Self-belief is the foundation for self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-worth. It’s having trust in your own abilities, the decisions you make and knowing you’re capable of achieving what you set out to do – or that you’re willing to start, give it a go and learn if things don’t go quite to plan.
When you have self-belief, you’re more likely to have a positive self-image and feel good about yourself.
Having self-belief leads to a greater sense of well-being and fulfilment, and you’re highly likely to be living a content life.
I’ve written about Trust before, but this is a big issue and also a central value for me, so I come back to this topic often. I also want to provide an update on how I’ve been Boosting my Confidence recently, because that’s linked in with my self-trust.
I hope by sharing my experiences I give you some self-assurance to face your own challenges, that you’re inspired to believe you are stronger than you think. Each time I achieve something – that makes me anxious or something that feels too hard – I feel a bit giddy. It’s a deep feeling of “OMG I CAN DO IT!” and “What was I so worried about?!”.
Here’s recent times where I’ve stretched myself, left my comfort zone (in control) and done something that’s given me evidence to reinforce my self belief. There’s been a lot of mental and physical energy given in each of these, and without doubt, the mental aspect is the part I needed to build up:
Solo bike ride to collect cottage cheese: a combination of road, trail and off-road for 45km from Glossop to Longley Farm and back. There’s a big hill in the middle (Woodhead pass), and the farm is at the bottom of a steep road. So this isn’t an easy ride. My partner has been ‘popping over’ to pick up the cheese on his bike for a while and I’d been curious to know if I was capable of doing it. We had a go together and I did it. There’s always the reassurance cycling with him, that if anything mechanical happens he does know what to do. So I challenged myself to do the ride alone. 4th April was the day, I took it nice and easy, smiled lots (I find this helps calm any nerves) and got there and back safely. Happy Days! No mechanicals, no maniac drivers and 2kg of cheese picked up.
100 Day Burpee Challenge: an accumulator starting with 1, ending with 100 burpees on day 100. In total 5050 burpees over 100 days. It felt alright and quick to do for about a month, the middle section progressively got harder and the final 30 days were really tough and a workout on their own. In the final week I did nearly 700 burpees. This was one of the challenges in my 50 Things before I’m 50. Hardest aspect – actually remembering to do them each day. 2nd hardest….the fact that you do +1 each day. Proudest of – I didn’t miss a single day, even when we were away. I haven’t done a burpee since completion in early April!!
Solo long hilly bike ride: In preparation for our coast to coast ride (see below) I figured I really needed to do a long ride with some hills. I planned a route which included picking up 2kg of cottage cheese (and 2 pints of buttermilk I forgot we’d ordered) at around two thirds the way round. There weren’t any expectations of how long I’d be out, and I’d included a couple of cafe stops to refuel. I surprised myself on this one simply because I got round, it truly was a shock that I didn’t need rescuing and I wasn’t totally drained of energy. I put this down to eating often (I had an alarm on my watch at 35mins) and stopping little and often too.
Long gravel (off road) bike ride: out with my partner in Dumfries & Galloway to tackle an off-road ride with hills. I’m not very comfortable riding on bumpy terrain so I was anxious and it really wasn’t 100% if I’d get round the loop we’d planned. The ride was 60km and I was incredibly tired from around 45km. There wasn’t a bail out option so stops became more frequent and I was so grateful the final 5km were on tarmac and all downhill back to Gatehouse of Fleet. As we rolled back through the town I knew I had more in me – I just needed to take more rests.
Stand up Paddle Boarding: Another of my 50 things ticked off. Mostly calm waters and little breeze with glorious sunshine all added up to make this session better than I hoped. I’m happy swimming in water, but not on vessels so the challenge here was balance and if I fell in could I get back on the board. Pleased to say that I didn’t fall in, probably not the most relaxed I could have been but I gave it a shot and was prepared to get wet. I won’t say this would be a regular hobby but I’d have another go if the water was flat calm.
Cycle Coast to Coast: Maryport on the West coast to Newcastle, 217km over 3 days. The test here was back to back riding on a linear route. We travelled by train arriving at the start mid afternoon so day 1 to Carlisle was always going to test me. It was my longest ever ride at 83km and we unluckily had to ride into a headwind for much of the afternoon. But, sheltered behind my partner we rolled into Carlisle before dark. Phew. Day 2 was really enjoyable, lots of stop for 2nd breakfast, lunch, photos and short rests. Plenty of hills to get up but freewheel down – 85km with the most ascent I’d ever and one massive tick, one big dose of YES I CAN DO THIS. The final day was ‘only’ 40km…a few weeks ago 40km would have been an epic so I am super chuffed to know I could do this even after 2 massive days of riding. A great experience and a big dose of self-belief from this adventure.
