How to Believe in Yourself (Part 1)

Processed with VSCOcam with hb1 presetStanding in the light helps.

“Just believe in yourself.”

It’s one of those throwaway pieces of advice that people tend to dole out.

Like “Take it easy.” or “Let it go.” In the darkest, fuzziest moments of my seemingly endless quarter life crisis/spiritual awakening/complete breakdown, it was particularly frustrating to hear it. Because even though as a little kid I just knew there was something I was here to do, like a beacon shining out to me, blinking from afar, it felt like I’d lost the map, the instruction manual. How do I even get there, to navigate across those dark waters, to wherever there is?

So “Just believe in yourself” was pretty galling to me, as you can imagine. As my need and urgency to find my place in the world grew, there were times I felt disparaged just hearing this phrase.

How? How do you actually believe in yourself? I wanted to shout… while melodramatically running across rainy streets and sun-scorched deserts.

Looking back, I’ve since realized why it was tough for me to even start believing in myself. At that point, I didn’t even have a firm grip on who my fundamental Self is. To be sure, I knew things about myself. I like to write. That’s been true since I was little. I knew myself in terms of taste and preferences – what I liked and what I disliked; but it basically boiled down to knowing stuff about myself. At my core, I didn’t really know who I was. Up till then, it felt like I had been fumbling around, taking clumsy steps towards what I wanted, like following a trail of breadcrumbs on the path Home, while one part of me secretly believed I had to compromise to fit into the ‘real world’, to be ‘practical’, to mould myself into the world I saw around me to make a living like everyone else. So I compromised. In other words, ugh. U.G.H.

Sounds like a recipe for happiness doesn’t it? And yes, I was pretty miserable. Because deep down inside, I knew I wasn’t living an authentic life. I was safe, yes, secure, yup – but I was also unhappy. Being a Virgo, this unhappiness often manifested as over-critical, judgmental behavior.

Part of not having a handle on my empath abilities at that point also meant that those traits only served to confuse me about who I am and what I believe in. As the sensitive-person-in-denial that I was, it was also easier to be drowned out in this noisy, wonderful world of ours than to add my voice into the cacophony. It was often easier to reflect others around me instead of standing out and risking that stimulation – all for an unknown reward. So how could I have even begun to believe in something – my Self – that I didn’t even truly know?

What is Self-Belief Anyway?

This is what I know now: Self-Belief is coming home to your Self. It is the metaphorical There of my childhood. Not a physical place, but a state of grace. It’s coming into your own and letting it all flow from there. And this standing in your own power, owning your sense of self – is its own reward.

Not money, not fame, nothing material (although all these may come as a by-product.) But feeling at home in your own skin? It’s priceless. Contentment. Bliss. Peace. (Not that I’m there There yet completely… Not at all. But I’ve had enough tastes of it consistently enough to know… It’s real! It exists. It’s TRUE.)

I know, mind-blowing, isn’t it?!

More concretely, my definition of self-belief is a sense of conviction in who I am, what I believe in, and what I can give to the world. And having confidence that it’s something of value.

I was, and am still driven by a great need to contribute something of worth to the world, no matter how humble. So I began to experiment, seek out the truth, to find out what it all meant for me.

First, Getting to Know Your Self

So I set about getting to know myself – and that meant going deep, deep within. If you’re an empath reading this, you should already be familiar with how it feels to be able to go deep. At the same time, and paradoxically, it was also about going wide by trying out as many new things as possible – because only through experience, can you learn about yourself. Experiences serve as mirrors, especially if you start paying more attention to your knee-jerk responses to events.

So all those times I threw myself into situations I wasn’t sure I knew were what I really wanted? They were also learning experiences. Through them, I understood myself a little better, and even if they turned out to be negative ones, I now knew more about what I didn’t want. Which is equally as important as knowing what you do want.

Today, my priority is to keep myself on this practice of believing in myself and standing in my own power. As I stand firmer in this space day by day, my trust in myself grows too. And I say practice because – just like many other tough and worthwhile things in life, it’s something you have to commit to. Day after day after day. Some days will be easier than the others. Other days are downright awful, when you just can’t seem to get out of bed. Those days are okay too… The bed is a really nice place to be in. (But then you MUST get up again tomorrow.)

