6 Ways The Nocebo Effect Stifles Your Success (And What To Do About It)

Written by Arno Jansen

You start a new project or business. Your energy and enthusiasm is endless. You start taking action and make rapid progress. Your project or idea is brimming with promise, and you’re determined to make it a resounding success.

However, at some point a nagging thought makes your mind its home. It says there’s this one skill you don’t have yet, and it’s the most important thing for your business to succeed. This message makes you think that everything depends on just this one skill.

This is called the Nocebo effect.

As this idea keeps playing in your head, you might start putting all your time and effort into getting better at that one skill. You join groups, buy courses or coaching programmes, and spend a lot of time trying to improve. And it works, you do improve!

There’s a problem though —it takes your focus away from growing your business as a whole.

In this article, we’re going to talk about the Nocebo Effect and how it can slow down your progress. But more importantly, we’ll give you some practical tips to help you balance skill building with business building.

The Nocebo Effect is The Placebo Effect’s evil twin

You’ve probably heard of the placebo effect; It’s when people seem to get better physically or mentally after they take a fake or ‘dummy’ treatment. The placebo.

The Nocebo Effect is the negative version of that. Negative expectations or beliefs, can become quite a powerful force that hinders your progress. It happens when negative expectations or beliefs lead to harmful outcomes, often causing self-fulfilling prophecies.

For me, at the beginning of my journey, the skill of Copywriting caused this for me. Or more accurately, my believed lack of skill in copywriting caused trouble. I would focus on this skill alone, causing me to loose focus on the bigger picture of building a business online.

For you it can be something differenty, a few common ones are:

  • Fear of public speaking can lead to avoidance and hinder your ability to communicate your ideas with confidence.
  • ****The complexity of digital marketing can discourage you if you lack the expertise. This can lead to reluctance to invest in digital marketing efforts, limiting your online business growth.
  • ****Learning coding or programming languages can seem very challenging. Believing that it’s too difficult may prevent aspiring tech entrepreneurs from pursuing their ideas.
  • Networking is an important part for business growth. If you feel you are not good at networking, you may miss important opportunities for collaboration and growth.

While insecurities and lack of experience in a skill are good to acknowledge, there is no single skill that will make or break your business. Unless it is not trying at all.

The Impact of the Nocebo effect

There are plenty ways in which the Nocebo effect rears its head. Let’s see how the Nocebo effect can show up:

  1. Confidence Crisis: You have access to a wealth of information and advice. However, when you repeatedly encounter discouraging messages about the difficulty of a particular skill, like copywriting, you may start doubting your own capabilities. Your self-confidence takes a hit, leading to hesitation and procrastination.
  2. Skill Paralysis: The Nocebo Effect can paralyze your efforts to improve and grow. Believing that a certain skill is insurmountable, you may avoid practicing or developing it altogether. This can hinder your progress and limit your potential.
  3. Self-Limiting Beliefs: Negative expectations foster self-limiting beliefs. You may start to believe that your perceived lack of skill in something will kill your business or personal development journey. This mindset can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, sabotaging your efforts.

Just to be clear: The thoughts and feelings of inadequacy in a particular skill, is perfectly normal. It is the skewed perspective that is the issue: Deviating from your plan to (obsessively) focus on that one thing, is the real issue. You have to stay balanced.

Common reactions to the Nocebo effect

Knowing common response patterns, which are often subconscious, helps to spot it happening.

The 3 most common responses in behavior are:

  1. Avoidance: You avoid situations or challenges that trigger your self-doubt, leading to missed opportunities for growth.
  2. Self-Criticism: You tend to engage in harsh self-criticism, continually reinforcing your negative beliefs.
  3. Stagnation: The fear of failure can paralyze you, causing stagnation and preventing you from taking necessary steps to improve.

Now you know what the nocebo effect is, and how to spot it. Next, let’s see how you can effectively combat it and regain control over your journey:

Dealing with the Nocebo Effect: A Path to Self-Confidence

  1. Challenge Negative Beliefs: The first step is to challenge those negative beliefs head-on. When you notice you start to exaggerate the difficulty of a skill, remind yourself that learning is a journey. You can’t be perfect from the start. Nor do you have to be perfect to get results. Ask yourself questions like: “How bad is it really?” and “Why should I not be able to get better at this?”
  2. Set Realistic Goals: Break down your skill-building and self-improvement goals into smaller, achievable milestones. Change is a process, not an event. Make the journey less daunting and allows yourself to celebrate progress along the way.
  3. Seek Support and Mentorship: Connect with like-minded individuals who share your aspirations. Seek mentors or coaches who can guide you and provide constructive feedback. This is the type of coaching I do for a living, so don’t hesitate to get in touch if you can use my help on your journey.
  4. Reflect & Review: Self-reflection can help you maintain a realistic, but positive outlook and boost your self-esteem. There are many techniques to help you, such as meditation or journalling. Talking with people on similar journeys can help you reflect on your progress as well. Mastermind groups and coaching are two common ways to do that.
  5. Focus on Progress, Not Perfection: Start putting in the reps. Practice makes Progress. Don’t sweat it, see ‘mistakes’ as lessons and opportunities for improvement.
  6. Visualization: See your success. Picture yourself confidently navigating your entrepreneurial or self-improvement journey. Visualization can be a powerful tool to counteract self-doubt. If this sounds too woo-woo for you, know that top athletes do it all the time. Why shouldn’t you give it a try?

Ok, Now What?

In your quest for sustainable success as an independent income earner, the Nocebo Effect can indeed pose a challenge. But remember, you now have the power to overcome it.

Acknowledge that you want or need to improve on something without it becoming your only focus point. Don’t be too harsh on yourself, you struggle because you care. Understand that all the skills you have learned so far, were once unknown to you.

Reflect on how this skill contributes to achieving your vision and goals. Know that you do not need to be an expert to get results.

Then create space in your schedule and find ways to learn, practice and progress.

You got this, I’m rooting for you! 🙌

Looking to get more productive, focused, and resilient?

Join my free Focus Finder email course to transform yourself from deeply distracted to fully focused.

    Looking to get more productive, focused, and resilient?

    Join my free Focus Finder course and go from deeply distracted to fully focused.

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