leaving your current job, revamping and improving your CV and updating your cover letter writing can help to improve how you view yourself and the skills and experience that you have gained to date. Also, consider these confidence tips which may help you to ignore some of the self-doubts you are experiencing.

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