Self belief is powerful. It’s what gets us through challenging times and keeps us working towards our goals even when we lack the proper skills or training. Self belief is an internal idea about who we are as people – our judgment, mindset, values, emotional state, how we respond to challenges, the way we approach the world, etc. Sam Altman, successful entrepreneur and chairman of Y Combinator, wrote,
“Having the self-belief that you will be able to figure things out as you go along is critical to success at anything hard. Get started and trust yourself. No one has all the answers at the beginning.”
Self belief differs from confidence in that confidence is a feeling about how well we can perform a specific task. We can have low confidence and high self belief, a common occurrence when stepping outside of our comfort zones or taking on new challenges. A personal example can be seen in my experience launching this newsletter. I’m not confident in my mailchimp skills (low confidence), but I believe in my ability to improve through research, hard work and speaking with experts (high self belief). A better known example is Michael Jordan not making his high school varsity basketball team. Despite not possessing the skills to make the team, his self belief – i.e. his mindset that with more effort, he could one day be great – propelled him to continue practicing. Or consider any company that faces resistance before its ideas are accepted; the founders of Uber, Airbnb, Tesla, Amazon, etc. all had immense self belief to pursue their companies’ mission while facing criticism and setbacks.
If there’s one thought I want to leave you with – or us, because this article is also a reminder for me as we begin a new year – it’s to believe in ourselves more deeply. To ignore our brain’s messages of doubt and instead believe in our ability to persevere and improve. If not from me, let’s hear this advice from Rainn Wilson, better known as Dwight Schrute on The Office.
“At 30 I was a starving New York theater actor, just going around trying to get acting work. And barely making 17 grand a year doing theater. I did a bunch of side jobs. I was a man with a van; I had a moving company. I think what [advice I would give my 30 year old self] is you have to believe in your capacity. You have to believe that your capacity is greater than you could probably imagine what it is… I had a lot more capacity at 30 than I thought. I thought of myself as like, well, you know, I could get some acting work and maybe I could do an occasional guest spot on Law and Order and make enough money to just get by as an actor so I don’t have to drive this damn moving van. That was like the extent of where my imagination was for myself. So I would just say [to my 30 year old self,] believe in yourself deeper. You’re bigger than that. Dream bigger, I would say.”