Today I am going to write about something I struggle with a great deal: believing in myself. Lately I’ve been reading through a great deal of the self-help and motivation type blogs. They are quite popular. I guess it’s what everybody wants and we definately need it at times. For me though they only seemed to wake up the demons in my head. I call them my demons anyway. They are the negative voices that go off in my head from time to time which convince me everything is bad and prevent me from seeing the good there is in life.
Today I’m better rested and the angels in my head (the positive voices) have had time to wage a counter-attack and I feel the urge to write some thoughts. When I hear things like “Believe in yourself, and you can accomplish anything” I’m filled with an irresistible urge to SCREAM!!! First of all, IT’S NOT TRUE, and I am certain I can prove it. Secondly, it ends up being very discouraging for those who are alreading facing discouragement, setbacks, and shattered dreams. That’s anything but motivating.
We’ve got to have goals, and accomplishing those goals has to begin with the belief that those achievement is possible. I don’t think there is much disputing that. The more we believe, the more likely we will achieve. On the other hand, if we don’t believe something will happen, we will certainly be correct. The thing to recognize is the faith (confidence) in one’s self doesn’t just happen; it comes from success. Setting expectations too high prematurely only produces disappointment and failure, and that is a vicious cycle leading not only to defeat, but also to a feeling of worthlessness.
With this in mind, I would like to make a few points about strengthening our belief in ourselves realistically.
Recognize different starting points.
Not only do we have different body types, intellectual abilities, and personalities; our past experiences have an incredible influence on our self-confidence. If you were raised in an environment in which you were told repeatedly how you would never amount to anything, you are not going to be at the same starting point as somebody who has had a nurturing family. It’s easy to believe things always work out, when that has been your experience. However, if you’re a child of divorce, family conflict, drug abuse, and negative thinking, you are not going to have the same amount of self-confidence. Therefore, don’t compare yourself with others who have greater advantages.
Not everyone is going to finish first place. Not everyone is going to be a star. Not everyone can be number 1. Not everyone can build a thriving business. There is a whole lot that goes into being number 1. Things like physical and mental abilities, supporting friends, financial resources, expert advice, and let’s not forget just plain luck. all contribute to being numero uno. I don’t care how much faith or self-confidence a person has, there is no guarantee you can be anything you want. For everyone who achieves being the best at something there are countless others with all the drive who don’t make it. Does that mean all those people are losers and failures? Of course not. But there are a lot of people who feel defeated when they can’t be the best. Being number one usually feeds our ego, but not necessarily our character.
Greatness is too high of a standard for the majority of people, but this has nothing to with our value as a person. In striving to achieve, there is also a need for contentment with our own abilities too.
Lower the bar
Not everyone is capable of greatness, but we are all capable of greater. Instead of striving to be the best, start by just trying to be better. When our expectations are too high we just get depressed and discouraged. Instead of comparing ourselves to others, it’s a whole lot more motivating to compare ourselves to ourselves. In this way, I may not progress as much as I would like, but I still move in the right direction.
Enjoy the process.
One of the best t-shirts I’ve seen lately had on it the words, “I play guitar because I like it not because I’m good at it.” This not only describes how I feel about playing guitar, but many of the other things I do with my time. I really wish I could be good at playing guitar, and I spend a lot of time trying to be better. Considering how much time I spend playing, I should be better, but I’m not where I want to be. This has nothing to do with self-confidence or drive, it just isn’t happening. I can get very discouraged playing guitar or I can just enjoy the process of playing.
How to look at it.
How I look at things makes all the difference between success and defeat. For instance, I have been playing guitar for over seven years. I know several who have been playing for less time than that who are so much better. If I compare myself to others, I get discouraged. When I hear that I could be better if I just believed in myself, I feel defeated. Not only am I not good, but now I have the extra added guilt of not having enough faith in myself to be good. It’s like telling somebody you didn’t win the race because you didn’t try. Who determines this?
On the other hand, if I enjoy the process of playing with contentment in my progress, and I consider how far I have come from when I started, I feel successful. One way builds faith (confidence), the other destroys it.
A friend of mine, Larry, has had incredible success as a bodybuilder. Today, he owns a gym is highly sought by all sorts of athletes for his expertise. He is an incredible asset for athletes of all levels and fields. But I came to find out this story almost had an incredibly different ending. His father once told me that when Larry was young, he had football coach who pushed Larry beyond his abilities. Larry quit the team and was about to quit athletics altogether, but a different coach came along who managed to build on Larry strengths without making him feel defeated.
There is a very thin line between spurring a person on and pushing them to a point of breaking. This is also true in how we push ourselves. Overtraining among athletes is quite common when drive goes beyond the bodies ability.
There is strong tendency when we have achieved something to think that we discovered some new process by which anybody can do what we have done. We don’t all have the same abilities. We struggle with different things in different ways. I am sick to death of the old adage of pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps. The irony is you can’t do that. Think about it. We need each other’s help to do anything.
I hear several people claiming to be self-made man. Evidently, they have completely forgotten all the people and situations which made their success possible. But what gives me the most concern is when people look down on others who, for one reason or another, have not enjoyed the success. This isn’t motivating, it’s discouraging.