How to Smash Through Self Doubt to Become a Better Self Promoter

I’ve noticed that a lot of creatives struggle with the idea of self-promotion because you regard a lot of it as a bit arrogant, pushy and too ‘salesy’.

I also hear of a lot of people having difficulty with motivation and productivity because you see a lot of other people’s great work around you, and feel frustrated with the competition. As well as slowing down your own creative productivity, this can threaten your sense of self worth and hamper promotion even further.

We need to tackle what lies at the root of these barriers to confident self promotion, which is self doubt.

I’ll show you six quick ways to overcome self doubt so that you can continue to feel good about yourself, your brand and your work, and ultimately become more productive, particularly when it comes to promoting yourself.

Acknowledge past successes

Write down ten real instances in the past when you doubted yourself, but ended up succeeding. This can be when you felt doubtful about yourself in any kind of situation, be it before a class presentation, meeting someone new, exhibiting your work, or even taking a long journey somewhere. Make these as varied as possible.

Having concrete evidence in writing of times when you succeeded in the face of self doubt will give you real confidence when it comes to dealing with future challenges. This includes feeling confident about developing your work and showcasing it.

Disprove doubtful thoughts

Draw up a simple table of two columns. The left side is headed ‘Doubtful Thought‘ and the right side: ‘Not True Because…‘. Fill the left column with five to ten doubts you currently have about yourself and your creative work. For example you might say you are afraid to start writing a blog because you are not an interesting writer.

You then write a statement in the other column that proves this thought to be wrong, such as: ‘I am an interesting talker, so there’s no reason why I shouldn’t be able to write interestingly’. This will re-align your thoughts and get you thinking rationally.

Keep an event journal

Again, get your notebook out, and at the end of a day write down everything, silly and serious, that you got through without difficulty. This could be in driving into town and back safely or talking to a client on the phone confidently. Then write down everything that didn’t go so well.

Stand back and look at what you achieved and what you didn’t do so well. You will inevitably see that when stacked against each other, you achieved much more than where you didn’t, and this will boost you greatly.

Celebrate daily successes

When you find that a situation in which you doubted yourself turns out to be a success, don’t ignore it. Make sure you acknowledge and celebrate what you have achieved. If you win a client, go out and celebrate, or watch your favourite film. Rewarding yourself for successes, no matter how small, will embed a sense of confidence into you and break up the self doubt within.

Talk to your supporters

If you feel doubtful about something, it’s a good idea to call on other people who see you in a more objective light. Speak to people who can support you, give you some praise and support the work you do. The Internet is a great place to find such people, and you will find more and more supporters through building up relationships with people through being active on social media sites, forums and blogs.

Take action and challenge yourself

There is no better eliminator of self doubt than taking action that disproves your initial self doubt. Always be searching for things that you regard as challenging, but that are obtainable. If you take little steps in doing things that take a bit of courage but are manageable, this is the route to feeling good about what you can achieve.

If you take a step that doesn’t result in success, try something a little less challenging first, before moving up a level again once more. Taking action in this way in everything you do is the route to self confidence and success in self promotion.

Do any of you have any comments or further ideas?



  1. Very true. I personally can attest to the seemingly coming off as “a bit arrogant.” People would be surprised how much confidence can actually make their work seem better. I read a book in college that changed my life. Not directly related to design, but you can apply the same principles it talks about. It’s called, “Art & Fear.” Talks all about the challenges of being creative and breaking through the barriers that hold you back. Very good and quick read.

    • Thank you Carl for the suggestion – I think there are challenges there, and they can all be overcome – if the mental aspect can be addressed, the rest will follow 🙂

  2. Oh the insecurity of being an Artist. I love the Event Journal. Sometimes we don’t realize what we have accomplished and the critic is too willing to tell us what we don’t. Thank you Alex.

    • Thanks for your comment Janet – you’re very right – often we need to be made aware of things we get used to ignoring; and these small things can really boost one’s confidence.

  3. This really resonates with me. Sometimes when showing my art or design or music to peers, I find myself prefacing it with excuses like “Well, this is not perfect but I want to show it to you.” Almost like I’m trying to innoculate myself against any criticism they might have, or pre-empt them trashing it.

