• Mark Palmer

The Hardest Belief of All

We all believe in different things. When I say belief, you may immediately think of religion, with which the word is closely related, and where there is a hugely diverse range of views and opinions. But beliefs go much wider than that. Sports fans may talk about believing in their team (or not!). In this era of fake news and scams, we all have to be very careful about what we believe when we read media reports or our emails. Look hard enough and you will find people that believe in all sorts of things – the flat earth society is still extremely active!

But there is one belief that would help us all, and yet it is the hardest and, I think, the rarest belief there is. Very few of us truly believe in ourselves. I see so many people who are brilliant at their jobs, who know their subject back to front but are held back by a total lack of confidence and self-belief.

Many of us seem to think that there is a line that you cross when you suddenly become an expert or authority, and at that point, the self-belief that we are presently lacking will come. At any given time, that line seems to be just a little way in the future – once we accomplish a bit more, then we will feel able to start believing in ourselves.

But it just does not work like that. Self-belief is not a destination; it is a decision. We all have the opportunity to back ourselves every day of our lives. That applies even if you are just starting out at something. It does not mean that you believe that you are brilliant from the outset – self-belief is never about believing that you are anywhere close to perfect at anything, that is arrogance and will quickly lead to disaster. Self-belief is backing yourself to do your best, to give it your best shot, and recognising that your best shot is of value and worthwhile.

So much of the way our world works pushes us towards comparing ourselves with others. But that can only ever lead to bad things – if we genuinely are better than someone else at something, then we should seek to help them get better, not gloat over them. And if we are not yet as good at something as someone else, we are still learning, just as they once did, and probably still are.

The difference between those people succeeding in a field and those that do not often do not come down to talent or ability, but belief. Those who succeed were determined to do so and kept working until they did. Of course, hard work can never replace talent completely. I could train forever and never be an Olympic sprinter. But I could train and become a perfectly decent recreational runner and keep bettering my times. I could become the best runner that I can be, and that is the only comparison that really matters – are we fulfilling our own potential. We can, and we should all believe that we can.

So what are you dreaming of doing but wondering if you are good enough to succeed? Whatever it is, there will be people with less talent than you in that area who are being successful at it. The only difference between you and them is that they believed in themselves and went for it. Of course, it can be scary to take that step and follow your dreams. But it is the only way that they will ever come true – believe in yourself, and you are already halfway there.