Solo bivi (camp): This was a big mind-challenge for me. I’ve camped loads, on sites and in the wild, but always with other people. I’m really anxious in the dark. I’ve had two previous attempts at this and both times got too caught up in negative thoughts and bailed. This time I’d picked a spot before leaving where I would sleep, and felt I was in a good place mentally to give it my best. I’d overcome some other big stuff recently as described above so was feeling really good about staying out all night. Rather annoyingly my chosen spot was being enjoyed by cows so I had to find another location. Determined not to let this put me off, which it would have done in the past, I had a walk around and settled on a spot far from footpaths, sheltered from the wind. I sorted my kit, got in, and almost said out loud….”well I’m in bed now, I can’t go home”. Plenty of negative thoughts crept in but I had positive responses to them. There was a lovely dusk-chorus including grouse, golden plover and the rather odd sounding snipe. Watching the sky changing colour was mesmerising and after some breathwork to keep me calm I drifted off. Waking several times in the night was inevitable. Waking again at around 3.30am in total darkness to the sound of a sheep coughing was odd and unsettling but I must have drifted off again. I was determined to stay laying down even if awake until first light around 4.30. And I did. It felt amazing to have done it. Still feels amazing.
You know the saying – what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger – it’s so true.
As you can see, these are all mostly physical activities. I feel at my best when I’m moving, using my body, and exploring the world around me. But it really isn’t my body which stops me from doing things. It’s my mind and the negative chatter that seeps lies of disbelief into my thoughts.
All of the activities I’ve done successfully have started to erode those untruths. Because I am capable. I am stronger than my thoughts tell me.
Another massive benefit that I’m learning, is that by testing my body in these challenges, by pushing myself to do things which make me feel uncomfortable, I’m willing to do more hard stuff. There goes the self-belief booster!!
The things I’ve set out to accomplish have all been something I’ve thought “I’ll never be able to…..” or “I’m not strong enough to…” or “That’s too hard for me”.
These are all limiting beliefs.
They are all comments that play over in my mind and do nothing to build up my self-belief.
By taking action and giving things a go, achieving them (even 3rd time round) shows me that what I’ve been telling myself isn’t true. I need a new story – I’m building it one thing at a time and it feels amazing, empowering and it makes me want to do more.
So knowing this, I do the hard stuff, and I get the evidence that I am capable, that I am stronger than I think I am (physically and mentally) and that all goes to reduce the power of the limiting beliefs. I feel more ready to take on new things that might feel scary, because I know I am likely to succeed…and have fun along the way.
Not taking action, as I’ve discovered, means that things won’t get easier, and I won’t accomplish things. Not taking action keeps me small. To grow into a stronger person I am giving myself the opportunity to have a go, to potentially “fail”, and then to learn from that mis-take.
My 3 top tips to boost your confidence and build your self-belief are:
1. Find examples: We often say we’re not confident at something but the reality is we’ve done the thing (or similar) in the past and our worst nightmare didn’t happen. Actively find examples of when you have been confident in similar situations to draw upon as evidence that you are capable and confident. This gives you the data that it isn’t ‘everything’ about life that makes you insecure or fearful. You can act with confidence.
2. Take action: What one thing can you do, to take one small step, in the situation where you aren’t confident? Now do that one small step, and reflect. Then do it again. With each attempt you’ll nudge up your confidence.
3. Celebrate: To further boost your confidence it’s so important to celebrate each time you’ve stretched yourself just a little outside of your comfort zone. Perhaps you create a win jar and pop a note in when you acted with courage. Maybe you have a note book or win folder online to jot down the steps you take. Or how about a happy dance to your favourite tune? Celebrating boosts your confidence by recognising your achievements, reinforcing positive behaviours and builds a sense of momentum.
I hope this has given you some inspiration to have a go at something that you might be putting off because *insert your reason (nb these often start with should/could/if only…/when I’m…)*. I have a friend who is a regular adventurer. She goes off and does things that I know I’d talk myself out of, in fact never contemplate – too hard, too long, not enough time to prepare – all thoughts which are actually saying that I’m unwilling to be unsuccessful. I’ve longed to be more like her. You know what, I believe that I am. But that’s only because I’m having a go, learning and importantly with each action I’m adding evidence into my self-belief bank.