Ursula Burns, at the age of 51, was named the CEO of Xerox, making her the first Black female CEO of a Fortune 500 company. It might be tempting to believe that someone with such an impressive level of success (and $1.25 billion in the bank) never experiences self-doubt, especially if you are challenged by thoughts of how you aren’t good enough, qualified enough, etc.
In fact, Ms. Burns experiences a lot of self-doubt.
“I live in self-doubt all of the time. I am not one of those people that believes that I am bulletproof. Or the smartest person in the room. I will make a decision that day, and if I go home and don’t think about it again, this is a miraculous thing. Most of my friends do this as well. I live in my head. But I do not, generally, let it paralyze me.”
How do you not let self-doubt paralyze you? The secret is to not resist self-doubt—what we resist, persists. Instead let it be there while also making room for your badass confident self to shine.
1. Recognize the Thought When It Happens
The first step of managing your self-doubt is to recognize the thoughts that lead to self-doubt when they show up. Self-doubt thoughts become habits of mind, meaning they happen automatically and with little effort. Also, thoughts often aren’t based in truth but we accept them as truth. Recognizing self-doubt thoughts (I’m going to get fired if I ask that question. I’m not good enough. They aren’t going to understand me.) allows you to take back control of how you respond to your thoughts.
2. Distance Yourself From Your Thoughts
We can become so accustomed to self-doubt that it feels like the thoughts are part of us. It’s like we are walking around with a sticky note stuck to our forehead. Once you’ve recognized the self-doubt thought, get distance from it by acknowledging that it’s just a thought and it doesn’t have to be stuck to your face.
3. Challenge Your Thoughts
Another powerful technique to lessen the power of self-doubt thoughts is to challenge them. Remember, we often unquestioningly accept our thoughts as fact so the trick with challenging is to gather evidence that either supports or refutes the thought.
Ursula Burns didn’t get to be jaw-droppingly successful by ridding herself of self-doubt. She learned to accept that self-doubt is part of her but it doesn’t define who she is or what she does. Your thoughts don’t define you.