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How to Break the Habit of Self-Doubt and Build Real Confidence

Lesson 8 of 16

Self-Doubt Anxiety Has Plagued Creatives Forever

Mel Robbins

How to Break the Habit of Self-Doubt and Build Real Confidence

Mel Robbins

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Lesson Info

8. Self-Doubt Anxiety Has Plagued Creatives Forever
Being in the creativity business is hard because so much of your work is personal. Mel talks about the science of habits and The Golden Rule of Habit: You can't change triggers, but you can replace the behavior.

Lesson Info

Self-Doubt Anxiety Has Plagued Creatives Forever

Will some people always be more confident than others? Are certain personality types naturally more confident than others Mel? It's a terrific question and thank you for asking questions. I know that we've been pummeled with comments online so keep them coming and we will fold them in and I also want to acknowledge all of you because one of the reasons why this is already such a powerful experience for everybody is the stories and the sharing allow everybody to see themselves in what you're dealing with and so the more interactive that we are the better. So my definition of confidence is, it is the decision to try and I have that definition because it anchors confidence in action versus feeling and that question about do certain personality types? I personally believe the answer comes down to what do you have competency built into and so there are some personality types that might be a little bit more reckless so they'll try anything but it's not with the intent to build any kind of ...

skill and so I don't think that personality determines somebody's level of confidence. I don't think that extroverted people are necessarily more confident than introverted people. In fact if you look at some of the research about leadership and about who makes more money and who does better selling actually all of the signs point to folks that self identify as introverted as being more successful in those areas and so again it goes back to what we talked about in some of the other lessons about how your confidence is situational, it's not a personality trait. We also talked a little bit about personality and how your personality is somewhat fluid. That when it's important enough to you you can push yourself to act out of character and so you know you may be quiet, you may be reserved, you may not like to be the center of attention but you may still be the kind of person that when it matters boy oh boy you're the first one to try and so if I can keep having you think about confidence in a new realm, not about how you feel, but about what you do. Then we can start to build the competency that'll build it for you. Now one of the earlier modules was about how there's a unique challenge and opportunity to being a creator right and I like you as a creator know that that means you're in the business that you're in because your heart is in it and it's deeply personal work for you and that comes with a whole level of challenges because when you get rejected or you're exposed and you're asked to try something new it's like a personal assault on you. And self doubt has plagued creatives forever and so I wanted to show you some famous stories from history as a way to remind you that you're not alone, okay. And to go back to the fact that imposter syndrome when you understand what's going on, oh of course I feel uncertain, of course I feel, you know nervous when I'm trying something new, that's part of the ballgame. So do you guys know the backstory on Michelangelo and the Sistine Chapel? So when, in the 1500's, in the early 1500's when Pope Julius the Second was interested in having the Sistine Chapel painted he went to visit a sculptor by the name of Michelangelo. Now at the time Michelangelo was working on a bunch of sculptures for the pope's tomb. So the pope goes over to see Michelangelo and Michelangelo was obviously a great sculptor and he says "hey you know these sculptures are fantastic, "really excited to have them in my tomb, you know-- (laughing) "I have another project that I'd like you to try" and Michelangelo looks up and says "okay Pope yeah, what do you want me to carve?" And he says "no actually I don't want you to carve anything, "I've got bunch of frescoes I want you to paint." Now you can't control what happens, you can't control the feeling that rise up. The first thing that Michelangelo felt was completely overwhelmed and insecure. He had never done this before. He looks at the pope and he was like "I'm really flattered Mr. Pope "but I don't know if you know this about me "but I'm like a stone guy, I'm not really a painter." And the pope says "oh no no no I think you can do this, "I think you can do this." Do you know what Michelangelo did in response to this request to try something new? Yes he ran, he actually left town. He was so overwhelmed that he fled to Florence and he hid from the pope for two years. I guarantee you there are opportunities you're hiding from right now. Well luckily for Michelangelo the pope stalked him. He stalked him for two years and pushed him and pushed him and pushed him until he agreed to do it. True story, here's another one. You guys recognize this guy? So do you know what Stephen King was doing as a career? A lot of you have a soul sucking I believe one of you described their job as? Well hello. You know you have a soul sucking job that you can't stand that's sort of bridging the gap between you and what you want to do. So he was a substitute teacher at boys' academy in Maine. And at nights he worked as a security guard and it was Hampton Academy if you're interested. And so in 1937 he was working at this boys' academy, his wife was working at Dunkin' Donuts and every night he would sit at his typewriter at his job and he would tap tap tap tap tap tap just like a lot of you are working on your work and creating what you're creating and then he would pull it out and he would read it and he would crumple it up and throw it in the can. He was a perfectionist and we got a lot of those that are watching this course right. He thought his work sucked, he thought nobody's gonna read this. And one morning Tabby goes to empty the garbage and she sees it's filled with papers and she reaches down and she pulls one out and she smooths it out and she starts reading and she says to herself oh my gosh, wow, this story about this teenager who needs an exorcism, this is unbelievable. It was Carrie. You know that movie haunted me for decades for crying out loud. So she says to her husband I think you got something here, I really do, I think you got something, and she pushed him, he doubted himself the entire way. Now when he was done with the manuscript which took him nine months to finish they printed out 30 different copies, they sent it to 30 different publishers. 