I’m still on cloud nine after the amazing online launch panel event for my book, “Be the First, People of Colour, Imposter Syndrome and the struggle to succeed in a white world” last week. We had a fascinating and enlightening conversation around the topic of ‘being the first’ – and it made me appreciate the importance of self-belief in achieving success. I know this all too well having battled Imposter Syndrome since I was a child but still managing to follow my dreams. Writing my second book during a pandemic with all the attendant chaos and the workload involved was a real triumph of mind over matter. The only way to complete such a huge and daunting task was to make myself BELIEVE I could do it – I couldn’t just leave it to fate and circumstance.
“The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease forever to be able to do it.” – J.M. Barrie
Self-belief has been so important throughout my life in enabling me to take control of my own destiny and for helping me realise that I have skills to use and choices to make. Once I reached a point where I truly believed that it was me who was in the driving seat of my own life, I knew I could do and achieve anything I wanted.
So how about you? Are you a believer? If you find it hard to eliminate uncertainty and negativity from your belief systems, you might need a bit more persuading. Here are my 5 brilliantly uplifting reasons to have positive self-belief:
- It opens your mind. By removing limiting beliefs, you create new possibilities. Once you eliminate the ‘I can’t’ from your life, you are free to aim as high as you like – you can decide what you want your life to look like and what you want to achieve. This is so liberating! What do you want from your career and your family life? It’s totally up to you. If you have self-belief, you can dream – and you can live the dream.
- It’s good for resilience. With self-belief, you are much better able to cope with setbacks. You see failure as part of a learning process and can adapt and thrive. The more challenges you overcome, the more positive you feel. And the better you feel, the more you believe, then the more positively you act and perform.
- It makes you cleverer! Negative beliefs trigger the fight or flight response in the brain which paralyses cognitive processes and prevents you from problem solving effectively. Positive beliefs have the opposite effect – improving the brain’s cognitive function and opening your mind to more possibilities using strategic and creative thinking.
- It gives you power. Adopting positive self-belief puts you in complete control of your own destiny. Once you believe you are in control, you can decide where you want to go and what you want to achieve. You may initially find it daunting having to take responsibility for your decisions rather than letting external circumstances dictate what happens, but you will be empowered and invigorated in the long run.
- You’ll attract positive people. Positives do attract! People are drawn to those who seem to radiate drive, energy and positivity. The more self-belief you have, the more positive people will be drawn to you. You in turn will be motivated by them, and so the cycle of positive energy continues. What’s not to like?
So now you know WHY you need to believe in yourself, but we all know that vanquishing those doubting voices in your head is easier said than done. How do you go about overriding negative thoughts and harnessing that powerful inner self-belief?
- Identify your limiting beliefs. What’s your current internal narrative? Our beliefs about ourselves and our capabilities are shaped by our culture (what we are told and see around us growing up), our experiences and the media. The first step to self-belief is reflecting on your current attitudes and feelings about what you are capable of achieving.
- Know that these are beliefs, and not facts. Try to overcome your confirmation bias (we all tend to notice and focus on information that reinforces what we already believe to be true) and seek out evidence to the contrary.
- Question everything. When you feel that familiar self-doubt, start by questioning: Is this actually true? What and where is the evidence for this? How can I find out more?
- Gain an understanding of the power of positivity and how beliefs can impact and influence your experience. Social psychologist Barbara Fredrickson’s ground-breaking research on positivity suggests that positive thinking broadens and expands your mind and sense of possibility, which in turn leads to more adventurous behaviour. Over time, more exploratory and adventurous actions lead to the growth of meaningful, long-term skills, which in turn foster more positive emotions. Self-belief is powerful.
- Create affirmations. Make a choice to have self-belief by creating and repeating (preferably out loud, every day) powerful affirmations – short positive statements written in the first person and present tense that express your goal as if it were already true.
Still struggling to believe in yourself? If your experience of positive self-belief doesn’t quite match the theory, you might be making one of these common mistakes in your approach:
- Believing others instead of yourself. If you suffer from any self-doubt, it is sometimes easier to take a back seat and let others have opinions and make decisions for you. But you are doing yourself a disservice if you don’t take control of your own beliefs and your own destiny. You owe it yourself to do your own research and make up your own mind. If you arm yourself with the facts, it is much easier to have positive belief in your chosen course of action.
- Thinking your experience will be the same as someone else’s. Perhaps you think you can’t make it to the top in your company because there are no female partners. Or that you can’t have both a successful top-flight career and a happy family life. But this doesn’t have to be YOUR experience. If you prepare yourself you will be in a much stronger position to break boundaries and challenge the ‘typical’ experience. Search out other role models whose values you admire – study their experiences or find a mentor. Concentrate on positive examples of people you can identify with and your self-belief will be bolstered.
- Not understanding how beliefs shape your reality. There is no magic genie in a bottle of course and wishing something doesn’t necessarily make it happen. There will always be unforeseen events and circumstances that no-one can plan for. However – there is plenty of evidence that adopting positive beliefs impacts favourably on your behaviours and emotions, which in turn impacts on your life outcomes. By working on your positive self-belief you are giving yourself every opportunity to live up to your potential and be your best self. Life doesn’t just happen to you – you have the biggest role in shaping it.
- Not understanding that you have the power to transform negative beliefs. Belief is a powerful concept – it goes to the very heart of what makes us human. It’s not a cognitive process – it’s the collection of deeply held feelings that seem to have always existed within us. So – how can you change them? How can it be possible to change negative integral values into positive beliefs that will propel you forward in life? Well, it certainly IS possible as I know from my own experience, but it takes effort, practice and perseverance.
“I am not a has-been. I am a will be.” – Lauren Bacall
Here are some resources that might help:
Written by one of the pioneers of the benefits of positive psychology, this book draws on rigorous research and offers sure-fire tools and methods for tapping into your own reserves of positivity, broadening your mind and transforming your life from ‘meh’ to ‘awesome!’
Renowned psychologist Carol Dweck demonstrates how learning, positivity and resilience lead to the development of a ‘growth mindset’ which trumps mere ‘natural’ ability every time. The book shows how harnessing the power of open and positive beliefs instead of having a ‘fixed’ outlook, is key to a happy and successful life.
Based on the study of NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) whereby our verbal and non-verbal language can affect our beliefs and actions, Robbins’ bestselling book looks at how we can programme our own minds to make positive changes in our lives. He also shows us how to focus on and visualise a future we want and to model the actions of successful people to make that future a reality. By changing our beliefs about events in our lives, he asserts that we are all free to positively control our own destinies.
ThinkUp – This app helps you motivate yourself into a positive mindset using your own voice to give yourself positive feedback and affirmations. This is designed to help with everything from reducing stress and improving sleep, to fostering creativity and being healthy.
Happify – This app measures your positivity and aims to help your self-belief in various areas of your life through quizzes, games and activities. The basic version is free but for access to more advanced activities and statistics there is a subscription fee.
HelloMind – This app aims to boost self-esteem by helping you to break bad habits and create good ones. It encourages more positive thoughts and can help you strengthen different aspects of yourself you like.
Good luck on your journey towards finding self-belief. If you still find yourself struggling with negative thinking and would like some help in achieving a more positive mindset, contact me Caroline@babyproofyourlife.com for more information about my Having It All coaching programme.