Learn what self-belief is, why it matters, and discover science-based tips for how to start believing in yourself.
When we believe in ourselves, it can help us achieve our goals, manifest our dreams, and increase our well-being. But the flip side is also true. Lack of belief in ourselves means we are less likely to act, to change, or to push to make things better. In fact, when we expect we will fail, we are actually more likely to fail (Bénabou & Tirole, 2002).
That means that believing in ourselves is kind of like the key that turns the ignition and starts the car. We can't really go anywhere without it. Try as we might to push ourselves forward, we're blocked because our thoughts, attitudes, and actions aren't in alignment with our goals. So, we either don't do what we need to do or we sabotage ourselves along the way, sometimes in obvious ways and sometimes in unconscious ways.
So, how do you believe in yourself?
How to Believe in Yourself
Believing in yourself includes things like self-worth, self-confidence, self-trust, autonomy, and environmental mastery.
Self-worth is the sense that you have value as a human being.
Self-confidence is a positive attitude about your abilities, qualities, and judgment.
Self-trust is faith that you can rely on yourself.
Autonomy is feeling able to choose and direct your own behavior.
Environmental mastery is your belief that your efforts will result in the changes you desire.
These are some of the key components involved in believing in yourself. Maybe you struggle with just one of them or maybe you struggle with all of them. By understanding where your struggles lie, it'll be easier to start shifting your attitudes about yourself.
Questions to Ask Yourself
Ask yourself these questions to better understand if there are things that are getting in the way of you believing in yourself:
Self-worth: Do you value yourself as a human being? Do you agree that you're no worse than any other person?
Self-confidence: Do you feel good about your skills and abilities? Do you feel good about your personal qualities? Do you feel good about your judgment and decision making?
Self-trust: Can you rely on yourself? Can you trust that you'll do what you say you'll do?
Autonomy: Do you feel free to do what you want to do? Do you believe that no one can stop you from reaching your dreams?
Environmental mastery: When you take action, do you believe that it will lead to the results you desire? Do you believe that you're able to get the things you want?
If you answered "no" or were leaning towards "no" to any of these questions, those are likely the areas that thwart your ability to believe in yourself. Spend some time thinking more about how you might shift these self-beliefs to believe in yourself more.
How to Believe in Yourself
Change your self-talk
Once you've identified your unsupportive self-beliefs, question these beliefs by talking back to your inner voice. If you feel like you have no value, tell yourself, "You are a valuable, amazing, person who deserves to live a good life." Or, if you don't feel confident, remind yourself of your good qualities and skills.
Positive self-talk like this has been shown to improve our performance (Tod, Hardy, & Oliver, 2011). By saying positive things to ourselves, we can start to rewrite our internal scripts. We can slowly but surely start to develop new scripts in our minds that are a bit more like cheerleaders and a bit less like jerks. And this helps us shift our beliefs.
We often think of trust as something we have for others. But we can also have trust in ourselves. Having (or not having) this trust in ourselves has similar implications as having (or not having) trust in others. For example, when we trust someone, we're honest with them, we can count on them, and we are confident in them doing what's best for us.
So what might it mean when we don't trust ourselves? Well, maybe we don't want to be honest with ourselves because we're not sure what we'll do with that information. Maybe we can't count on ourselves to do the things we tell ourselves we'll do. Or, maybe we're afraid that we'll do things to harm ourselves instead of help ourselves.
It may sound odd when spelled out like this, but many of us do indeed have self-trust issues. For example, maybe we've told ourselves a thousand times that we are going to start exercising... but we never do it. So how likely is it that we'd trust ourselves to start a new exercise program? Not very likely.
Here are some tips to start building trust within yourself:
Do what you say you're going to do. Maybe this means reducing your number of commitments, learning to say "no", or sticking to a schedule. Experiment if you need to see what you need to do to stick to your word.
Be honest with yourself. Engage in self-reflection to get to the truth of what you really think, feel, and need in life. Try not to focus so much on what other people want you to do.
Do what you believe is right. Live your values and follow your inner compass. If you're on a path that is true to you, then it'll likely be easier to believe in your ability to walk it.
Be clear. Get clearer about who you are and what you want. Know the things you are willing to do and the things you are not. That way you can trust yourself to make good decisions and communicate them effectively.
Believing in ourselves involves a bit more than just forcing ourselves to develop self-love and start pursuing our goals. It's more a matter of seeing where we're stuck and compassionately exploring how to get unstuck. Hopefully, these were some useful tips to get started.
Bénabou, R., & Tirole, J. (2002). Self-confidence and personal motivation. The quarterly journal of economics, 117(3), 871-915.
Tod, D., Hardy, J., & Oliver, E. (2011). Effects of self-talk: A systematic review. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 33(5), 666-687.