student wearing yellow top and glasses smiling with blue sky in the background
Written by Cai, student

Self-doubt is a feeling that can be all too familiar to students at all levels. This is a mental state where you are caught between believing you can and believing you can’t do something.

It can happen on the first day of classes when you are presented with a list of projects and tests for the term that seem daunting. Sometimes it appears the hour before an exam when you hear other students discussing course material that you did not review. For some, it can start as early as receiving an acceptance letter into a prestigious program at university. 

In my own experience, self-doubt can be extremely debilitating and it is almost always wrong. Despite knowing that doubting ourselves is wrong, how do we fight it when it appears? Here are a few things I have found to help cope when I start doubting myself.

Don't compare yourself to others

This line is so easily said, but so hard to practice. It can also be misinterpreted as advice to not compare your accomplishments to the accomplishments of others that you think are greater.

Focus on your own goals and you'll learn to be proud of your own path

To really embrace this idea, you need to stop belittling the accomplishments of others that you think are lesser than your own as well. Stay focused on your own goals and you'll learn to be proud of your own path independently of others.

Avoid over-committing yourself

Open book

Self-doubt can often come when you are stressed and the thought of accomplishing so many things seems too overwhelming. If you are in this position and you have the opportunity to let one of your commitments go, do so and keep in mind that this will help you allocate more time to your other commitments.

Dropping courses or saying no to more hours at work are tough decisions that many students have to make. It is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. In the event that you cannot reduce your workload, explore some time management techniques like bullet journaling or to-do lists.

Set achievable short-term goals

Doing this will ensure that you always have something to be proud of. These goals don’t have to be anything large and they can be something that you already do like folding laundry, cleaning your room, or making dinner. Too often we do not thank ourselves for the little things.

Believing in yourself is often half the battle.

Someone very close to me once said “Believe in yourself like I believe in you.” Hearing this often puts my own stress into perspective. Hearing someone tell you that they believe in you is a reminder that you are often your own worse critic. This is only exemplified when you look up to them as well.

This is most certainly the case for me. Believing in yourself is often half the battle. Once you reach this point and you begin to work, you will be on the path of success once again.

On-campus support

Students walking up a staircase.

For Waterloo students dealing with stress, there are many resources on campus. Health Services offers professional counselling services that are available to all students. MATES is a peer support program organized by the Waterloo Undergraduate Student Association (WUSA). Students can reach out to these groups or any of the other support systems available on campus should the need arise.