“You just have to believe in yourself.”
We hear this all the time. Professional athletes toss off this one-liner so frequently we hear it without even thinking about it anymore. Of course you have to believe in yourself. I believe in myself. You believe in yourself. We all believe in ourselves. This is the inherent self-esteem of a generation weaned on years of participation trophies.
Except we don’t all believe in ourselves. Hardly anyone does. Really believes, I mean.
We see it constantly. Everyone knows people who can’t finish school or hold down a job. People who continually sabotage or undermine their careers or relationships by making stupid choices. People who don’t even attempt to make changes because of their fear of failure.
Our media reflects a culture that’s been saturated with fear and self- doubt. We love to guffaw over things like Rick Perry’s brainfart. Even our entertainment oozes with schadenfreude: “Can you believe what skanky losers those Jersey Shore kids are? OMG can you believe what a fraud Kim Kardashian is? We may not be rich, or famous, or talented, but at least were not as pathetic as those people.” We’re a society of schoolyard bullies.
So how do we really get to believe in ourselves?
By accomplishing something.
This is so obvious, so fundamental, but it seems like an entire society is overlooking this. It bears repeating: the only way to ever truly believe in yourself is to accomplish something.
Lets break this down: “Believing in yourself” is really a roundabout way of saying “Believing in your capabilities“. If you’ve never accomplished anything, how can you possibly know what your capabilities are? If you’ve never accomplished anything, your claimed “belief in yourself” is nothing more than varnish, easily scratched or weathered off. All the bravado in the world won’t replace the conviction in your skills and abilities that comes from having relied on them in the past, and having succeeded. And the only way you can build those skills and abilities, the only way you get through the many failures that come before success, is through commitment.
So, at its core, belief in yourself comes from belief in your abilities, which comes from honing those skills, which requires commitment.
Bonus: to those who are afraid of committing to one thing because they don’t think they have the passion, or motivation, or interest in that narrow subject, I have good news: you don’t have to motivate yourself if you’re committed. The motivation automatically falls into place when you truly commit. The passion comes after success, not before.