One of my clients gave me a beautiful compliment recently. “I’d love it if one of my friends could work with you,” she shared. “But this friend doesn’t work in corporate”. It’s always the nicest thing when my clients think I’d be able to support others in their circle. After I’d cleared up the fact that I coach women at all ages and stages of life, her words launched us into a fabulous conversation about where self-doubt shows up in women’s lives and how it keeps them feeling stuck.

You see, it’s easy to see self-doubt showing up in spaces like career, business or creativity. But often, women don’t recognise their self-doubt as being the thing that holds them back. They try everything they can to reach their visions, intentions and/or goals in any area of life. And when they don’t get there, they look to external factors to explain their perceived lack of success. Things like luck, education levels or how they’re feeling physically often end up in the firing line. 

But here’s the thing. Self-doubt is an entirely understandable response to psychological risk. And feeling stuck has nothing to do with capability, destiny or being wrong and everything to do with the ways we’ve learned to preserve our sense of safety and belonging. The truth is, it’s our sophisticated protective beliefs and behaviours that keep us stuck. 

Which means that feelings of doubt can show up anywhere and everywhere in your life. It’s worth thinking beyond the obvious places to consider if it’s your own self-doubt that has you feeling stuck. To get you thinking, I’ve compiled a list of some of the more and less obvious places self-doubt shows up in women’s lives. And I’ve included some examples I’ve seen play out in my own life, and in the lives of my clients and colleagues.

The obvious places self-doubt shows up


  • You hold yourself back from applying for a promotion or special project. Or you only ‘apply’ for a role if you’ve been tapped on the shoulder for it.
  • You avoid speaking up in meetings.
  • You stay in a job for longer than you should, because you don’t think you can get another one.


  • You rework your website draft one thousand times, rather than hitting publish.
  • Your prices have been at the same level forever.
  • You haven’t had new headshots taken lately. Or you avoid sharing pictures of yourself on your website or on social media. 


  • You find all the reasons in the world not to create an online dating profile. 
  • You let your MIL dictate Christmas every year, because you’re afraid you’d be overwhelmed if you tried to host.


  • You don’t let yourself try a new creative activity like writing, singing or painting.
  • You won’t enter your photography in a competition because it might now be good enough to win.


  • You continually put off having a conversation with your accountant or financial planner.
  • You don’t let yourself buy things you like because you doubt your ability to manage money.

The less obvious places self-doubt shows up


  • You leave school pick-up everyday feeling like you’re the only one who doesn’t know what they’re doing.
  • You trawl the web looking for the ‘right’ way to raise your kids, never trusting your intuition.


  • You don’t stay at the fancy hotel of your dreams because you’re convinced you won’t fit in.
  • You would rather not travel if you have to travel alone.


  • You avoid going to a yoga class because you think everyone looks younger, fitter and more flexible than you.


  • You change outfits 17 times before you leave the house for a night out.
  • You buy an item that you know isn’t right for you because your friend, partner or the sales assistant insisted they loved it.

Social situations

  • You sit quietly the whole night because you’re convinced you have nothing interesting to say. 
  • You won’t invite friends over because you worry about what they’ll think of your cooking or home decor.

I’d love to know – where does self-doubt show up most for you? Feel free to let me know in the comments section below.

And until next time – stay fabulous.

Janelle xx

Photo Credit: Haute Stock Co

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