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We all experience a little bit of self-doubt every now and then. But, there’s a big difference between feeling a sense of normal hesitation and apprehension, and being a full-blown defeatist.

What exactly is a defeatist? Quite simply, it’s someone who expects or assumes failure—usually before he or she even really makes an attempt to succeed.

“Oh, whew!” you’re probably thinking, “That’s definitely not me. I’m pretty confident. I’m a real go-getter.”

Well, I’ve got news for you. Even the most confident people on the planet (here’s lookin’ at you, Kanye) have dismissed their own intelligence and skills at one point or another. So, there have undoubtedly been numerous times when you’ve acted like a total defeatist in the office—whether you realized it at the time or not.

Not convinced? Take a look at these four ways you’re being a pessimist about your own aptitudes, and be prepared to hum a different tune. Although, honestly, Kanye could probably hum it even better.


1. When You Won’t Accept a Challenging Assignment

Nobody knows how to do everything. So, there will always projects and tasks that require skills you haven’t quite mastered yet. But, that doesn’t mean you should immediately turn around, scream, and run for the hills.

In fact, assignments that seem difficult and daunting can actually be a great thing for you. They push you out of your comfort zone and force you to learn new things. So, even though you might be completely intimidated by that task that seems impossible (and nobody wants to set him or herself up for failure), resist the urge to turn it down and walk away before you’ve had a chance to evaluate.


How to Stop

Saying no to an assignment doesn’t automatically make you a defeatist. But, doing so simply because you blindly assume you aren’t good enough to get the job done? Well, that does.

Muse writer Sara McCord details three questions you should ask yourself to determine whether or not you’re actually the best person for the job. So, take some time for a little self-reflection, and choose your best route from there. Even if you ultimately walk away from the project, you’ll know your decision was thoughtful and well informed—and not just your way of hiding from something that scares you.


2. When You Shoot Down Your Own Ideas

This probably won’t work. I haven’t thought this through at all. This is terrible. I have no idea what I’m doing.

Sound familiar? You’ve probably said them all at least once or twice in the office. Even worse? They’ve likely prefaced an idea you were pitching or a suggestion you were making.

Many of us have the tendency to shoot down our own ideas before we even get them out there in the world, for fear of sounding too aggressive or self-righteous. But, if you want other people to have confidence in your proposals, you need to have confidence in them first.


How to Stop

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to share the fact that your thoughts might still be a little half-baked—or that it’s simply a suggestion, and not a firm direction. But, you don’t need to do so in a way that’s self-deprecating.

Try using alternatives like, “Off the top of my head,” or “Here’s what I’m thinking.” There are plenty of other lead-ins you can use without killing your own idea right from the get-go.


3. When You Refute People’s Compliments

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m pretty bad at accepting compliments from other people. Either I downright counter admiring remarks by saying something like, “Ugh, thanks. But I hated how that turned out!” or I wait for the other shoe to drop—I automatically assume that praise will be followed by a “But…”

When you do something well, you deserve to be recognized. That’s a good thing. So, challenge yourself to take that flattery at face value, say a genuine thank you, and move on.


How to Stop

Practice receiving praise graciously—yes, you can even stand in front of your bathroom mirror and rehearse your thankful (yet polished and confident) smile.

Even better, perfect the art of talking about your own accomplishments without sounding like an arrogant snob. Hey, sometimes you’re the only one capable of giving yourself the ego boost you need.


4. When You Refuse to Speak Up

Do you stop yourself from throwing your hat in the ring for that promotion? Have you been meaning to ask for a raise for the past three years? Do you have an idea to share in a team meeting, yet you just sit there with your hands in your lap and your mouth closed?

Sure, there are plenty of times when it’s perfectly OK to be a quiet observer. But, staying mum about things that are important to you—just because you’re afraid of what might or might not come next—means you’re really just getting in your own way. It’s no wonder you’ve come to expect failure—you’re never giving yourself an honest chance to succeed.


How to Stop

As Muse columnist Lea McLeod explains, assertive doesn’t necessarily mean aggressive. And, speaking up at work involves just a few simple steps.

First, set up a meeting with the person you need to talk to. Then, identify the facts of the situation, outline specifically what you need, and wrap up the meeting with a few questions. That wasn’t so hard, was it?



A little self-doubt and hesitation is totally normal—you’re human. However, when you let your apprehension stop you in your tracks and prevent you from even trying, then you have a bigger problem.

Whether we realize it or not, we can all be defeatists in the office at times. But, refusing to chase success because you’re too afraid of failure will get you nowhere fast. So, keep these common instances in mind, channel your inner egomaniac, and do your best to flip the situation around.