"Well Begun is Half Done": How to Move from Self-Doubt & Fear to Confidence & Productivity

Therefore, my beloved brothers and sisters, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” 1 Corinthians 15:58

I sat and stared at the empty Word document for a good ten minutes. The annoying little voice in my head kept trying to drag me down: “You’ve never written anything like this before, and now someone is going to pay you for it? You have no idea what you’re doing. The client will hate this! You’re going to fail!”

That mantra played over and over again and began to discourage me until I resolved to do what I had done every other time self-doubt and the fear of failure threatened to derail the plans and projects of my copywriting business. I rested in the truth, rejected the lies, and just started working.

Casting Out Fear & Self-Doubt

Running a small business is as much a mental game as it is an exercise of the skills it takes to serve your clients. I’m sure I’m not the only one that often has feelings of insecurity, fears of failure, or general self-doubt when facing an intimidating project. I’m an athlete, but not a professional one by any means, and sometimes it seems easier to mentally push myself to lift incredibly heavy weights or run a ridiculous number of miles than it is to overcome the mental hurdles required to successfully complete a client project.

I have the skills and training, but sometimes my self-confidence steps aside and lets that obnoxious little voice of discouragement do all the talking.

Here’s how to be confident and productive when you’re doubting yourself…

1. Ignore the voice of discouragement

Sometimes self-doubt and questioning ourselves is good and healthy. It can help us grow in self-awareness and challenge ourselves to be more thorough and detail-oriented. But when the result is paralyzing fear or a complete loss of confidence, it’s NOT a good thing.

When self-doubt becomes unproductive, don’t try to reason with those thoughts (been there, tried that, doesn’t work). Instead, ignore them. Pay them no mind. Thoughts that cause chaos, confuse, and discourage us aren’t of God and they won’t better you, they’ll just slow you down.

2. Keep moving forward

It can be easy to fall into the trap of sitting and staring at your project before it’s begun, whether that’s a canvas, a Word document, or anything else. But that’s the perfect opportunity for you to tell yourself why you can’t do it. Instead, set the fear of failure aside and just start working.

Often when I look at a project brief I feel overwhelmed about how intimidating it sounds, but when I actually start conducting research, creating outlines, and writing, everything falls into place and – though it might be challenging – it becomes much more possible. When I’m lamenting about starting a project that looks tough, my husband always quotes Aristotle to me, “Well begun is half done.”

It’s true. Sometimes the biggest step forwards out of fear and self-doubt is just taking the first step forward.

3. Think about how you got to where you are now

Sometimes all it takes to shake off insecurity and self-doubt is to remember how you got to where you are now. Consider the challenges you’ve already surmounted to get the present moment and let that be your encouragement. Similarly, look back on the training you’ve received or the passion that drove you to start a business in the first place. Remind yourself that you CAN do what you’re trying to do, because you have the skills necessary and you’ve overcome similar challenges in the past.

4. Ask questions

I find that many times, self-doubt, and a waning self-confidence can be boosted by simply asking questions. When a project is confusing or unclear, that seems to make it seem more difficult than it actually is. Don’t hesitate to clarify things if needed, and don’t hesitate to make sure you’re fully informed on what a client is looking for at the outset of a project.

5. Make your work a prayer

Most importantly, give your work to God and in doing so, make it a prayer. Trust that, if you ask, God will give you the grace to finish any project He sets in front of you. And don’t expect it to be perfect – you can only give your absolute best effort, and let God take care of the rest.

6. Rest in the truth & reject the lies

I finished that project I mentioned in the introduction. I pushed past the insecurities, the self-doubt, and the fear of failure because I decided to rest in the truth – that I was capable of doing good work and that God would give me the grace to do so – and I rejected the lie that I wasn’t good enough, that I was doomed to fail, and that my client would hate my work.

And as it turns out, I did  know what I was doing. My client loved my work, and gave me another project just like it. I’ll probably find myself staring blankly at a Word document again soon, because it’s a constant struggle to let go of my own self-doubt and fear, trust my abilities, and trust in God. But when that happens, I’ll try my hardest to rest in the truth, reject the lies, and just start working.

Sarah Coffey is a freelance writer, copywriter, and editor. In college, she converted to Catholicism, met her now-husband Jesse, and received a B.A. in History. In 2018 she took the entrepreneurial plunge and started a copywriting and copyediting business  Coffey Copy & Content, LLC  and hasn't looked back. She loves using her talents for writing and editing to help business owners, students, and writers convey their messages powerfully and cleanly. She is also currently working on a Master's in Sacred Theology through St. Joseph's College of Maine and writes on matters of faith, theology, business, and travel. You can read more of her writing here.