29 of them said no. And every time you get a rejection right you say that's it nobody wants me, my work stinks, it's never gonna happen, blah blah blah. Well I tell you what Doubleday is very happy that they said yes. And he's never looked back. You know for those of you that struggle with the imposter syndrome I thought that this was a terrific quote from UN ambassador and obviously very accomplished actress Emma Watson. "It's almost like the better I do, "the more my feeling of inadequacy actually increases, "because I'm just going at any moment "someone's going to find out I'm a total fraud "and that I don't deserve any of what I've achieved." These feelings are normal and again I want you to understand and embrace that, particularly because of the kind of work that you do. Now this one happens to be my favorite because it's more recent. How many of you have heard of the hit musical Hamilton? Do you know the story behind that? That it began, he first, this all began as an idea. It took him seven years to write, seven years. And I don't remember how many years ago it was that the first song that he wrote as a rap he debuted as a poem at an event at the White House and the caught some firestorm that got him going on writing the musical. Took him seven years, a lot of don't think about that. What we think about is we look at all the Tony Awards, we look at the movie that's coming, we look at the fact that he's now doing movies, we look at all this stuff and we see the end and we think oh it must be so easy for that person. Oh that person never struggles with self doubt. I'm telling you these feelings are normal, they are part of the process. We need to eradicate them from the business side. We need to eradicate them from the way that you think about yourself okay? It's okay with the work. So I love this because on, Lin-Manuel last year in September posted this screenshot. This is a screenshot from September 23rd so four years ago. Four years ago Hamilton wasn't done. Four years ago he was still writing it and he writes to his wife who is a trained chemical engineer from MIT by the way, writes to his wife, sometimes the writing doesn't happen as fast as I'd like it to. There's nobody here that can relate to that right? (laughing) That's the doubt that comes with doing your creative work, that's cool. I know, I know she says. He says I have hard time finding the balance between not beating myself up when it doesn't happen as fast as I'd like it to and not wasting time while I wait for it to happen. So this is the doubt that's fine for the creative process because your creativity requires tangential thinking. Your creativity requires time for your mind to wander. Your creativity requires you doubt and to redo and to go back to the drawing board. That is the process of creating. This bullshit right here where you beat yourself up, where you waste time because it's not happening, this is the stuff we want to stop because you can have room to have the creative process take time but you don't have to torture yourself while you do that. So she then says hey everybody has that problem and he's like what, I'm not alone in all this? And so he posts this to basically say to everybody out there working on their first musical, working on their first business, working on inspiring their team, that project that you're putting your heart and soul into. The only solution, keep going, the only solution, get back to your piano, the only solution is to keep on moving forward and it sounds so simple and one of the reasons why I am taking the time to unpack all the science for you is because it's really easy in life to say just try, just push through it, but unless you understand why, that there's research behind this, that the only way more confidence comes is through the act of trying and the only way that you're gonna stop killing yourself mentally as you're trying to move forward is if you make a decision that you're not gonna do it. And you know the thing is is that the longer you wait there and you think about what you need to do guys you're not going. There's this, there's a cognitive bias that our minds have called the spotlight effect, it's actually a protection mechanism to try to keep you out of danger. What happens is whenever your mind perceives that there's any kind of risk it is designed to flood with cortisol which is a stress hormone and suddenly magnifies the problem. We go back to Hector's example where he doesn't reach his wife and all of the sudden his mind goes, (goofily vocalizing) that was the spotlight effect. Magnifying the situation and what it does is it's trying to back you away. This is how self doubt works. You get worried about something cortisol flies in, you start thinking now the risk feels so huge so you're not gonna make that cold call, you're not gonna ask for $4,000 instead of $2, and guess how fast it happens? Five seconds flat. Sometimes way faster and so what's interesting about this photo is that you know there's probably a coach standing behind Sammy going "come on Sandy you got this kiddo. "You got this, you just went off the middle layer, "we're only four feet higher buddy, you got this. "Okay we're gonna count backwards all right, "five, four, three, let's go." Or Mom, "come on Sammy I'll take you to the Lippy Dip honey, "come on, you can get the sprinkles." Or an older brother, that's usually how it happens right? A giant push, just like the pope pushed Michelangelo. Just like Lin-Manuel pushed himself back to the piano. Just like Tabby pushed Stephen King, this is the only way. And you know what makes me so freaking sad about this photo is that when we were all kids you had people that pushed you. You had teachers that saw greatness in you, you had youth group leaders and coaches and you had parents and you had relatives, people that didn't buy your BS, that didn't care how you felt and that just pushed you and what sucks about being an adult is that you're lucky if you get home at the end of the day from work and somebody you're related to says something nice to you you know? We're alone. Yeah we're alone and so the thing that's so amazing about starting to understand that it's up to you and understand how feelings rise up but you have a choice about what you do after them, you truly have power over that, you do. When you start to understand that you get full control over your life. You have the ability to push yourself, you truly do. So let me show you how this kind of plays with science. So we