The Science of Achievement

For creative people with big, gutsy goals

A Powerful Method for Replacing Self-Doubt with Confidence (Part 2)

This is the second post in a two-part series on overcoming self-doubt. If you haven’t yet read Part One, you can do that here.

In Part One’s exercise, you should have written out a list of 10 limiting beliefs in your life using the following template:

“I could never ______________________ (write the goal you want to accomplish) because_______________________________ (write your reasons).”

Identifying your limiting beliefs is a huge step toward overcoming them, but it may not feel that way. In fact, with a list of limiting beliefs staring you in the face, you might feel more discouraged than ever.

We’ll take steps to fix that today.

In this post, I’ll share three strategies you can use to start crossing limiting beliefs off your list.

Let’s dive right in…

Strategy #1: Focus on potential — not current ability.

In his wildly popular book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell tells the story of a school in the Bronx called KIPP, where, according to one summary, “the children come from circumstances that lead regularly to academic failure and dropping out…”

What’s makes this school special is, despite the slow start incoming students’ received in life, under the school’s rigorous curriculum, the children go on to remarkable success.

In fact, “by the end of 8th grade, 84 percent of the students perform at or above grade level, compared to a figure for the district schools in the area of 16 percent.”

graph of student success

Limiting beliefs take changeable traits and turn them into absolute boundaries.

They’re not.

Where you start doesn’t determine where you’ll finish. And understanding that empowers you to start crossing limiting beliefs off your list.

Just because students are expected to fail doesn’t mean they can’t succeed in staggering majority. The same is true for you.

Not smart enough? Google it. Smart people are just dumb people who learned stuff.

Not skilled enough? Find a coach and practice.

Not sure where to start? Muster the courage to ask for help.


Go back to your list of limiting beliefs, and where each line says, “I can’t,” substitute the words “How can I?” It’s remarkable how quickly solutions sometimes appear when we’re ready to see things differently.

Strategy #2. Think less about self.

When most people consider the problem of self-doubt, they assume the primary concern is the doubt. But many times, the doubt is simply a product of thinking too much about self.

As a human being, you have the ability to dramatically improve your performance in virtually every area. Your highly adaptable brain can be molded into the mastery of new skills, sharper thought patterns, more rewarding habits, and greater knowledge of myriad subjects.

In the KIPP story, 84% of students came from behind to perform at, or above, grade level.

Are 84% of children from the Bronx secretly geniuses? Unlikely — considering only 16% of students in the district schools performed at a similar level.

But because these students are human beings, they possess immense potential for growth and improvement through practice. So do you.

Your potential has relatively little to do with you the individual, and much to do with the gifts humans have been given.

Will you become the best in the world at anything? Probably not. You live on a planet with 7.5 billion people. But you can develop the skills to accomplish amazing things and achieve meaningful goals.

If you don’t have faith in yourself, have faith in your species.


Search the internet for examples of other people achieving goals like yours — despite challenges similar to the ones you face. Research has shown these “vicarious experiences” can increase your confidence in your own potential.

Strategy #3: Try and see what happens.

The most powerful way to debunk limiting beliefs is to prove them wrong through action and achievement.

Are you certain to succeed on your first try? Of course not.

But you will begin to build momentum. And the mistakes you make will illuminate specific areas where you can improve. This takes the spotlight off you and your current weaknesses and shines it where it belongs, on your opportunity for growth and success.


Start climbing. Don’t look down.

Man climbing cliff


We take it for granted that self-doubt is justified, that our limiting beliefs are true. But often…they’re not.

Use the three strategies you’ve learned to take the offensive against self-doubt. And don’t miss the primary lesson this post is designed to teach.

Treat your limiting beliefs as false until proven true. And if they ever do seem true, keep looking for a way prove them false.

Everything is impossible — until someone does it anyway.

So climb on.

About Kyle Young

Kyle lives in Nashville, Tennessee with his wife Haley and their two puppies, Ralph and Nora. He's a writer, speaker, and consultant for online businesses that are committed to growth.

4 Replies

  1. Stephen Gniewyk

    I really like your writing style and content.
    I enjoyed Quitter Proof as well. I know that most people leave managers and not jobs.
    One of my technicians has a real self-esteem issue and I will let him read your Part 1 and 2.
    I mentor him daily and he’s making some good progress. I feel your article will make a significant breakthrough for him.

    1. Kyle Young

      Thanks, Stephen! I’m glad you’re finding this helpful and hope your co-worker will too.

  2. Myra

    Kyle, thank you for your articles. I also read Quitter Proof and it’s something I will refer back to again and again. I work with people who have not had the best start in life, and we are working towards a progressive and wonderful future, together. The phrase “how can I” is such a mind shift for so many and when we start to tap into the gifts and talents God has given to us, as well as all the empowering grace and wisdom that we have access to in Him, the question then becomes “how can we not?”

    1. Kyle Young

      Well said, Myra. A very good point!

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