Many people believe that a strong belief in one’s self is something we are born with. This suggests that people without self-belief can never develop one and are stuck living with having low self-esteem.
This, however, is wrong. self-belief is something that can be developed and rebuilt if lost.
So, if you do not believe in yourself or have lost your self-belief, remember that you can regain it with the right steps and actions.
For the importance of self-belief, circumstances that can make a person lose her self-belief, and how belief in one’s self can be redeveloped, keep reading below.
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Why is Self-Belief Important?
As the name suggests, self-belief has to do with how much a person believes in herself. It encompasses the belief in your values, skills, knowledge, and abilities. Self-believe is very important because it affects a person’s lifestyle and choices.
A person without self-belief will constantly downplay their abilities while settling for less than what they deserve. Most times, the individual takes whatever blow life deals because they do not believe that they deserve better.
On the other hand, a person with self-belief knows their worth and value.
For instance, when people with no self-belief see a job vacancy with the skills they possess, they may pass up on it or apply half-heartedly because they believe that they are not good enough for the job.
People with self-belief, on the other hand, will pursue the job wholeheartedly because they believe that they are well-qualified for the job.
In the end, people without self-belief may end up working a low paying job and living at the mercy of others for the rest of their lives. Meanwhile, people with self-belief will move from that job to a better one and might eventually get to the peak of their careers.
This example shows that while self-belief might seem small or inconsequential, it can affect our entire lives both directly and indirectly.
Self-belief motivates people to explore their potentials and this motivation may lead to the achievement of goals and aspirations.
Why Do Some People Lack Self-Belief?
No one is born without self-belief. Most times, we find ourselves in certain situations and circumstances that can negatively affect our self-esteem – either temporarily or in the long run.
To rebuild your self-belief, understanding the circumstance that made you lose it can help you learn how to proceed.
Here’re some common causes of lack of self-belief:
1. Unhappy Homes
Growing up in an unhappy home can reduce a person’s belief in herself. This is because as kids, the way you are treated by others, especially by your family, majorly influences the way you view yourself.
Kids who grow up with parents who never commend or congratulate them (but complain and tear them down) grow up lacking confidence in themselves.
2. Negative Peers
Being surrounded by people who constantly discourage you and make you feel like you are not good enough can make you lose confidence in yourself.
Sometimes, your peers may even convince you to do things you are not comfortable with and when you refuse, they may say and do things to make you feel odd. In order to fit in, you may find yourself abandoning your morals and values to please them. This can damage a person’s self-belief in the long run.
If you have a hard time distancing yourself from negative peers, reading this article about avoiding negative people may be helpful: 10 Reasons Why You Should Avoid Negative People
3. Traumatic Experiences
Physical and emotional abuse can tear down a person’s self-belief. If you have a partner who makes you feel like you are not good enough to attract and keep their attention, it may extend to you feeling like you are not good enough for anyone or anything.
Also, people who experience physical abuse may suffer from depression and anxiety, which will gradually eat away their self-esteem. Eventually, such an experience will make them feel unworthy of their goals.
4. Bad Decisions
Some bad decisions made in the past can affect a person’s belief in herself and cause them to doubt their ability to make decisions in the future. This mostly happens when the decision made turns out to have consequences that affect not just the person but also their loved ones.
For instance, a mother decides to move abroad with her children in hopes of finding greener pastures for them, but the father disagrees. After arguing for a while, the father gives in and loans some money to sponsor the trip. When they travel, the mother is unable to find a good job so her plan fails.
The failure of this plan, the disappointment, and the losses incurred might make her doubt her ability to make the right decisions in the future.
5. Negative Thought Patterns
If you always think of the worst-case scenarios, especially when it comes to yourself, chances are that you will lose confidence in yourself.
If before a job interview, the only thing you can think of is all the mistakes you might make or how you might not be as good as other candidates, you will most likely take in that energy and discourage your interviewers.
Over time, such negative thought patterns might lead you to feel unworthy and inferior to everyone else. That is why you need to think positively and eliminate negative thoughts.
How To Develop Self-Belief
Once you understand the reason behind your lack of self-belief, you can proceed to work on how to build it.
Here are 8 ways to help you develop self-belief.
1. Know Who You Want to Be
When self-doubt or self-pity is not eating at you, who would you like to be? If you were not afraid, what would you do?
Boldly answering these questions is the first step to rebuilding your self-belief. This is because the doubts and negative thought patterns, over time, bury the real you along with your goals and dreams.
To gain self-belief, you need to work towards these goals while pushing away low self-esteem. So, give yourself the space to dream a little, and make a list of all the things you would like to achieve and believe. In the process of doing this, whenever self-doubts spring up, push them away until you create a comprehensive list.
