So many self-proclaimed “experts” have touted this advice as the holy grail when it comes to any achievement in life—namely, theirs.
“Just believe in yourself,” they say, like it’s as simple as just washing your hands, or changing a shirt.
What they don’t tell you is that this very thing is more like changing your lifestyle from that of sedentary to an active one.
Or even like changing your diet for a healthier version, cutting the crap cold turkey (which we all know is the wrong way to make real change).
That is to say…it seems easy at first, like it’s a quick fix, something that you can flip a switch and make it all better. But a few days in, you start to sweat.
You realize that you’re not really believing in yourself, but just pretending to, and that believing in yourself means there is a fundamental shift in how you view yourself and your position in this life. And that shit is hard. It doesn’t happen automatically, but you don’t know how.
How do you go from someone who doubts and makes excuses to the person who can stand up and be who you truly want?
Because in order to get where you’re going—no matter where it is—you have to actually believe you can make it.
“Just believe in yourself.”
I have such a problem with the people who tell us to believe in ourselves after they themselves had a hand in pulling us down. Little did we realize before…but since we were only in the single digits, we were being groomed to do the very opposite.
Imagine you are 5-years-old again. You just hurried in the door to your mom/dad/guardians after a day filled with activities of learning about different professions and what you could be when you grow up.
And of course your parents are delighted to ask, repeatedly, every other day at least during your kindergarten year, “what do you want to be when you grow up?”
It was a simple question, so we thought when we were kids. It required a very simple answer. Usually something “honorable” or lofty, something your parents would “aww” about and talk about how proud they were that you wished to be that.
And when we answered with, “A doctor!”, “A marine biologist!”, “An actor!”, our parents cooed and cawed over us, telling us that’s exactly what we could be, their eyes alight and smiles bright.
The next year seemed similar, and maybe the one after that.
The question remained the same.
Your answer did too, for the most part, maybe rotating between a few dream careers you were proud to want to do, the ones that still sounded cool. And the light in your eyes grew each time the adult approved of your grand plan.
But soon, the same question would be asked again, and your same answer would be given, but those same wide excited eyes would start to fall after bearing witness to furrowed brows sinking further into the sideways glances of those adults as each year went by.
Until eventually, we learn to provide answers that receive a nod and maybe a “neat”, something—anything—absent of judging eyes that made us burn inside when we voiced the silly little cute career our childhood selves dreamed of.
This is how, as children, we learn to let other people’s limiting beliefs replace the belief we had in ourselves.
It’s not about learning…it’s about unlearning
We were taught to stop believing in ourselves. We were taught that when our dreams get big and “difficult to achieve,” that it’s already out of reach.
And this is a lie.
Is it really their fault, though? They were taught the same, and the people before them. We’ve all been conditioned to be creative and wild and completely out-of-the-box when we’re small, but eventually we have to be “appropriate” and for some reason, that means we have to conform to some sort of “norm” that really doesn’t exist.
So instead of the idea of starting to believe in yourself, it’s more about unlearning how to NOT believe in yourself.
Because believing in ourselves is innate. We’re born without the self-doubt, without the thoughts that run rampant in attempt to slow us down, keep us “safe.”
When we begin to learn to walk, we don’t sit there doubting or over thinking. We pull ourselves up, and take a step, fully believing we can make it happen. And when we fall down, we repeat the same process: pull ourselves up, take a step, fall. Pull ourselves up, take two steps, fall. Pull ourselves up…until we can successfully walk to our parents, their full support and cheers of glee yanking us forward.
It’s easier then, because we don’t know how to doubt our belief in ourselves.
But when we grow, this learned behavior punctuates the light with shades of darkness that turn dreams into nightmares, something inspiring to something we fear.
How to unlearn self-doubt so you can believe in yourself
Okay, okay. Enough about the what. You know here at the Ordinary Outpost, we dive into the how so instead of just spouting information at you like so many people do, you can actually implement it so you can learn and grow—we can learn and grow.