Far be it from prescribing this as the Ultimate Way of Believing in Yourself, this is just I’ve learnt so far. If you too are seeking for the truth and looking for answers, and this finds you somehow – I hope this can help you in some small way!

1. Take time to find out who is that Self.

Remember: We are constantly in the process of becoming ourselves – there won’t be a day where you’re like, ‘A-HA! Self! I’ve found you. And that’s who I’ll be forever and ever.’ We are evolving, fluid human beings.

So think of discovering yourself as a practice, a fun thing to constantly observe and look into. Above all, be patient with this process. Here’s what’s really helped me so far:

  • Ask yourself: What makes you feel really, truly alive? What makes you feel excited, in the moment, in the flow, and where time just seems to pass without you noticing?
  • And if you come up blank to those questions – a surefire way to know is to go out there and DO stuff. As an HSP, I tend to get stuck in my head weighing out pros and cons and taking stock of risk to the point where I can sometimes get paralyzed in analysis. So just sign up for that class, go to that event, message that friend, start writing your blog post, whatever you feel like doing, just to see what you connect with and what you don’t. Then just keep following the pings of feedback you get from these activities. Be ruthless in dropping the activities that don’t serve you or make you happy.
  • Take time out in silence, in nature, in solitude to really connect with yourself. I know some people freak out at spending time alone with yourself (hello, extroverts!) but I swear in that silence, even in that very anxiety you feel at being alone… Informs you about yourself. How do you see yourself without the company of others? All of these things are worthy points of inquiry.
  • Take yourself out of your usual zone of comfort. Travel to somewhere you’ve never been, do an activity you’ve never done before. (More points if you do these things…Alone.) All these activities serve to snap you out of day-to-day funk and help you experience yourself in a whole new different way.
  • And while you’re doing this, learn to let go. Don’t obsess over ‘finding yourself’ or being anxious at whatever is currently bugging you. Even if you can achieve this for 2 seconds, it’s already a tiny victory. Every tiny victory COUNTS, my friend. So celebrate it. Be kind to yourself and drop all expectations of perfectionism, if you’re a chronic perfectionist like I am. For example: yoga. I never liked it. But then I decided I would give it a proper try when I moved here. And as luck would have it, I found myself really enjoying the classes here – partly because of how great the teachers are, but also because I decided to just GO WITH IT. And trust my body. Trust my self to know my limits and be in the moment. And over time, I grew more confident in my abilities, and it has been truly awesome!
  • Read a TON. I’ve read a million books – I reach to the wisdom of others when I’m at my most helpless. Thank Universe for all the Wise Others Who Came Before Us who wrote books and also those Who Will Come After Us. No need to reach for ‘self-help books’ – in fact, I kind of give them the side-eye because I don’t believe in ‘improving’ yourself from the premise of one being wrong or flawed in some way, but I do happily profit from a certain lucky brand of book and internet serendipity, where I will stumble upon just the right thing to read at the right point of my journey. These can be poetry, quotes, blogs, books, magazines – anything! And I believe that this can happen to you as you’re on your path too. A few years back, when I was at the beginning of my journey, The Alchemist was a great guide, (almost cliched but very true, there’s a reason why it’s so popular!). Dying to be Me, by Anita Moorjani. A friend recommended “When Things Fall Apart – Heart Advice for Difficult Times” by Pema Chodron, and that has been a touchstone for me even in peaceful times. Poetry has been great – Rumi, Rilke. Now Nayyirah Waheed, Shinji Moon. I believe different things will speak to you at different moments. Very importantly: never take what you read as the gospel truth. Take what speaks to you, and discard the rest. Always trust that gut feeling you have within you. Even the Buddha says never take what he says at face value if it doesn’t ring true for you! So always be your own authority. YOU know what’s best for you.
  • A clue: Things that you resist, therein lies the answer…
  • And again, lastly and forever: patience, because in the end, things take time to unfold. What matters are the little steps that will eventually lead to that bigger picture of yourself.

This has turned out to be One Really Long post, and I have more to share (this list does extend further than just 1 point!) – I’ll be posting the next part sometime in the week!

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