What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
December is a good month to reflect on the year to date, and to start planning for the next year. One work activity I have enjoyed in 2018 is coaching, or helping clients move towards their intentions and goals. It is great to see them achieving what they are wanting in life. To enable this, one of the areas we often have to work on together is ‘self-belief.’
Many of us struggle with our sense of self-worth. You may have said in your life, ‘I have low self-esteem’, or you might be highly self-critical. Our underlying beliefs about ourselves, when constructive, are referred to as self-belief, and these drive our self-perception and self-confidence.
Low self-belief can contribute to stress, anxiety and low mood. In turn these can affect sleep and eating habits, or the ability to exercise. Low self-belief can affect our self-confidence and may prevent us from socializing or going to work functions. It may affect our assertiveness with others, or cause us to avoid putting ourselves forward for tasks at work through fear of failing.
In this blog, I’ll touch on the influence of life experiences and society on our self-belief, as well as offer some simple suggestions to building self-belief.
- Early life experiences: A child who experiences a lot of criticism growing up, for example, will struggle to develop a strong sense of self- belief. The child might take on the belief that he/she is not good enough or doesn’t achieve what is expected internally or externally. Experiences such as prolonged separation from parents, neglect, or emotional, physical, or sexual abuse can greatly affect a person’s self-belief.
- Ongoing life experiences: Experiences in families, relationships or in the workplace continue to influence self-belief. The negative and intimidating behaviours of a bully or abusive individual, for example, will impact on self-belief. Compare these people to encouraging individuals who boost self-belief. Also, our health, negative life events such as losing a job are experiencing the breakdown of a relationship can negatively affect our self-belief.
- The society in which we live: The potentially positive or negative influences of media, culture, government and education influence our self-belief. Women, for example, might take on the view that to be worthy they must be attractive, nurturing, smart, successful and more. Men might take on the idea that they also must have certain attributes, such as being strong and successful. These views tend to be unrealistic and can lead us to place pressure on ourselves through comparison with an unrealistic ideal. Also, the modernization of technology and our increasing reliance on social media can cause us distress, especially when we measure ourselves against others and rely heavily on self-validation through ‘likes’ and ‘follows’.
If you think that you have low self-belief, there are a number of simple steps you can take to boost your sense of self-belief and self-confidence:
- Change unhelpful stories, such as ‘I am not good- enough’ and change to ‘I am good-enough’.
- Make a list of your strengths and achievements. It can be a good idea to do this with a friend, as we may not be able to create these objectively. Once complete, read this list everyday. It may also help to write a list of what we are grateful for in our lives, which can help boost our spirit.
- Focus on values, accept what is not within your control, and take action that helps create a meaningful life.
- Practise mindfulness as opposed to being caught up in thoughts or feelings. This leads to more calmness and self-compassion.
- Focus on strengths, positive emotions and purpose/ accomplishment.
- Enhance relationships and connect with others.
- Accept compliments — just say thank you!
- Stand tall and smile, and celebrate success.
- Dress in a way that makes you feel good about yourself.
- Eat healthily and exercise. Just a 20 minute walk each day can lift your mood, and in turn, self-belief.
- Do more of the things you enjoy. Spend time with people who make you feel good and ovoid those who make you feel drained.
- Remember to trust heart-felt knowledge or intuition.
I hope that you have a wonderful Christmas, and wish you Hope, Healing and Happiness in 2019! I hope that you continue to build your self-belief over coming months, to help you move towards what you want for yourself in the New Year.
NOTE: If you would like to find out more about self-belief, I have written an e-book on the topic, which is now available in the ‘shop’.
Building Confidence and Self-Esteem. Burton, Neel. Posted May 30, 2012. https://www.psychologytoday.com/au/blog/hide-and-seek/201205/building-confidence-and-self-esteem
Howell, C. 2017, Listening, Learning, Caring and Counselling The Essential Manual for Psychologists, Psychiatrists, Counsellors & other Healthcare Professionals on Caring For Their Clients, NSW: Exisle.
 Building Confidence and Self-Esteem, Burton, Neel, Posted May 30, 2012, https://www.psychologytoday.com/au/blog/hide-and-seek/201205/building-confidence-and-self-esteem