2. Affirm Yourself
Self-affirmations are strong tools that reinforce your belief in yourself. This is because as humans, our self-image influences our behavior. If you see yourself as one of the most good looking people in the world, you will definitely behave like one.
And if you see yourself as the future CEO of a company, you will also act like one. So, what you need to do is see yourself as someone worthy and amazing.
Affirmations can help you create that image. They are positive statements that knock out doubts, especially when recited aloud and with belief.
“I am worthy of everything I desire.” “I am smart enough to achieve my goals.” “I deserve all the best things life has to offer.” “And I will put forth effort daily to meet one specific desire and one specific goal to experience the best things.”
So make a list of affirmations, stand in front of your mirror and say these words to yourself. It does not have to be lengthy. Just four uplifting sentences can help you feel prepared to conquer the world each day.
3. Face Your Fears
One effective way to develop self-belief is by facing your fears.
You do not have to face them all at once or go for the scariest first. You can choose to start little by little.
Start by figuring out the source of your self-doubt and tackling that problem. If your parent’s treatment of you as a kid is the reason you lost confidence in yourself, approach them and speak to them about it. Do not be afraid of being censored. Expressing yourself might help you get the weight off your chest.
Next, face the fear of failing to achieve your goals. Go for that interview and give it your best. Address that board of directors with your ideas and innovations. Walk out of that relationship that constantly beats on your self-esteem.
Once you face and conquer your fears, self-doubt will flee.
4. Address Your Inner Critic
If society is the reason behind your loss of self-belief, it can easily be addressed and rebuilt. If you are your own critic, however, your confidence cannot be regained if you do not shut off the criticizing voice in your head.
Most times, the lack of belief in oneself is a result of an overactive inner critic. You might have this amazing idea but while creating the proposal, you may start wondering if the idea is good enough. You then start to convince yourself that the proposal is not good enough, discarding the sheet of paper, and keeping the idea under lock and key.
Addressing your inner critic is crucial because until you do, you may keep undermining your abilities and settling for less than you deserve.
So when your inner critic asks you “why would they pick me for the job?”, ask yourself, “why shouldn’t they pick me for the job?”
And then go on to count out all the reasons why you are qualified for the position. Doing this repeatedly will shut your inner critic up and build your self-belief tremendously.
5. Be Prepared to Win
Before you take a step towards your goals and aspirations, make sure you are all set up to win.
Do not take things on a whim or have a ‘winging it’ mindset because these often result in failure. Instead, study hard for that exam, prepare to provide all the best answers at that interview, make an impressive presentation for that meeting, and cut off acquaintances who fill your mind with negative thoughts.
Preparing to win also fills you with confidence that will encourage you to put in the extra effort to achieve your goals.
6. Encourage Others
Do you know that encouraging others can change your mindset about success? Most times, loss of self-belief can also lead to losing faith in other people’s abilities.
You might find yourself constantly discouraging people against going after their dreams because you doubt that they can achieve them. So make an effort to see success as something anyone can achieve.
Encourage your friends and family, and your mindset about success will also change over time. Soon your encouragements will turn inwards, and you will start feeling motivated to achieve your own goals.
7. Take Care of Yourself
To develop your self-belief, you need to take care of yourself and not just mentally and emotionally. Physical care can go a long way toward influencing your mental and emotional health.
So, go to a spa and get a massage. Go shopping for outfits that make you feel good and do your hair. Register at the gym, eat healthily and make sure you get enough rest. Also, talk to a therapist or join a support group.
Looking good and feeling good will surely help boost your self-confidence.
8. Cut Off Negative Acquaintances
So-called friends who make you feel unworthy or not good enough through their words or actions should be cut off. This is because keeping such people around you will destroy every effort you make to rebuild your self-esteem.
It should not matter who they are to you because if they cared about you in the same way, they would treat you better. So, make a decision to avoid them.
If your family are the ones treating you poorly, speak to them about it, and make it clear that you will not tolerate negativity in your life. If your partner is physically or emotionally abusive, cut the person off too because until you do, your self-belief may never grow.
While distancing yourself from negative acquaintances, draw your loving friends and family closer and cultivate healthy relationships.
Marilyn Monroe once said
“Wanting to be someone else is a waste of the person you are.”
So, if the reason you lost your self-belief is that you believe others are better than you, you need to make a conscious effort into changing that mindset.
Think of all the amazing things you can do that other people cannot. And remind yourself that you are just as deserving as the next person.
More Tips About Strengthening Your Self-Belief
Motivation is one of the main reasons we do things — take an action, go to work (and sometimes overwork ourselves), create goals, exercise our willpower. There are two main, universally agreed upon types of motivation — intrinsic motivation (also known as internal motivation) and extrinsic motivation (external motivation).
