“Our belief system is just like a mirror that only shows us what we believe.”
Don Miguel Ruiz
From time to time, I offer a group-coaching session for people who are at a point of transition. Two of the ‘issues’ that inevitably come up are self-belief and self-doubt.
On the face of it, these are two sides of the same coin. People tell me “I’d have more coaching conversations if I had more self-belief” or “I’d start my business if I didn’t have this crippling self-doubt!” But they are inevitably surprised when I respond to their perceived issue, saying…
“Self-belief is over-rated. You don’t need self-belief to take action and move forward.”
Their surprise increases when I tell them that my own levels of ‘self-belief’ fluctuate on a daily basis. Some days I feel like I can take on the world. Some days I feel like I should hide under the duvet. I explain, “Fortunately, your feelings aren’t telling you about yourself, your endeavours or what you’re capable of. Your feelings are telling you about Thought in the moment.”
Here’s why this is important. While self-belief is irrelevant when it comes to embarking on an endeavour, there are two other things which are highly relevant; competence and clarity.
1) Competence: a person who is competent has the skills and abilities necessary to do something. You wouldn’t want an incompetent mechanic to work on your car, or an incompetent surgeon to remove your appendix. Similarly, the endeavour you’re setting out on will require a certain level of competence, and here’s the thing: often the only way to develop competence is by taking action from a place of incompetence. Think about the activities you do effortlessly (E.g. walking, talking, riding a bike). There was a time when you were completely incompetent in those activities, but you took action anyway, and over time, you developed a high level of competence. So what allowed you to take action when you knew you were incompetent? When you recognised that you would make mistakes, fall over and get it wrong? When you could plainly see that your level of skill wasn’t yet good enough to master the job at hand? The secret ingredient was then what it is now: clarity!
2) Clarity: I use the word ‘clarity’ to refer to your embodied understanding of the inside-out nature of life, and of what you’ve got going for you. When you were a little child, you didn’t have ‘unshakeable self-belief’. You had no idea what was and wasn’t possible for you. But you had something far more valuable; the willingness to take action, step into the unknown and learn. You weren’t hamstrung by the concepts of failure, criticism or disapproval. As a result, you were willing to explore and learn, to evolve and grow. In the process, you didn’t just develop skills and abilities; you also developed a deep embodied understanding of many of the principles that govern the world you live in (E.g. gravity). Today, you use those embodied understandings automatically, without even thinking about them.
When people talk about “self-belief”, you’ll often find that the “self” they’re referring to is the ego or self-image; a “little me”, separate from everything and everyone; separate from life. But when you listen to people who have accomplished truly extraordinary things, you often hear them refer to the power of life, of nature, or of some ‘greater intelligence’ that they’ve been guided by. However you think about it, that source of insight and realization appears to be something greater than / other than the “little me” of ego and self-concept; something you could think of as “the true self”.
In my own life, and in my own life, my experience is this: when a person ‘gets in touch’ with their true self, they open up to a world of possibility and potential. And as you experience this power for yourself, you get an understanding of what you’ve got going for you, and how your experience really works. And understanding how something really works is infinitely more powerful than belief.
To your increasing clarity!