Stefanie London is here talking about self-belief and doubt on the Pink Heart Society today.
I’ve often wondered why it’s so easy for us to believe in the abilities of others, yet when it comes to ourselves we’re sadly lacking in the big B.
This was particularly true when I started writing. There were times when I was working on my first manuscript (Only The Brave Try Ballet) where I thought I was wasting my time and that no one would ever want to read my work.
I still have those kinds of doubts. (In fact I wrote a whole post about it here.)
‘Doubt’ is often listed as the antonym of belief, but there’s a big problem with that. It makes the assumption that belief is black and white. It’s not.
Believing in yourself and your ability to achieve your dreams requires continual effort. We don’t wake up one day and suddenly have complete and utter belief in ourselves. On the flipside, it also means that occasional doubts don’t nullify your self-belief.
The Language of Belief
As a writer, I should have realised the significance of language earlier but it took someone to point it out to me. The way we talk about ourselves and to ourselves can have a huge impact on self-belief.
How many times have you said to yourself “I’ll never get published/promoted/that dream job?” What you’re telling yourself is that you don’t deserve the thing you’re chasing. The constant bombardment of ‘I’m not good enough’ messages can affect your self-esteem, motivation, concentration and even your health.
Simply changing ‘if’ to ‘when’ can send a positive message to your brain that helps to build self-belief. It might feel weird and you might not ‘really’ believe the words, but the more you say them the easier they will come.
Like any good habit it’s something you have to learn and repeat to see results. Many of us have been dealing with negative inner voices for a long time and it takes a while to undo the automatic responses our brains have developed.
Challenge your beliefs
A tip that I picked up from a psychologist has made a huge impact on how I talk to myself. Here’s the 'thought challenge' process:
- You have the negative thought, e.g. ‘your books are crap and you’ll never make it as a writer’
- Ask yourself if this is actually true. Can you predict the future? Not likely, therefore the statement isn’t a fact.
- Look at the situation objectively. Have you received positive feedback on your writing before? List down some evidence you have to dispute this internal thought.
- Come up with a new thought. Now is the time that you can replace the negative thought something more realistic. E.g. ‘I will continue to improve my writing so I can realise my dream of being published’.
- Do something about it. Is there something productive you can do to address the thought? If you think you’re a crap writer you could read a craft article, set yourself a new writing goal or find a way to get some objective feedback on your writing.
By running through these steps you’ve been able to turn a negative thought into a constructive action and you’ve challenged your negative thoughts.
I won’t tell you it’s easy because it’s not. I’ve still had plenty of moments where I didn’t want to go through the above steps. I’ve wallowed by eating ice cream and watching TV instead of dealing with the problem. Nobody is perfect, don’t beat yourself up if you can’t do it every time.
Even if you start off challenging your thoughts one time out of every ten you’re still better off than you were before. Start slow, but do start. You can be confident, you can believe in yourself.
How have you dealt with a crisis of self-belief? Share your tips in the comments, you might just inspire someone to believe in themselves!
Stefanie's latest title is Breaking the Bro Code and she has a novel with another dancer, The Tycoon's Stowaway, out in March!