Startup tip 34: Banish doubt – Believe in yourself and what you do

Believe in yourself – This sounds really fundamental, but it is amazing how often we doubt ourselves and doubt the idea we are working on. I am evaluating a new startup opportunity right now and already I have gone from excitement and “this is the greatest idea ever” to doubt and “maybe it’s a dumb idea.”

Sometimes doubt about our idea is wisdom in disguise – there can be good reasons why we should be skeptical.

But much of the time, our doubt comes from fear – it is our critical voice talking. Seth Godin calls it our lizard brain. The thinking we do that is based on fear and, if examined, is often irrational. It’s the part of us that wants to take the path of least resistance because we perceive that as being safer than being innovative and stepping out. It is also the part of us that sabotages us just when we are on the verge of doing something great, the part that encourages us to play small.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be?

You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.

We are all meant to shine as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us, it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

– Marianne Williamson, quoted by Nelson Mandela

Action: Implement strategies to believe in yourself

You probably have two visions in your head:

  1. one of you running a successful business and what that looks and feels like
  2. and one of you not making it, failing and what that looks and feels like.

Today, decide which of these feels best to you and DECIDE to focus on that. (My guess is that it will be the first option!)

  • Take some time today to focus on your success and make it even more vivid for yourself. Write down what the business looks like when it is finished and what you feel like, who you have become. You might like to write a dairy entry 5 years from now describing your life, how it has changed and what you are doing. Make it as vivid as you can, because you will need to hold on to this picture and review it regularly to get your business off the ground and to the stage you want it to be.
  • Reflect on specific occasions when you did believe in yourself. What made the difference there? What did you do, say or believe that helped? Could you use the same strategies in your startup?
  • And the failure picture? Look at it also to see if there is any rational basis for your doubts. List what you are afraid of, where you think the weak points and and then go and get the information you need to validate the assumptions you have made. This will boost your confidence. And if your doubt is not rational, choose instead to focus on the first image you have created and believe in yourself!

Join the Conversation

What beliefs do you hold, actions do you take or words do you say to help you believe in yourself?

Have your say in the comments – or use them to create a little bit of extra motivation and accountability to get your action task for today done.

And I would love you to join me on Facebook  or Twitter.

Image used under Creative Commons license courtesy of  Nick-K


  1. I believe in the power of fair trade. I believe that Oz Fair Trade can become a popular place for people to find ethically produced products. I believe that I can run a successful charity/social business without formal business education. I believe that I should follow my passion instead of living a life that my parents prefer.

    Even though my partner and his family supports me in running Oz Fair Trade, my own parents don’t. I wish I can change that. Not every start-up has families’ blessings. It makes it harder. I believe in myself, but how do I make my parents believe in me as well? Currently I only have one answer to that, that is, to make Oz Fair Trade a success.

  2. @Qinnie It was Frank Sinatra who said the best revenge is massive success. Just keep moving forward.

    Susan, I’m happy I was fortunate enough to come across your website. This was a great article. I’m currently struggling with that voice in my head, that doubt. It’s hard especially in the beginning when you have no idea if what you’re doing, feeling, or pursuing is going to work.

    One thing that I do to keep motivated is think about all the other people who had no idea about their plans and ideas. But yet they kept going. You can’t give up in the beginning.

    If Jobs gave up in the beginning, we wouldn’t have Apple. If Larry and Serge gave up, we wouldn’t have Google. And I’m sure if Susan Jones gave up, we wouldn’t have this site.

    I guess we just have to remember that believing isn’t seeing. It’s acting without knowing.

    Thanks for the article.

    • Exactly Greg. That’s a great insight, “Believing isn’t seeing. It’s acting without knowing.”

      I think we should absolutely have this kind of belief in ourselves.

      However I do see a danger in acting without knowing particularly when entrepreneurs ‘belief’ is actually denial. This often happens when people start executing an idea without testing it and are not open to what the market is telling them about the idea.

      I think a good strategy is to hold the belief and then look to see how reality is lining up with it and make a judgement based on that evaluation.


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