When considering starting or returning to college as an adult an all-too-familiar companion often lurks in the shadows – self-doubt. It’s that nagging voice inside that questions our abilities, worthiness, and potential, leaving us cautious and uncertain. But what if we could transform this seemingly negative force into a catalyst for growth?

According to a survey of Americans interested in online learning, nearly half (45%) of individuals fear they won’t be successful in school. Self-doubt makes us question our ability to accomplish anything from meeting class deadlines to paying for school.

But, by understanding the power of self-doubt and embracing it as a stepping stone rather than a roadblock, we can unlock a remarkable path of personal and intellectual development. This journey not only enriches our time in college but also shapes our future endeavors. So, let’s explore the art of turning self-doubt into growth.

The nature of self-doubt in college

Earning your degree, while exciting and transformative, can simultaneously be challenging. This is where self-doubt tends to creep in. Several scenarios commonly lead to self-doubt in college students such as academic pressure, social comparisons, change in routine, and imposter syndrome.

So, what does self-doubt do for us? Well, the real question is, what does self-doubt do to us? It can take a great toll on our psychological and emotional well-being, impacting various aspects of our lives. Self-doubting can lead to anxiety and stress, low self-esteem, procrastination or avoidance, isolation, and mental health issues. In order to recognize self-doubt in ourselves and others, it’s important to be aware of the signs.

  • Negative Self-Talk: Students experiencing self-doubt may be talking negatively to themselves, such as constantly criticizing themselves and being skeptical of their own abilities.
  • Fear of Failing: When facing new challenges, students may have an intense fear of failing and belief that they are incapable of success. This can lead to less engagement in academic work.
  • Perfectionism: Unrealistic standards and a relentless pursuit of perfection.
  • Avoidance: Students may avoid challenges or opportunities that require stepping outside of their comfort zone.
  • Emotional Distress: Common displays of emotional distress, such as sadness, frustration, or anger, without an apparent cause, could be linked to underlying self-doubt.

We must see self-doubt for what it is by understanding the impact it has on ourselves and others. Recognizing and facing self-doubt is the first step in addressing the challenge.  

Embracing Self-Doubt as a Catalyst for Growth

Rather than shying away from self-doubt, embracing this feeling can lead to transformative growth. By reframing it as a natural part of the learning process, students can change their mindset and see it as an opportunity for self-improvement. Recognizing that self-doubt is a common experience for many individuals, students can approach challenges with greater resilience and adaptability.

Contrary to its negative connotation, self-doubt can serve as a powerful motivator. When students doubt their abilities, they become determined to prove themselves wrong and achieve their goals. This inner conflict motivates them to work harder, explore new possibilities, and strive for excellence. By harnessing self-doubt as a driving force, students can unlock untapped potential and push beyond their perceived limitations.

As discussed, many students face self-doubt. Recently, I worked with a student returning to school as an adult who feared starting a degree in education. Despite her desire to move her career forward, she stalled. Her self-doubt got in the way and it was holding her back from reaching her goal. After being in school for a couple semesters, she came to the realization of her self-doubt and was no closer to the full-time teaching position she sought. When she reached out, she told me, “I have to just jump in, enroll, and get going!”

Coming to the realization, that we are holding ourselves back out of fear, is when we start to cultivate our resilience.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.  

Proverbs 3:5-6  

The Power of Resilience

Resilience is a powerful tool that can help individuals overcome self-doubt and navigate the challenges that life throws their way. By being able to adapt to difficult situations individuals can develop the strength to confront doubts head-on and emerge stronger.

It requires effort and practices to build resilience and self-confidence, and some effective strategies to strengthen resilience include:

  • Embrace a Growth Mindset: A growth mindset is a belief that abilities and knowledge can be strengthened through dedication and hard work. Students will see challenges as chances to learn and improve, rather than as limitations or barriers. This perspective empowers them to tackle self-doubt with determination.
  • Set Realistic Goals: We all tend to bite off more than we can chew, which can create an overwhelming sense of self-doubt. Creating attainable goals allows students to achieve goals in smaller steps, rather than too much at once. This can lead to greater self-confidence, proving they can overcome obstacles and grow.
  • Nurture a Supportive Network: Having a network of friends, family, or mentors who encourage personal growth and resilience can provide much-needed reassurance and guidance.
  • Practice Self-Compassion: Recognizing that everyone has moments of doubt and failure is essential for self-compassion. Rather than being overly critical of oneself, students should treat themselves with kindness and understanding, knowing that self-improvement is a gradual process.
  • Learn from Setbacks: Resilient individuals view setbacks as learning opportunities. Analyzing what went wrong and identifying lessons from the experience helps them grow and develop better strategies for future challenges.

By adopting strategies to build resilience and fostering a growth mindset, students can develop the inner strength and confidence needed to thrive in the face of adversity.

Combating Uncertainty in College

As a student, self-doubt can be a common and challenging experience. The academic environment, combined with social pressures and personal expectations, can lead to feelings of inadequacy and uncertainty. However, there are effective strategies to combat self-doubt and foster a positive and confident mindset.

First, don’t hesitate to seek guidance and clarification if facing academic challenges. Reach out to professors or an academic advisor. Then you can ask questions to gain a better understanding of the topics to gain clarity.

Next, avoid comparing yourself to other students, as it can be detrimental to your self-confidence. Each individual’s learning journey is unique, and it’s essential to focus on your own progress and growth.

Finally, celebrate your strengths and talents, both academically and personally. Acknowledging your unique qualities can help build a positive self-image and counteract self-doubt. Overcoming self-doubt is an ongoing process. Be patient with yourself and recognize that building self-confidence is a journey that takes time and effort.

Facing Self-Doubt as an Adult Student

Returning to school as an adult or even attending college as a parent comes with its own unique set of challenges. Many adults returning to school have concerns about adequate time to devote to homework, too many years away from school, tuition costs, and the length of time it will take to finish. 

Yes, these are legitimate and important concerns that you may have. Here at Concordia, we are in the business of making your educational dreams a reality. If it’s your goal to reskill or upskill, reinvent your professional self, or discover your true potential, let us make a way for you. It’s never too early to take that next step toward achieving your goals.  

So, how can we help?

CUWAA’s Adult Accelerated programs are offered year-round. As an adult returning to school, you still have time to register and enroll for the upcoming Fall 2023 Semester. The next mini-term begins on Monday, August 28th

Whether you have already been admitted to a Concordia Adult Accelerated program; have yet to enroll; have started but never completed an application; or are considering the possibility of a degree, connect with our team for personalized solutions to your unique situation.

If you feel like self-doubt might be holding you back, take your next step toward that goal today. You might just find you’re more ready than you thought.