already talked about self doubt right. So you've got these feelings that rise up, those feelings trigger action. For most of us we start by over thinking and then the overthinking leads you into this loop that you get stuck in that gets encoded in your brain where you start to doubt yourself. Now the interesting thing and we're gonna start weaving in the science of habits is that human beings learn information in chunks, that's how we learn. You learn information in chunks. One of the reasons why bias, whether it's bias against gender or bias against race or bias against yourself is so strong is because when you pair information it gets stuck together as a pair so if I say peanut butter what's the fist thing you think? Peanut butter. Correct, that got encoded as a chunk and so what's happening for you is if you start to say to yourself I'm the kind of person who, or when I feel failure I think shrink you've encoded it as a chunk of information that becomes automatic up here and so the only way and this is called the golden rule of habits okay, the only way that we can get rid of this because we, I'm telling you right now, I've been pounding this in your head, you can't control the stuff that happens and you can not control how you feel. You could spend your lifetime trying to master this. Buddhist monks can do this. Truly because they study the skill of it. You and me, forget about the triggers, we're gonna become a master of the reaction and I'm gonna show you the science in a second, it's called the golden rule of habits that when you change this piece of what's called, this is called the habit loop. There's a trigger, there's a behavior we repeat and then there's something, there's an outcome, okay. When you change the behavior you trick your mind. Because we can't control this thing. This is why being sober is so incredibly difficult because there are so many triggers. There's the smell, the bars, there's the people you used to drink with, there's the time of day that it is, there's certain songs that come on. All of those are triggers that trigger you to go into a chunk of behavior that's encoded. Self doubt, confidence, exact same thing, exact same thing. And it's for all of these. You feel any of these things it's the same chunk that's happening to you and this is what we're gonna replace it with. So if what you do now is you feel something and then you stop and think or you hesitate or you hide or you do this we're gonna teach you, you can feel all this stuff and you should because it's normal, but we're gonna teach you to insert this and now we've just tricked your brain. Your brain didn't know that just happened because it encoded it as a chunk and we inserted a filling that was different. Really really interesting stuff. And then of course what happens over time because you now know the competency loop is that you're always building confidence because you become the kind of person despite what kind of personality you may have that when that trigger hits and you feel yourself shrinking you know that what you're gonna do is five, four, three, two, one and go. That's how the five second rule acts as a starting ritual to help you change behavior that's encoded in your brain and not only actions but also thought patterns so what's happening in your mind is right here in the red in the central region of your brain this is where those patterns get encoded. This is where habit loops become engineered into your mind as a closed loop system. Something that you do without even thinking. So I'm gonna give you an example. You walk into your closet, there's a pair of jeans, you're gonna pull them down. Which leg do you put in first? You're thinking about it right now right? You don't when you put your jeans on because the pattern of grabbing it and lifting, for me it's my right leg, that's encoded as a chunk right here. So I've been experimenting with this because I want to, yeah I just want to understand this stuff and so I would go in there and I would literally grab the jeans and start to do this and knowing that I want to change, five, four, three, put on this one, and now I've actually retrained myself, I mean it's a dumb example but. (laughing) The other one that I've done is in yoga I notice like when you do the things where you put your hands in the back I always put this pinky here and I've started screwing around with what kind of self monitoring does it require to train myself to automatically go here right? So first you gotta know what you want to do, second you gotta catch it when the automatic behavior happens. The (goofily vocalizing) if you will and then third you insert the new behavior. We'll build on this. So if, what happens in your mind is that this part of your brain is where automatic behavior is stored so for those of you that are photographers how you shoot, the situational intelligence, everything that you do with your business where you're on autopilot and you're just shoot, shoot, shoot, shoot, shoot, shoot, shoot, shooting right? It's all stored here because you've built the competency. It's become a habit, it's something you can do without thinking. This puppy right here is your prefrontal cortex. If I were to pick up a camera and try to learn what some of you know this would be blinking. Seriously like Christmas tree lights, blinking. This part of your brain is active in functional MRI's when you're learning new behavior, when you're acting with courage and when you're doing any kind of strategic thinking. So in order to change yourself we gotta get you out of here and we gotta activate this part of the brain. And what's cool about the five second rule, because this part of the brain will fight you on changing because you already know you're supposed to put your right leg in first. This part of the brain is active when I'm training myself to interrupt those impulses and use this one. So this part of the brain makes it harder, this part of the brain makes change easy. When you count backwards, five, four, three, two, one, you activate the prefrontal cortex. That's what's happening, that's why this stupid thing works. Seriously. And so you've primed your mind to work with you. Now back in the previous slide, let's see if we can go back real quick, maybe not. Where you were seeing the habit loops what you're doing is in the language of habit science, so there's a golden rule of habit and the golden rule is you can't change triggers but you can replace the behavior. You can't change the triggers, but you can replace the behavior okay. So again focusing on the feelings that trigger self doubt, that's not what we're gonna do. We're gonna focus on the behaviors that you engage in when you feel self doubt.

