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5 Self-Doubting Thoughts Responsible For Your Failures

This article was last updated on January 20, 2016

The expression “you are your own worst enemy” is a tale as old as time. Even if you have yet to realize it, many of the failures and disappointments you have experienced in your life are the mere results of self-doubting, or self-sabotaging as it is known.

Negative self-talk is so powerful and influential that it alone, has the ability to prevent us from achieving our dreams and ambitions. Don’t quite believe me? Take a walk down memory lane and ask yourself how many times you stopped before you even began on your mission of success, without a rational reason for doing so. It was not a lack of skills, ability, or determination, that prevented you from achieving your goal, but something entirely unexplained and completely omitted by your rationalization of the situation. That something was self-sabotage.

According to Gay Hendricks, author of The Big Leap, a book about taking your life to the next level, self-doubt is a toxic, innate human response to achieving the next level of success.  When you are on the verge of making a change for the better in your life, your fear of the unknown takes a stance. In order to stop these thoughts from overwhelming your mind, you must first learn to identity them.

Here are 5 Self-Doubting Thoughts Responsible For Your Failures:

1. “I’ll stick to the status quo in order to avoid a bigger burden and added responsibility.”

 Most people dream of success and self-improvement, but fear the added responsibility that comes along with them. By convincing yourself that it is better to be “safe than sorry” you are practicing a form of self-sabotage associated with being satisfied with the mediocre things in life. Security and sabotage go hand in hand.

When you become accustomed to a certain lifestyle or job, any new challenge poses a risk. If you fail at the challenge, the consequences are obvious. If you succeed at the new challenge, the success may hold more uncertainties and difficulties. This is often the reason people avoid it.  You must learn to give up privileges and certainties in order to get to the top.

HOW TO IMPROVE: Make it a mission for yourself to take one risk every single day. The risks might be small and insignificant at first, but as time passes and your confidence grows, the risks will become bolder and bigger.

2. “I don’t know what I want to do (or the path to success), so I will put my future on hold.”

 The habit of procrastination is a dangerous liaison of self-doubting. It is the distinct line between what you intent to do and what you actually do. Many times an unclear focus, or the lack of an execution plan, results in procrastination. If you never figure out what your passion is, or create a path for yourself, you will always use procrastination as a security blanket with which to protect yourself from the shame, associated with failure.  Here are a few exmplaes of people to avoid on your journey to self value.

HOW TO IMPROVE: Set clear and realistic goals for yourself in order to actively chase them. Another way to help your focus is to avoid the negative and concentrate on the positive. In other words, dream big, but break down those dreams into a manageable action plan.

3. “Why should I try, when I will be hated for my success and ridiculed for my failure?”

Attaining approval from others is, and always will be, vital for our ego. However, fearing that you will outshine others or be criticized for not succeeding, should in no way influence your decisions. In theory, it makes perfect sense, but you would be lying to yourself, if you said that you never made a decision based solely on what people were going to say about you. The problem is that it is in our nature to comment and discuss others. You must literally cease to exist if you want to avoid ongoing commentary about your life.

HOW TO IMPROVE: Stop seeking approval and disapproval where it is not found. Mute the surrounding commentary, because people tend to be “experts” on everything and anything. On that note, stop blaming others for your individual choices. Yes, your colleague did make a remark about your most recent presentation, but you YOURSELF, allowed that comment to provoke a fear of creating new material. In this way, you will take responsibility for your own actions and essentially your own life.

4. “I am just naturally not smart/motivated/clever/etc. enough for this task.”

The lack of self-belief is possible the number one toxic state-of-mind leading to your failures. According to Gay Hendricks, it is installed in our conscience to understand failure, and to fear success. That is because of the experience we have with both concepts. From a young age, we learn from failure and so we become extremely familiar with it. Therefore, we began to associate it to a certain degree with our own identity.

Hendricks suggests, “very few of us can really know what success feels like until we step into it and then stabilize there for a while without sabotaging ourselves.” Therefore, being negatively paranoid about your success is a serious obstacle. In order to succeed, you must have faith in yourself, rather than just in your goal. If you allow fear and self-doubt to enter your mind, you will resort to procrastination or another defensive act, with which to protect yourself.

HOW TO IMPROVE: Change the simple ‘I cannot’ into ‘I will learn how to.’ It is all about the mind-frame you give yourself.  Whenever you feel unprepared, remind yourself, that no one ever truly is ready for what is to come, and that experience really is the best teacher. With persistence and risk-taking, you will go far.

5. “I need to be in complete control of the situation, or I will not begin to deal with it at all.”

 Sometimes this desire is on a conscious level, and sometimes we are completely oblivious to its existence. Perfectionism is associated with this notion, when the person is in fact aware of their need to be in-control. Many times the incontrollable aspects prevent such people from starting up on new projects. A second more common problem is the unconscious desire to be in control. For example, that time when you believed the promotion to be “too good to last” and so you failed at the task that would have earned you a step upwards in the anarchy of the company. When we believe something is bound to be a failure, we mastermind a plan to in fact, make it fail, in order to maintain that we were in control for the entirety of the situation.

HOW TO IMPROVE: Make your intentions clear to yourself. If you realize that you need to be in complete control you can ease yourself into the unknown and allow life to take its course.


Take a moment to decide which of the following excuses you have told yourself in order to avoid taking a risk…

Where do I even start?

If SHE couldn’t do it, how am I going to?

I’ll stay on this level, because more responsibility is not something I could ever handle…

I’m not ready for this right now

I can’t control the situation, so I will not become involved in it…

I tried once and it did not work, why keep trying…

If I succeed, people will hate me and if I fail, they will judge me…


Self-doubt is a persistent and harmful habit. However, with the right tools, mindset and a clear plan, everyone can avoid falling victim to its tricks.  Here are a few secrets to maximizing your confidence.If you make yourself aware of the formerly mentioned self-sabotaging thoughts, you will not only avoid failure, but also embark upon a path of success. What thoughts do you have that are sabotaging your success? I would love to hear about it in the comments! Here are a few other ways of overcoming self doubt.

 photo credit: Strider Bikes via flickr

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