Everyone experiences self-doubt from time to time. When we challenge ourselves by taking on new jobs or responsibilities, it’s natural to wonder whether we’re up to the task. Self-doubt actually can be helpful, as it spotlights areas of weaknesses where we would benefit from more learning.

But self-doubt can also harm us both personally and professionally. When we’re filled with feelings of inadequacy and insecurity, those negative beliefs can eat us alive. Instead of growing in our work and our relationships, we sink into ourselves and reject opportunities for advancement and connection.

If you’ve ever experienced a period of deep self-doubt, you’re aware of how much it impacts your life. You question your value, your contributions, your abilities, even your personality. You can feel unworthy of your job and your loved ones.

This is a dangerous place to reside. Research shows that self-doubt seriously impairs your performance at work. You neglect your responsibilities and become too skittish to learn new skills. Instead of operating from a place of ambition and curiosity, you make fear-based decisions.

Your personal interactions suffer as well. Rather than trying new hobbies or traveling with your spouse, you become nervous about the unknown. Any time they express frustration, you start spiraling into fear and shame, questioning why they’re with you in the first place. In both cases, self-doubt robs you of your agency and causes you to sabotage your future.

So don't let it.

Why Confidence Is Key

When we think of successful people, we assume that they are naturally gifted in their fields. Certainly, they may have an innate aptitude for certain types of work. But it’s confidence, not talent, that determines a person’s success.

Confident people may not be the smartest folks in the room, but they’re open-minded and willing to try new things. Confident people believe they can learn whatever skills are necessary for success. They believe in their own inherent value.

The energy a confident person brings to her work and her personal relationships is infectious. People want to be around confident people. It’s exciting to engage with someone who is positive, energetic, and eager to explore new experiences and opportunities.

Most importantly, confidence empowers us to step outside our comfort zones — where we grow and achieve the most.

Rising From Failure

Just as we all experience self-doubt, we all fail. How we respond to failure determines whether we will sink into despondency and self-doubt — or become stronger as a result.

“I have failed, but I am not a failure” is one of the most powerful phrases we can use in these moments. Separating the act of failing from our core character allows us to maintain perspective and learn from our mistakes.

When I fail at something, I’ve found that it helps to stop and take a deep breath. I don’t try to correct my mistake right away. I pause, breathe, and take stock of the situation.

After I’m composed, I’m able to break down what happened and understand where I got off track. One bad meal does not mean I’m a bad cook; it just means I failed to follow a recipe correctly or misjudged a particular mix of ingredients. There’s no reason to become hysterical and abandon all hope of providing nourishing meals for my family.

Reminding myself of past wins helps, too. I’ll think back to the excellent feast I made recently that my husband and kids raved over, and that brings me back down to earth. Do I want to fail at cooking? Of course not. But all I can do is figure out what went wrong this time and adjust my actions in the future.

This approach works in the professional as well. So often, we have precious little control over whether a project succeeds. There are too many people involved and too many moving parts. We can do our best with the resources we have, but if we fail, we can analyze why and improve next time. Letting failures overwhelm us doesn’t move us forward. In fact, it erodes all the progress we’ve made to that point.

Here’s what I’ve learned about rising above failure and cultivating confidence instead of caving into self-doubt:

1. Recognize that you’re not alone in your doubts.

When we’re in the throes of anxiety, it’s easy to assume we’re the only ones suffering from insecurity. Not so. Many of your colleagues have likely experienced similar periods of self-doubt, so remember that you’re not alone. Everyone stumbles from time to time. What matters is that we get back up and continue striving to do better in our work and our personal lives. Don’t let your fears paralyze you and keep you from living a fulfilled life.

2. Question your assumptions.

If you feel overwhelmed by negative, self-critical thoughts, try to see the situation objectively. Is this failure a one-off event? Do you have a track record of success leading up to this moment? Chances are, you’ve succeeded more than you’ve failed and you’re more competent than you’re acknowledging at this moment. Even if you've struck out several times recently, these are all opportunities to learn and improve. Learning builds confidence, and confidence makes you more resilient in the face of failure.

3. Face those fears.

Following a failure, we do everything in our power to avoid the circumstances that caused it. I’ve learned that steeping yourself in the moment helps you figure out the lesson you’re supposed to take away. Now when I’m stuck, I ask, “What am I not seeing? What is the universe trying to teach me here?” Seen through a lens of learning and opportunity, failure becomes less frightening and self-doubt makes less sense.

No one wants to fail. But all of us will, some more than others. If we can stare failure in the face and welcome the lessons inherent in it, fear loses its power over us. We free ourselves to be more courageous and innovative because we know there will be a silver lining — especially in disappointments. When we learn from failure, we set ourselves up for even greater success.

Author's Bio: 

Sona Jepsen is a writer and speaker helping people be so good, they can’t be ignored. She enjoys fixing and growing businesses. Sona is passionate about people and performance with purpose.