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Returners' A-Z: Overcoming Doubt

Doubt, and specifically self-doubt, can be a real confidence killer. It can make you question even the most straightforward and basic of decisions and have you running round in circles or trapped in a corner.

So how do you deal with this frustrating and sometimes debilitating condition?

It would be simple (and a little too easy) for me to give you some sweeping statements like ‘work on your self-confidence and the doubt will disappear’. But that isn’t always the case.

Whilst it is true that by working on your self-confidence you will make it harder for any doubts to take seed, but you also have to know how to manage and work with doubt when it arises.

And this is where it stops being simple. Different methods work for different people, so have a read through the following methods, experiment and decide what works for you. You may also find that, like me, different methods work better in different situations.

1. The Confidence Journal. For me, the number one way to help with doubt, imposter syndrome and self-confidence. In a new notebook, or on your phone, write down all your past achievements, personal and professional that you can remember, and keep it adding to it regularly.

Every time someone says ‘well done’, or you achieve a target, or you are proud of what you have done, add it to the journal. And then read it regularly. On the good days it will reinforce the positivity, and on the bad days it will remind you of how good you really are.

2. Be careful of your thoughts! When you have negative thoughts, take a moment to identify where those thoughts have really come from. Do they have any basis in fact? Have you considered the full picture? Remind yourself of the reality, which is often “I don’t know all the facts, so I shouldn’t jump to conclusions” or “I prepared well, so I know can do it well.”

3. Be kind to yourself! If you spoke to your friends the same way you spoke to yourself, then you would, very quickly, have no friends. I find it helpful to think about what my friends would tell me if I opened up to them about my doubts, rather than listening to the negative self-chatter that often bounces around my mind. Which leads me on to…

4. Surround yourself with a positive support group. I mean genuine support and encouragement, and the kind that works for you. If your partner/parent/closest friend isn’t providing the right support, or they are fighting their own battles, then don’t include them in your support group.

Find people who will be there to lift you up in the tough times and help you celebrate the good times. Often these are the people wearing the same shoes as you, doing the same job or recently Returned to Work. It could even be us.

5. Keep a journal. Writing down negative thoughts and doubt can really help take that negativity from a gas like state, floating around the ether and getting in to everything, and turning them into a solid - fixed and in one place. Making them much easier to deal with.

A lot of the time, seeing an idea written down takes the power of it, makes it much smaller than you thought it was. I sometimes find that writing my doubts onto a piece of paper and then throwing it away, shredding it or burning it can be real release.

6. Talk to a professional. This may feel a little drastic, the last resort, but if you find that your doubt has taken over, then this should be your first call. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness. It is a sign that you want to take control, that you to move on in a more positive way. In the same way that you would see a professional for a physical pain, see a professional to help you deal with this mental pain. And congratulate yourself for making such a positive decision.

Jane Keogh at has really helped me in the past and I have no hesitation in recommending her.

When you can, you should also read the articles on Imposter Syndrome and Returners A-Z: Building Self-Confidence.

It takes time, there is no quick fix or silver bullet, so get disheartened. Work out which methods work for you, keep chipping away, and you will start to see that you are becoming truly self-confident.

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