We all go through phases of self doubt, but what do you do when that self doubt starts to take over? For some, it’s not a five minute panic of not being able to do something. For some people it becomes impossible to do just the thing that they love because they’ve convinced themselves that they can’t. How do you learn to distinguish between self doubt and being honest with yourself?

Firstly, let me admit something: I have HUGE issues with self doubt. Always have, probably always will. I have an incredibly self-deprecating sense of humour, and get incredibly uncomfortable when saying anything nice about myself or attempting to talk myself up. When I passed my driving test, I asked the examiner if he was joking when he said I’d passed. When I did well on an assignment recently, I asked the tutor to clarify the mark because I thought I was hallucinating. We’re talking that level of self-doubt. So how do I get around it? Is it even possible?

Yes, it is.

Causes of Self Doubt

Some of the causes of self doubt include (but are not limited to):

  • Mental illness (particularly depression and/or anxiety)
  • Poor support network (i.e. friends and/or family not believing in or encouraging you)
  • Previous rejections

Any one of these can cause the voice of self doubt to enter. However, once you know the cause, it becomes much easier to drown out the not-so-little voice of self doubt.

Why it's important to keep writing about mental illness

Mental Illness

Mental illness is a cruel thing that can take over your life and prevent you from doing the things that you love. It doesn’t have to, though. Writing can be a great way to channel your emotions (or lack of emotions). Reading and writing are great forms of escapism, and if you don’t like what’s going on inside your head, you can escape it to a mythical land whenever you want.

It doesn’t matter what you write, but getting your emotions out is incredibly therapeutic and used in a lot of forms of therapy. A recent study has also shown that it can help to heal wounds faster!

Writing feelings down can make them seem more real (much like saying something aloud can), but also make them more tangible, and even changeable. You don’t have to write a great piece of literature, you can just babble on for five minutes about trees if you want to, but letting go and putting all your energy into one thing is incredibly relaxing and exhilarating.

If you are worried about your mental health and think that you may have issues with anxiety, depression or anything else, please speak to your GP. They are there to help you and can advise the best form of treatment for you.

Poor Support Network

I was lucky growing up in that whilst my wider friends and family weren’t particularly supportive in my pursuit of being a writer, my close family and friends were. My mum and nan bought me up to believe I could do and be whatever I wanted to be. Not everyone is that lucky, though.

If your support network rolls their eyes when you say that you want to be a writer, they discourage creativity or think you’re wasting your time, they’re a poor support network. That doesn’t mean that they don’t care about you, just that they have a different outlook on life.

So what do you do?

Talk to them.

Sit them down, and tell them how important writing is to you. Explain why you want to write, and that if you don’t, your head may just explode. (Ok, maybe not, but sometimes it can feel like it when it’s full of ideas you can’t write down/process fast enough.)

They may listen, they may not. You may persuade them to your point of view, and if you do, that’s great, but if you don’t, don’t see it as a reason to stop. Just because someone doesn’t believe in you, that doesn’t mean you can’t do something — other people don’t own or control your ability to achieve a task, regardless of how important they are in your life. Keep writing, and stick at it.

The most important thing you need when reaching for your dreams is self-belief. Once you believe in yourself, others will come around.

Ditch them.

This one’s a little harsh, but if your friends are that negative and draining, they really shouldn’t be a part of your life. We’re reflections of the five people we hang around/talk to the most, and if those people are all negative, it will make you more negative too.

Find A New Network

Networking is becoming increasingly important in everything we do, and writing is no different. Try to find a local group like Nottingham Writers’ Studio or the Mouthy Poets where you can meet people at all stages of their creative journey. This will help to inspire you, find out what you can do if you put your mind to it, and meet like-minded people who will support you because they’ve been there.

Many local communities are setting up local writing groups, but some are easier to find than others. Check with your local library for information, and if your area does have one, why not set up your own?


Previous Rejections

Remember that guy or girl that rejected you in a bar and put you off dating for months? Fear of rejection is a huge problem for a lot of people. It happens to us once, and we convince ourselves the same thing will happen if we do the same thing again. Our brains immediately associate that trigger with a certain outcome, searching for a pattern. Life doesn’t work like that, though.

Just because you’re rejected once, that doesn’t mean you’ll be rejected again.

And even if you’re rejected several times, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t someone out there that’s willing to give you a chance — Harry Potter was rejected 12 times before it was accepted by an agent. Beatrix Potter was rejected so many times she decided to self-publish. Now she’s sold over 45 million copies.

Patience, tenacity and confidence in a good idea can really pay off if you’re willing to put the work in.


Self doubt is a horrible thing. There is no cure or quick fix, but once you’ve figured out what’s causing yours it makes it a whole lot easier to deal with.

How do you overcome self doubt? I’d love to hear how you handle things in the comments!