    Which is totally the wrong thing to do. Thanks for sharing this…

  4. There still is a chance that one could overthrow this into actually being too confident (or even get arrogant about himself). If this happens, it would cause as much harm as being to shy, or maybe even more. Am I right?

    • This might become a problem, but it wouldn’t be without you noticing it, in terms of it harming the effect of promoting yourself and seeing success with your work. With self doubt, you change knowing the doubt is affecting your success. You are likely to feel the same when your ‘over-confidence’ reaps little reward.

      Helpful? Alex

  5. Very helpful, thank you. I am currently working on a self promotion brief at uni and will share this information with others.

    • Thanks for the comments everyone , so far – I’m glad to see you’re seeing the use of the post and looking to move through doubt.

      @Marcos, absolutely right – getting past the ‘I’ is often the hardest part in the route to success. As you say yourself, keep moving forward – thanks for the support of the site!

      @Grafikmarka – thanks for sharing the info – all the best


  6. The fear of making mistakes. I still can not see myself as a designer. I don’t know if it’s because I never studied design, or if it’s because I do not usually satisfied with my own work. In any case “I” am the problem. I think too much on “being bad” and stifled my own qualities. What I miss most is someone to tell me “You’re on your way.” Or “Do not go there” or even “Try a pink”. Finally, even missing, I have to keep moving forward.Thank you Alex. This post and all the RedLemon are the support that I need (even if you do not tell me to try something pink. ^^)

  7. my biggest problem right now is totally myself. i struggle with doubt about direction. i am self taught over the past 2 years and have just started school for design. often i feel totally lost with finding style and direction in my work. it’s hard to establish yourself if you can’t settle on an artistic direction. my days are filled with experiments in style and nothing is sticking like i hope it would, and in a void of feedback it’s hard to know what is working and what isn’t. that’s when all the doubting comes out.

    the tips are good though and i can’t wait to try out some of this.

    would love to see an article in the near future for how to properly use twitter to network and connect with people.

    thanks again for the article and glad to have this site as a resource now.

    • @jeremy, thanks for the comment – it can be tough to believe in yourself, especially if you are self-taught. Sometimes you need to set your own path, go with your gut and don’t be side-tracked by worry – just go for it.

      @Bea, listening to the critiques of other is a good idea, especially in the early stages of your career, but make sure you ask the right people. These are people involved in the industry who have experience themselves. Sometimes you can get criticized by the wrong people. Alex

  8. Many thanks for this article. I need this right now since I’ve just started making a name for myself.

    What I do now is get rid of those negative vibes (those who cannot reason their criticisim – the “I don’t like it because… just because), and look for more concrete criticism just to know what I should improve on, and what i should keep on doing. At the least, I know what I’m aiming for.

  9. Thank you so much for this post Alex – I really needed it! As a newbie artist, seeing all the great work out there has been a bit intimidating and self doubt is a daily struggle. I’ll definitely try to use these tools to counteract that doubt. 🙂
    Keep up the fantastic work!

  10. Great tips! I totally see myself in worrying about the great work others make. I thought not all too long ago that I was a worse student than others in my class, but now I just see a great variety of styles and voices. Among them my own unique voice. That’s the biggest doubt I got through so far and since than I’m much more productive.
    I’ll definitely keep a journal from now on, that seems like a great tool! Thank you Alex for sharing all this with us 🙂

  11. Thank you so much for this post. Really got through to me and gave me the inspiration I needed to make a final push on some things.

  12. This is a really great post. I doubt myself all the time and it ultimitely just starts to bring me down. It doesn’t help when other people bring you down either by nit picking and micromanaging on every single project.

    This is definitely an ego booster and thinking about the points you made make me feel just that much better about who I am and what I do.

    Thank you!