Class Description

Short on time? This class is available HERE as a Fast Class, exclusively for Creator Pass subscribers. 


  • Use Mel Robbins’ five-second rule to stop negative thoughts and change your life for the better.
  • De-escalate anxiety and agitation.
  • Create mental scripts that help you overcome typical situations that get you into trouble and prevent you from acting.
  • Overcome your mental blocks and change the way you think about things.


Are you plagued by the imposter syndrome—thinking that your accomplishments aren’t real and that you’re secretly a fraud and a failure? Do you have crippling anxiety and bad habits that are ruining your chances of achieving your goals? Does your low self-esteem and negative past experience influence your thought patterns? Do you fall into the trap of self-pity that keeps you from seeing positive outcomes? If so, you’re definitely not alone.

If you want to get over these persistent, sometimes agonizing problems so you can gain a new perspective and make real, positive changes in your life, this course can help you do it. Mel Robbins is one of the most sought-after motivational instructors in the world. She’s been trusted by global brands to design and deliver life-changing, interactive experiences that inspire change, challenge thinking, encourage self-love, and accelerate personal and professional growth.

This class will help you:

  • Understand the science behind how self-doubt effects you.
  • Learn and discover ways to overcome self-doubt and have fewer negative emotions.
  • Build your self-esteem and competency skills.
  • Shed your irrational fears, stop undervaluing yourself, and quiet the inner critic.
  • Get out of your comfort zone, quiet the negative voices, and stop practicing habits of hesitation.
  • Stop hiding, being hypercritical, and feeling helpless so you can move forward and discover the path to achieve your creative endeavors.

Mel will give you concrete, actionable advice and steps you can practice to help you stop living with the constant worry that plagues and cripples your daily life. By showing you how to overcome self-doubt and build self-confidence, Mel will help you build the confidence you need to realize your dreams, whether it’s starting your own business, losing those 15 pounds that are weighing you down, or finding true love from a partner. After this class, you’ll better understand your patterns, what to do to break unhealthy habits, act with courage, self-compassion, and overcome self-doubt so you can get what you want out of life.


  • People from all walks of life, even successful people, who want to overcome the self-doubt and the fear of failure that is holding them back and preventing them from accomplishing their dreams.
  • Those who want to gain more self-confidence so they can go after what they’re worth in their career.
  • People who want to develop stronger, deeper and more meaningful relationships and be their best self.


Michal Levi

Let me start by saying I bought a book of hers and could not get through it. I just tuned in live today out of curiosity.. with low expectations. BUT WOW. THIS WAS FANTASTIC! As someone who teaches professionally (and has won teaching awards), I have to say I was in AWE of what a great teacher she was. Also, while she is not a licensed therapist, which some have complained about, she is so gifted in this area. WOW she has a talent! Watching her with individuals from the audience was moving, informative and inspirational! UTTERLY AWESOME! Truly glad I took the time just in case there was any value to it. THERE WAS IN FACT A LOT OF VALUE! Thanks Mel! Hey, I may even try to pick up that book of yours again. BRAVO!

Go2 Norway

Wow! The science-behind-typical-human-behaviors that fuel self-doubt AND clear ways to understand how to acknowledge those, and move into confidence-through-action. Easy and interesting ways to remember the points! Marvelous presenter skills -- a real model, and inspiration. Actual coaching sessions within the class to make it real. Mel is totally herself, and vulnerabilities become her strength in real-time, which class participants also lived out in real-time as well. Very memorable. And, the explanation of anxiety as a high energy state matching excitement more than calm was significant, as well as the myths about confidence (such as confidence is not about a personality; rather, action). Well organized, made sense, and I will integrate multiple parts daily! THANKS, MEL!!!

Wild Flower Murals

I'm training to be a life coach and have been a public muralist for years. I've been researching creativity, self initiated empowerment and positive psychology from various angles for many years- in hopes to make it accessible to many. I initially came across Mel's book and was wholly impressed by how effective yet simple the 5-4-3-2-1 book was. I am so glad I took this course, it is the best of the best of the best!!!