5 signs self-doubt is crushing your career (and how to break free)

Sep 2, 2021

Do you ever feel insecure or question your abilities?

Self-doubt is one of the biggest barriers to career progression. You feel like a fraud despite evidence of your accomplishments, avoid taking risks or stepping outside your comfort zone.

Your lack of confidence stops you showing up in a meaningful way and you begin to see your self-doubt as a sign you’re truly incapable. All this keeps you stuck and out of action.

This has major consequences for your career. Self-doubt holds you back from speaking up in meetings, so you fail to get noticed. Or it hinders your ability to develop relationships with senior stakeholders to grow your career.

It may also stop you asking for the pay rise or promotion you know you deserve. Applying for the job you want or starting your dream business. Or making yourself visible to clients to build your network.

Read on to discover five subtle signs self-doubt is crushing YOUR career. You’ll walk away with tangible tips to build confidence and reach your full career potential.


Set incredibly high standards? Then beat yourself up if you fail to reach them? Perfectionism is often a major source of the self-doubt holding you back in your career.

You’re obsessed with what others think and worried about getting ‘perfect’ results. Then, become so overwhelmed by size of the goals you set for yourself you procrastinate. In extreme cases, you never put your ideas out into the world.

You struggle to let go and tend to micro-manage. Believing no-one can complete a task as well as you and it’s easier to do it yourself.

To break through this, commit to taking imperfect action. Realise there’s no such thing as ‘perfect’ and nothing can ever be 100% complete. So do your best and aim for ‘good enough’.

Start celebrating your successes and reframe failure as learning. Write down your accomplishments and learnings on a daily basis. And acknowledge your progress towards completing your goals.


Ignore what you ‘want’ in favour of what you think you ‘should’ do? You put everything and everyone ahead of yourself — at work and in all areas of your life. This is another sign self-doubt is limiting your career potential.

You tell yourself: ‘I should’, ‘have to’, ‘must’ and ‘can’t’. Limiting language which leaves you feeling powerless, like you have no choice. As opposed to: ‘I want to’.

People pleasing and trying to ‘do it all’ stems from a deep need to feel liked, appreciated and validated. Practice self-compassion and take the time to acknowledge who you are, your best qualities. Give yourself space to say no, set boundaries and prioritise your needs first.


Push yourself to work longer and harder than everyone else? You’re regularly the first or last person in the office. Even though you’ve completed your work and don’t need to be there.

You try and prove yourself to others by overworking. Because deep down, you’re worried you’re not good enough. But this self-doubt leads to burnout and negatively impacts your important relationships.

Stop seeking the approval of others to feel good about yourself. Validate yourself first and you’ll know where to draw the line with overworking. Take time out to combat stress, burnout and bring yourself back into balance.


Growing up, were you praised for your intelligence or things which came easily to you? If so, you may have developed the belief you need to achieve things quickly and easily. But if it takes time to master something, you experience self-doubt and feel like you’ve failed.

You’re naturally competitive and believe you need to be the best — without a lot of effort. Yet if you don’t get it right on the first go, you quit. You may even avoid trying new things or refuse to ask for help.

Realise we all have strengths — and weaknesses. The most successful people operate from their zone of genius and get help from those who have strengths where they don’t. Focus on your next, best step instead of quitting or putting pressure on yourself to get things right immediately.


Comparing yourself to others? You’re frustrated by your lack of progress because it seems like everyone is getting to where you want to be — and faster. You feel inadequate, lose confidence and stop taking action towards your professional goals.

When you’re experiencing career comparison, your inner mean girl or guy will be running rampant. Use the achievements of others as inspiration for what’s possible for you too. But stay focused on your own lane, not whether you’re behind or ahead.

To stop comparison, collect evidence of your unique strengths and achievements. Positive feedback from clients, your boss or performance reviews. Put it in a place you can easily access it and review it anytime you experience self-doubt.

Self-doubt can be crippling to your career and stop you reaching your full potential. These insights have helped my clients identify the ways it holds them back and how to overcome it. I hope they support you too! 

Ready to break free of self-doubt and reach your full career potential?

Book your free 30 minute consult HERE to get started!

Stacey Back is a Career Strategist, Leadership Coach + Founder of Profile Careers. She helps high-achievers at a career crossroads find the work that lights them up, increase their income, impact and create a career + life on their terms. Stacey works virtually with individuals and organisations based across the globe.