How to Deal with Doubt and Fear

Leaders are constantly forced to deal with immense challenges.  Budget decisions, personnel issues, developing staff, hiring and firing as well as dealing with their own bosses, customers, equipment failures are just some of the “routine” obstacles thrown in front of today’s business leaders.

However, the biggest challenge is often our own selves.  Namely those pesky fears and doubts that can stifle us and stop us in our tracks.  How many dreams are never realized, goals not pursued – all because of fear of failure?

Those worries that create the butterflies churning in our stomachs are caused by two different factors – fear and doubt.  They are often connected and seam similar, but are actually very different.  Truly successful people know the difference and are not held back.

We’ll start with fear.  On the whole, we value bravery and courage and those are what help us overcome fear in many cases.  But fear is natural and plagues us for good reason.  It is a true warning of something dangerous and harmful.  The fear of falling when standing at the edge of a precipice is obviously nature’s warning that falling off could seriously affect your well-being.

Doubt, on the other hand, is fear’s evil twin.  Doubt is not a warning of disaster.  Rather, it is the negative thoughts and needless worry about the impending doom that captivates our imaginations and will likely never happen.  Doubt holds us back from reaching our potential.  Doubt is the worry about failure.  Holding back or putting off giving a speech, as one example, due to worries about not being smart enough or “good” enough is doubt, not fear.

Successful leaders, ones who inspire others or accomplish their major goals, have found a way to evaluate the fears and ignore the doubts.  Fear is a warning sign of potential risks and setbacks.  Good leaders pay attention to the risks and decide the best way to proceed.  Good leaders recognize doubt for what it is – an unconstructive, even destructive, worry.

How do we tell them apart when doubt can so closely mimic fear?  Perhaps the best way is an internal gut check.  Analyze those feelings to find out what has our stomachs in knots.  Ask what is the real impact of failure or this fear occurring?  If it is the idea of losing your investment, your home, your life savings, then that may be a very real danger and time to reassess your plans.  On the other hand, if it is worry about not being good enough or worry about looking like a fool, then you are dealing with doubt.  Time to inject a sense of self-confidence and more forward and focus on the rewards rather than the doubts.

If we can eliminate those doubts that act as anchors holding us back, then we will sail forward and our true potential is unleashed.

Eric Smith, CPP is the leading authority on organizational self-defense.  He has extensive experience in law enforcement as well as security management.  Eric is available for staff education and security awareness training as well as business coaching to help organizations provide safe workplaces.  To learn more email


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