What is Self-Doubt, And How Can We Handle It?

There are many symptoms for anxiety and anxiety disorders: feelings of panic or doom, shortness of breath, trouble sleeping, a general sense of uneasiness…the list goes on and on. Symptoms of anxiety can create challenges with how we view the world and view ourselves, creating issues with self-worth, confidence and self-esteem. But lately I’ve noticed one one area that I don’t often see people discuss – self-doubt. After years of experiencing anxiety, my self-doubt has grown in a major way in recent months. But how did this happen, and why didn’t I notice it until now? I have a few thoughts.

To get more information for this post, I wanted to do research on self-doubt. Where did it come from, why do we have it, and what can we do about it? First, we need to define self-doubt. A good definition for self-doubt that I found in my research was:

Self-doubt can be defined as a state of uncertainty about the truth of anything. It could be about our thoughts, beliefs, emotions, opinions, decisions, self-views, or any “truth” we hold in our minds. We have a sense that we are not stable. However, researchers further suggest that self-doubt specifically involves questioning our own self-competence.


When it comes to how we talk about it, self-doubt can be placed in the same category as self-worth, efficacy and confidence. But if we actually define what self-doubt is and what it’s connected to, we can change the conversation. From my own research, I found that a lot of the discussion surrounding self-doubt is related to competence, which was new to me. I’ve never thought about self-doubt in terms of competence. I’ve only thought about self-doubt in very broad (and vague) terms about being a success, without ever defining what that is. And I’m hoping that this knowledge is the start of how I change my approach to self-doubt.

As someone who live with depression and anxiety, I know I’ll never be free of self-doubt. At this point, it’s about as much a part of me as anything else – and that’s okay. By confronting my issues with self-doubt and why they exist, I can see the connection between my anxiety and my propensity to doubt myself. Rather than being a part of my personality, self-doubt is just another aspect of my mental health. Looking at it this way means that the focus is on managing self-doubt, rather than getting rid of it altogether – just like so many other aspects of my mental health journey.

Self-doubt creates many challenges when it comes to mental health. These challenges affect not only the things we want to do but how we want to do them. It can be frustrating, but I take comfort in the fact that at one point or another, everyone experiences self-doubt. What can be extra-challenging for people with anxiety is that those feelings can be very heightened. That’s why it’s important to focus on how we can manage these doubts and help ourselves have a healthier attitude toward self-doubt. Look out for my next post on ways to manage self-doubt!

Now, over to you! Is self-doubt a common experience, or do you think it’s just something people experience when they have mental health challenges? Let me know what you think!


3 thoughts on “What is Self-Doubt, And How Can We Handle It?

  1. Karin Stephan November 18, 2021 / 6:11 am

    Really like your approach! Self doubts can drive and enhance anxiety, but also be a result of anxiety. Yet we need them. I always imagine it as a mixing console for sound: If I let the anxiety or self-doubt channel get too loud, it will make life intolerable. Muting it altogether isn’t an option, because it would mean to go numb and indifferent. It’s the balance and the well-managed self-doubts that make us become the best version of ourselves.


    • Nathan S. November 19, 2021 / 4:48 pm

      Thank you for your kind words! You’re totally right, balancing and managing self-doubts is what helps us improve – I hope more people see that connection and are able to build a healthier relationship with self-doubt. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!


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