Has there ever been a situation in your life where you had so much belief in yourself that you felt you could tackle anything? I’m sure there has been at least one you can think of, if not more. It might have been studying Math in school, out on the field playing football, standing on stage singing to a crowd or championing that next business deal at work.
Self-belief is the belief that one can do something well — an inner knowing that everything you need to be successful is inside of you. Your level of self-belief impacts how far you’ll go in certain areas of your life. In a similar vein, psychologists suggest that people who have an “internal locus of control” or those who think that their efforts and decisions influence events in their lives are actually better off than those who have an “external locus of control” or those who blame external factors like fate and luck. The former are said to be goal-oriented, have higher salaries, better social and family lives, and generally are more satisfied with their lives.
Obviously, self-belief is a prized possession! So, how can you have more self-belief and build a strong internal locus of control? Below are seven ideas.
Seven Steps to Self- Belief
1. Know the truth about self-belief.
Your beliefs are simply constructs, programmed over the length of your life. They are not an accurate representation of who you are or what you are actually capable of. Before you were labelled “good” or “bad” by people or told there were “preferred ways” to do things, you likely had few qualms about doing anything. Dance in the front of the room without any cool moves, sure! Walk up to little Billy and play with his truck, why not! But with time, you built beliefs up about what you were good at, what you could influence and what you could not. You created limitations about yourself that have now become self-fulfilling prophecies.
The best version of you can emerge only if you are willing to look past the inhibitory beliefs that you’ve chosen to acquire along the way. Self-limiting beliefs are just that, beliefs, and have nothing to do with who you really are. And they can be changed. Sure, it takes effort to build self-belief but that initial effort pays off long-term in an easier and happier life.
2. Recognize areas for improvement.
Take a moment to introspect about the areas in your life where you lack self-belief. Think of the times you’ve shrunk away from opportunities that could have improved your life. Ask yourself why? What are the thoughts that are controlling you? Are these true or are you just assuming their validity? What if you didn’t have these thoughts? What would be different? Recognize the fact you are solely responsible for the way your life turns out; changing your beliefs and therefore your life.
3. Set a clear goal.
Having realized there is an area where you could benefit from greater self-belief; make a commitment to develop it. Ask yourself: how important is it to me to have self-belief? What difference would it make to my life if I had solid self-belief in this area? Then set yourself a clear goal that states what you want to achieve. For example “by December 2011 I have developed the self-belief that I can get the promotion I want” or “by October 2011 I have develop the self-belief that I can carry out engaging presentations in front of a small group of people” or something more general like “By January 2012 I have the self-belief that I can find a loving relationship”.
4. Realize how wonderful you really are.
Do you find it hard to take compliments, and really believe them? The challenge with self-belief is that by the time we’re adults, we no longer believe what others tell us about how good we are. If we have low self-belief we simply refuse to receive compliments and don’t take on board the positive things people say about us. In fact, often times we look for validation that we are NOT good enough (crazy I know – but how often do you have someone tell you 9 great things and one area of improvement, only to walk away thinking about how you’re not good enough because of that one area of need?)
Hence, if you want to build your self-belief you must start to consciously pay attention to your positive traits, really listen to the positive feedback from others and thank people for their compliments. Self-belief feeds itself – the more you have, the more you will gain.
But don’t rely on others comments alone to build your self-belief. Each time you acknowledge yourself, you build your self-belief across the board in many areas of your life. Why not start right now: what do you love about yourself? Are you a loving daughter or son? Are you a great mom? Are you an honest person who is warm and collaborative? Are you good at writing? Singing? What are your accomplishments so far, however small you think they are? Reflect back on a time when you have achieved something, overcome an obstacle or created a masterpiece where you surprised yourself with what you could do. If you can do these things, then you can do more.
5. Hush your inner critic.
We all have it. That little voice that tells you “You can’t do it”, “You’ll lose”, “You’re too clumsy”, “You’re too short”, “You’re not beautiful enough”. Or “Why am I so dumb? “ Why did I do that?”, “I was such an idiot”. Practice silencing this inner critic. There are a couple of ways to approach this. Firstly you could catch yourself mid thought, remind yourself you don’t speak of yourself like that anymore and let it go. Secondly, you could replace negative with positive thoughts. For example, if your inner critic started to say “You can’t do it!” you could quickly say “I can do it!” over and over either silently or out loud if you’re alone (Think Thomas the Tank Engine: “I think I can, I think I can”!). Your inner critic will not be hushed easily but keep persisting, promising to only talk to yourself lovingly. Not allowing your inner critic to take over you is a learned trait. So begin now.
6. Imagine and act.
When faced with a challenging situation, think of how a person with strong self-belief would deal with it. Then as best you can, take the same action. Yes, it’s the old “fake it till you make it” trick. By doing so you will eventually improve your skills, gain some confidence and develop genuine self-belief. Not because you live in some fantasy land of positive thinking, but because through the action you give yourself the chance to genuinely improve. Our self-belief improves through experiences of small successes. If you don’t give something a try, you don’t ever get the small successes to build your self-belief. To make this easier, imagine a person whom you consider having self-belief — a relative, a friend, or a celebrity. Face the situation as this role model might. Keep on doing this, however uncomfortable it is at first. Persistence pays off when it comes to self-belief.
7. Be gentle with yourself.
As I touched on already, gaining self-belief isn’t easy or quick – there is no silver bullet remedy. It takes time, effort, and a ton of courage. You have carried limiting beliefs about yourself for a long time so they resist leaving your life. Pick yourself up every time you stumble and keep on going. You are worth it!
What has helped you gain greater self-belief?
Author of De-stress Your Success: Get More of What You Want with Less Time, Stress and Effort, Sacha Crouch is a business, executive and life coach who helps people create the work and lives they love. For other free lifestyle resources visit www.activ8change.com.au and www.de-stressyoursuccess.com