Are you stopping yourself from doing things you really want to do?

If you’ve got a voice in your head telling you you can’t succeed it can stop you from even trying.

It’s a common problem even among people who appear to be confident so we asked Drive member Nicky Peters to help us to find some solutions.

Would you like to be “the expert” in our weekly Q&A sessions? Get in touch if you’ve got expertise to share! 

Nicky is a Performance Coach and NLP Practitioner with the National Council of Psychotherapists. She is a speaker and mentor and  CEO of the Association of Ultimate Women.

This is a compilation of the live Q&A in the Ask the Expert hour in the Drive Facebook Group.

Self Doubt or Self Belief?

Louise Frayne From your experience Nicky, is there a difference between self-doubt and lack of self-belief?

Nicky Peters Lack of self belief (or self-limiting beliefs) are things you believe to be true without any real proof. For instance, I believed form many years that I could not run – I had tried when I was younger (without any support) and failed miserably so I grew up believing I could not run. Years later as an adult I decided to try again, but this time I took advice, started slowly and to date have managed over 7 miles in one go – so my belief was wrong.

Self doubt on the other hand I still have at times – to me it’s the voice in my head that says ‘you can’t do that’ and really can stop you in your tracks. So now I may doubt if I will ever run a half marathon but it is no longer a real self limiting belief – I know I could do it with the right support and motivation! Hope that helps.

Rachel Willer Do you have any techniques to quieten the noise in your head that goes on and on during self doubt and lacks in self belief?

Nicky Peters You can employ various techniques in the moment but first let’s think about something more long term. Firstly identify or acknowledge what the self-doubt is – that’s half the battle – and then it’s about looking at evidence to disprove the doubt. For example if you think you cannot speak on stage, start to question why you think that, because in essence you can talk, you can stand on stage, you will know your subject and bit by bit you disprove it.

Imposter Syndrome

Rachel Willer I have imposter type thoughts I guess, the “I’m not good enough to be doing this, someone will find me out, who do I think I am?” type.

Nicky Peters If the doubt is happening ‘in the moment’, the first thing I recommend you do is take some deep breaths – long and slow. Altering your breathing can calm you and allow rational thinking to take over. Practice is the key – and implementing the suggestions above.

Louise Frayne Asking ourselves questions or challenging our assumptions is healthy. What triggers might people want to look out for to perhaps prevent this healthy habit creeping into self-doubt?

Nicky Peters It comes back to what the questions are you are asking yourself. If you can be conscious of your thoughts, that’s the first step. In the moment the triggers are more likely to be feelings of fear or panic – that fight, flee or freeze feeling, these should be warnings to you that something is going on. Also if you want to do certain things (like jump out of an aeroplane) but are stopping yourself, this is a sign too.

Louise Lee Hi Nicky, I’ve heard it said that self-doubt occurs when we focus on what’s missing in us and on everything that’s going wrong in our lives. If that is true, how does one duff up the doubt?

Nicky Peters Yes that is one way self doubt can be triggered and in this instance I would suggest you turn it around. Stop focusing on what you have not got and focus on what you have. For instance I had a client who was ‘not confident’ in one situation so we looked at other areas where she was confident and then bought that into the other situation.

Andy Boothman I’m not sure that this counts as self doubt but I believe a bit of nerves before doing something is actually a good thing. I shows that you’re engaged, you care about the outcome. A certain amount of nervous energy is a good thing and will go the extra mile to make it work.

Louise Lee I agree. Going back to Nicky’s statement about public speaking, I know I can speak, I know I can stand on stage, and I have a healthy amount nerves. I don’t doubt I can do it and yet I can’t. I’m wondering if it’s because I have not received any/sufficient feedback about how well or otherwise I do and therefore my self belief is low.

Nicky Peters Often it’s not that ‘I can’t do something.’ it maybe that you need to utilise, learn or adapt new skills so you can do something. This is where factors such as motivation, practice and time come into play too. If you want to move forward you need to get uncomfortable and you need to be comfortable with that. Experience helps but you can help fast track with the right support.

Voices in your head

Helen Lindop Sometimes I have self doubt, but it doesn’t stop me as such, it just drags me down a bit. So a voice in my head says ‘that’ll never’ work and I tell it ‘sod off I’m doing it anyway’ and I go ahead. But then the voice nags me regularly with things like ‘what if that goes wrong?’ I’ve got a pretty good idea of where that voice comes from but I could do with some tips on shutting it up!

Nicky Peters That’s very common and the immediate tactic you are employing is obviously working to an extent but by only addressing it ‘in the moment’ you aren’t really fully dealing with it. Put some time into really stating the doubt and then disproving it – you may also have to do this over a few days or weeks before you break the old way of thinking – everyone and every situation is different but the tactics often the same

Kathy Salaman My problem is that I need constant reassurance that I’m doing things absolutely right. I think it comes from being a teacher in a past life and coping with hard-to-please Ofsted inspectors. They don’t focus on what’s going well – just what needs to be done better. I find it really difficult to handle criticism, even though I often agree with it. Do you have any tips for helping with resilience?

Nicky Peters Kathy the focus here would come to you starting to recognise your own journey as something unique. Take time to set your own goals and recognise your own success against those goals – this is about you and what you want to achieve. Often feelings, emotions and habits even come from childhood – experience we don’t consciously remember. If you are motivated to change it is absolutely possible.

If you really want to tackle self-doubt or limiting beliefs do it away from the panic of the moment. Sit down and work through the doubts to disprove them. Accept practice and time are needed and ideally get support. Having a coach is the best thing I ever did and having the right person to work with you can be life changing.

Nicky offers a free 30 minute Discovery call where you can specifically focus on your questions – just go to to book and answer the lifestyle questionnaire.

Connect with Nicky on Twitter @TheNickyPeters