Often we talk about how the negative reactions and criticisms of others can impact on our personal feelings about ourselves. When exploring the concept of limiting beliefs it’s very easy to see how someone else’s negative perceptions and comments can make us feel negatively about ourselves. After all, if someone tells you that you’re not good enough, then they must surely believe that you’re not good enough, so there must be an element of truth in that, and therefore you might start to believe it.
Except that’s not the case. Because people are individuals, what they think or feel about other individuals is largely down to their own personal opinions and beliefs. Just because someone tells you you’re not good enough at something doesn’t mean that you’re not – it means that they think you’re not. But what is important is what you think.
It’s very easy to tell someone that the negative beliefs of others usually have to do with their own feelings and that as such they should be able to find a strategy to ignore those negative comments and instead focus on how they themselves feel, work on all the positives and build a positive feeling of self belief.
But there is an element of the beliefs of others which we rarely address, and that is positive belief/opinion. Because no-one really wants to see positive validation as negative, yet it has the potential to be.
We all seek positive validation from others. We all want others to tell us we’re great, that we do what we do well, that they believe in us. And of course we should take those comments as positive, just as we take the negative ones as negative.
But we should always be aware not to live by the positive comments of others, because we cannot always rely on them being there. And the more you rely on something, the harder it is to deal with it when it isn’t there.
I’ve had numerous conversations with friends about self belief and confidence, and they’ve started out from the point of saying “you’re a coach, you can tell people that they’re great and make them believe in themselves.” I even had one who told me that they wanted to be a coach because they believed that people needed telling not to be so negative about themselves.
It’s true that I could tell someone that they’re great, and of course, if I think someone is great at something then I would tell them that in my personal opinion. But I wouldn’t want them to rely on my reassurance to uphold their belief in their own abilities. The way I have explained this to friends is like this:
Someone could come to me seeking to improve their confidence. They may have limiting beliefs which may or may not be down to the opinions/comments of others. And I could tell them to ignore those beliefs, to believe in themselves, because they’re great, I believe they’re great and they must go away and remember that they have been told by me to believe the positives not the negatives. And the client goes away and holds on to the self worth I have given them. They tell themselves that because I have told them they are good at what they do that must be believed, and they believe it. Then next week they come back and I reiterate the positive things I said to/about them last week, and for the duration of our coaching relationship their self belief improves, or so it seems.
And then the coaching sessions come to an end and the client goes on their journey armed with the knowledge that they’re a new positive person because i told them so. Except next week they won’t be back to have that belief confirmed, nor the week after, or the week after that. And what happens then when the negative beliefs start to come back is that they no longer have the validation they had held on to to override their negative beliefs, and they slip back into a state of lack of self worth they were in when they came to me in the first place.
The key for me is to arm people with the tools to validate their own self worth rather than relying on others to uphold it.
Being given positive comments/compliments by people is a fantastic feeling. But it is one which we cannot rely on, because there is never any guarantee that those positive influences will be around at the time we most need them.
The realisation that you are good at what you do, that you know you are a great person, that you are confident in your own abilities in spite of what other people think is very empowering. And finding the ability to recognise that in yourself is priceless. And while the positive comments from others will of course add to your positive feeling, if you already believe in yourself, when there are times those positive validations are lacking you will still be empowered by your own self worth and confidence. And when negative comments threaten your confidence, you can still hold on to the power of your realisation of self worth.
Don’t rely on others to validate your self worth, find the tools to find it in yourself.