The A, B, C of Self Love: Self Belief

Recently I shared with you some of my thoughts on Self Acceptance - the ‘A’ of ‘The A, B, C of Self Love’.

Today I am going to share with you the second element of my Self Love A, B, C model:

Self Belief

Self Belief is about believing in yourself, your plans and your abilities, regardless of what the world thinks, says or throws your way. It’s about trusting in yourself and your potential, through successes AND failures.  It's not the same as confidence, which is often seen as how we show up to the outside world. Self Belief is internal and all about your relationship with You.

I asked some friends to share with me what Self Belief means to them:

“Self belief is trusting myself, my gut feelings, opinions and skills above anything else. And in times of doubt, knowing that the doubt will pass. It’s also being the encouragement I need during difficult spells. Self belief = self love.” – Abi Wright, Designer

“Self Belief is knowing that I can achieve any goal that I set for myself, and not caring about what anyone else says or thinks.” – Jamie Howard, Actor

“Self Belief is continuing to fight on in the face of failure – because you know that your day will come. Self belief is about sticking to your goals and not giving in. ” – Daniel James Henry, Journalist

“Self Belief is knowing that whatever arises you can deal with it. That the opportunity is always bigger than the threat. And that your strengths outweigh your weaknesses tenfold. It's about not fearing failure because even failure is a step towards success.” – Sarah Akwisombe, Interior Stylist / Blogger

Why does Self Belief matter?

We all know the Self Belief plays a big role in living a happy, healthy life. It is easier to overcome barriers and solve problems when you believe in yourself. The more creative thinking you'll do and opportunities you'll spot. You can remain motivated and focus on achieving your goals despite hurdles and setbacks. Genuine Self Belief changes how others perceive & interact with you. This leads to healthier, happier relationships.

So how does Self Belief fit into the Self Love mix?

Well. Just for a bit of analogous fun, let’s imagine for a moment that Self Love is a car.

(Yes a car).

Envisage Self Acceptance being our car’s engine. It’s under the bonnet and almost always out of sight. The outside world rarely sees the engine and you (the driver!) don’t think about the engine until something goes wrong or a key part needs replacing.

If the engine has a problem or a leak you won't get far. And looking under the bonnet can be a daunting experience as we don’t always know what we will find! But Self Belief without Self Acceptance as a foundation is like a bike frame with no wheels. We need to become more accepting of who we are and where we’ve come from to ensure our engine is in good condition. So, if you feel you need to work on becoming a little more self accepting, you can read my post on Self Acceptance here.

So, back to our Self-Love-mobile analogy. If Self Acceptance is the car’s engine, then Self Belief is it's fuel.

Fuel is a fluid; it depletes with use & needs regular topping up. There are many different types on the market and you need to use the right kind of fuel for your engine.

A good friend of mine is in the American Air Force. Years ago when I visited him at a UK Air Base he kindly offered to top up my tank. My car at the time (Willow for those who know) took petrol. In the States, some petrol outlets have black pump handles. This is the opposite to here in the UK where petrol pumps are always green.

So Willow ended up with a belly full of fuel and then wouldn’t start. Between us and Google we worked out what had happened and found a garage who were able to tow and drain her of the Diesel. A few hours (and a few hundred pounds!) later we were back at the base, filling poor Willow up with gas (petrol) from the right pump.

I share this story with you because it is important to remember that we are all different. The activities that empower your friends will not always work for you. I am going to provide you with some Self Belief basics but you will work out what works best for you over time. Knowing you 100% believe in yourself and have your own back is worth all the effort!

I am fed up with ‘confidence coaches’ and self help ‘experts’ claiming to have a universal ‘Self Belief Solution’. Be wary of anything that feels like a one-size-fits-all promise. If someone says ‘Do this and you will become more confident….’ they are lying.

I can only share my personal journey and what I have learnt through my work with my clients. There is no quick fix when it comes to such complex, personal topics like Self Belief. It’s important to remember you are unique and on your own journey.

So how can you have more Self Belief?

The decision to believe in yourself is one you must first make for yourself. But learning how to start doing this and to improve over time is, like any new skill, something you need to learn. And sometimes we need extra help to learn new skills.

I know there are still some taboos around therapy and coaching in the UK, and I am glad this is changing. Both have been key to me on my Self Belief journey.

Investing in extra support is not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign you’re serious about improving your life. 

At different points on my Self Love journey, I’ve needed different types of support. I have had a LOT of therapy. As a teenager, therapy was key to help me learn how to cope, process and let go of a whole load of crap. CBT helped me to start loving myself despite my past - I wrote about this here.

Coaching has also played a key role in enabling me to believe in myself and my ability to realise my dreams. I have also attended countless leadership & personal development programmes - a favourite is WYSE.

So after many years of 'self work' I've now learnt what works best for me to keep my Self Belief fuel levels topped up. My current recipe includes positive affirmations, journaling, regular meditation and visualisations. A few years ago I had no idea what any of these things were! I will write about each of them and the profound impact that they've had on me in another post.

I’m afraid there is no magical Self Belief pill. But I do have some ‘Self Belief Basics’ to share with you. These will help you no matter where you are on your Self Love journey. Please remember these are only basic first steps. You will work out over time what works best for you.

The Self Belief Basics: Triple-CPR:

1. Be Courageous.

Believing in yourself is brave and courageous.

"One of the most courageous things you can do is identify yourself, know who you are, what you believe in and where you want to go.” - Sheila Murray Bethel

It’s courageous to believe in yourself and your own potential. It’s brave to think you’re capable. Especially when other people lie to you and tell you that you can’t. Or tell you that you are worthless or useless. Mean, hurtful words said to you years ago can still hurt today and stop you from believing in yourself. Letting go of things others have said or done to us is one the bravest thing that we can do.

