Self-doubt suddenly healthy or ‘skip the rope until it tears’

It seems to be a very common disease these days: self-doubt. The pressure is so high that the fear of failing leads to pushing limits as far as possible. A psychological study shows that this is not necessarily supposed to be harmful.

The more insecure you get, the faster you skip - until you trip. (pic by free photostock image)

Tim Woodman from the British Bangor University apparently proved this with the help of professional sports people.

His tests involved 28 fairly self-confident people and a skipping rope.

To some of the contestants he gave a ‘special’ rope that was supposed to be stiffer, longer, and heavier – telling them that it considerably increases the level of difficulty.

Woodman found out that those who felt that their test was more difficult tried harder and were therefore more likely to win.

Is this true?

This study tells us that in situations when we are not quite so sure of our victory we try harder and are more likely to succeed.

But is this really the case? If we are feeling insecure the mere reactions of our body like a shaking voice or high blood pressure may stand in the way or our performance.

What this study really suggests is that people who are generally self-confident should not be arrogant.

It suggests that people who believe in their skills anyway should attack new challenges and will probably find that it does them good.

What the study does not see

But what about generally insecure people who doubt themselves and their skills?

Confronting them with harder conditions and new challenges will probably not have a motivating effect on them.

And what about self-confident people who constantly doubt themselves?

An environment where everything is a challenge that constantly questions abilities cannot be healthy or motivating.

It will probably much rather be a source of despair and hopelessness.


If a professional rope skipper doubts himself he gets better. If a manager doubts himself he might improve.

But if you gave people in a dancing-for-beginners class extra heavy shoes, it might be more likely for them to give up than to become the next dancing champions.

Find a German report on this on

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2 Responses to Self-doubt suddenly healthy or ‘skip the rope until it tears’

  1. Sebastian says:

    Thank you for taking that study apart so thoroughly. There is absolutely no sense in testing a single group of subjects for something that HAS to be tested on different groups to make any kind of statement.
    Still, I think self doubt is a good thing, even for people who aren’t overly confident. You can only actually get better if you constantly evaluate yourself.

    • Thank you for your comment.

      I think that self-evaluation definitely is a good thing, but I think it’s very different from self-doubt. Because if you are constantly questioning whether you’re good enough it will not do any good for you.

      If you are evaluating your performance on the other hand (and actually manage to be honest to yourself) that might help you to grow.

      Probably, the line between those two is finer than I thought?

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