Wednesday Wise Words | But What If?

but what if

I’m not one for looking over my shoulder at what I have done, could have done or worst of all should have done. Instead I like to look ahead, to make plans, to learn and move on.

After meeting with a client I was struck with the sheer number of times I hear people in my life say ‘but what if?’. It isn’t localised to clients, I hear friends linger over it & family members stall over decisions on jobs and relationships, when it comes to being settled with something, the final sentence is usually…but what if?

Does that sound like you, do you feel 70% confident most of the time, but feel it all waste away with feelings of What if i’m not good enough? What if someone realises i’m a fraud? What if they don’t really like me? If it does sound a little like you, maybe the rest of this post will help.

I believe the root of it lies in and around the same hiding place as “Am I good enough?” “Was that ok?”

When Oprah addressed the Harvard Commencement audience she shared a story, of when she interviewed Beyonce, you know the global super star. After the hugely successful business woman, performer and mother was finished with the interview and the cameras cut she turned to Oprah and said “was I OK?”.  This is a women who is adored by millions, who is applauded on a daily basis, who in the eyes of others has achieved everything. Even she wonders “but what if?”

If Beyonce struggles then how are averages Joe’s and Jane’s meant to get through life, I have a couple of tricks that I know have helped friends and clients of mine, and hopefully they can help you too;

Write a But What If List

how to deal with self doubt

If you are anything like me and the hoards of other who find the simple act of writing down a problem or a niggle then this is the one for you. Imagine you are writing a to do list, but call it your What If List, head the page with the activity you are struggling with and below it rather than a pro and con list, just write one list. The list should include every single What If that has crossed your mind, no matter how trivial or daft it seems, remember no one but you needs to see the list.

Once you have completed your list, put it to one side and go make yourself a coffee, or a snack or go for a walk, whatever you do leave your list for at least 30 minutes. When you return you are going to answer the questions, physically write down the answers.

By allowing the thoughts, worries and potential insecurities to leave your brain and sit on the page, you are allowing yourself the time to process the questions and therefore give you time to consider the answers.

Make a But What If Box

how to deal with self doubt

This is the one I suggest for people who find their days consumed with What If’s, it’s not for those of us with specific What If’s, its for those who ask it of almost everything they do.

It could be something as simple as choosing a dress online; What if you boiler breaks and you need that £50? What if there is a better dress out there and you haven’t found it yet? What if it doesn’t really suit you or someone else doesn’t like it?

These kinds of What If’s don’t really have an answer because in all honesty they are rhetorical, it’s more of a case of your mind working over time.

Write every What If down and put the individual pieces of paper in a box, not a locked box, just a box. At the end of the week, revisit the box and see how many times the same What If appears. Are there numerous ones focusing on money, if yes then maybe the root of your concerns can be found in your bank statement, is debt worrying you? Do you want a pay rise? If it is all about the thoughts of others, are you struggling with a friend or relationship? Are there some unresolved conversations?

If you get to the root of your What If’s then you can begin to work them out and in time you will notice a reduction in the What If’s

Talk About Your But What If

how to deal with self doubt

If you find neither of the above help, or you know you are an auditory person rather than a visual one then consider talking to someone. The person you talk to is up to you, if you have a friend who you know can sit and listen objectively then ask them for a coffee and a chat, tell them that you would like to use them as a sounding board and then to talk through your What If’s.

If you don’t have a person like that in your life and you feel as though these thoughts are consuming your days, I strongly suggest you find a professional to talk to, a behaviour therapist can work wonders. Believe me, i’ve spoken to numerous over the years.


I hope these little snippets might help you; I know they’ve made a difference to not only my life but a handful of friends and clients who used me as a sounding board.

If you have any tips for helping with the doubt then by all means leave me a comment, I would love to hear/read them, you can also grab me over on twitter.

I will be posting a Wise Words every Wednesday, if there is something in particular you would like me to talk about by all means tweet me, leave a comment or email me

~ Em ~

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.