Pushing aside self-doubt and leaning into a little swagger can make you a better employee and leader, but it’s easier said than done. In today’s virtual world with endless Zoom calls, it’s more difficult to read your colleagues’ reactions, and you might leave meetings wondering if you somehow blew it. This second-guessing can quickly lead you down a rabbit hole of obsessive “what ifs” as you dissect and overthink the past and lose touch with what’s happening in the present. 

At worst, this deepening insecurity can lead to anxiety and depression. Fortunately, there are proven strategies you can adopt to break a damaging cycle of self-doubt. 

The Upside recently explored this topic in an article by Kate Harveston, which offers science-backed ways to stop second-guessing yourself. Here’s a summary of five simple strategies employees can implement immediately to squash self-doubt.  

Take 5...or 15

A new study suggests that 15 minutes of mindful activities is not only good for our mental health but also for our memory and concentration. Meditation gives our minds space to think freely. During this practice, thoughts might bubble up to the surface, but we simply acknowledge their presence and let them drift away without allowing any one thought to overshadow the others.

On this inward journey, focus on what you feel and sense at a particular moment. Realize that whatever you fear most is not happening at present. Allow your thoughts to emerge free from judgment. Let them flow like a river while you sit quietly. Taking the time to observe your mental patterns allows you to recognize which ones are counterproductive, and it’s a great use of a lunch break!

When In Doubt, Write it Out

Getting your thoughts out of your head and down on paper also can help you conquer overthinking. Keep a journal and start with a stream-of-consciousness practice. Allow each idea to emerge naturally and write it down without judgment. For example, “I'm worried about presenting in front of the whole company at this week’s all-hands meeting. What if I have technical issues? Or if I get asked questions and I don’t know the answer? I’m so new to the company, what if I say something wrong?”

As you write, you'll likely notice counter thoughts arise. “Because the meeting will be on Zoom, I can put notes on my screen so I stay focused. And I will feel so relieved and proud when the presentation is finished.” Jot these down, too.

At first, journaling might feel awkward. Give it time. After a few days, the practice will feel more natural, and you’ll probably start to notice positive changes in your mindset. When journaling becomes a daily habit, studies show stress levels decrease over time as effectively as other stress management techniques.

Check In With a Supportive Friend

Enlist a trusted friend outside your work circle—someone with a fresh perspective—to help you break your habits of overthinking and self-doubt. Ask them to point out when you ruminate over done deals. Ask them to listen for questions such as, “What would you have done?” This indicates you're mulling over a decision you’ve already made.

Limit how many friends you lean on for this kind of support, however. The more opinions you solicit, the more your thoughts will swirl. Too many viewpoints create a roadblock to making a decision or moving past an incident. 


Reframe Negative Thoughts

This handy technique comes from cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Start by writing your thoughts down. For example, you might record thoughts that annoy you, negative beliefs, or any ideas you just want out of your head. 

Then, for each negative thought, write a positive or more realistic counter argument. For instance, if you first wrote about how you’ll never finish a project, you might follow that with, "Yes, this is a lengthy project, but the payoff in residual income makes the effort worthwhile." Or if you wrote about a colleague you had a frustrating interaction with, you might counter by reminding yourself that being able to collaborate with people whose work and communication styles differ from yours is a valuable skill.

Instead of letting pessimistic thoughts run rampant in your mind, lay them out and dissect them rationally. This will keep you grounded in facts as opposed to feeling overwhelmed by negativity.  

Symbolically Let It Go

Once you've made a decision or taken an action, create a symbolic ritual to help you accept it and move on. You might write the choice on a slip of paper and toss it into the fireplace or tear it up and scatter it in the wind.

These practices take time and dedication but are powerful strategies to stop the exhausting cycle of self-doubt. Try each technique and see which resonates most with you. Practice and patience can lead to a life well-lived in the present, not the past. 

The full article can be accessed here.