How To Embrace Self-Doubt To Be Confident

In an upcoming episode of a new podcast called 2BeBolder, career advice for the next generation of businesswomen, I was asked how I managed moments of self-doubt.

"In moments of self-doubt, you have to dig in. It's the only way out."

The first couple of times you do it, you're going to feel like you're going to die, but I promise you won't. Digging into self-doubt helps you reconnect to your own power source so you can recharge and keep on going!

As a child, I didn't even know what doubt was.

I was 100% certain I could somehow find my way to China if I dug down far enough in the sand, even though I had no idea what would happen next. I didn't know what I would do when I got there, who I would meet, or what I would eat. These thoughts never even crossed my mind. Lost in between grains of sand, my all-consuming sense of curiosity and confidence had me digging tunnels, building castles, and hunting for treasures. I had no time for fears or concerns.

As Gretchen Schauffler, the professional adult, I experienced plenty of moments of doubt or uncertainty, but never real moments of self-doubt until 2008.

I happened to be lying on a beach in Mexico in 2008 when my husband and business partner Scott, and I felt the first tremors of the economic earthquake coming. I had just taken a couple of sips of my frozen margarita when he walked up and told me Sherwin Williams called. They were pulling out of buying our brand Devine Color, citing a "sudden freeze in acquisitions."

Talk about instant brain-freeze!

By the end of summer, it was quite clear there were more troubled waters ahead. The grand scale Tsunami that followed the earthquake washed away many American businesses, investments, and life savings. We were halfway through paying for college for four kids; we'd just bought an office. We had taken out a second mortgage on our house, remodeled, and launched a PR campaign with extension products.

Scott and I tried to hold onto our pieces of rubble and wait until the waves settled––not understanding that when a tsunami hits a shoreline, it changes it forever.

As we dug along for several years, I struggled with which castles to build, and Scott with which tunnels to dig. In our search for treasure, we came across a lot of fool's gold. We kept on digging and making progress. But we were nowhere near where we wanted to go. I felt I was inside an hourglass, and time was running out. I began to think maybe I could no longer trust myself to know what I was doing. I began to experience, for the first time, real moments of self-doubt.

The more moves I made to avoid the fear, the faster and faster I sank. The harder it became to get out, and the more I was afraid of being swallowed whole before I could escape and not die gurgling sand like in the movies. I couldn't. It’s “self-doubt.” You can’t avoid yourself. When you can't trust yourself, you can't believe what's going inside or outside. You feel powerless and blame others or yourself for things going wrong. It's the worse to drown in self-pity while drowning on quicksand.

It's impossible to die in quicksand. No one ever drowns in quicksand. A little extra water and quicksand can happen anywhere there's sand. By leaning back and making yourself as light as possible, keeping your arms up, taking deep breaths, and moving slowly and deliberately, you have the power to pull yourself out of quicksand.

I was in the middle of the coolest pity-party of one, put on by yours truly when I realized I was going nowhere, not even down into a deep bottomless sandpit to die until I dealt with my self-doubt. That's when I stopped trying to dig out, and began to dig in.

Looking for treasure in the sands of my self-doubt I reconnected to my self-worth and an all-consuming sense of curiosity and confidence that still lived inside of me.

My self-doubt wasn't trying to kill me, it was trying to make me stronger. I had ignored it for so long, it caused the beach to become quicksand so I could fall in and provide what I needed to keep on going!

Self-doubt doesn’t kill you, but it can keep you hostage for a long time. Earthquakes and Tsunamis always change shorelines and wash away castles, but what's true inside of you and me forever remains. You have to believe it's good. You have to think it's powerful. You have to trust it's there. When in self-doubt, dig in and be one with your beach.

I am sharing with you one of my favorite poems written by a man who taught me a lot about digging in. Painfully and wonderfully true.


by Mark Nepo

Let no one keep you from your journey,

no rabbi or priest, no mother

who wants you to dig for treasures

she misplaced, no father

who won't let one life be enough,

no lover who measures their worth

by what you might give up,

no voice that tells you in the night

it can't be done.

Let nothing dissuade you

from seeing what you see

or feeling the winds that make you

want to dance alone

or go where no one

has yet to go.

You are the only explorer.

Your heart, the unreadable compass.

Your soul, the shore of a promise

too great to be ignored.

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