So many things are internalised during our childhood that we remain largely unaware of what drives us to start something, to keep trying or to give up; sometimes even before we even get started.
Why it’s often hard to believe in yourself
As children we instinctively know what we want, but that sense of purpose and certainty can get knocked out of us by friends or adults who sow the seeds of doubt with questions like:
- “Are you sure?”
- “Remember what happened last time you tried that?”
- “Wouldn’t you prefer to try that instead?”
- “What do you want to do that for?”
Then those seeds of doubt get watered by failure.
Gradually, over time, failure becomes something we start to fear as little failures and uncomfortable memories stack up. Silly memories, like how everyone laughed at our knock knees peeking out under that pink and white rara skirt, can slowly crush our self-belief.
The older you get the more doubt is sown and the more failures get strewn behind you, muddying the clear lake of confidence you were born with. So we have to deal with other people’s stereotypes of us such as:
- “she’s not very bright but she’s a nice girl”
- “at least she tries”
- or “she’s always been uncoordinated/fat/skinny”.
We also have to cope with our own stereotypes of ourselves and the voice in our head that starts to pipe up more often and more insistently with thoughts like:
- “You’re not good enough.”
- “You always mess things up.”
- “Why do you even bother?”
So believing in yourself is hard. I get that.
My journey to believing in myself started with a running challenge.
For the last 15 months I’ve been attempting a self-created challenge of running 5km (3 miles) in five minutes. Running is a major challenge for me because:
- I don’t like sweating or getting out of breath and my Mum hates exercise so it was never encouraged when I was a child.
- I once dropped out of school athletics day in tears after being asked to run a mile.
- I hate running; it’s boring, it’s painful and it’s hard work.
- I don’t consider myself fit or sporty. I’ve always been called skinny and uncoordinated. I never excelled at any sport as a child.
So it’s amazing to consider I’m a runner now. Want to get into running too? See running for beginners over 40.
How to Believe in Yourself: the Tips
1. Don’t expect to believe in yourself every second of every day
You can read more about the running challenge here. What I didn’t mention was that I wanted to achieve my goal so much, and lacked self-belief so many times, that I cried multiple times, both while running the race and afterwards. The negative voices in my head and past failures got to me. The emotional and physical pain overwhelmed me.
Although there were times that I felt positive about my running and determined to succeed, at other times I did not believe in myself. I heard those voices in my head and I believed them.
As much as I knew that I needed to be mindful and not get attached to my thoughts, sometimes that was impossible. Sometimes we believe the nonsense our minds spin.
2. Find other people to believe in you
If you’re reading this you may not have someone who you feel believes in you 100% and is always there to support and encourage you. Maybe your loved ones don’t want to you to change, leave them or go through the pain that comes with new challenges.
Through my running I met up with other runners including my Lazy Runners group and the Noosa Parkrun team who never failed to encourage me. They say that you can’t change other people, that people can only change themselves, but other people can help you change your habits. Most of all they can help by believing in you even when you don’t believe in yourself.
Finding people who believed in me helped me learn how to believe in myself and fill the gaps when I couldn’t believe in myself.
3. Be stubborn
You have to be incredibly tenacious to achieve your goals or dreams. The things we want most of all, no matter how irrational they may be, don’t just fall into your lap. There is work, lots of hard work, involved in getting what you want.
So you’ll probably need to create a boring routine to help you be stubborn and persist. For example, I trained three times a week to begin with and increased that to five runs a week when I couldn’t see any progress. I run every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday , rain, hail or shine. On Mondays, Wednesdays or both, I do plyometric exercises to increase my strength.
4. Educate yourself
Every time I faced a hurdle, got stuck or bored I looked for more running tips. Either from other runners or from running experts online.
I downloaded apps. I got up to speed with training programs. I bought new gear. I found out everything I could about running, increasing your running speed and running faster. No stone was left unturned.
5. Remember the times you did succeed
Finally, on Saturday at parkrun Noosa, I ran 5km in 24 minutes 29 seconds. Even now I can’t believe I ran that fast. I just can’t believe it. After all, I’m a skinny, uncoordinated person who cries when the going get tough. No matter what the facts are that “not sporty” person is still part of me.
So I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to replicate that speed, but I’m enjoying the feeling of finally achieving something hard. Something that I worked on for over a year.
Today, I believe in myself. Sure, it won’t last forever (see number 1), but at the moment it feels good. And I think that the more I believe in myself the less my self-doubt will affect me and the less it will emerge.
So my self-belief is growing and strengthening. Just like the seeds of self-doubt that started in childhood it started small and grew through being nurtured slowly, treated gently and tended daily.
That’s how to believe in yourself. Slowly, gently and daily.
Do you have trouble believing in yourself? Do you have any tips about how to believe in yourself?
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