Successful Millennials Share Tips for Overcoming Self-Doubt

Animation by Dana Davenport, Zaff Studio / Noun Project

Animation by Dana Davenport, Zaff Studio / Noun Project

By: Courtney Connley

We’ve all had those moments throughout our career where we’ve questioned, and in some cases continue to question, whether or not we are good enough or qualified enough to achieve a certain goal.

These thoughts of self-doubt often hold us back from reaching our full potential and taking the leap of faith needed to step outside of our comfort zone and step into the greatness that’s in store.

Even the most successful individuals who seem like they have it all together on the outside have experienced some level of self-doubt in their career that they’ve pushed past in order to achieve their current success. Below are four millennial women who candidly open up about how they’ve overcome self-doubt in order to become the boss babes they are today.

Joi-Marie McKenzie, Author of The Engagement Game and Entertainment/Lifestyle Writer for ABC News

“I've been an entertainment journalist for ten years so I've gotten pretty comfortable where I am. But turning the corner to become an author introduced a lot of self-doubt that I thought I had tackled in my early 20s. And it surprised me because I'm like, ‘Where is this coming from? I thought I knew I'm a great writer so why am I doubting myself?’ And it wasn't the doubt that you can just brush off; this was debilitating, why-her-and-not-me, what did I get myself into, doubt.

And then I sort of took a breath and remembered how I got here -- through grace, perseverance and being willing to work harder and stay later than everyone else. All of those early lessons of blogging that started my career: cold calling, emailing 100 people a day and really doing the grunt work, I got reacquainted with that. Although I thought I could bypass ‘scratch,’ I just returned to it.

I searched for inspiration in every single person I spoke to, my mother, Oprah Winfrey's ‘Super Soul Sunday,’ Mara Brock Akil interviews, and even interviews I did for ABC News with ‘regular folk.’ You'd be surprised but you can learn from anyone.

Lastly--and I think this is the most important -- I deepened my spiritual practice. I began praying twice a day with intention and asking God to help me with whatever task I didn't know how to face. Because I had stopped asking God for help, thinking that he was already so gracious getting me this far. Me!? A book deal?! With no agent?! What! But no, God is there to help you. You just have to ask.”

To stay up-to-date with Joi-Marie’s latest happenings, be sure to follow her on social media @dcfab and to check out her website joimarie.com.

 Gabrielle Simpson, Communications Executive and Adjunct Professor at New York University

“I graduated with my masters at 22 years old and was promoted from a Network Sales Assistant to a Communications Associate at CBS Corporation. I was very enthusiastic about utilizing my graduate degree in Entertainment Public Relations (PR) from my alma mater, Iona College, but must admit that I was intimidated never working full time or even interning in PR. My first assignment was a press release, and although I wrote several in graduate school, I was in the BIG leagues now. I was brand new to the industry and my boss was aware of that so I used the opportunity to ask questions and for a second set of eyes to look over my first produced release. I needed security and graciously received it. My advice would be early on in your career, simply ask for assistance before it is too late. I was promoted over time to Manager of Communications and contributed to that team for five wonderful enlightening years.”

To stay up-to-date with Gabrielle, be sure to follow her on social media @_GiftofGab_ and to check out her website at giftofgabrielle.com.

Kandia Johnson, Communications and Brand Strategy Expert

“A little over a year after I left my six-figure corporate job to become an independent communications consultant, I was struggling to find clients, and I went broke. I felt like a failure and I didn’t feel like I was good enough to make it on my own anymore.

I read I Dare You by Joyce Meyer and this book was everything for me. I also put my pride aside and called a friend, an experienced entrepreneur, and here are my key takeaways:

  • Sometimes comparison is the source of self-doubt. Stop listening to what the world has to say and get focused on what’s in front of you. Comparing myself to my ‘friends’ was driving me crazy, so I took a social media break.
  • My friend helped me to see the mindsets and habits that were keeping me stuck and broke, which included: (1) Money isn’t the only measure of success in life—you can create your own definition of success. (2) Action cures fear and sometimes self-doubt, so it all comes down to what you do daily. Ask for help and delegate. (3) Get rid of the employee mindset. You can’t just sit around waiting for opportunities—you have to create them. So I reminded myself of past accomplishments. I researched about 40 businesses, small business centers and corporate education centers in my area. Then I cold called them and told them how I could solve their problems. I landed one major partnership, which led to four new clients in three months.”

To stay up-to-date with Kandia, be sure to follow her on social media @kandiajohnson and check out her website kandiajohnson.com. 

Sakita Holley, Founder of House of Success PR

“These days, I experience self-doubt quite frequently. However, I'm really not sure when it started because growing up, I was fearless in the pursuit of my dreams. My dreams at the time included getting a job (my first was at McDonald’s) so that I could afford the things that I wanted beyond what my grandmother could provide, which at 14, meant things like having a TV in my room, getting a car and getting into college on scholarship (hey, Howard University)!

At that age and on, anything that I wanted to do, I would set the goal and figure out the steps to achieve it and then it was pretty much a done deal unless I changed my mind. That mentality stayed with me all through high school and in college. But at some point, probably after graduation when I entered the corporate world and eventually entrepreneurship, that doubt, regardless of its validity, always seems to creep into my mind.

When doubt does creep up on me, I have to tell myself the truth about the situation because self-doubt often manifests itself as lies in our mind. So if I'm telling myself that ‘I'll never achieve a huge thing I want to achieve,’ I counter that with what's true, ‘I may not be there today, but I am actively working toward this goal and am actually not that far from reaching it.’ It's so easy to give into and dwell on our doubts, but we have to stay active and focused on what's right in front of us.

Other things that I do from time to time to combat my feelings of self-doubt include drinking a warm cup of ginger tea to reset my mood (it really works), reading or watching short stories/clips of people who've overcome great odds, or I replay old interview episodes from my Hashtags and Stilettos podcast for inspiration.”

Follow Sakita’s latest happenings on social media @MissSuccess, and check out her website hashtagsandstilettos.com.


Courtney Connley is a writer, editor and digital journalist with a sweet spot for storytelling and helping millennials win in the workplace and in life. She considers brunching to be a full-time hobby and enjoys anything that involves avocado or a good book. You can stay up-to-date with her latest work at courtneyconnley.com and follow her latest happenings on social media @classicalycourt.