There is self-belief, then there is self-belief.
The first is the kind that sets in when everything is going just the way we want them to. When life is good and everything is falling into place. When you’ve just started a new fitness regimen and you feel like this time it’s finally going to work. When you’ve won that promotion at work, when you’re cruising down Slartibartfast’s fjords off the coast of Norway in the arms of someone you love, when your neighbors bake brownies and apple pies for you just to show you how much they adore you. When you’re winning at life and everything seems to be happening for you instead of to you, it’s easy to believe in yourself. How can it not be when you have all this proof around you that tells you you’ve basically cracked the code of life?
It’s the second kind of self-belief that’s hard to find, mostly because you have to pull it from out of nowhere. It’s the kind of conviction that doesn’t come from anywhere else except for yourself. And you have to dig deep to find a semblance of what it feels like to believe in yourself even when nothing is going right. It’s the kind of self-belief that we reserve only for the brave. The kind that fuels those who have nothing much to hold on to. People who believe in themselves this way often have no rich parents to fall back on just in case their ambitious business venture fails. They were never the smart kids or the popular kids back in high school. And they most likely went through shitty jobs after college because all the smart kids and the popular kids had gotten to the good ones first.
I never had the courage to look for this kind of conviction. I wasn’t even curious about what people were talking about, mostly because I had rich parents, was a smart kid in high school, and got a good job right after college without even trying. I never found it necessary to explore what actually believing in myself felt like because I thought I did believe in myself thanks to all the evidence around. Life, however, had other plans for me when I suddenly found myself fatherless. It was the single most life-changing thing that had happened to me, and the change it brought wasn’t good. The world had pulled the rug out from under my feet and nothing was certain anymore.
It was on an afternoon several months after my father passed away. I was lying in bed because I couldn’t bring myself to work, which was the only thing that was keeping me sane those days. I was helpless as I felt myself slip lower, lower, always lower into a darkness that seemed like it had no end. I didn’t purposefully throw myself into it. It just came over like a storm that had been brewing overhead a little too long, and I didn’t have any thread of hope to hold on to so that I don’t find myself at the bottom of an abyss somewhere.
But there was no rock bottom to crash on. Only a small, quiet, but the most certain voice I had ever heard in my whole life. It sounded very much like me, but it wasn’t entirely me. It didn’t tell me to stop crying. It didn’t tell me to pick myself up and dust myself off. It told me that I’ve seen this place, I’ve endured this place, and now I can endure anything. It didn’t happen overnight, but slowly I began growing a kind of belief in myself that wasn’t based on my grades or my looks or my career. Slowly, I began seeing myself beyond the obvious. Slowly, I began to realize that I had an unlimited source of strength and power that is bigger and vaster than the seemingly endless darkness I fell into when my father, my only source of certainty, was taken away from me.
We all have access to this voice. It’s the voice of your inner self, that part of you that’s always connected to the infinite source of strength and power. You don’t need to go through the endless darkness to find it. You don’t need to lose someone you love or live a sorry life. You don’t even need to have courage at all. I certainly never did. You only need to be curious. You only need to look with a mind wide open at the possibility that the voice is there, that it always has been and always will be after your body turns into dust and your soul decides to leave this plane. You simply need to ask because the voice will answer. Always.