Self-doubt and public speaking: What is it and how to address it by Sabirul Islam

By Guest Contributor Sabirul Islam

In the lead up to Valentine’s Day, author Sabirul Islam explains what self doubt is, how it can impact your public speaking and how to address it. So, read on to show yourself some appreciation and self-confidence!

Our abilities and the qualities we possess as human beings are unearthed through a notion of giving something a try, and learning what the outcome is. From childhood you are taught to explore, from the boundaries of the four walls of your own home, to the excitement and pain you experience from playing in the front lawn. You don’t know what will happen, whether you will trip or fall, but you take the opportunity head on with the hope that you will enjoy what you are about to experience, without questioning it.


For many who develop a fear of on-stage performances, speaking in front of an audience, you often feel laid bare standing under the spotlight with hundreds of eyes looking back at you. It often begins with a sense of self-doubt. A feeling, a thought, a moment of unease that sweeps your senses for all the wrong reasons.


  • Having low level of self-confidence
  • Difficult past experiences
  • Or the lack of public speaking experience itself

These are just to name a few.

Self-doubt is a cloud of negative energy that builds up over time, that turns simple questions such as can I do this? Is this really for me? Into…‘I can’t do this,’ ‘this is not for me.’

That shift form self-questioning to a deep-rooted statement has the ability to shift your thinking. It becomes a statement that gets planted in your mind which over a period time, becomes a norm and a sense of acceptance. Where you genuinely believe you cannot speak on stage, or have developed a fear of speaking on stage because you once told yourself you can’t do it.

One of the greatest ways to overcomes self-doubt and tackle it head on is to be included in with a bubble of people facing similar challenges. There are plenty of people who have a fear of public speaking because they doubt their own abilities and lack confidence. When you meet others, who are facing similar challenges to yourself, it provides you a sense of comfort, and the opportunity to openly express your pain points.

The realisation that comes to fruition from meeting others facing similar challenges to yourself, is that the difficulties you face are often self-planted as a result of self-doubt that may have occurred due an initial low level of self-confidence, low self-esteem or perhaps a past experience that did not go according to plan.

We can all have teething problems for whatever it is we do, but the sense of giving up without tackling your problems head on, is what deepens the statement of doubt which strengths your acceptance that you are in fact afraid of public speaking.



  • Focus on the audience:

As a public speaker, you have to envision yourself as a performer on stage. The focus of what you say has to be in line with the audience you aim to serve. A shift of focus from yourself to the audience is a simple trick that allows you to shift the negative energy away from you as your focus is very much on the audience. As much as a two hundred glaring eyes can be a daunting thought at first, when you shift the mindset to; ‘wow, it’s a privilege that a hundred wonderful people are here to listen to your story and what you have to share,’ you already begin the transition from negativity to a sense of optimism, hope and a flow of positive energy.

  • Your message or story holds the key

When you tell a story or use personal experiences as part of your speech, you simplify your performance on stage with a much greater and more powerful outcome. If you are new to public speaking, one of the greatest ways to overcome a sense of self-doubt is to tell your story as it is. Even if it is raw, unpolished and something you are sharing for the very first time.

The audience loves to connect with on stage vulnerability. They see the real you, no matter how afraid or how anxious you look on stage. The rawness in your voice will allow your message to shine through and that is often the secret to getting a standing ovation. To be yourself in the most authentic way possible. The audience’s reaction to your message, will boost your confidence and your ability to develop belief in yourself for future events.

  • Try, keep trying and try again

You see from the two steps above, they both are in person, on stage practical performances. As a public speaker the greatest way to overcome fear and self-doubt is to try, keep trying and try again. With practice and performances on stage, you will learn how to control your level of self-doubt to ensure you don’t turn negative self-questioning into a deep-rooted statement, and also you will learn to develop greater self-confidence over time.


SABIRUL ISLAM is world-renowned motivational speaker, author, facilitator and coach. Sabirul has inspired millions of people in 31 countries across the globe. He also developed the business board game, ‘Teen-Trepreneur, educating youth on financial literacy in developing nations. He is British-Bangladeshi and resides in the UK. 



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Every aspiring speaker has one task, to master their communication and performance on stage. Through 14 years of experience and application, Sabirul Islam has crafted the brand Build Your Confidence on Stage – a fourstep process providing you with the tools and techniques to improve your passion and make money while doing so.  

In his brand, the four pillars of public speaking aim to instil aspiring speakers with the performance mindset; learning to control your content, your message and the manner of presentation which you require. The four pillars are: The Speakers Psychology; The Principles of Public Speaking; The Performance Masterclass; and The Profession of a public speaker. These pillars will demonstrate how to overcome fear and anxiety, break general norms and stereotypes, analyse the pre, during and post-performance techniques and master the discipline and its practise. Everything you need to become an expert in your field and make impact. 

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