Idea Doubt vs Identity Doubt

leadership life skills mindset
Idea Doubt Vs. Identity Doubt — Carolyn Mahboubi Coaching

Do you doubt yourself?

Do you then judge yourself for having doubts?

How’s that working for you? (You can let me know the answer to this question after! … so read on).

I know for sure that it’s not working for you because it sure as hell has never worked for me or any of my clients!

We tend to think of doubt as something bad and an indicator that we have made a mistake — often an irreparable one or irreversible because we’ve already sunk so much resources (time, attention, and money) into it.

So, I want to draw a distinction for you that took me decades to parse out.


There are two kinds of doubt;

One serves us powerfully and the other is destructive.


1. Identity Doubt


Identity Doubt is when we doubt our abilities, character and personality.


I don’t think I can handle this.

I’m too fragile.

I don’t have confidence.

I don’t have the courage.


These are all examples of how we confuse a practice like building courage, cultivating resilience and handling difficult conversations with “who we are” — our identity.

Identity Doubt is planted in us by well wishing adults long before we can be conscious of what’s happening.


Henry is too fragile.

Carolyn is too sensitive.

Mark was just born that way.

Jeff is indecisive.

Kendra is cautious (read lacks courage)...


We hear these statements at four, eight and twelve and we believe them.

The best advice I have to offer was best said by George Costanzo to Seinfeld:




Awareness that Identity Doubt was (innocently) planted in our minds when we were too young to do anything about it is the first step to undoing this habit.

Know that doubting who we are is simply a habit developed over time.

Just like smoking. Yes, you are a smoker while you smoke but as soon as you stop, you realize it wasn’t your identity, it was a negative and destructive habit.


So, is there a kind of doubt that is positive, useful or helpful?



2. Idea Doubt


Idea Doubt is when we question an idea we had.

Idea Doubt can often show up dressed as Identity Doubt and that’s why it’s so easy to confuse the two!

It’s favorite greeting?,

“What the hell was I thinking?”

As soon as we add an “I”, our identity gets dragged into what should simply be an intelligent assessment of a past idea or decision.

As our life changes, so do our goals, desires and values. It’s quite normal, even intelligent, to slow down to weekly and seasonally reassess our goals and decisions.

Those of us who do the work of bringing consciousness and awareness to our days and hours realize we have less regret because we re-assess and redirect more often.

Still, if you catch yourself having devoted considerable time, energy and money to an idea that is no longer right for you, it doesn’t mean there’s something inherently missing in your character and identity.

It means you are a human being who is choosing to play the game of life, rather than sitting on the bleachers.


So, go ahead and doubt your ideas.

Slow down, look at them again and again.

Be like Waze!

Tell yourself, “rerouting” which is a lot more useful than, “stupid”.

What areas in your life are you confusing Idea Doubt with Identity Doubt? Email me your answer.

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