The Tribune - Spectrum


Sunday, March 9, 2003
Your Option

Believe in yourself
By Taru Bahl

ALL of us react differently in moments of crisis. Some of us panic, get distressed, lose our sense of calm and logic. Others put together all their energies and try to overcome the problem. We keep reading, seeing and hearing of catastrophes befalling individuals and all seems lost. But many of the affected rise like the proverbial Phoenix, not because of miracle cures, lotteries and windfalls but because of a spirit that refuses to be crushed and an unshaken belief in themselves. So strong is their belief in their value system and strengths that they actually succeed in banishing the most debilitating life threatening experiences. They pass on their positive energies to the people around them, giving them confidence, enhancing their sense of security and creating good will and harmony.

The business empires may collapse, marriages may break up, personal fortunes may diminish, accidents may immobilise the most beautiful and energetic of the lot, hopes and dreams may plummet to abysmal depths, all efforts at rectifying things may get repeatedly thwarted but they manage to stay afloat. Like true survivors they reconstruct their lives and scale the peaks of success.


Anton Chekov said simply, "Man is what he believes and this is the one universal truth on which hinges his entire existence." Ups and downs, successes and failures, happiness and sadness, ecstasy and despair, poverty and riches do matter, but only up to a point. If the person’s belief in himself is shaky, he would be unable to grasp the richness of his life’s experiences. On the contrary, if an individual is armed with a staunch belief in his convictions not only can he survive the worst tempests but also turn the tide and create a niche for himself. Most important, he can give himself another chance to correct and re-do the wrongs and evolve as a more complete person.

Psychoanalysts feel that it is belief which gives conviction to a thought. The thought then acts upon the sub-conscious mind — converting dreams, and hopes into realities. The best warriors move self assuredly into the battlefield armed with the knowledge that it is practically impossible to be defeated by an opponent and he has made up his mind that he is going to win. This kind of confidence which is neither arrogance nor an overestimation of the self but a self assured knowledge of one’s SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) gives an aura, a unique dimension to one’s persona which transmits signals that seem to say, "this guy means business", "he is different from the herd" and "he is unstoppable."

A person who is equipped with this unwavering belief in himself is a rare individual. He does not believe in playing games or thrashing out manipulative strategies to get the better of his detractors. He does not get threatened but shares his knowledge, skills and secrets with others never fearing that they would steal the thunder from him and sideline him. He helps, cooperates and is direct in his approach not because he wants to be rewarded with a "Mr Good Guy" certificate but because he knows and is comfortable with what he is. Since he is realistic about his strengths and weaknesses, he takes pragmatic decisions.

We have seen sportsmen, athletes, manufacturers, students, mathematical and scientific wizards surmounting indomitable odds and surpassing their own previous records. We have heard of miracles like when people have walked again when medical opinion had pronounced them cripples. Others have virtually risen from graves when their physical faculties had all but packed up, or held their head high even when scandals and rumours had maligned their character.

How do they do it? Luck, destiny and opportunity may be only half the story. It is as if the individual sets himself on fire, surges ahead, brimming with confidence, never with arrogance. A belief in self shines through. He takes risks, acts on his intuition, is courageous and reaches out to people fearlessly because somewhere he knows he can do it.

He trains his mind and nervous system to overcome odds in order to reach the stage where he ceases to get bogged down by what others think of him, provided he knows he is correct and has done the best under the circumstances.

Having faith and belief in oneself sounds good as a clinical piece of behavioural advice. If one is not pretty and everyone makes constant references to one’s unattractive physical traits, there is no way one can train the mirror to tell a lie, there is no amount of inner belief that can convince us that one is pretty. When the belief that one is not good, capable or endowed with special abilities is so deep rooted, how can one convince oneself otherwise? One way is to learn to accept what is and what cannot be and accordingly ignore negative thoughts which dampen the morale and impede progress.

By wishing it away or by building a protective barrier, one creates the illusion that it doesn’t exist. The other way out is to come to terms with it and develop the attitude of ‘so what?’ Like Osho said, "Whatever you are with yourself you are with others. If you dislike yourself you will hate others and also be distrustful of them. This will create a chain reaction of unhappy situations where you will end up surrounding yourself with unhappy people further compounding your feeling of worthlessness."

There are days when one feels life is ebbing away, support systems are crumbling, people who really matter are letting one down, whatever one touches is going kaput, wherever one goes one is met with stiff opposition and indifference. In such a situation however strong one’s belief in oneself may be one is bound to give up, surrender or take the path of least resistance. Those who manage to stay grounded in such trying times, keeping their lives focused, having the confidence that they will pull through are only those who have a strong value system. However, old fashioned it may sound it is the honest, sincere and genuinely good people who can really believe in themselves and use that belief to scale greater heights of success and happiness. No doubt, evil geniuses too are fired with a similar passionate personal belief, but that doesn’t necessary ensure a happy satisfied life innings.

Beliefs represent conscious decisions which we may have made in the past about ourselves and our world. They determine what we expect or do not expect to accomplish. As long as we don’t challenge these beliefs, their effects will be manifest in our life. Often, we expect others to come along and create that feeling in us which makes us believe in ourselves. This waiting and expecting is a futile exercise. Negative thoughts control our thinking, direct our behaviour and determine our relative level of performance. Talent, ability and potential count but it is our beliefs that make the million-dollar difference. Beliefs are solely responsible for creating what we call our mental attitudes. There is the risk that we may select those core beliefs which instead of empowering us to move ahead limit us and hold us back. At times our stubborn beliefs tend to trap us as we get biased and blinded. We have to train our sense of judgement and concept of right and wrong to be able to decide what to believe in.

When Buddha warned by saying, "Believe nothing, no matter where you read it or who said it, even if I have said it, unless it agrees with your reason and common sense" he wanted people to save themselves from heartbreak and distress which comes out of either blindly trusting or out of easily succumbing to rumours and gossip. The individual must hear and see everything but believe what his mind and heart tell him is the truth and this conviction is enough to take one through life with a smile on the lips and a song in the heart.

Home This feature was published on May 28, 2000