3 Steps to Improve Your Self Belief
A belief is an acceptance that something exists or is true.
What do you believe about yourself to be true?
It’s almost natural to get tied up in telling yourself the reason why you can’t do, achieve or learn something. That what you want just isn’t possible for you to have - but we just need to make a different decision about what we believe.
I remember at times feeling that I wasn’t good enough, smart enough, pretty enough or that I’d left it too late to achieve the things I wanted. And to be honest these thoughts still pop up from time to time.
Where did they come from?
All the beliefs I have about myself, and that you have about yourself, we’ve picked up from external sources. We weren’t born with them. We’ve absorbed them from our parents, teachers, coaches, society and even bullies. For example, when our parents say ‘I’m not made of money’, we can develop a belief that we’ll never have enough money; or teachers telling you that you don’t have an aptitude for a certain subject, believing in and passing on to you a fixed mindset instead of a growth one - you either ‘get it’ or you don’t. And then there are the bullies, doing what bullies do whether they’re children or co-workers.
We take on these beliefs as being true. And what happens then? Well our minds then find ways to prove them true as we go through life. Didn’t get the job or promotion? Not picking up a new skill as quickly as others? Quit a new habit again? Relationship ended? - all proof that we’re not good enough in some way right? Just like we always knew.
Our beliefs about ourselves directly affect the thoughts we have, such as “I can’t do that”, “that’s not possible for me” or “what will people think?”. These thoughts then create feelings of disappointment, sadness, frustration etc which then cycle back up into causing more negative thoughts.
What we believe is a choice!
I’ll say that again - what we believe is a choice.
The only person who is in full control of what you believe about yourself is you. The only person who has control of the subsequent thoughts that spin off from those beliefs, is you. It’s a bitter pill to swallow and easier said than done to change those beliefs and thoughts; but again the only person who can do that, is YOU.
“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”
So how can you start believing that things are possible for you, or that you are capable or “enough”?
The answer is to start practising mindfulness. Mindfulness is a term that’s become quite fashionable but some still think of it as a wooly, hippy-drippy type activity. Mindfulness expert Jon Kabat-Zinn describes mindfulness as ‘purposefully paying attention to thoughts and emotions without judgment.’ When people start practising mindfulness they become consciously aware of the thoughts and beliefs that are trapping them in self-doubt and unhappiness.
Over time people can catch and discard limiting thoughts as soon as they appear and can choose to think something else and research has proven that people who practise mindfulness report improvements in their mood, stress level and overall quality of life.
Mindfulness and changing your thoughts, beliefs and subsequent actions and behaviours will feel hard when you’re first starting out. Cognitive neuroscientists generally have concluded that 95% of the thoughts, decisions, emotions, actions and behaviour we have each day are unconscious. Meaning that we are aware of only 5% of those cognitive activities.
This is why it will feel difficult - because the thoughts, decisions, emotions, actions and behaviours we have are mostly habitual. We do them automatically, without thinking. So by practising mindfulness, you will basically be ‘reprogramming’ your mind with the conscious decisions about what you choose to believe and the actions and behaviours you choose to take.
With enough practice those new thoughts, beliefs etc will happen unconsciously 95% of the time - getting science-y this is called neuroplasticity, where the brain deletes the neural connections that are no longer necessary or useful, (for example habitual thoughts and beliefs amongst much more) and strengthening the necessary ones.
So, how do you practise mindfulness?
Mindfulness in 3 steps:
When you notice a limiting thought, think STOP!
Challenge it by asking ‘is this true?’, ‘what evidence do I have that it’s true?’, ‘has this ever been proven untrue?’
Choose a different thought - for example, I thought and believed that I could never write a blog post/article/story because I found it so hard and it was a new skill, so I avoided doing it for years. When I have this thought now I think about the times I’ve been successful with a new skill and now tell myself, ‘yes it’s hard, but I know I can do it, I just have to keep practising. One day it’ll be easy.’ So my new belief is that I know I’m capable of achieving anything. I just need to keep showing up and practising; eventually it’ll be easy.