Several months after reading Outliers and I’m still feeling its impact. After stewing on it for a while, I decided that it would be worth sharing this story.
I’ve always believed that I was self-made. When I started out in the workforce, I didn’t have family connections or old school networks to give me a boost. I started from scratch and was very envious of those who had connections. When I achieved the first of my career ambitions, I attributed my success to no one but myself. In hindsight, this now seems pretty conceited and reading Outliers has made me realise how much impact my childhood influences, my mother in particular, have had on my success as an adult.
For as long as I can remember, I was told that I was smart, clever, intelligent. This was reinforced by everyone around me and as a result, it has never crossed my mind that I could be anything but intelligent.
When I was barely passing Chemistry in high school, it would have been easy to assume that Chemistry just wasn’t one of my strengths but amazingly, my mother refused to believe it. Towards the end of my second year studying Chemistry, she spoke with my teacher, came home completely unimpressed and concluded that there was nothing wrong with my Chemistry and that my real problem was that I had a bad teacher. Imagine that! The validation, the confidence boost. All the more significant in an Asian context where authority figures such as teachers are usually held in high esteem.
My mother then asked a friend of hers, a Chemistry teacher in another school, to tutor me for two days covering two years’ syllabus. It seems like a miracle but in two days, I went from barely scraping through to a high distinction. So she was right – there was nothing wrong with my Chemistry – but that is not the point of this story.
When I reflect on my childhood, I can think of many other instances where my mother would not permit any doubt that I was clever and that I would be successful. So I grew up with an extremely strong belief system about my intellect and capacity for success. Only now do I fully appreciate the “gift” I have been given!
What I’ve described is an example of self-belief that was unintentionally cultivated but that doesn’t change the principle that believing in yourself can be extremely powerful.
Tips to help cultivate your self-belief
- Appreciation and Gratitude. Identify the “gifts” you have been given. Be thankful and appreciate them.
- Eliminate self-limiting beliefs. Question any self-limiting beliefs that you carry with you such as “I’m not good at……” Just because you’ve been told all your life (or you’ve told yourself!) that you aren’t good at something does not make it true so don’t believe it!
- Reframe negative situations. Catch yourself in negative moments and consciously change your thinking by rephrasing your thoughts and words. See Mind your Language! and It can’t be done for some ideas.
- Persist. Changing your attitudes and beliefs, like breaking a habit or learning a new skill, takes time.
- Surround yourself with people who believe in you. People who don’t believe in you have no place in your life. If there are such people in your life now, evaluate why. Let them go and if you can’t do that in a physical sense, then let them go mentally and emotionally so that you can minimise the impact they have on you.
While the story that I’ve shared in this post is about a positive aspect of my belief system, not every part of my belief system has been so rosy. The tips that I’ve provided above are those that I’ve used personally and with my clients with good results. I hope that you will find them helpful and look forward to any feedback and comments.