What does it actually mean to believe in yourself? How do you start believing in yourself, even when you struggle with self-doubt? If only life was as simple as telling ourselves something and then instantly believing it with every inch of our being. In the real world, things seldom work that way. Instead, like anything else, we have to work at believing in ourselves.
Many conflate this process with confidence, assuming that you can only believe in yourself if you are an extrovert who has no trouble putting yourself out there. True self-belief is not about confidence. Not in the way you think, anyway. Instead, it is about trusting your intuition and learning to not only love yourself but also have faith in yourself. Of course, this is easier said than done.
It’s Time to Believe in Yourself
If you are battling to believe in yourself, you may get uncomfortable when people say nice things about you or tell you that you are worthy of love. You might secretly think that those people are lying or just being nice. You may even feel like a fake and think that if they really knew you, they would not say such nice things.
Guess what? That is your self-doubt talking and not your real self. Like any other thought pattern, negative thoughts (and especially insecurity) become habit when we train our brains to think about ourselves negatively. When you tell yourself that you are useless and that you will never get that job you dream about or never meet anyone who could love you or never have the life you deserve, you create neural pathways in the brain. Your brain then releases chemicals such as cortisone that make you feel worse. Your brain also finds it easier to surge along the negative neural pathways, triggering more doubt and insecurity.
When you battle to believe in yourself, it can seem like an impossible challenge to ever learn how to start believing in yourself again. I know this because I was stuck in this cycle most of my life. I can’t promise any quick fixes or tell you that it was easy to change my limiting beliefs. What I can tell you is that in time, I got my brain to start forging better, healthier neural pathways. I still have days of doubt (trust me, everyone on the planet has those). Most of the time, I trust my gut and I know that I am doing ok. Here’s how I trained my brain…
I started doing some serious soul-searching.
The first step is to do some reflection. No, that does not mean the type of reflection where you berate yourself and allow all of your negative thoughts to take over. It means the type of reflection where you stand back a bit and think about who you really are below the surface layer of skin, flesh and bone. The serious soul-searching type of reflection.
Don’t bother taking silly personality tests that try and put you into a box. Instead, try something like journaling. Talk to people who know you well and find out how they see you. Think about what you are good at and how often you have had feelings about things that have turned out to be right. Think about the lessons you have learned and how they have affected your current path.
I focused on what I could do rather than what I wished I could do.
For many, many years, I have held on to a dream of starting my own rug making business, doing weaving and other fibre crafts. I enjoy weaving and knitting and I love making small rugs. The original idea was not only to make rugs but also to make various other home decor items. The trouble is, I really suck at woodwork. I suck even harder at ceramics. I am a pretty good weaver and I knit well, as long as the pattern is very simple. I am a writer, though and writing is something I have always done. Writing is my day job. I have built up my own little business as an online writer, working freelance for close to a decade. That is who I am and what I do.
When I let go of my handmade dream, I felt instant relief. It allowed me to focus on what I am good at and reminded me of my strengths. To believe in yourself, you need to focus on what you CAN do and not on what you wish you could do.
I rerouted my thoughts every time they veered off track.
Now for the hardest part. Changing any type of thinking pattern takes effort. I still work hard to reroute my thoughts. When I have moments of self-doubt or I feel sorry for myself, I have to stop and consciously change my thinking. For example, I recently finished off a big ecommerce content project. At the start of the project, I was a bit worried that I would get things wrong as the product was not one I had written about much before. I knew it had to be technical and genuinely useful. At first, I allowed myself to fret a bit. But then I stopped letting the doubts come through. Instead, I changed the topic and focused on learning about the product.
The Chopra Center has some great tips on how to redirect negative thoughts. Psychology Today also has some very useful advice on negative thought patterns. Meditation, journaling, breathing, and various other strategies can all help. I found mindfulness to be very effective in rerouting my thoughts. Stopping, stepping back and looking at the thought without feeling the associated emotion will help you see it more clearly.
All of these tactics have helped me start believing in myself. You don’t have to talk into a mirror or do anything that you would not do normally. Taking the time and effort to invest in yourself is the most important step of all on your journey to believe in yourself.