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Could Doubt Be a GOOD Thing?

Every Friday night, my husband and I have a ritual we call “Dateline date night.” It typically begins with margaritas and mexican food to unwind from our week and quickly culminates into pajamas and settling in to get our weekly dose of true crime stories. (Are you even a Dateline fan if you haven't discussed with your loved ones who should narrate your untimely death? We all want Keith Morrison. LOL.) I started to notice that I had the same thought arise near the end of every episode, “Didn't these people have some doubt that they'd get caught?” I mean, the audacity of some of their actions and the clear paper trail they left behind! I started to connect the dots to something I frequently talk about with my clients, something that I continue to personally wrestle with. Doubt. Doubt simply means “a lack of confidence.” Doubt is also a normal, healthy human emotion. It’s human to feel doubt, and it’s also likely you’ll feel it any time you try something new or stretch your comfort zone. And there are people in this world who don't feel doubt - sociopaths. I watch them on Dateline every Friday night. It's evident that these folks could have benefited from a little more doubt. All joking aside, can we stop trying to squash our feelings of doubt and allow it to be a good thing? Doubt is normal and healthy and keeps us humble. Many of my and my clients’ best efforts were preceded by incredible bouts of doubt. It helped us prepare, rehearse, seek input, and get feedback. So, maybe doubt is not an emotion to be cured but an emotion that can keep us curious and connected. It can help us take actions aligned to our values that will move us closer to our goals. 🔥 Here's the thing. The most successful leaders feel doubt - yes. They've learned to change their relationship to it. They can take actions aligned to their values while also feeling doubt. Courage and doubt can exist at the same time.


Take action while feeling doubt
Take action while feeling doubt

If you wait until you feel completely confident or certain, you will wait forever. The key to success is learning to act while

also feeling doubtful. Here's how to get into action while also feeling doubtful and uncertain:

  • Notice it: Notice with compassion when you are feeling doubt, anxiety and/or nerves about an event or opportunity.

    • TIP: Take four count breaths to calm your nervous system

  • Name it: Get granular here. Name 3-5 emotions you are feeling alongside the doubt. (i.e. doubt, overwhelm, unpreparedness, etc)

    • TIP: Reference an emotions wheel to help you more clearly name your emotions

  • Normalize it: Doubt is a normal, healthy human emotion that people feel when they are stretching their comfort zones.

    • TIP: Say, “This is normal, this is normal to feel this way…”

  • Reframe it: How can feeling these feelings be helping you? How are they serving you well in your preparation for what's coming?

    • TIP: Ask yourself, “What data does this emotion have that shows me what I really care about here?” (i.e. connection, quality, resonance, etc).

  • Act on it: If you wait until you feel confident, you'll wait forever. You can take action while also feeling doubt.

    • TIP: What is the smallest, bravest next step I can take that aligns with my values and moves me closer to my goal?

How is feeling doubt actually helping or serving you today? How can you take that message with you into action?

Kelli Thompson is a women's leadership coach, speaker and author who helps women advance to the rooms where decisions are made. She offers 1-1 private coaching and is the founder of the Clarity & Confidence Women's Leadership program (online group training for corporate women leaders). She is the author of Closing The Confidence Gap: Boost Your Peace, Your Potential & Your Paycheck.

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