5 ways to silence your self-doubt at work, according to psychology

Eliminate the self-doubt that could be holding you back in your career with these five psychology-backed steps.

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We can all be negative at times; that’s human nature. But we can also train our minds to identify those negative thoughts and shape them instead into positive ones (yes, it’s possible!) — and we’re here to help you do this.


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Eliminate the self-doubt that could be holding you back in your career with these five psychology-backed steps:

1. Practice cognitive reappraisal

According to Elizabeth Bernstein in the Wall Street Journal, cognitive reappraisal involves altering your own thoughts about yourself and your actions. When you practice cognitive reappraisal, you recognize the negative thoughts you’re having about your workplace actions and consciously change those thoughts to be more positive. For example, instead of viewing yourself as a failure after making a mistake, you would view this mistake as a learning opportunity to improve on your work in the future.

2. Write down your thoughts

And, according to Bernstein, in order to practice cognitive reappraisal, you should write down the thoughts you are having. Cognitive reappraisal can be learned (thankfully!) and one way to make this a habit is to identify what thoughts you are having and what may have triggered these thoughts. She wrote: “Be specific: ‘My boss came in to talk to me, and I started to worry that he hated my work and I am a loser.’” Then, take some time to really think about whether your thoughts are fact or opinion. If your negative thoughts are your own negative opinions, work to see them in a different light. There is probably no evidence that you are a loser (because you are not one!)

3. Don’t give up

Like Bernstein said before, cognitive reappraisal can be learned. So if it does not come naturally to you, don’t give up! Keep practicing. Keep writing down your thoughts, and keep turning them into positives. The goal is not to become self-absorbed or to convince yourself you don’t make any mistakes at all—the main goal of this is to bring your own thoughts back to reality. Yes, you have made mistakes, but no, you are not the worst hire in the history of your company. You’re constantly improving and getting to the place you want to be.

4. Shift your focus from weaknesses to strengths

Executive career coach Susan Peppercorn advises in Harvard Business Review. When you focus so much on the potential things you may have done wrong, you lose sight of your many strengths. It is important to highlight the things you have done right in your career. In order to do this, think back to a workplace experience you view as a negative, and ask yourself what strengths you used during the issue and what you learned while solving the problem.

5. Surround yourself with people who share this goal of positivity

Career coach and author Margie Warrell wrote in Forbes: “You shape your tribe and your tribe shapes you.” While you can’t always shape your tribe in the workplace, you can try to eliminate the negativity from your office life. If you have a particularly negative coworker, try to drown him/her out. Try to turn her negativity into positivity. Find your workplace positivity friend you can go to to keep each other out of the negative. And, if that’s not possible, keep your partner, best friend, mom, etc. on speed dial for a lunchtime cognitive reappraisal conversation!

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A version of this post previously appeared on Fairygodboss, the largest career community that helps women get the inside scoop on pay, corporate culture, benefits, and work flexibility. Founded in 2015, Fairygodboss offers company ratings, job listings, discussion boards, and career advice.


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