Leslie Sokol and Marci Fox, who both work at the of Beck Institute of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, explain the difference between realistic concern and self doubt in their book, Think Confident, Be Confident. Realistic concern means that you’re assessing whether you need to gain skills, information, or experience to be able to do something (Sokol and Fox, location 231 of the desktop PC version). It helps keep us safe. Self doubt is a distressing emotion that limits us.
I’ll give an example from my own life to help show the difference. I used to think of myself as someone who’s bad at hands on things, such as putting together an object that has multiple parts. Last week, I got a vacuum in the mail that came in three sections. Until recently, I wouldn’t have even tried to put it together myself, which would’ve been self doubt. This time, I made several attempts to do it myself, including looking up a picture of it online (it didn’t come with instructions). I got two sections to fit together, but couldn’t get the third section on after several tries.
Finally, I decided to text my social worker to ask her for help, and she finished putting it together. In that case, asking for help stemmed from realistic concern.
I’ve found this distinction helpful for figuring out whether my feelings about myself are helping me, or hurting me.
Sokol, Leslie and Fox, Marci. Think Confident, Be Confident. TarcherPerigee, 2009.