This is your chance to be courageous for you! Courage fuels courage. Bravery gives birth to more bravery. Reflect on these questions:

- What's been said to you that you need to let go of?

- What are you holding onto that gets in the way of you having more Self Belief?

- What brave thing can you do today to honour your Self Belief?


2. Make a Commitment.

Self Belief starts with you making a simple commitment to yourself- a positive decision. That you are going to believe in yourself. No matter what. Even in the face of failure. Or pain. Or hurt.

“In order to succeed, we must first believe that we can.” - Nikos Kazantzakis

This isn’t pretending you will never fail or have any doubts about yourself again.  And this isn’t about ignoring your weaknesses or pretending you’re a super hero (well...). It's about recognising your inherent value and believing in the true essence of who you are.

Self belief is about committing to you and your unfathomable potential - regardless of how the rest of the world is behaving right now, or has behaved in the past.

Your Self Belief is not governed by other people's behaviour towards you. It's governed by your love for you, and your relationship with yourself. This is key: Your Self Belief is a separate entity to other people’s opinions about you. Don’t get the two confused. Ever.

Do you commit to trusting yourself and believing in what you are capable of? All it takes is a few heartfelt words to yourself, for yourself and ta-da! You’ve just started the beautiful journey towards believing in yourself more.

So go and stand in front of the nearest mirror and said these words to the beautiful person looking back at you:

“I believe in you. I choose to believe in you every single day for the rest of my life. I commit to believing in you and your abilities regardless of what other people say or do. I decide to believe in you.”


3. Stop Comparing.

We're shown (photo shopped) images of smiley, happy people living shiny, successful lives daily.  The life stories of ‘celebrities' can make it look like they wake up one day with everything they always dreamed of. It's hard not to compare. 

Social media encourages us to share our best bits so that we are all involved in perpetuating this rose-tinted-fake-takes on reality.

The thing is, there will always be someone who is happier, richer, prettier, cooler or more (insert whatever you hanker after here) than you.

So what?

Who is living your life? Who needs to believe in you if you want to get your stuff done and make your dreams happen? You. That’s who. Not them. It's time to stop comparing.

Don’t let other people’s lives and stories distract you from your own. Inspire, yes. Motivate, yes. Distract or depress? No, no, no.

Be mindful – if you are comparing yourself to others and it's making you feel low this can damage your Self Belief. It's like drilling holes into your car's fuel tank and hoping the fuel will stay contained and do its job. It won't, it will leak all over your driveway and it will smell bad. I learnt this a long time ago.

I have some uber cool friends. Take Sarah. Sarah is cool even when she has no make up on and a nasty head cold. I've seen her on Facetime, trust me, this woman can make even the flu look cool. I love Sarah, but I don’t compare myself to her levels of coolness. It wouldn’t be good for our friendship. Or my Self Belief.

Take a moment to think about who you are currently comparing yourself to. It could be a close friend, it could be a celebrity, or it could be a few people for different reasons. Whoever they are acknowledge them right now and visualise their face(s) in your mind. Now commit to not comparing yourself to them anymore. When you're next scrolling through an Instagram feed of someone that you admire - ask yourself is this inspiring me? If you're not feeling good or motivated, log off. Your Self Belief will thank you later.


4. Be Persistent.

Self Belief takes effort. It’s not a one-time conversation with yourself in the mirror and then you're all good. It requires persistence to keep on keeping on. Consistently believing in yourself when everything / everyone else gives you reasons to quit. Even if you have dropped the Self Belief ball 100 times before - it's about picking it up and taking another shot. As the greatest Basketball player of all time eloquently explains:

“I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”  - Michael Jordan

Believing in yourself takes practice, patience and compassion. And tenacity. Shed loads of tenacity.  You've got to stick with it. Be kind to yourself, especially if you're trying to believe in yourself is a new thing. You don’t decide to learn Mandarin on Monday and walk up fluent on Tuesday. It’s the same with Self Belief, it takes time to learn how to.

Like Michael - you have to persist through the hard times, failed attempts and mess ups. Like any muscle that you want to strengthen, the more you exercise Self Belief the more natural believing in yourself becomes. It’s key to remember that all tough times and moments of self doubt are temporary (and normal!).


5. Be Resilient.

Self Belief is about having a deep, internal sense of confidence in yourself and your abilities, despite what the world throws your way.

It’s about believing you can even when everyone else tells you that you can’t. It’s about having faith that good things can and will happen for you. Even when you’re in the midst of the ultimate crap storm and there is no clear sky in sight.

Self Belief is knowing that you can get through the storm before the clouds break.  

If Self Belief is pretty new to you and you start to work on believing in yourself more, others might not like it. Be aware, some people who you care about might not support you on your Self Love journey. This is likely to be more about them than you. Please don't let anyone hold you back from learning how to love yourself more, accept yourself more and believe in yourself more. It's your life. You deserve your love before anyone else does.

So what Self Belief ‘fuel’ does your engine need more of? Do you need to make more of a serious Self Belief commitment to yourself? Do you need to stop comparing yourself to others? Is it time to get a bit braver and try something new? You might have some other ideas about what you can do to believe in yourself more - why not try something out this weekend?

Remember you'll learn more about what you personally need to build up your Self Belief over time. Be open-minded and look out for the opportunities that surround you every single day. Be willing to try new things, be willing to 'fail' to learn. And remember: Self Belief is Self Love.

Now over to you! What does Self Belief mean to you? What have you found has helped or motivated you to believe in yourself more? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

In my next blog post I will share my thoughts on the third element of The A, B, C of Self Love model: Self Care.


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