The intrinsic kind is, by inference, when you do something because it’s internally fulfilling, interesting or enjoyable — without an expectation of a reward or recognition from others. Extrinsic motivation is driven by exactly the opposite — externalities, such as the promise of more money, a good grade, positive feedback, or a promotion.
And of course, we all know about the big debate about money. It’s surely an external driver, but is it possible that it can sometimes make us enjoy what we do more? A meta-analysis that reviewed 120 years of research found a weak link between job satisfaction and money.
And what’s more — there is some evidence to suggest that more money can actually have an adverse effect on your intrinsic motivation.
Regardless of its type, motivation is still important to get you moving, to improve, excel, and put that extra effort when you feel like you don’t have a single drop of energy left to keep going.
So, let’s see some of the best things you can do to keep the fire going, even when you’d rather just indulge in pleasant idleness.
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Why Intrinsic Motivation Tops Extrinsic Motivation
“To be motivated means to be moved to do something.”
Generally speaking, we all need motivation.
An avalanche of research, though, shows that when it comes to finding the lasting drive to “do something,” internal incentives are much more powerful than extrinsic rewards.
Why? It’s simple.
There is a great difference when you engage in something because “I want to,” as opposed to “I must.” Just think about the most obvious example there is: work.
If you go to work every day, dragging your feet and dreading the day ahead of you, how much enjoyment will you get from your job? What about productivity and results? Quality of work?
Yep, that’s right, you definitely won’t be topping the Employee of the Month list anytime soon.
The thing with external motivation is that it doesn’t last. It’s susceptible to something psychologists call Hedonic Adaptation. It’s a fancy way of saying that external rewards are not a sustainable source of happiness and satisfaction.
When you put in 100-hour weeks in order to get promoted, and you finally are, how long does your “high” last? The walking-on-a-cloud feelings wear off quickly, research tells us, making you want more. Therefore, you are stuck on a never-ending “hedonic treadmill,” i.e. you can progressively only become motivated by bigger and shinier things, just to find out that they don’t bring you the satisfaction you hoped for, when you finally get them.
Or, as the journalist and author Oliver Burkeman wonderfully puts it:
“Write every day” won’t work unless you want to write. And no exercise regime will last long if you don’t at least slightly enjoy what you’re doing.
If you want to find out more about the different types of motivation, take a look at this article: 9 Types of Motivation That Make It Possible to Reach Your Dreams
Benefits of Intrinsic Motivation
If you are still unconvinced that doing things solely for kudos and brownie points is not going to keep you going forever, nor make you like what you do, here is some additional proof:
Studies tell us that intrinsic motivation is a generally stronger predictor of job performance over the long run than extrinsic motivation.
One reason is that when we are internally driven to do something, we do it simply for the enjoyment of the activity. So, we keep going, day in and out, because we feel inspired, driven, happy, and satisfied with ourselves.
Another reason has to do with the fact that increasing intrinsic motivation is intertwined with things such as higher purpose, contributing to a cause, or doing things for the sake of something bigger than ourselves or our own benefit. A famous study done by the organizational psychologist Adam Grant is case in point.
By showing university fundraisers how the money donated by alumni can help financially struggling students to graduate from college, their productivity increased by 400% a week! The callers also showed an average increase of 142% in time spent on the phone and 171% increase in money raised.
Internal motivation has been found to be very helpful when it comes to academia, too. Research confirms that the use of external motivators, such as praise, undermine students’ internal motivation, and, in the long-run, it results in “slower acquisition of skills and more errors in the learning process.”
In contrast, when children are internally driven, they are more involved in the task at hand, enjoy it more, and intentionally seek out challenges.
Therefore, all the research seems to allude to one major revelation: intrinsic motivation is a must-have if you want to save yourself the drudgery we all sometimes feel when contemplating the things we should do or must do.
6 Ways to Enhance Your Intrinsic Motivation
So, how does one get more of the good stuff — that is, how do you become internally motivated?
There are many things you can do to become more driven. Here are the ones that top the list.
The theory of self-efficacy was developed by the American-Canadian psychologist Albert Bandura in 1982. Efficacy is our own belief in whether we can achieve the goals we set for ourselves. In other words, it’s whether we think we “got what it takes” to be successful at what we do.
It’s not hard to see the link of self-efficacy to higher self-esteem, better performance, and, of course, enhanced motivation. People with high self-efficacy are more likely to put extra effort in what they do, to self-set more challenging goals, and be more driven to improve their skills.
Therefore, the belief that we can accomplish something serves as a self-fulfilling prophecy — it motivates us to try harder to prove to ourselves that we can do it.
You can learn more about self-efficacy in this article: What Is Self Efficacy and How to Improve Yours
2. Link Your Actions to a Greater Purpose
Finding your “why” in life is incredibly important. This means that you need to be clear with yourself on why you do what you do and what drives you. What is intrinsically rewarding for you?
