100 Tips to Alleviate Self-Doubt

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This post is a crowdsourcing effort to come up with 100 tips to battle self-doubt. Since this post went live on January 20, 2012, we’ve been able to collect 83 distinct tips.

Click here to download a 1-page handout: 83 Tips to Alleviate Self-Doubt.

The original post & comments are below. If you’d like to contribute tips, we will update the handout until we reach 100. A big thanks to Matthew Turner (also known as Turndog Millionaire) for launching this experiment.

Do you sometimes look at your writing and want to throw up? You know the feeling, surly. One day you write something, read over it and think, “Wow, that’s some rather snappy content!”

Then, just 24 hours later, you glance over it, scream at the screen and wonder how you wrote such dribble.

It’s a similar feeling to when I look at pictures from five years ago, hair like a Cure groupie with a quiff nestled a good five inches above my head. Seriously, what was I thinking?

This constant tennis match of self-doubt is a regular part of my life, and I reason with myself that it’s normal and everyone goes through this. Just like getting cold feet on your wedding day or panicking during a test you know you’re prepared for.

The real problem here is I doubt my self-doubt! What if this self-doubt’s telling me something? Maybe I should run away and leave it to the professionals?

But I keep on plugging away, because if I didn’t I’d be a quitter. So I cling to the fact that others go through this, including people who have “made it” in every sense of the word. Just about every blog I come across has a post like this, describing the eerie feeling of hating your own work and discovering you’re a fraud.

People like Joanna Penn, who’s now a full time writer/blogger with a great deal of respect, had feelings like this.

And I’ve just entered a contest on Men with Pens, the head honcho, James, opening up two free places on his writing course for those doubting their writing. At last count there were around 30 entries, and many of the posts are great, from people who definitely don’t need help with their craft. Saying that, they may look at mine and think exactly the same … hmmmm, or maybe not.

So I insist that this is normal and everyone goes through this overanalyzing crazy maze of AHHHHH. Some people, like me, go through it often. Others may only feel it from time to time. But I’m insistent everyone goes through it.

I’m here to offer three tips that have helped me in my times of need:

1. Walk away from it.

I let my mind sulk, come back a day or so later and try again. If I still feel the same then I make changes.  

2. Listen to music

This is a passion for me and listening to some slow and often depressing folk makes me feel better and inspires me.

3. Exercise

I’m at my most cranky when I’m tired and lacklustre, and a bout of exercise helps me snap out of it. I find self-doubt and whiney go through life hand in hand.

There you go, these are my three wise tips. Funny enough, and unsurprising I’m sure, it took me a few attempts to get to the final three. I wrote them down happily, re-read them and sulked at the screen, and eventually copied this entire article to an e-mail to Jane and already wonder if I could have done better.

But the point of this post was not for me to offer advice, but instead to come to Jane with the idea of gathering ideas from fellow writers who’ve been through, are going through, or feel they will one day go through this episode.

So this is the deal you’ve unintentionally signed up for. To leave a comment below with three tips of your own.

  • Maybe you’re a successful author who’s been through this and given sage advice to lead you through.
  • Maybe you’ve had a teacher, friend, family member, or dentist even who’s given you some amazing tips to deal with this self-doubt.
  • Or maybe you’ve just read something at some point and thought, “Wow, what a great idea.”

It’s not uncommon for Jane to get 30+ comments for a post, which would equate to over 100 tips. You might not find my tips helpful. Hell, you might not even find Jane’s tips helpful either when she leaves them in the comments. But chances are you’ll find one or two in a list of 100 that will help you along your journey—not just in writing, but life in general.

So it’s over to you, my fellow brother and sisters of self-doubt. Let’s help each other move forward and share our unbearable self-loathing.

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