It was around Christmas time when I received a “BELIEVE” sign as a gift from a friend. My oldest daughter soon claimed it as her own, and she hung it proudly above her bed.
While the sign may have been intended to inspire a belief in Santa or the general Christmas spirit, for my daughter, it represented something more. It became her motto or mantra and a reminder for me as well. Every time I walked into her room, I saw my responsibility, as a parent, to let her know I believed in her.
The word “believe” can be applied in several different ways. It can reference your religious faith (“I believe in God”). The trustworthiness with which you credit an individual (“I believe my friend had my best interests in mind”). Or the confidence you have in your abilities (“I believe in myself).”
Sometimes we are our own worst enemy. We want to feel confident in our abilities, but often it is we who doubt them the most. Self-doubt is one of the biggest hurdles to overcome. Our discouragement and skepticism can drown out our desire to find success.
I can’t count how many times I’ve heard someone say, “You can do anything you set your mind to.” But do we believe it?
I Believe I Can
Choosing to believe in something is about being intentional with your thoughts. This process has been fascinating to me as I’ve studied and learned more about using my thoughts to redirect what I believe.
In other words, if we tell our brain something for long enough, it will eventually believe it’s true. Our brain has a much larger capacity than we give it credit; positive thinking can influence our abilities.
Believing in ourselves and our abilities is like the story of The Little Engine That Could. The engine’s positive self-talk (“I think I can, I think I can”) kept her mind focused on progressing in the moment rather than the ultimate and seemingly impossible goal of making it to the top. It is not a matter of doing one big thing to make a change but practicing the millions of little things that change us by small degrees every day.
“There is much discussion about “I AM” statements, but they are only part of the secret. It also takes belief! To honestly believe I AM who I want to be, I have to create PROOF by ACTING toward the goal. This knowledge is acquired one step at a time. I DO until I begin to BE! And then I can genuinely believe that I AM!” — Cary MacArthur
It helps to understand how our brain processes the millions of thoughts we have each day. Learning how we come to believe something is true — creating the proof — is an excellent place to start. From there, we can work to reframe our thoughts into something to help us act.
Habits of Thinking
There are circumstances, and there are thoughts. They are different, but our brains tend to confuse them. Circumstances are neutral or factual. They are things happening outside of us — facts — easily proven with hard evidence in which everyone would agree. The most important thing to understand about circumstances is they are things outside of our control.
Our thoughts, on the other hand, are meaning we give to our circumstances, they are subjective, optional, and we have control over them. Thoughts are things we choose to believe. Our brain’s job is to look for evidence to prove something is true. It is searching for relevant data to validate our thinking. When we choose to believe something, our brain will look for data to support the belief.
It is easy to get caught in the trap of believing our circumstances can change if we work hard enough. One thing we can change is the way we think about them. It’s not possible to just stop a thought about something. It creates a void. Like changing any habit, when you want to adjust the way you think about something, you have to replace your old thoughts with new ones.
I like to use this example: This is a yellow school bus. For the next 2 minutes, I want you to not think about this yellow school bus. The more you try to not think about the yellow school bus, the harder it will be to think of anything but the yellow school bus. The reason it doesn’t work is that you haven’t replaced the idea of the yellow school bus with something else. You’re so focused on not thinking about it; it becomes the dominant thought in your mind.
Habits work the same way. It is not about stopping one habit but replacing it with a new one. Dropping one thought and picking up a different one will take some work, but with consistent practice, anything is possible. Over time the new idea will become more of a default in your brain.
The practice of believing things we don’t have evidence for makes us mentally stronger. Hold on to ideas you want to be a truth for you. Practice reframing a current belief into one which would serve you better.
The way you think about yourself is made up of the sum total of your life experience. As a child, we may have been told we were outgoing or shy, difficult or easy, bright or a little slow. The list of potential labels is almost infinite.
The perception we have of ourselves will stay with us until we start to see ourselves differently. When we change the way we think and view ourselves, we can change the results in our lives. Remind yourself of who you are and your incredible potential, and you will grow in your confidence and effort.
What do you want to believe about yourself? Here are some ideas to practice reframing common thoughts. Try them out and see how they make you feel — Is it a thought you can believe?