And no matter how mundane a task may be, it can always be linked to something bigger and better. Psychologists call this “reframing your narrative.”
Remember the famous story of John F. Kennedy visiting NASA in 1961? As it goes, he met a janitor there and asked him what he did at NASA. The answer was:
“I’m helping to put a man on the Moon.”
Inspirational, isn’t it?
Re-phrasing how your actions can help others and leave a mark in the universe can be a powerful driver and a meaning-creator.
Volunteering is a great way to give back to the world. It can also help boost your internal motivation by making you feel important in supporting the less fortunate, learning new skills, feeling good about yourself, or linking to some of your inner values, such as kindness and humanitarianism.
When you remove any external reward expectations and do something for the pure joy and fulfilment of improving others’ lives, then you are truly intrinsically motivated.
4. Don’t Wait Until You “Feel Like It” to Do Something
A great piece in the Harvard Business Review points out that when we say things as “I can’t make myself go to the gym” or “I can’t get up early,” what we actually mean is that we don’t feel like it. There is nothing that psychically prevents us from doing those things, apart from our laziness.
But here’s the thing: You don’t have to “feel like it” in order to take action.
Sometimes, it so happens that you may not want to do something in the beginning, but once you start, you get into the flow and find your intrinsic motivation.
For instance, you don’t feel like going to the gym after a long day at work. Rather than debating in your head for hours “for and against” it, just go. Tell yourself that you will think about it later. Once in the gym, surrounded by similar souls, you suddenly won’t fee that tired or uninspired.
Another way to overcome procrastination is to create routines and follow them. Once the habit sets in, suddenly getting up at 6 am for work or writing for an hour every day won’t be so dreadful.
5. Self-Determination, or the CAR Model (As I Call It)
The Self-Determination theory was created by two professors of psychology from the University of Rochester in the mid-80s—Richard Ryan and Edward Deci. The theory is one of the most popular ones in the field of motivation. It focuses on the different drivers behind our behavior—i.e. the intrinsic and extrinsic motivators.
There are three main needs, the theory further states, that can help us meet our need for growth. These are also the things which Profs. Deci and Ryan believed to be the main ways to enhance our intrinsic motivation—Competence, Autonomy, and Relatedness (CAR).
If our jobs allow us to learn and grow, and if we have enough autonomy to do things our way and be creative, then we will be more driven to give our best, and our performance will soar. In addition, as humans are social beings, we also need to feel connected to others and respected.
All of these sources of intrinsic motivation, separately and in combination, can become powerful instigators to keep us thriving, even when we feel uninspired and unmotivated .
6. Tap Into a Deeper Reason
Some interesting research done in 2016 sought answers to how high-performing employees remain driven when their company can’t or won’t engage in ways to motivate them—intrinsically or extrinsically.
The study tracked workers in a Mexican factory, where they did exactly the same tasks every day, with virtually zero chances for learning new skills, developing professionally, or being promoted. Everyone was paid the same, regardless of performance. So there was no extrinsic motivation at all, other than keeping one’s job.
A third kind of motivation was then discovered, which scientists called “family motivation.” Workers who agreed more with statements such as “I care about supporting my family” or “It is important for me to do good for my family” were more energized and performed better, although they didn’t have any additional external or internal incentive to do so.
The great thing about this kind of driver is that it’s independent of the company one works for or the situation. It taps into something even deeper—if you don’t want to do something for your own sake, then do it for the people you care for.
And this is a powerful motive, as many can probably attest to this.
Frederick Herzberg, the American psychologist who developed what’s perhaps still today the most famous theory of motivation, in his renowned article from 1968 (which sold a modest 1.2 million reprints and it the most requested article from Harvard Business Review One More Time, How Do You Motivate Employees? wrote:
“If I kick my dog, he will move. And when I want him to move again, what must I do? I must kick him again. Similarly, I can charge a person’s battery, and then recharge it, and recharge it again. But it is only when one has a generator of one’s own that we can talk about motivation. One then needs no outside stimulation. One wants to do it.”
Herzberg further explains that the so-called “hygiene factors” (salary, job security, benefits, vacation time, work conditions) don’t lead to fulfillment, nor motivation. What does, though, are the “motivators”—challenging work, opportunities for growth, achievement, greater responsibility, recognition, the work itself.
Herzberg realized it long ago…intrinsic motivation tips the scales when it comes to finding long-term happiness and satisfaction in everything we do, and to improving our overall well-being.
In the end, the next time when you need to give yourself a bit of a kick to get something done, remember to link it to a goal bigger than yourself, and preferably one that has non-material benefit.
And no, don’t say that you tried but it’s just impossible to find internal motivation. Remember the janitor at NASA?
Because once you find your internal generator, you will be truly unstoppable.