Monday, July 24, 2006

Believe In Yourself

We had plenty of speakers coming through Grey telling us the same thing: Believe in yourself. My response was Bart Simpsonish: Got it, now let's move.
But they kept coming, from Gary Player to Kepler Wessels to Morne du Plessis. There were others like MT Steyn (son or grandson of the ex president) and others from a long gone era. Believe in yourself, that was the mantra.

I did, or I thought I did.

I'm 34 years old now and looking back I'm aware that the message is a subtle and complex one. Believing in yourself is how you start to pursue difficult goals with ambition and imagination. It's not that difficult, especially in the school context. Perhaps that's arrogant for an ex-child to say, because after all, when you've never ridden a bike, swung a hockey stick, or sat for an Algebra exam, it's a big deal. Anything conducted for the frist time usually is.

Nevertheless, the epithet: believe in yourself is incomplete, at least in the sense that it is meant.
I've just written an Applied Linguistics exam, so at the moment (and I mean, at this second in time), I'm very aware of how language has the ability to manipulate, both when we intend it to, and otherwise. For example, power can be applied to meaning, instead of applying meaning to power. Think about that for a moment. So in a sense, we need to apply an extra meaning (with more power) to belief in oneself.

Here's what I mean: it is one thing to believe in yourself, and go for it. It's simpler matter to identify a goal (the Comrades, the Ironman, getting the girl, distinction, jon whatever) and conjure up belief in oneself (on one's own terms), than to have that same belief tested and applied, and importantly (wait for the word!) demonstrated on the playing field of reality. In essence, believing in yourself means very little if, surrounded by an audience, by the application of your life in reality (with all its concomitant shocks, knocks and disappointments) you're not able to maintain that belief.

Believing in yourself means not only an inward projection, but an outward reality. It's important to distinguish the appearance of believing in oneself with the reality of believing in oneself. Obviously if you live and breathe your personal doctrines (and you probably do if they work, and you're getting on with the job with good results), they are self evident. That means you don't have to keep up an appearance of believing in yourself, at least, not in an artificial way, and not based on baseless performances.

Keeping up appearances is a vital part of how we function as a society. We see it when we decide who we want as a mate (and thus have to present ourselves as mate-worthy). When we set a standard for ourselves in terms of work, we have an internalised set of standards that we believe we can meet. Whether a potential partner or employer (or investor) believes in us is another matter. Much of their perceptions is influenced by what their perceptions of our own self belief, and that is then multiplied by their own confidence in their decisions and their beliefs about themselves and situations.

The world though has taken the flipside as the most important, where appearances are all important. This is not wrong necessarily, as a book can often be judged by its cover, and often someone who appears healthy, for example, is healthy. But not everything is self evident, or clear cut, or simple. Subtlities lurk quietly like virusses in tissue or corrupt politicians in government. We have our weaknesses too. Our egoes ask us to bullshit when we're unsure. Confidence is king.

You have to start somewhere in this process, and the place is an instrinc (internal belief in oneself). This should automatically develop into an external manifestation, which may need some customising when in various environments. It's very important though, to remember, that believing in yourself must exists in both the internal and external environment. The internal paradigm remains the true indicator, and nothing worthwhile or meaningful can be achieved without having one's beliefs firmly vested in personal truths. These are ancient and changeless, and some would say old fashioned, but need to be balanced by external and more contemporary (outward) behaviour.

Believing in yourself is simple, but not necessarily easy. The subtleties are not always easy to understand, but believing in ourselves and thriving in a real world requires that we do.

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