“Because one believes in oneself, one doesn't try to convince others. Because one is content with oneself, one doesn't need others' approval. Because one accepts oneself, the whole world accepts him or her.”
― Lao Tzu
A sincere thanks to all the awesome experts who shared their best tips, insights and strategies on how to believe in yourself.
Who are you?
How would you introduce yourself if someone asked, “who are you?” Would you reply with, “I’m an attorney and work at...” Or would you reply with, “I’m Susan. I am kind, caring, pretty spontaneous. Oh, and I’m an attorney because I love helping others win battles.” Most of the time we respond with the first.
Well, as a society we are so driven to focus on our careers and successes, that we forget to tune into ourselves and develop a sense of self-worth and identity.
We are more likely to focus on our accomplishments, which can at times, feel like a never ending battle. This can then lead to a lack of self-confidence and appreciation for what we can bring to the table.
When I was asked to write a column on “how to believe in yourself” I had a rather hard time coming up with a theme or idea. Then it hit me. We are more than likely going to have a hard time believing in ourselves, if we don’t even know who we are as a person.
The more that we begin to connect and explore our beliefs and our values, the more that we begin to gain confidence because we feel secure in our choices and who we are as a person.
So where should we start? Start with your beliefs.
Maybe just pick one for the sake of time (we know you’re busy). For example, I am only deserving if everyone in the office thinks my pitch went perfectly. Okay, so this is a belief. A perfectionism belief. A pretty unrealistic belief.
Where did this come from? Did someone at a young age only praise you if you only received 100’s on all your exams? Did someone only tell you your beautiful when you felt your makeup was “on point.” Did you only get satisfaction when you ran 8 miles instead of 6?
Sit with your core beliefs.
See how you see the world and yourself with these pair of shades. Now, see how you feel about yourself if you try on a new pair. Challenge and reframe that belief. You are deserving, period.
Then we have our values.
You can start with I value (blank). It’s important to me that (blank). (Blank) drives my passion. I find joy in (blank). I become annoyed when (blank). Sit there and explore some values. If you google “values” a lot of things come up. You can even highlight the ones that stand out, and elaborate on why this creates meaning in your life.
I think starting at our beliefs and values, can do a lot of good work.
I believe that as we become familiar with our vulnerabilities, our imperfections, our strengths and our passions, we can then begin to align ourselves and develop a secure sense of self-worth and begin to believe in ourselves.
Claudia Stanley, LCSW – www.fwhcounseling.com
“No man who is occupied in doing a very difficult thing, and doing it very well, ever loses his self-respect.” - George Bernard Shaw
Self-belief requires you to evolve individually.
Self-fulfilling prophecies mean that what we think, is what our life’s trajectory will likely follow. This operates in the positive or negative. We all doubt ourselves at times and should constantly monitor any inner critic.
This critic is usually a “voice” that comes from negative input from others. It may also be an inward call to stir you to change. You must silence an inner critic that attempts to reduce your self-belief.
Conversely, listen intently to any inner “voice” that may sound like a critic but is really a motivational speaker or director.
You’ll know this by how you feel about yourself when you hear the “voice”. If you feel defeated and hopeless, it is a critic you must ignore or challenge. If you feel activated and enthusiastic about change, it is not an inner critic but a call to self-belief.
While earning my undergraduate Fine Arts degree in Theatre, we were taught in method acting, that if we believe we are the character and become it from the inside out the audience will, too. Many actors don’t read reviews of their work because they don’t want it to influence their self-belief.
When you believe in yourself, others will, too. If they don’t, it will not affect your self-respect.
The McMillan Dictionary defines respect as
“a feeling of admiration that you have for someone because of their personal qualities, their achievements, or their status, and that you show by treating them in a polite and kind way.”
Who do you respect or admire? How do you treat them? Do you respect yourself in this way? If not, you can reset self-respect.
1. Make a list of things you like or love about yourself.
Be deeply introspective. Answer honestly. Challenge your thoughts if you have been negative about yourself.
2. Core values are paramount.
Are you living according to your values? If not, make changes to be congruent. Self-respect is not perfectionism but a process of personal progress.
3. Treat yourself and others with dignity and diplomacy.
We project negative feelings about ourselves. Mirror neurons communicate subtle but powerful signals. If you lack self-respect, it may be mirrored back to you. As you gain self-respect, you get it from others.
4. Set boundaries firmly but kindly.
Demanding others to treat you well is a sign of low self-esteem. Many times, a lack of self-respect is rooted in how we allow others to treat us. Forgive yourself if you have done this and move on from those who have hurt you. Distance from those who treat you poorly will enrich self-respect.
5. Connect with others who make you feel good about yourself.
Help others to feel good about themselves. Reciprocal relationships are essential for self-respect.
6. Reduce judging and grudging.
Invisible gavels toward yourself or others creates contempt. Holding grudges are heavy. As you decrease judging and grudging, self-respect increases.
7. Set intentions, visualize them and take action.
Decide to be the best version of yourself every day. See yourself in a position of self-respect in every area of your life. Do something, in any increment toward it.
