How to deal with self-doubt: The secret confident people use


When I was about to leave everything in Sweden and move to NYC, these doubts popped up in my head:

  • But what if I don’t make any friends?
  • What if I don’t like it there?
  • What if I don’t make any money?
  • What if I have to go back to Sweden and everyone sees that I’m a failure?

Here’s what I’ve come to learn about self-doubt:

1: Everyone has it.

2: Everyone who’s ever succeeded with anything has felt like this and followed their dream ANYWAY.

Life is about doing things DESPITE the feeling that we might fail.

Isn’t it crazy to let life be dictated by a negative voice telling us it won’t work?

And we go “Oh, yeah, you’re right, negative voice. I’ll ditch all my dreams because it might not work”.

I’ve developed a tactic to overcome this voice.

How to overcome the voice of self-doubt

I learned that there was only one way to deal with self-doubt:

I had to accept that those thoughts were there, but CHOOSE to act despite them.

I could have an internal dialogue like this:

“David, this isn’t going to work. There’s no point trying”.

“Ok, I understand that you think that way, voice. I’m going to at least TRY anyway”.

I call this doing despite doubt.

I saw a documentary about Jim Carrey the other day. He revealed that his father always hoped to make it as an actor in the USA.

But he decided to take a safer path and stay in Canada, working as an accountant and raise a family.

However, he lost his job at 51. After that, he became bitter.

Jim said:

“Not only was he compromising to raise a family, but when you compromise AND you fail, it really hurts. It hurts even more than failing at what you love.”

You know what else I’ve noticed?

It’s easy to get caught up in what might go wrong. In other words, the DOWNSIDE to doing something.

I’ve taught myself to think as much about the UPSIDE to doing despite doubt.

When I worried about what could go wrong with being better socially, I learned to think as much about what could go right.

I visualized myself a rich social life, having loads of friends, always someone to do fun stuff with and the life I’d always dreamt of.

I even wrote down what my dream life would look like.

That made me realize that the upside was way bigger than the downside – that doing despite doubt was worth it.

fear in social situations

Pancake brunch with friends here in NYC.

Now, I’m curious to know: What would the upside to doing despite doubt look like for YOU?

Let me know about a specific thing in your life right now where you doubt yourself!

By writing it down, just like I did, it becomes clearer if it outweighs the risk of failing.

And what’s your conclusion – does doing it outweigh the risk of failing?

I’m excited to read what you’ll write down!

What to do when friends only talk about themselves and aren’t interested in you

We just got an email about getting stuck in the “listener trap”:

“[…] After about 6 months of “friendship”, these people turn to me as someone to talk to, as I always seem interested in their daily affairs.

The difficulty is that they just want to talk about themselves. I am afraid that if I start talking about myself, these friends would find me whiny and stop being friends with me!

I personally think that I may be not interesting enough to people, and thus people don’t seem to take interest in what I say or do – they just like me for being someone they can vent to or talk to or seek advice from.

At first, I enjoyed the attention but right now I’m getting a little tired of this as it never seems to be my turn to speak – the conversation always turns back to them.

So, I’d like to ask for some advice – without coming across as fake, what can we do to make ourselves more interesting to our peers?”

– Darrel

Great question Darrel!

This is a common trap when you start becoming a better listener: Most people love to talk about themselves and their problems to a good listener.

In the beginning, when you develop your listening ability, it feels great.

People will want to talk to you for hours, about themselves… And you probably keep it going by asking good follow-up questions, reflecting on what they said, and making them feel heard.

But in the heat of the moment, you might ignore what you think is interesting and focus on what you notice that they like talking about.

The problem here is that you’ve created a pattern in your relationship where you’re the listener, and they’re the talker.

It’s natural for them to assume you like to listen because that’s what you’ve shown with your behavior. So that’s how the pattern is created. And then you start feeling trapped always being the listener.

What we really want is a balanced relationship where we can talk about things we BOTH find interesting, not what just one of us finds interesting.

So how do you break out of The listener’s trap?

There’s no magic bullet to make the other person start asking you lots of questions on a regular basis. Most people just aren’t that socially skilled (or interested in others).

So, we try to escape the listener’s trap by talking more about ourselves. It’s intuitive, but it doesn’t work very well.

(It’s often not that interesting to hear someone talking about themselves.)

Instead, you want to find mutual interests and talk about those.

I can’t stress this enough:

For a friendship to work long-term, you need to find mutual interests and use these as the foundation for your conversations.

David told me about a mindset that simplifies the idea of mutual interests. He said:

“I have the ambition to always talk about what the other person also finds interesting”.

It’s not about NEVER being allowed to talk about anything else, but with that ambition, you will come a long way.

For example, I have one friend I never talk psychology with (even if it’s a big part of my life), because I know he’s not interested in that. But, we’re both interested in nutrition and health, so I might bring that up in a conversation with him. We can talk about that for hours.

Then I have another friend who’s not really interested in nutrition, but we both appreciate discussing philosophy and also deeper personal issues. So I talk more about that with him.

With another friend, I talk more about politics, traveling, and gaming.

I love that each friend gives their own unique flavor to the conversation.

These interests don’t need to be the “passions of your lives”. It should just be something you’re sure that both of you enjoy talking about.

Here’s a great article by David about finding mutual interests.

It’s also important to keep the 50/50 rule in mind: Spend as much time talking as you spend listening. That helps remind me to keep my conversations balanced, especially when I start talking too much.

I can’t stress this enough: If we talk too much whenever we get a question, people will soon stop asking us questions. No one wants to open floodgates.

But what if the other person just keeps talking about themselves and never lets me talk?

Unfortunately, some people are too self-centered or lacking in social skills that they don’t notice or realize you want to talk, too.

You could bring it up with them in a constructive way. I’ve actually done this myself with a few friends and I’ve been surprised by how willing most of them have been to change when they realize their error.

I said:

“Hey, I feel like sometimes our conversations are a bit unbalanced where I’m mainly listening and you’re the one talking. Is that something you’ve noticed?”

However, some people are a lost cause, as you can’t change someone who isn’t willing to change.

In those cases, I recommend investing less time in that person and focus on other potential friends. Why build a relationship with someone if they don’t give anything back?

Reply in the comments below. I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

Were they making fun of me behind my back?

social outsider

In school, I felt like an outsider.

I saw how others connected and had a great time, while I struggled.

Take the other guys in my class for example. I often worried that they were making fun of me behind my back and it felt like it was them inside and then me outside. (We’ve written an article about how to spot a fake friend from a real friend over here.)

Go here to read more about how to deal with someone making fun of you.

One day, a new guy came to class. After a week, he was closer with my classmates than I was after a year.

That “proved it” to me: There’s definitely something wrong with me!

Like I’ve said before, I don’t regret that time, because that’s what formed who I am today.

I just wish I knew this back then:

Just because something is in a certain way, doesn’t mean it will always be that way.

You see, back then everything felt pretty dark to me. I had low self-esteem, so I didn’t believe that I would be able to turn things around.

I had good times, too, and I did have some friends.

It was just that being off socially and seeing others hit it off when I didn’t make me think less of myself.

I had little hopes I would improve.

I could rationally see that practice makes perfect, but it FELT like there was something wrong with me and it FELT like this was how life would be.

Here’s what I’ve learned after all these years: It doesn’t matter what it FEELS like. Sometimes, you just have to do what you know is right even if feels like it won’t work out.

These photos sum up my life today. To me, they prove that just because you felt like an outsider, it doesn’t mean it will always be that way.

How did your childhood affect your social beliefs today? Did you worry about people making fun of you behind your back? Let me know in the comments!