5 Powerful Ways to Answer Self-Doubt and Step into Your Greatness

The Little Engine kept saying, “I think I can,” until he climbed the steep hill. But the story is wrong.

Thinking you can is helpful, but never enough to step into your greatness.


Doubters are protectors and preventers. You don’t have to face big challenges if you’ve already concluded you’re incapable.

Self-doubt prevents imagined failure. When self-doubt rules, a dissatisfying present is better than the imagined pain of failure.

Self-doubt justifies a dissatisfying present.

5 powerful ways to answer self-doubt and step into your greatness:

#1. Be transparent with self-doubt.

“Being real is the first step to being great.” Lolly Daskal, The Leadership Gap.

Lolly writes, “Most of the people you work with doubt themselves.”

Tell someone you trust that you doubt yourself. You don’t have to tell everyone. You must tell a friend, colleague, adviser, or coach.

Confidence never results from lying to yourself.

#2. See advantages in self-doubt.

You’re out of touch with yourself and reality if you don’t have some self-doubt. Self-doubt – in small doses – is an advantage that:

  1. Invites self-reflection.
  2. Encourages vigilance.
  3. Increases urgency.
  4. Elevates energy.
  5. Fuels drive.
  6. Inspires creativity.
  7. Intensifies openness.

#3. Know and leverage your competence.

“Confidence doesn’t come from saying the things you can do – it comes from doing the things you know you can do.” Lolly Daskal

#4. Make a list of your accomplishments.*

Bad is stronger than good. You need to intentionally turn to your accomplishments from time to time.

Don’t make beating yourself up the national pastime.

#5. Find a ‘competent other’ when stretching your own competence.

Self-doubt prevents you from trying big things. Answer self-doubt with a ‘competent other’ – a go to person who has competencies and experience you aspire to develop.

A safety net emboldens people to reach for something that’s just out of reach.

How might leaders answer self-doubt in themselves and others?

*This post is inspired by Lolly Daskal’s new book, The Leadership Gap. I recommend it!

Follow Lolly on twitter: @LollyDaskal

Visit Lolly’s site: Lolly Daskal