Mary Joye, LMHC – www.winterhavencounseling.com
Believing in ourselves can be so difficult sometimes.
Most of us have been conditioned that thinking positively of ourselves and putting ourselves first is ‘selfish'. We have been taught that we aren’t ‘good enough’ or could always ‘be better’ and that if only we had the right car, house, significant other, etc, then we will have arrived at the Disney Fairytale ending.
The fact is those things are all external, always changing and when we get ‘there’, the goal post moves creating doubt about ever being able to achieve ‘good enough’.
To truly believe in ourselves is internal and about our belief systems.
Since the root of not believing in ourselves comes from core beliefs we’ve learned through out our lives, the process to believe in ourselves is starting to unlearn those limiting beliefs and replacing them with something more true, positive and uplifting.
In Yoga, this tool is called Sankalpa.
It is basically creating an affirmation or intention that reflects what you want to invite more into your life or what you want to believe more about yourself.
It will not feel 100% true and that is okay as using it is a process.
Using this statement is a commitment. Using it daily until it becomes 100% true. Using it for a week or a month will not be enough to counteract a negative belief you’ve been using for decades.
The mind will be sneaky and try to change it or self-doubt will come in. Again, that’s okay. Just keep repeating it as a mantra and see what happens. This is a process of slowly digging out those roots of the weed of negative belief. It takes time.
Below is how to create a Sankalpa and please feel free to reach out if you need some help with it, firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. Create a list of what limits you from believing in yourself or doing the things you want to do.
2. Looking at the above list, write down what you need more of to overcome these limits or obstacles, i.e., honesty, trust, compassion.
3. Choosing 1-2 of the words in #2 and create an affirming statement starting with “I.”
“I am,” “I have,” “I allow,” “I invite”
- Keeping it simple
- You can always add “more and more” to the end of the sentence. Example - More and more I am confident and grounded.
- Remember, it is a statement that resonates with you and will not feel 100% true. If it feels 100% true, keep digging deeper for other words that truly get at those limiting beliefs.
Start using your Sankalpa, repeating it in the morning, during the day, while you are driving, when you feel anxious or overwhelmed, before you go to bed, while brushing your teeth...the possibilities are endless. You can also use the sankalpa with a mala or prayer beads for meditation.
Twyla Gingrich, LCSW, LAC – www.samyayogahealing.com
Do you have that little voice in your head telling you you’re not enough?
It says things like, “You’re not smart enough, outgoing enough, thin enough, attractive enough, creative enough, lovable enough, hardworking enough.”
That voice tells you that in some way you just aren’t enough to have what you want in life, whether its the relationship, health, dream job or financial abundance that you’d like.
If you begin to notice your self-talk throughout the day, you’ll find it is mostly negative. And what it’s telling you isn’t true. It’s the result of beliefs that were formed from what you heard as a child from a parent, teacher, sibling or other significant person in your life.
Most people are held back from believing in themselves—and from loving themselves—by what self-love advocate Christine Arylo calls the Inner Mean Girl or Guy.
The IMG is that part of you that internalized those statements and became your self-talk. You believe that self-talk, rather than in who you really are. The IMG beckons you to compare yourself to others that you think are smarter, more attractive or more successful. And when you judge yourself as not measuring up, it piles on the criticism.
How to send the IMG packing:
1. Give your Inner Mean Girl or Guy a name that holds a bit of humor,
such as Meanie Mary or Loveless Louie. This separates it from you and allows you to step away from it. You begin to see it as the stream of unsupportive comments that you can choose to not participate in.
2. Ask your IMG what it is trying to do for you.
Surprisingly, very often that voice is trying to keep you safe. But, it’s doing so by keeping you small, fearful and doubting yourself. Thank your IMG for trying to help, but be clear that if it doesn’t have anything constructive to say, you’re not listening. Some people have even held “retirement parties” for their IMG and sent them off on a jet to a tropical island. Use your imagination and have fun with this!
Another way to let go of the negative beliefs is to practice self-love and self- forgiveness.
1. Place your hand on your heart and address yourself like you were speaking to a small child. For example, say, “I love the one who is afraid.” “I love the one who is struggling.” “I love and accept myself exactly as I am.” You deserve to be loved, no matter what.
2. Mirror Exercise: Stand in front of a mirror and say these sentences with at least 5 different endings for the last three every day for 28 consecutive days. This may feel silly at first, but keep going!
[Your Name] I love you. I really love you. [Your Name] I’m proud that you......... [Your Name] I forgive you for......... [Your Name] I commit to you that.........
By putting these exercises into practice, you’ll find your doubts dissolving and your belief in yourself surging!
Estra Roell, Life Purpose Coach– www.americaslifepurposecoach.com
Believing in yourself often requires resilience when life presents obstacles that impact one’s self-esteem.
In this regard, a major obstacle to maintaining our self-esteem is when we experience shame. We may not like how some emotions feel, but they serve an important purpose, informing us, the operators of our bodies, what to do. It’s really all about learning to interpret the messages negative emotions like shame convey, and understanding our reactions to them.
The most familiar understanding of shame is as the emotion activated by any threat to your esteem—your established sense of self.
