Self belief is a powerful skill. The ability to throw yourself into challenging situations without second guessing yourself or allowing limiting beliefs to hold you back will set you up for more success in the long run. Even just looking at it mathematically, the more opportunities you’re willing to take, the more successes you’re going to have in the end, but there’s more to it than that. Self belief is linked to all sorts of important skills and attributes, like self -confidence, self-worth, and self-compassion. If you can look at yourself and judge yourself worthy, you’re not just putting yourself in the running, you're giving yourself an automatic advantage because other people will feel it in you. Confidence is a very attractive quality. If you believe in yourself, it shows in how you behave, how you hold yourself, and how you interact with people, making them more likely to believe in you too.
High Self esteem has been positively linked to happiness in a variety of studies, and although it has yet to be proven that it actually causes happiness, many scientists believe it’s more than likely. In one wide ranging study conducted with 31,000 college students from 31 countries in five continents, self-esteem was the most important factor predicting overall life satisfaction.
Perhaps the easiest way to understand how important it is to believe in yourself is simply to imagine what life is like without it. People with low self belief and low self esteem can lack confidence, comparing themselves unfavourably to others, and judging themselves harshly. This leads to negative self-talk, increased worry and self-doubt. Ultimately, a lack of belief in yourself can get you so low you have problems accepting any positive feedback you do get, and make you unable or unwilling to ask for what you need. It has been linked to a number of negative health outcomes, including anxiety and depression. It’s pretty clear from the evidence, if we want to have a better chance of a happier life, we all need to take care of how we see ourselves.
But there’s a difference between having a healthy sense of self belief and simply asserting blindly that you’re infallible and amazing at everything. That kind of self-aggrandizing thinking might seem to work for the occasional rapper or politician, but it’s definitely not the example to follow if you want to get happier.
Self belief is not about thinking you’re the best. You don’t have to look at your life and feel like you’ve totally nailed it in order to have self belief. In fact, self belief is not based on things like performance or achievement, and it’s certainly not based on comparison with others. It’s about acceptance of yourself on a core level, and belief that you are worthy, regardless of whether you’ve won or lost. A healthy sense of self belief cannot be tied to success or failure, or we wouldn’t be able to learn from our mistakes and carry on trying (and you won’t find anyone out there who hasn’t fallen a few times on the path to success). Self belief is about the relationship we have with ourselves. It’s about being on your own team. It’s about liking yourself enough to cut yourself a break.
So how do we go about improving our relationship with ourselves? Well, for starters, if you’re going to have a good relationship with yourself, you have to get to know what you’re really like. In order to believe in something you have to know what it is you’re trying to believe in in the first place right? Who is this self you’re supposed to be believing in anyway? Going back to Happiness Pillar #1 - Self-knowledge. Who are you really? What are your core values? You can narrow this down through as process of self-reflection and mind dumps in journals. Once you’ve worked out what it is that you really care about in life. What you feel is at your core as a person, you will start to form a picture of the person you have to believe in. Then you have a good measure by which to judge your efforts. Are the things you are doing in your life moving you into alignment with your core beliefs? If you know what you believe in, and you’re trying to be that person, it becomes infinitely easier to believe in yourself.
It’s super hard to believe in yourself when there’s a part of you that’s constantly trying to sabotage the process. We all need to become aware of our inner critic. The voice in our minds that’s always telling us we’re not good enough, or clever enough, or sexy enough, or cool enough. The one that says, “nah, that’s not for me” or, “I suck at public speaking, why do I have to do a presentation?”, or, “I’ll just leave them alone, they wouldn’t want to talk to me”. We all have this inner voice, and we need to learn to identify it in order to reduce its influence on how we feel about ourselves. A good way of doing this is to be mindful of how you talk to yourself. Think of a time when you fell short of what you were aiming for. How did you talk to yourself about it? Now imagine a good friend was in the same position as you, what would you say to them? How would you speak to them? Would you say the same sorts of things you said to yourself? If not, and I’m betting you were nicer to your friend, then learn from that. You need to be talking to yourself like a friend, like an ally. Remember, you’re on your team. You’re your own coach and cheerleader. You’re the only one in there talking to yourself. Support team you!
Another good way of generating more self belief, and a great way of generally having more fun in your life, is to identify areas where you shine, and simply doing more of them. Think of the things you do well at work, and get your boss to give you more of that sort of thing to do. It’s a win win for everyone. Are you a watercolour whizz? Then join an art club, or put your paintings online, or give them away. Good at cakes? Then bake more cakes and give them to the bake sale, or a neighbour. Are you a great clarinettist? Join a local music group and get complimented on your playing, you might even get to play some shows and have crowds of people clap and cheer you. We all have skills we could be using more often to show ourselves ways in which we are actually pretty awesome.
If you can get to know yourself well enough to start aligning with who you really are at a core level, encourage yourself through doing the sort sorts of things you love and are good at, and learn to quiet your inner critic, you can eventually get to the point where you start to believe the one and only thing you really need for self-belief… you are enough. You are. Fact. See you next week for our seventh, and final Happiness Pillar - Connection.
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