By Cecilia Calderón – May 2024

“Leadership is not just about guiding others; it’s also a journey inward, where we confront our deepest doubts and fears.” – Cecilia Calderon

I invite you to take a courageous step with me—

Reflect on a time when someone …

Doubted your abilities

Confronted your ideas with skepticism

Questioned your ambitions with caution

Scrutinized your decisions with critical eyes

Now, imagine the face of your greatest doubter—often, isn’t it your own reflection staring back at you from the mirror?

This reflection is never the endpoint but the beginning of a profound journey into understanding and managing the internal barriers that challenge our effectiveness. By confronting these doubts, we can transform them from silent saboteurs into catalysts for growth and resilience.

The Silent Battle Within

Often, when we engage with leadership development, we think of skills and competencies we aim to sharpen. This is crucial and necessary, yet there’s also a silent enemy of learning that lurks quietly inside each of us—an enemy many of us do not speak of out of fear of embarrassment or a sense of inadequacy. This enemy is self-doubt.

Self-doubt does not discriminate; for some, it takes center stage, and for others, it takes residence in the nosebleed section. However, regardless of how loud, its presence is universal, and its effects are equally potent. When it speaks, it has the power to stop us in our tracks—our intentions, desires, and goals can put us in a state of uncertainty. It becomes an obstacle to success and a dream killer.

Facing Uncertainty Head-On

As a leader I have grappled with moments of doubt, where the stakes are high, the weight of responsibility is daunting, and self-confidence begins to waver. I vividly remember those instances when I faced significant challenges – the complex projects, the high-pressure decisions – that made me question my abilities.

These challenges can manifest as systemic barriers, like during a project rollout when everything seems to go awry or during organizational restructuring when shifting roles and expectations create confusion and uncertainty among team members. It’s in these moments that despite meticulous planning and preparation, unforeseen complications arise, and the uncertainty of new challenges can magnify our inner doubts, prompting us to question our abilities before we even begin. This is when we might hear a voice in our mind start to whisper, “Am I equipped to handle this? Can I lead my team through the storm? Can I do this? Can I do it well?”

How can we effectively lead when doubt undermines our confidence?

The magic lies not in silencing these questions, but in engaging with them and leaning into the discomfort. Let’s explore practical strategies to harness our doubts and transform them into tools for courageous leadership.

Self-Doubt: Practical Exercises for Every Leader –

What strategies can you employ to conquer these internal battles? Engaging intimately with self-doubt involves recognizing its triggers, understanding its impact, and learning to manage its influence effectively. Explore How:

  1. Identifying Triggers of Self-Doubt: Exercise: Reflect on specific situations, people, or feedback that often trigger your self-doubt. For example, critical feedback, unexpected challenges or even others’ successes might evoke feelings of inadequacy.
  1. Recognizing Behaviors Driven by Self-Doubt: Exercise: Note the behaviors you default to when experiencing doubt. Do you hesitate to make decisions? Do you seek excessive validation from others to confirm your choices?
  1. Assessing Emotions Associated with Self-Doubt: Exercise: Reflect on emotions that emerge when doubting yourself. For example, you might feel safer avoiding risks.
  1. Evaluating the Cost of Self-Doubt: Exercise: Consider how self-doubt impacts your leadership—its effect on decisions, team morale, project outcomes, and your own self-esteem.

Now, you might be wondering, ‘This insight is great, but what do I do with it?’ The next step is crucial—taking action to mitigate its effects. As we shift from awareness to action, let’s focus on how we can counter these doubts with empowering practices that not only manage but can transform self-doubt into a source of strength and confidence.Exercises to Build Self-Confidence: Becoming Your Own Hype Person

  1. Create a Victory Log: Keep a victory log to celebrate every accomplishment, no matter how small. Document successes like resolving team conflicts, meeting a project deadline ahead of schedule, or having a difficult conversation. Your victory log serves as a reminder of your capabilities and resilience during moments of self-doubt.
  2. Embrace the Power Pose: Start your day with the power pose—stand tall, hands on hips, chin up, and embody the superhero within. Recent research by reveals that adopting expansive postures can significantly boost self-confidence, reduce stress, and enhance positivity.* These findings highlight the profound impact of body positions on behavior and self-perception.
  3. Develop a Personal Mantra: Create a personal mantra that encapsulates your vision and values, serving as a guiding lightduring moments of uncertainty. Repeat this phrase during challenging moments to center yourself and remind you of your purpose and strengths. Mine is: “Cecilia, you got this.”
  1. Mental Strength Training: Train your mind like athletes train their bodies. Incorporate practices like meditation and mindfulness to enhance resilience and sharpen focus. These exercises help you navigate between self-doubt and self-confidence, cultivating inner calm amidst chaos.
  1. Curate a ‘Hype Playlist’: This is about more than just selecting upbeat songs—it’s about curating a collection of songs that resonate deeply with you so that it can serve as strategy to reignite your passion and determination. Here aremy tips below for creating your playlist. Add a song that:
    1. Never fails to lift your spirits
    2. Always brings a smile to your face
    3. Re-energizes you
    4. Makes you feel invincible– an anthem

Cultivating Confidence and Overcoming Doubt

In our quest to become better leaders, embracing our vulnerabilities and transforming them into strengths is essential. By recognizing and addressing our self-doubt, we not only become more resilient but also more empathetic and effective leaders. The journey through self-doubt to self-assurance is challenging but profoundly rewarding. Each step towards understanding our fears and building our confidence is a step towards realizing our full potential as leaders.

Call to Action: Take the First Step Today

Identify one area where self-doubt holds you back and choose one exercise from this blog to address it today. Commit to this action and observe the change in your confidence levels. Remember, true leadership flourishes not from a lack of doubt, but from the courage to face it head-on and grow from every challenge. Let us move forward with the confidence that we are not alone in our struggles and that each challenge is an opportunity for growth and self-discovery.

Stand tall, repeat your mantra, crank up the music, and tackle each challenge with unwavering belief in your abilities. You’ve got this!

* Körner, M., Röseler, L., Schütz, A., & Bushman, B.J. (2022). Title of the study. Psychological Bulletin.