In such circumstances, shame is felt as exposure to the judgment of another person or yourself, and is felt as a sense of being flawed, unworthy, or inadequate. What many people do not realize is that shame is also activated when positive emotions such as interest, excitement, enjoyment, or joy are partially impeded or obstructed, when we are expecting the positive feelings to continue.
In this sense, shame has an important evolutionary and adaptive purpose: essentially to interfere with positive emotion and make us pay attention to the source of the shame.
If we take this a step further, suppose nothing ever interrupted your enjoyment or interest? You might not be aware of threats to your survival—like having a good time and not being vigilant about the possibility that something bad is about to happen that will impact your belief in yourself.
Shame gives us a very strong message to bring us back to reality.
In this way, often shame is triggered in a situation where you are experiencing positive emotions in an interaction with another person.
If for some reason your brain wants to signal that it’s time to protect yourself, it may activate shame. Simultaneously, you may have a thought that you will be, or have been, evaluated negatively by the other person. As a result, your blissful state immediately diminishes.
For example, imagine telling a friend a funny story (or at least you thought it was entertaining) and she glances at the clock; or a romantic interest is paying attention to the texts on his or her phone rather than to you. Ugh. Shame is the emotion you experience in such situations.
There are other emotional transformations of shame.
When shame is activated along with distress and anger it can produce envy or jealousy. These emotions signal that your self-esteem is threatened and motivate you to protect yourself or achieve goals that are represented by your perceptions of other people—to have what they have or to be like them in order to feel adequate. Since shame is experienced as disengagement, a disappointment, or as a frustration, its activation is behind feelings of loneliness.
People who are lonely may believe they are unwanted, undesirable, insignificant, despairing, or abandoned. Such cognitive attributions falsely account for a disrupted connection and are a manifestation of shame that results in self-attack.
Self-observation that is often prompted by shame provides an opportunity to learn, change, improve, or do something differently the next time around.
Accept the emotion, reflect, self-evaluate, and learn, rather than respond to the emotion by attacking yourself, attacking the person who hurt you, withdrawing, or using avoidance behaviors such as drowning what you feel in alcohol or retail therapy.
If we are able to examine our response to shame we may be able to emerge with insight regarding ourselves, our relationships, and the disruption of our positive feelings in our interactions with others. Understandably, sometimes it’s just so hard to sit with shame and listen to what it’s trying to tell us, but it is essential to do so in order to believe in yourself in a healthy way.
Mary Lamia, Ph.D. - www.marylamia.com
Do you find yourself believing you’re not good enough in some way—thinking “If only I was I was more this or less that?”
Do you take what happens personally as though your worth depends on it? At some level, we all suffer from carrying a core negative belief of not being good enough.
Our cultural conditioning misleads us into believing we need to be perfect. And because we judge it to be our fault, we set upon a relentless course to correct every flaw and imperfection to be okay—to be good enough.
We look outside ourselves for validation and compare ourselves against others to see how we’re stacking up.
We hold on to parts of ourselves we like and toss away parts of ourselves we don’t like. In this never-ending quest for worthiness, we become lost to ourselves. We stop believing in ourselves.
A key principle of Buddhist psychology is to recognize that your inherent worth, or true nature, is good and pure—that you’re whole and complete as you are, with your flaws and imperfections. It’s accepting that we all make mistakes, that we all suffer from fears and insecurities. This is our common humanity.
Believing in your true nature or basic goodness is a willingness to experience all of yourself—including thoughts and feelings of unworthiness.
Your ego—assumptions and beliefs about who you are—covers up your basic goodness. It keeps you from recognizing your dynamic, changing nature. Rather than learning through concepts or constructs as taught by others, cultivating trust in yourself enables you to learn from your own direct experience. You are willing to make mistakes along the way because you learn to believe in your inner wisdom.
As you develop trust as self-reliance, you shed your defensive armor against failure and disapproval and connect with yourself at a deeper level.
Instead of needing to disown parts of yourself, you develop the courage to own it all. This creates a shift from me versus them mode to we mode—a recognition that you, like everyone else isn’t perfect—that we’re all in this together.
Belief in yourself, in your true nature, invites the understanding that your thoughts, feelings, and beliefs don’t constitute your identity.
When you let go of the need to identify with your experiences, you see what’s happening as impersonal—you see how things naturally unfold. When you let go of the story that defines, limits, and separates you, you open to your essential self and recognize that you are part of the greater whole. You and the world are one.
What is the core negative belief that keeps you from recognizing your true nature? Is it that you can’t get what you need because you aren’t smart enough, pretty enough, unlovable, unworthy….? Recognize it as a lie, a faulty misperception of reality—of how you see yourself in the world.
Sit relaxed and alert with your eyes closed. Feel the breath in the body, as you ride on the waves of the breath coming in and breath going out. With a spacious and open heart, ask yourself: “Is it true that I what I do is never good enough?” “Who am I, really?” Acknowledge your strengths, attributes, and appreciations. Savor your whole and complete self, as you are. Believe in your basic goodness.
Janetti Marotta, Ph.D. - www.janettimarotta.com