We’ve all suffered last-minute nerves before public speaking events, business presentations, interviews, exams, the list goes on. You’ve done your preparation, you’ve got the answers to questions, and you absolutely know that you know your stuff, and yet, no matter how well you’ve prepared, you’re suddenly swamped by self-doubt.

And sure enough, it doesn’t go well – just as you anticipated.

Likewise, we’ve all been in situations where we’ve known we’d succeed before we even started. And we did. What’s more, we did better than we could have imagined.

The point is, we can all be victims of our own self-defeating tendencies regardless of our actual ability to perform. And when we’re trying to learn or prepare for something new, the internal voice which inhibits our performance creates obstacles that get in the way of our success because we can’t simply follow our natural learning processes and rely too much on external instructions.

Yet, we condition ourselves think we must work harder and do more, as if the effort itself is same as the outcome. And of course, we need to do the work, but it doesn’t stop the inner criticism even though telling ourselves to do more, harder, doesn’t guarantee doing better.

Think back to an occasion when you performed really well. It didn’t feel difficult: it felt easy and just right – ‘in the zone’ in fact. If you let up on yourself for a while, instead of focusing on the potential downfalls and the what-ifs, you might just get on with learning what you need to know and what you need to do and then know it and do it far more easily.

The trick, it seems, is to try not to force it. Trying too hard can get you so tangled up in the problems you think may occur if you don’t try hard enough – as you see it – that it all gets in the way of just doing it, when your knowledge and skill is already established.

So,   stop judging yourself so much one way or the other. If you judge yourself positively, you will be constantly trying to replicate it. If you judge yourself negatively you will be constantly wrapped up in trying to improve and you will just get in the way of your intuitive abilities.

It’s much easier said than done but try to focus on what is happening and let yourself focus on the developmental aspects of your performance. Value judgements either way can be choking yet they play such a huge part in how we view ourselves, so try to observe instead.

There are always going to be obstacles as we try to achieve our goals, both external and internal. You can’t change many of the external ones but if you relax and trust yourself a bit more, you could avoid many of the self-inflicted inner doubts.