So how do you go about unlearning this behavior, getting rid of the self-doubt and adopted limiting beliefs that are holding you back?
1. Talk to yourself
Most people can find that they often have 2 voices in their heads—2 versions of themselves. One is the voice inside their head that just speaks up at all times, the observer who comments on life.
The other is their conscious voice, the one they can control, the one they can feel as themselves.
When we get the two mixed up, and see them as the same, it’s trouble.
There’s a book I read called The Untethered Soul and it often talks about the difference between you and your thoughts and observations (highly recommend checking it out).
The point is, you can influence that automatic voice inside your head, the non-conscious one, the one that often controls your conscious mind as well. When you use your conscious voice to evaluate those other thoughts, you’re able to shut them down and silence them.
Simply observing those thoughts and then responding with your conscious mind with the truth, can help you see how vastly wrong your thoughts can be.
Here’s an example of one I have often:
Who am I to even talk about this stuff? So many more people have had it worse. Nobody will take me seriously, or worse, they’ll think I’m full of myself.
Conscious mind self-talk:
But…just because other people have had it worse doesn’t take away from my experiences, or the things I’ve learned. And…who cares if “nobody” takes me seriously? Those people are not my audience, they’re not for me anyway. I’m not full of myself because my heart is in this to help other people, and I know where my intentions lie. Who cares if other people don’t or misinterpret? They’re either not for me, or they’ll come around after realizing I’m authentic.
It can feel silly to do this. I recommend writing this stuff in a journal (this is my favorite one, simple, classic). You can really just do exactly what I did above and write down your fear or what your self-talk is saying, and then you can respond to it with your conscious thoughts.
^ This method also works great for other mindset-related things like insecurities or any negative emotions.
2. Interrupt the doubt with, “when did I learn to believe this?”
This one is all about pulling your emotional brain out and filling it with logic. It’s about recognizing those limiting beliefs when they appear, and challenging where they came from.
Think of it like this:
You spend a lot of time around a specific person who uses a phrase repeatedly, one you even find annoying.
After a little while, you start using that phrase over and over again, to the point that your other friends/family start to tell you how annoying it is.
This triggers you to go, “where did I get that from?” or even “Damn! I must’ve picked it up.” And because you’ve recognized that you do it, you now pay attention whenever the opportunity to say it comes up, and you choose not to.
This is the same thing with limiting beliefs and learning to believe in yourself.
Sometimes, you have to spot where that lack of belief came from in order to shut it down.
An example of this for me is when my grandmother used to say I would never get anywhere without going to college. I held this belief myself for a long time, even planning and writing essays to apply to schools that I knew, deep down, I didn’t want to go to.
But because I held that belief, that was the only way.
Then, one day, I was talking to someone and said “well my grandma says…” and then realized…why am I living my life according to a woman I only see a few times a year? That belief is hers, it’s not mine.
And that set me down a path that allowed me to create the life I truly wanted, one I love to live.
So get into the habit of stopping yourself whenever those limiting beliefs come up, whenever you find your mind wandering to, “I can’t do this,” stop and ask “when did I learn to believe that?”
And watch your perception change.
3. Talk to other people
Specifically, talk to the people closest to you, who see you as you truly are and not the person you’ve been conditioned to see yourself as. Yes, this can get difficult if they’re the wrong people…
Meaning, if the people around you are full of limiting beliefs themselves and don’t think you can do things or believe in yourself, they’re not going to help this.
The good people in your life—the ones who are truly there for you and to see you succeed—will help you see yourself in the light you need to in order to accomplish your goals.
Open up to them and explain what you want, who you want to be, and what you think is getting in the way. More often than not (if they’re good people), they’ll tell you how silly our worries are and that you’re more than capable of making it happen.
Sometimes, because we’ve learned from other people to not believe in ourselves, it takes the words of other people to help us get there.
I hope these tips helped! Overall, it’s a lot of self-work. You have to be willing to get vulnerable with yourself, admit your worries and insecurities, and work toward remedying them the best way you can.
THEN, you’ll start to believe in yourself.