You Don’t Have to Believe in Yourself

On really hard days, if I’m lucky, the theme song to the children’s show, “Arthur,” pops into my head. “Just believe in yourself,” a voice sings, “Well, that’s the place to start…” I smile, feel refreshed, and keep running uphill, ready to face my demons and what felt, just a moment before, like the whole world turned against me. It’s a great message, one I wish I had heard more while I was growing up. Young children are newly building their models of who they are and how the world works. They need to know that they are safe and loved. The recipe is quite simple: Build a healthy self and healthy relationships; then, everything else will fall into place…

Unfortunately, however, it doesn’t go so smoothly for most of us. Metaphysically, I think it’s not even supposed to go smoothly. We are meant to have problems and glitches along the way. These become fodder for personal growth, for new understanding and development. The trouble is that sometimes we grow so wounded that it can impair our daily lives. We fall into depression, anger, anxiety, despair…Our models are not set in a way that makes for true happiness or success. The world seems like a vast pit, with us at the very bottom. From such a place, the words of Arthur’s song sound hollow and unreachable. We just can’t believe in ourselves. That’s the problem right there.

So, here’s where the adult song starts. In case you are feeling down, I will sing the chorus for you.  “You don’t have to believe in yourself,” the song goes, “It’s okay…”

Now, you might be thinking, “This song is pretty odd,” or, “It’s downright wrong!” How can you get anything done if you don’t believe in yourself? Why is it okay not to believe in yourself? Don’t you need to fix the root of the problem? Don’t you need to just shape up and love yourself? Isn’t that what it’s all about?

Let me give you 4 reasons why it is okay not to believe in yourself, and then we will see how the rest of the song goes:

  1. You are making peace with yourself. When you tell yourself that you have to believe in yourself, you are at war with yourself. One part of you feels angry and disappointed. You can’t face the way things are; you’d rather destroy yourself and everything else. The other part of you wants to change the situation. You want things to get better; you want the world to work out. But for this second, more optimistic part to have its way, you have to accept where you are. Fighting yourself for being unhappy is no better than just being unhappy. It’s only when you allow yourself to feel whatever you truly feel that things can begin to change.
  2. You are acknowledging what is out of your control and what you do not know. There are two extreme lies that we can tell ourselves: that everything is in our control, and that nothing is in our control. The truth lies along a middle path, one where we can see what is in our control and what is beyond it. We learn to recognize what we know, and what we do not know. As long as you are willing to see with a clear head what is in your control and what you do know, there is nothing wrong with feeling a little doubt. It is a way of being humble and leaving space for the world to take its course.
  3. You are leaving room to love and believe in others. We share our world with others. Sometimes not believing in yourself 100% is a way to leave space for others – so that they can give you advice, share ideas with you, and co-create projects with you. It also leaves space for them to be themselves, to follow their dreams, and to bring the sort of excitement and innovation into your world that you would never find simply on your own. The real question is whether you believe in other people instead of believing in yourself. That would also be a lie, or a failure to see your situation clearly.
  4. You are leaving room for others to love and believe in you. The truth is, we are social creatures. We are meant to live together and to care for each other. If you find it hard to believe in yourself, chances are that you didn’t experience enough love and support growing up. But let me tell you: You were never meant to make it all alone. You were never supposed to do everything yourself. You deserve help with all of life’s heavy lifting, and even with those smaller tasks that bring simple pleasures and passing joy. It’s okay not to believe in yourself fully, because it’s not your job to do it alone.

Now that I have given you four reasons why it is okay not to believe in yourself, you can begin to see the bigger picture. Your body is made up of cells woven into complex systems. And you yourself are a cell, woven into the fabric of many other bodies – from your family to our species and the planet itself. We are parts of wholes, and wholes made of parts. Your job is to be whole, and to be part. When you accept in a moment that you don’t believe in yourself, you allow yourself to be present and whole. That is all you need to do on your own.  Then, you are free to let yourself be part of a greater whole.

That is how the rest of the song goes, you see. You let yourself be present with the world. You accept your anger and frustrations. You acknowledge what you don’t know and what lies out of your control, without lying to yourself about what you do know and what does lie in your control. You give a nod to the world for its beauty and ability to surprise you. And you leave room inside your being for that beauty and surprise to come through. You let the world sing the rest of the song. You let it carry you. You let it believe in you where you feel empty. You let it love the parts of yourself that you cannot reach. You let it make sense of what you cannot know. You let it make happen what you cannot achieve on your own.

Then, whether you believed in yourself or not, you find, as time goes by, that you are singing with the world. And nothing else really matters.

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