Self-doubt and introverts

Last updated May 11, 2022 | Managing Introverts

Self-doubt and introverts

  1. Home
  2.  » 
  3. Managing Introverts
  4.  » Self-doubt and introverts

Do introverts doubt themselves more than extroverts and suffer more self doubt? If your role involves managing introverts, and it’s true, how can you help?

TLDR – Self-doubt and introverts

Quick summary:  Self-doubt affects people’s performance; their manager and the individual can both take actions to improve this. All people suffer from self-doubt; there are reasons to suggest it may affect introverts more, although self-doubt is not a characteristic of introversion. Self-doubt is part of another one of “the big 5 characteristics” (OCEAN), neuroticism.

What is self-doubt?

Self-doubt could be as simple as questioning our ability to get something right, or to our ability do it; chances are you’ve felt like that. As it gets stronger, we may feel incapable of doing things we need to do, lead to uncertainty about things we can’t control or excessive worry about things not going according to plan.

If it’s persistent and not addressed, self-doubt can lead to:

These are indicators of neuroticism, not introversion!

Self-doubt is bad for work performance, whether it’s your self-doubt, or your one of your team.

Neuroticism

Having feelings of self-doubt isn’t about introversion, it’s Neuroticism. Neuroticism is one of five well established, validated personality traits, part of the OCEAN model.

Like extroversion / introversion it’s a spectrum, representing the degree to which somebody sees the world as distressing, threatening, and unsafe. The ends of this spectrum are perfect emotional stability and complete emotional chaos. Like the extraversion/ introversion spectrum, we all exist somewhere between the two.

Everybody struggles with self-doubt

OSCAR winner Helen Mirren is possibly one of the most glamorous, well-known stars of her generation. However (according to The Week), she has ‘moments’ of self-doubt; to the extent that she sometimes locks herself into a lavatory to give herself a pep talk.

If somebody as famous and used to dealing with events can suffer from self-doubt, perhaps we should give ourselves a break from time to time!

Ellie Stott in Platinum magazine reports that Mirren finds is stressful to be surrounded by other A-listers. Despite a successful career covering five decades she doesn’t feel special. She has negative thoughts “What always comes up in my head is that I’m boring, I’m stupid, I’m not exciting enough”. I’m sure you’d think that those thoughts are not accurate, in the same way as most people with self-doubt have inaccurate thoughts about themselves.

Do introverts have more self-doubt?

Doubting one’s own abilities is not an introvert “thing” or a sign of introversion. However some things might increase self doubt for introverts.

  • Extrovert bias:  This can lead introverts to feel that they feel or act the wrong way. Some experience this more than others.
  • Early childhood: For some introverts’ self-doubt follows early childhood; not being a part of the main group, or in the centre of the action can leave a child feeling different and doubting themselves. Many great coaches help parents understand introversion in children to help reduce the future impact of this (Sophie Morris and Tracy Guillet come to mind).
  • Self reflection: Introverts tend to be more reflective, which could lead to doubting oneself more, unless focused.
  • Time on your own: A tendency or preference to spend more time on your own does not mean you feel down. However, it could appear that way to extroverts; as many extraverts only spend time on their own, when feeling down.
  • Always comparing: Do you compare yourself to others, whether at work, in discussion on social media? Such comparisons lack context and can easily become damaging. This is especially true on social media, where it’s easier to compare yourself to others and see “how they’re doing better”. But people don’t always show the whole truth on social media, as they show their ideal self. What’s more social media makes it easier to compare ourselves than ever before.

Dealing with self-doubt

Does that little voice in your head appear full of doubts, telling you to doubt your thoughts? Instead  why not doubt the doubts? Weird, simple, but can be effective.

Doubt the doubts

Getting older leads to collecting more experiences; this can change our degrees of self-doubt and skills in dealing with it. However if you have natural tendencies toward neuroticism, they remain (just like somebodies inbuilt tendency to introversion, even if they’ve learned tactics to help).

It is possible to get help with feelings of neuroticism; cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) or mindfulness can help people manage emotions and stay in the present moment.

Doubt your doubts and stretch you comfort zone....

Seven tips to help with self doubt

  1. Comparisons (specially social media): Try to stop (easier said than done), other people’s statements don’t mean they are better than you, they’ve just taken a different route (and they may not be true anyway). You might not be able to stop your team members doing this, but you could make sure you don’t talk about yourself doing it.
  2. Reducing small annoyances:  Some people find practicing daily gratitude good at helping them see small annoyances as small in the big picture. Helping your team to highlight what’s working well each week is a similar thing.
  3. Letting go: Your childhood (or even somebody’s last job) are a very different time and situation. Re-examining the “evidence” now can help things differently and let go. You can’t change what happened to you in the past, but can choose to act differently now. Long held, deep rooted beliefs take longer to change, but keep working on acting differently. Help team members by helping them re-examine evidence, seeing what was good about their achievements. Better still help them understand what makes for good performance now, so they can see that they are delivering it.
  4. Compassion: Self-doubt is often because we don’t want to make mistakes or appear imperfect, but mistakes are how we learn and grow. Self compassion, no matter the outcome, helps. Help your team members by showing compassion and reminding them of this too.
  5. The worst critic: We are often our own worst critics, holding ourselves to higher standards than others. You manage the culture in your team; do you make mistakes or imperfections (lessons) acceptable, or berate them?
  6. Supportive people: Surrounding yourself in supportive people (not people who are always positive) can help.  As Mike Pagan discussed when discussing Mental Wealth, a close knit group of trusted colleagues makes a huge difference to performance. As a manager you can help set groups like this up, although you can’t enforce them and obviously can’t be in them yourself.
  7. Imposter syndrome: Feelings of self-doubt, the causes and solutions may be similar to those which cause imposter syndrome (when you feel like everybody can see you’re an imposter in your position). This article has more ideas on helping imposter syndrome.

What steps might you take to help team members with feelings of self doubt?

You may also like to read:

Or listen to: 

An interview with Helene Jewell of the International Association of Facilitators on how to improve your meetings.

Don`t copy text!