Self-doubt has its own way of creeping into your mind to stop you from achieving, when you’re already on that last draft; when you’re almost reaching a deadline; and when you’ve spent the last few hours cracking your brain to get your project done. Like a massive black hole, they would suck the last bit of optimism that you had when you needed it the most. It’s inevitable. It has happened to all of us so many times that we don’t even know when it would suddenly appear in the middle of nowhere, caught up in the heat of the moment. And usually, self-doubt initiates procrastination, rather than laziness.

The root to our self-doubt is none other than our chase for perfectionism and the fear of failure. No matter how hard we try to eliminate this part of ourselves that keeps holding us back, it will come and crawl back towards you when you’d least expect it. It comes and goes, for sure. When it does come, it’s won’t shy away and only God knows how long it will take for us to reclaim our confidence back.

We’ve all come up with a great idea which we thought was novel and ground-breaking, but there always seems to be something that is stopping us from completely pursuing it. Of course, there is a thin line between taking a plunge and risking it all, and making a complete mess out of your life just to venture an uncertain pursuit. Sometimes, we do need a deciding factor such as Istikarah prayer for Muslims where we submit our decisions to God after making enough effort. But most of the time, even that bit of our last hope is taken away by this impalpable “demon” – our self-doubt – inside of us. And we know what we need to do, but this self-doubt just brings you back to square one. You’d scrap your idea altogether and never make it to anywhere in the end. It could be because whatever you are pursuing is something new to you and way out of your expert field.

So, how does one not succumb to their inner voices that keep telling them what they’re doing is not enough?

In 2009, Mel Robbins had invented a 5-second rule that changed her life. No, it isn’t to do with dropping the food on the floor and picking it back up while it’s still safe to eat. It has a lot to do with taking an action – an action that you’ve known you needed to do – within the 5 second of time from when you’ve had that first instinct to do something. Basically, your brain will turn into “fight or flight” mode after the 5 seconds and hence, the doubts would come.

But there’s something more important than trying to “beat” this self-doubt, that I’ve learnt.

Ever heard the phrase “if you can’t beat it, join them”? That’s exactly what I did. No, I didn’t just sit around passively, waiting for the doubt to consume me. I acknowledged the presence of my self-doubt and pushed myself to continue what made me doubt in the first place. It wasn’t as uncomfortable and easy as when I was feeling sure about myself, but it is reassurance that I am moving forward and not playing the victim of my own game. And I kept reminding myself that the feeling was just temporary.

This unbeatable self-doubt that we have had battles with so many times do play a role in our creative process. A character in a book isn’t relatable if their courage comes from a place of perfection; they’re always flawed and doubt themselves over and over again.

Sometimes, you can’t do anything much but play along with it. It’s about shifting the way we think and how we choose to react to it.  It’s about letting yourself flow and recognising that the flaws are perhaps exactly what we needed to incorporate in our work-in-progress. And the more you choose to embrace it, the easier it is to face and not let that ocean of doubts consume you.


Syaza is a freelance writer whose life revolves around coffee, cats and heartwarming stories.