I’ve had a couple of you reach out to me recently about the subject of self-doubt. It seems like some of you are suffering from episodes of self-doubt in your flight training or flying career and you’re thinking that you’ll never be as good as other pilots that are out there. Or worse still sometimes you’re waking up too scared to go out and fly.
But let me let you into a secret – YOU ARE NOT ALONE!
I’ve felt every single one of those things as a pilot in my flying career as well. And any pilot that tells you otherwise is either lying or is flying a plane that you should never get into!
I’ve done a fair amount of flying and travel in my life, and I think I’ve got a fair amount of experience in terms of challenging myself personally and overcoming that voice in your head that just gives you those self doubts that can sometimes stop you from doing the things that you love.
But the thing is – that’s normal, that’s not a bad thing. It’s what you do with that self-doubt and how you manage it which is the important thing.
So the first thing you’re going to want to do is you’re going to want to accept the fact that doubt is a good thing.
Accept the fact that being doubtful in your abilities is actually going to make you better in the long run than being overconfident and trying to push through it in the short term.
Ways to approach self-doubt
Okay so the first thing I want you to do is I want you to stop labelling yourself as a pilot. If you’re learning to fly stop labelling yourself as one thing in front of other people. Remember people are multi-dimensional we all have a multitude of skills and the moment you start branding yourself as a pilot in front of other people, those people are going to have a level of expectation of you which you then have to live up to. And this is where you can start to put tremendous pressure on yourself to perform and when you don’t perform to those perceived levels that’s when you can have a lot of internal self-doubt and that’s when problems can start to happen.
Also, on those days that you are doubting yourself here’s what I’d say – don’t fly. Don’t push through that doubt just because you think you should or worse still because you think people are going to judge you if you don’t. That’s only gonna make it harder for you to enjoy the experience, to learn from it, and that’s going to make you a worst pilot in my opinion.
The Imposter Syndrome
There’s a concept I really like that helps whenever I start thinking that other people out there are doing things way better than I ever could, and that I shouldn’t be flying because all the other pilots are better than me. There’s something called the Impostor Syndrome. I have definitely fallen into this trap in the past in my flying life and my ‘day job’ as well.
Do any of these thoughts sound familiar?
- “I must not fail.”
- “I feel like a fake.”
- “Everyone else is doing this better than me”
These are classic examples of thoughts that you have if you are going through this Impostor Syndrome and I’ve definitely felt this myself in the past as well, so you’re not alone.
Bertrand Russell, the British Philosopher, summed all of that up in a great way he said:
“The fundamental cause of trouble in the world today is that the stupid are cocksure whilst the intelligent are full of doubt“.
So next time you’re going through these thoughts in your head and you’re suffering from this self-doubt in your abilities, do these three simple things.
- First of all realize that doubt is not a failing it’s actually a strength.
- Secondly challenge that doubt by asking yourself questions about why you’re doubting yourself, and if you can’t give yourself a reasonable answer to those questions go to a professional like your flying instructor and tell them the truth.
- Finally crush the doubt my either practising what you’re unsure of (landings, theory, aerobatics, whatever) over and over again until you realize that you can do it, or by talking …
Stop worrying about what other people think
Finally, and potentially the hardest thing but the thing that will release you from so much self-doubt, is to stop worrying what other people think of you.
Who cares how long it took you to get your private pilot’s license. It took me just over two years and 67 hours of flying before I had mine. That’s certainly not “standard”, and many people I know got their PPL much quicker than that, but who cares? I have my license, that was the goal. Not beating someone else’s record.
You’re the only person who should care. It may seem that other people are judging you but at the end of the day they’ve all got their own self doubts their own issues as well let them deal with theirs and you deal with yours and don’t care about what anyone else thinks of you.
Self confidence doesn’t come from thinking that you’re better than other people, it’s about remembering that life isn’t binary there’s no right and wrong or best and worse. The only thing that’s going to give you confidence is to continuously improve yourself and to grow individually as a person and just not to give a toss about what anyone else thinks of you.
Video on self-doubt
Here’s my video on the topic where I go through the points above and a little more. If you can take one thing away from this it should be that doubt is a GOOD thing, and you’re not alone, we’ve all been through it.