5 Ways to Fight Off Self-Doubt | Dealing with Performance Dips

We can be our own worst enemy if we’re not careful. We’ll tell ourselves that we:self-doubtb 12593039_d4f6_t

  • don’t measure up
  • never seem to get things right
  • keep falling short of expectations
  • are out of favor with the boss

The more we doubt ourselves…the more we doubt ourselves. It’s a downward spiral we need to stop, and fast!

Heads up.

I’m a big sports fan. I watch golf, tennis, basketball, baseball, football, and  the Olympics, both summer and winter.

I’m engrossed by the theater of sports–the physical skills, the competitive drive, and the players themselves.

Individual athletes reveal so much about what it takes to be successful, especially how to handle mental pressures, particularly the  moments of self-doubt and shaken self-confidence they must overcome.

Self-doubt  threatens to derail an athlete when, during a game or match, s/he experiences a dip in performance. Suddenly the player will:

  • miss a gimme shot like a layup, a short putt, or an overhead
  • lose their rhythm, become a step slow, or misread a defense
  • make a series of poor decisions–wrong golf club selections, an excess of 3-point shots, too many returns to the forehand

As employees, we too experience dips in our performance when we:

  • miss errors we normally find; incorrectly enter routine data
  • neglect to jump on a situation before it becomes a big issue
  • make ineffective decisions about problems we need to fix

Just like athletes, anytime you feel off your game, self-doubt has a field day.

 Listen up. Take 5.

Live action sports commentators have a knack for spotting an athlete’s self-doubt during the heat of play. Since many sportscasters like champion golfer Sir Nick Faldo or NBA star Reggie Miller were former pro athletes, they know how to shut those negative voices down.

These five bits of advice that work for athletes can also work for you when self-doubt starts creeping into your thinking:

1. Don’t dwell on a bad call.

Your boss is like a referee. Sometimes s/he will draw a wrong or unfair conclusion about the quality of your work, your role in a decision, your attitude about an assignment, or your willingness to do more. Once you’ve calmly offered your side of the story, commit to avoiding a repeat and move on.

2. Keep playing.

Like an athlete, sometimes you’ll miss a shot or make a bad play. You may forget an assignment, write code that doesn’t work, or make a poor presentation. Everything is fixable but only if you stay in the game and keep working. So do what’s necessary to correct what went wrong and keep improving your skills.

3. Correct missteps asap.

The sooner you jump on the cause of glitches in your performance the better. Waiting only allows self-doubt to settle in and put a death grip on your self-confidence. If you can, take steps to improve in real time, by asking for help from your boss or coworkers right away, just as players do in a sideline huddle, with a caddy , or coach  while the game is live.

4. Plan for what’s next.

In most cases, there’s always another game or contest. To fight against self-doubt, you need to keep looking ahead for other opportunities to demonstrate your skills, your commitment, and your mental toughness. Your workplace is a competitive environment where you’re always challenged to put forth your best effort. There are a lots of days in the week to work on getting better and building your self-confidence.

5. Reach out.

Your boss and coworkers have a stake in your performance. The better you perform, the more successful they will be. Not everyone will have your back, but some will. When you have doubts about your performance, get some help. Often others have a more objective perspective than you do and will likely also  remind you of your strengths. It’s difficult to overcome self-doubt alone, so it’s worth the risk to  reach out.

 Build self-confidence.

Achieving and sustaining success requires self-confidence. Self-doubt kills it.

Overcoming internal negative voices tests your mental toughness. If you take some time to listen to pro athletes after wins and losses, you’ll get some priceless perspectives on how to fight the good fight.

Photo by hotblack via Photoree


2 thoughts on “5 Ways to Fight Off Self-Doubt | Dealing with Performance Dips

  1. Excellent advice but I always struggle with #1. Torturing yourself for an error seems to be something a lot of folks do. It doesn’t accomplish anything and just drives you crazy!

    • For sure, Kate. I plead guilty on #1 myself. Somehow the need for perfectionism creeps in or perhaps our competitiveness. Torturing ourselves makes no sense as it uses up valuable time to make improvements. Human nature is a hard thing to overcome! Thanks.

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