Coaching & Leadership Development
January 21, 2016

A Head Teacher’s Guide to Overcoming Self-Doubt

If I asked you what was going on in the back of your mind right now, what would you say? If you’re like many Heads, it’s a never ending stream of criticisms and complaints about yourself.

That mind chatter of “I’m going to be found out … I’m a failure … I must be weak, look at what’s happening … all I do is make mistakes…” No matter what you do, it seems like you can’t shake it, and it only gets louder when you’re stressed.

You may not realise it, but it often comes down to…


Your toolkit


We were all given a “toolkit” of thoughts and beliefs as we grew up — some from our parents, some from our teachers, and some from the society we grew up in. Some of these tools are helpful, and some aren’t. Generally speaking, those tools that are helpful grow our self-confidence and belief in our abilities. Those that aren’t helpful have the opposite effect: they bring us down, and keep us from being able to rise to the many challenges that life brings.

The great thing is it doesn’t have to be this way. You get to choose what’s inside your toolkit. Here’s how:


Step one: Get curious


The first step is to simply get curious about what’s going on. Reflect on moments when you have felt overwhelmed by self-doubt. What happened? Who was involved? What emotions did you feel, and most importantly of all … can you identify the thoughts that triggered your emotions? Try to become a detective of your own responses.


Step two: Ask yourself, “Whose voice is inside my head?”


This may seem like a strange question, but it’s actually very important. A lot of times, our negative thoughts are rooted in the negative voices of the past — the voices of people who projected their own character weaknesses on us. Since this happened at a time when we were too young to recognise them for what they were, we ended up accepting these faulty projections as truths about ourselves.

When you can figure out the owner of the voice in your head, you’re in a much better position to refute those negative thoughts and beliefs.


Step three: Accept praise


You wouldn’t be where you are today if you hadn’t already shown that you do have the confidence and self-belief to lead. If you’re really going to defeat the negative voices in your head, you have to start believing the good things other people say about you.

Don’t say, “It doesn’t matter!” when someone gives you positive feedback or say something like, “They’re just saying that, they don’t really mean it!” This type of talk is just self-defeating. It’s oxygen for your self-doubt and does little to bolster your self-esteem and confidence, so learn to accept the praise! Take joy from the feelings that arise when you let in the good and let go of the negative.


Step four: Practice


Practice! It’s so tempting to think that you can do this once and be done with it, but the truth is, this is a lifelong process. It takes time to change embedded patterns of thinking, so be patient with yourself.

If you do find yourself continually struggling with this, then consider giving coaching a try. It can be incredibly helpful, since a coach can help you to make sense of your thoughts, discover your true voice and in doing so, help you plot a way forward to greater self-confidence.

Are you a school leader who’s tired of going it alone? We’re here to help! Email or call 0208 767 7664 to set up a short, no strings conversation.


Do you struggle with self-doubt? What do you do to keep going through it? Tell us below in the comments!



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