- I’m not good enough. → I’m not supposed to be any different than I am right now.
- I am lazy and just need to work harder. → I don’t have to disapprove of myself in order to grow.
- God never answers my prayers → God blesses me in ways I’m not always aware of.
- I will never make enough money. → Making money is easy and fun.
- My grades are so bad. I’ll never get into college. → Grades don’t really matter.
- I cannot get along with that person. → Everyone is lovable.
- Everything is against me. → The universe is continually conspiring in my favor.
- No one will care what I have to say. → My voice matters.
- I can’t handle this anymore. → Suffering is part of the deal.
- I am so offended by what she said. → I believe other people can’t hurt my feelings.
Find one that fits what you need and try it for a while. See if your brain can find evidence to prove it to be true. The way you choose to feel, and act is based on your belief statement. Reframe your current thinking to reflect the change you want to see in yourself.
What is Truth?
When we are intentional in what we practice believing, our brain will look for ways to prove it. That is how powerful our mind is. It also works in reverse. If we choose to not believe something, we will find data to support those thoughts, too.
I’ve had friends say to me: “I don’t love my husband anymore.” They said it as if they didn’t have an option. We can always choose what we are going to think and believe. A long time ago, I decided to be in love with my husband, and as a result, I am. We can create the results we want in life by choosing our thoughts. If we want something to be true, we just need to believe.
I’m not talking about justifying an action, but practicing the process of believing things that will help us become our best selves.
For me, truth is directly related to my faith. It was the foundation of learning to believe in myself and has become a pillar in helping me understand how to find greater happiness and peace. Some assume believing in a supreme being is about feeling good, but there is no evidence. I say the proof is in my heart. It may not be tangible or something you can see, but I feel it so deeply, there is no denying its powerful influence. I continue to learn about who I am and what my purpose is in life because of my faith. I believe it has a vital role in developing our ability to believe in our possibilities and potential.
If we “search diligently, pray always, and be believing,” we are promised, “all things will work together for our good.” It doesn’t mean life won’t be hard, bad things will never happen, or everything will always be perfect. To me, it means that everything will work out if we hang on and keep practicing. The Savior has promised, “all things are possible to him that believeth.” So believe in yourself, believe you are never alone, and believe you will always receive the guidance you need.
It Doesn’t Matter What Others Believe
Do you ever worry about what other people think of you? Does your fear of their opinion affect the choices you make and the way you act? Here’s a little secret. Other people’s opinions aren’t painful; it only hurts when we believe what they think or say about us. It was life-changing when I adopted this way of thinking.
Of course, it’s nice when others think favorably about us, but it doesn’t always happen that way. Sometimes what they believe to be accurate about you isn’t flattering or kind. The thing is, you know the truth about who you are. It doesn’t matter what they believe because it does NOT change what you know to be true.
One of my favorite classics is The Count of Monte Cristo. Edmond Dantès is wrongly accused of associations with Napoleon and then secretly imprisoned at Chateau d’If. While there, he meets Abbé Faria — a well-educated priest — who teaches Dantès everything he knows, including religion. At one point, Faria tells Dantès, “God is aware of you.” Dantès responds, “I don’t believe in God anymore.” To which Faria says, “It doesn’t matter because he believes in you. Some things are just true if you believe them or not.” (Dumas)
The thing I love about this particular scene is Faria doesn’t need Dantès to believe what he believes for it to remain true for him. As we practice new habits of thinking, it’s important to remember: it doesn’t matter what others think. You don’t have to prove who you are or what you believe for them to be true.
I Do It Myself
Think of a two-year-old who is at the stage of doing everything herself. I can still hear my most strong-willed child: “I do it myself!” It is futile to try to explain how to do the simplest of tasks because their little mind is determined to believe they can do it without any help. They are sometimes fearless and often tenacious in proving what they believe to be true.
Just like teaching a young child a new skill, we too learn the most by “doing it ourselves.” The act of learning new skills gives us more confidence in our abilities and helps us discover our potential. Knowing your potential can make all the difference when it comes to believing in yourself.
Dumas, Alexandre. The Count of Monte Cristo. Bantam Books: (1844)