Letting go of the Yezter Hara of Self-Doubt

Sheviti by ZeesiThe other day, I had an intense conversation with one of my clients. She shared all the negative thoughts, all the self-doubt about her ability to succeed, all the reasons why her business will never take off.

The funny thing was that the negativity was completely out of sync with the amazing progress she is making. She is developing new programs, getting great results building a following, and is on the cusp of starting to earn money from her work. Somehow, the little devil of self-doubt conveniently overlooked all of that.

It all sounded so similar. Despite many years of self-development work, I still hear some of the same negative self-talk whenever I think about starting a new project or doing something that stretches my comfort zone. Moving beyond self-imposed discouragement takes a lifetime.

Self-doubt is wired into our culture. It is considered socially unacceptable to make a big deal out of yourself. From an early age we are talk to play down both our abilities and achievements. And with time we begin to believe that we aren’t really that great or capable or accomplished.

Self-doubt is also a convenient cushion against the pain of failure. If you play down your expectations of yourself, you won’t be so disappointed. Except that you are disappointed with yourself for not being brave enough and not going for the things you really want to go for.

It’s especially painful to doubt your ability to succeed in areas that are close to your heart. I fervently believe that each one of us has a G-d-given mission of helping others in a specific area. When you are involved in this work you we feel the most energized, satisfied and happy. This is the work that makes your eyes sparkle. These are the topics you never get tired of talking about.

And this is the place where yetzer hara works overtime to discourage you from doing your best. It tells you that this will never work, that nobody will be interested, that nobody will want to pay for what you offer. It tells you that you are not as hot as you think and that plenty of other people are, oh, so much better. It tells you that you don’t know enough and need to take an umpteenth course to sharpen your skills.

Because, hey, the last thing yetzer hara wants you to do is to marshal all your enthusiasm, love, and knowledge and play the most important part you can play in G-d’s world (aside from your mission as part of the Jewish people and your family). It definitely does not want you to be the unreplaceable piece of God’s puzzle.

But we don’t have to let yetzer hara intimidate us. We can remind it (and ourselves along the way) that Hashem runs the show. It is He who is responsible for success and failure. It is he who decides just how much impact we will create and how much money we will make in the process. Our job is to simply do our hishtadlut (effort). Focus on the game, not the score board.

Ironically, taking our focus off ourselves, our gain and our success and training it on Hashem and what He wants us to do right now is the best thing we can do for our own success. It will free us from self-doubt because we and our future stop being the issues.

The key to creating a greater focus on G-d’s mission is awareness. Some things you can do to boost your awareness are:

  • Find an image that reminds you of this idea and place it in a strategic area (in your office or by the computer)
  • Find an inspirational quote a verse and give it a place of prominence where you will see it (Zeesi Paltrowitz made the one you see in this post – it hangs on my office wall) Hey, I am trying :)
  • Write down a statement that reminds you to focus on your mission and make a routine of rereading it a couple of times a day.
  • Study an inspirational text alone or with a study partner.
  • Work with someone who will help you break through the self-doubting molds so that you can internalize a more productive outlook.

The Baal Shem Tov taught that nothing bad comes down from heaven. It is we who take Hashem’s gifts and misuse them. If we use our self-negating thoughts as a springboard for coming closer to Hashem and focusing more on His expectations from us, we take the bad out of the experience and make it a holy vessel in our service of G-d.

Yom Kippur is 2 days away. Are you ready?

What strategies have helped you gain confidence?


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4 Responses to Letting go of the Yezter Hara of Self-Doubt

  1. zeesi says:


    What a beautiful message! Thank you so much for your mention and post of my artwork!

    Recently I have been going out into the world with my art, showing to groups. The interaction with people has been a big boost for me even if they don’t buy. An incredible woman was here yesterday, we sat in my home showroom and played! She tried on tons of my handmade jewelry and pictured which print would go where in her house. She loved the work and I loved meeting her. It was important for me to see how the jewelry looked on someone else besides me. Thanks Hashem she bought some things, I really wanted to hug her before she left. Making real connections with people has generated a great deal of inspiration for me.

    Besides my little showroom, I created a special work corner for myself. My drawing tables are in front of the large picture window. I overlook my garden and the Jerusalem forest. I load up my MP3 player with shiurim and place the visual inspiration of images I have found in front of me and I am off to another world. My private personal space looking at the step farming in the hills, with Torah pouring into my earphones and of course a nice cup of tea!

    For me I guess a combination of personal private space and forcing myself to come out of hibernation make connections with people is the formula of the day.
    Thank you Leah for such an amazing articulation of chizuk.


    • Leah says:

      Hi Zeesi, Thank you so much for describing the amazing strategy you are using to get inspired. It’s called “paradising” – setting up the external environment to optimize your well-being as you do your work. This is a very potent tool for overcoming procrastination. Looking forward to more of your gorgeous work.

  2. Tzippy says:

    Yes!!! I definitely agree with the self doubt yetzer hara idea!!! It is for sure true that he works overtime to get us down and not up in the mornings!!! However… I once again feel that having the tools for what WE call failure- versus what MIGHT be called a failure might be the place to focus on!!! Society- especially the western culture has invested trillions of dollars and years upon years of hard work getting people to truly believe that Hollywood is real and true beauty!!! and Manhattan is problem free-Wall Street, suits, working overtime and all is called success!!!! The sad part of the story is….. WE BELIEVE IT!!!! and we fall into the advertising trap of “seeing is believing”!!!! It really takes A LOT to trust and believe in ones self and tapping into their own truly gifted talents from Hakadosh Baruch Hu – and not what the media portrays as talents!!!I feel that when a person uses his OWN talents in what he is doing – his/her eyes sparkle – but when you put a people person in front of a computer – because it makes more money…. we feel empty,lost, depressed and lonely – cuz we are not truly connected to ourselves.

    • Leah says:

      Tzippy, Thanks for your words of wisdom. Focusing on ourselves and not comparing to other people (whether real or media-created) definitely goes a long way in freeing ourselves from unrealistic and false expectations of “success”

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