My Best Advice for Overcoming Self-Doubt

IMG: BaseballMy little guy has his first baseball game of the season today. I was hoping he’d be excited for it. Instead, he is nervous. He is worried he’ll make a mistake. He feels like everyone else is better at it than he is and he is afraid that his teammates won’t understand that he is still learning.

I’ve told him everything will be fine, but I know how he feels. Haven’t we all been there?

I’ve assured him that everyone is there to learn, that the goal is to have fun and that mistakes are okay. I tell him that if you aren’t making mistakes, then you aren’t learning. He nods, but I know I haven’t changed how he is feeling in his heart. He has self-doubt, and self-doubt has killed more dreams than anything else in this world.

I know the only way to quell your insecurities is from the inside. He has to learn to overcome his fears in his own way, because one day I won’t be there to force him to keep going or to cheer him on.

I draw on the line my mom told me over and over and over growing up: Feel the fear and do it anyway.

Image: Don't let fear stop you.I say the words to him and smile inside. I think by my teens I started rolling my eyes when my mom would share that advice. But I can’t tell you how many times I’ve repeated those words to myself.

I heard them the day I quit my job to go freelance. They echoed in my ears when I first called on potential clients, and I still say then any time I have to do something difficult.

So, I pass the advice on to Evan. It may not mean much today, and one day he’ll probably roll his eyes at me. But my hope is that when it counts, when he is faced with the choice of finding the courage or walking away, he’ll tell himself to feel the fear and do it anyway.

Taking a Leap

Often when people talk about striking out on their own, they’ll refer to it as “taking a leap.” I’ve used the phrase myself when talking about my own freelance adventure. But, in truth, I really don’t like it. I think it negates the amount of advanced planning that goes into a solo venture, especially a successful one. Yes, there is a certain amount of faith involved in entrepreneurship, but there is a whole lot more strategy.

Freelancing had always been part of my “someday” plan. While working full time, I freelanced on the side, conducting telephone interviews for stories from my car on my lunch break and writing in the evenings. Those small side gigs paid dividends when I called the editors to let them know I had become my own boss and could take on more work.

I also spent months researching what set successful freelancers apart. I was even able to get paid for some research by writing an article on freelancing for my alumni magazine, which ran three years before I put my own plan into action. Learning what worked for others helped me create my strategy prior to quitting my full-time gig.

That being said, many of us need a catalyst that prompts us to put our plans into action. My freelance dream became a reality when I wanted to work around my son’s (and now my daughter’s) schedule. While that first move may have felt like a leap at the time, it really was just the first step in a well-crafted plan. Advanced planning and the determination to live the lifestyle I wanted have made my successful freelance venture my new reality.

Photo by kebb via iStockphoto.