  13. Brilliant article – all very true and valid points..when i first started using twitter I thought it was just talking about what cereal you had for breakfast and how you felt about the neighbors being noisy last night – and to a certain extent it is but its also so much more – I have connected with so many local creatives and found out about up to date design trends that otherwise would have past me by – I was afraid to blow my own trumpet and speak about links I had seen and projects I had done – I also find it satisfying using a tracker like example so you can physically see the response from the people who follow you where that was a worth while tweet or not – they said it wouldn’t catch on this micro blogging but it definitely works for me –

  14. I read a book some months ago that is titled: written by Paul Arden It’s really inspiring in the way the author explains his point of view and really easy to read. So, whenever I feel down, or *stuck* I take it and read it, for me that’s a good way to overcome the feeling down.

    BTW – Great Post!!!

    • Thanks for the comment Anelia! I’ll be sure to pick up the book and have a read through when I’m feeling stuck 🙂

  15. Really lovely article Alex. Your definitely right about taking the time to really acknowledge what you have achieved and to really embrace it with a positive light.

    In an industry thats constantly changing and with so many talented people creating amazing things all the time I always get the feeling im lagging behind etc etc
    Articles like this really help me take a step back from my work and really believe in myself and my work so I can take it forward.

    Nice one Alex!


  16. This has been a great read. Im a graduate from last june and have had no luck. I still keep creative but not as much as I used to and have lost motivation. I have sent work out trying to get some experience but as of yet heard nada.

    But this has helped. I have many books but again its the fact that you’re your own worst critic. Awell Ill get there eventually.

  17. I tend to be an overconfident promoter. In the past, I’ve irritated people, so it can go the other way. But I always learn from my mistakes and don’t repeat them. So if I can be overconfident and step out and both succeed and fail, there’s no reason somebody underconfident can’t do the same. And failing isn’t really failing if you learn from it.

  18. ‘The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts’ Bertrand Russell

  19. For more on this I found Ted Bales and David Orland’s ‘Art and Fear’ an excellent read. I’ve read mine about 3 times : )

  20. Self doubt has certainly plagued me since graduating from my school’s graphic design program two years ago. I’ve always tried to just land production jobs because I have no confidence in my design work.
    I just wrote out my two columns to disprove my self doubts and it made me feel MUCH better 🙂
    I’ll be practicing the rest of your tips later on this week. Thanks so much for the advice!

    • That’s excellent Allie, that the tips are of practical use for you. Let me know what else works for you as you go along. It’s always good to hear from people that are seeing things really work!


  21. Thanks for this article – for me, its appearance is timely…

    The journey through personal development is not without its pitfalls and demons lurking round every corner, but celebrating the milestones and sharing the angst with others – whatever their creative discipline – certainly contributes to professional self-esteem.

    Pleasing clients is of course very rewarding. And while pleasing oneself through pleasing others is a good motivator, relying on this alone allows self-doubt to creep in when praise is not forthcoming and your article identifies that we need to become more self-sufficient if our confidence is to stay buoyant.

    But while a creative’s self-doubt is 100% DIY, his/her self-worth has other contributing factors, such as experience which brings knowledge, which in turn feeds into confidence and creates more choices for the direction we want to take our creativity. Eliminating self-doubt each time it rears its ugly head smoothes the journey and makes us more productive, happier souls.

    WARNING: There’s a fine line between self-doubt and perfectionism, which is a whole other dangerous territory to find yourself in..!

    I’ve just ordered ‘Art & Fear’ – thanks for the tip, Carl. And thanks Alex for sharing your techniques on smashing, thrashing and annihilating self-doubt to the point of extinction!

  22. Really great article. I seriously struggle with promoting myself and find that doubt can really get in the way of all aspects of life…not just art.

    • Thanks Chris – conquer doubt first, then promotion becomes much easier, but sometimes you need to be who you need to be, get out there, and just forget the doubts that were there in the first place 🙂

  23. I strongly identify with the idea about fearing self-promotion because of my fear of being labeled arrogant or egotistical. I want to add that I work with technology so the issue isn’t isolated to artsy design individuals.

    I will incorporate the acknowledging past successes and disproving doubtful thouhghts in my process of self-assurance.

    Thank you for the useful insights!

    • Sure thing Seth, thanks for the comment – and great to see other non-‘artsy’ people on here too! Keep up the good work – I’ll be following you and your Ironman efforts with interest :). Alex

  24. Self doubt is always there lurking in the background – thanks for your very useful article which I have shared on Twitter and Google+

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