Doing things differently since 1984

Believe in Yourself?

It’s no secret that, as we grow up, we have to revise what we thought we knew.  Generally speaking, we all work out that Santa Claus isn’t real, that monsters don’t live under our beds, and that mom and dad aren’t actually perfect.  I still remember how betrayed I felt when my 6th grade math teacher informed us about negative numbers – debunking the myth I had been taught up to that point that a number minus a bigger number was always 0.

We’ll do ANYthing to avoid this.

There are a lot of reasons we lie to or mislead our kids – whether it is to protect them from the evil or ‘adult’ things of this world, to avoid an over-complicated subject, or to convince them to do something we feel is right.  Whatever the reason, most of the time we mean well.

However, I can’t help but notice that there are some of these “childhood truths” (when I say “truths” I mean “myths”) that don’t always seem to get revised in adulthood, that really should.  I could name a bunch, but there is one really sticking out to me today:

“You Can Do Anything if You Believe in Yourself”

I can understand why we tell this to our kids.  In a [nearly] free market society, if you don’t believe you’re going to be able to do something, you won’t.  You need motivation, and, for the most part, that means self-motivation.  It’s also healthy to dream.  However, if you really think about it, you’ll realize that the above statement is absolute idiocy.  Not only that, but it is dangerous, leading people to major disappointment in life.

Here’s an example: If you’ve seen American Idol, or your country’s equivalent, you’ve seen it – some shameless person stands in front of the judges and says “I’M going to be the next American Idol.”  They believe in themselves.  And then they start their song…. And it’s terrible.  You groan or laugh loudly on your couch just to drown out the sound coming out of their mouth.  The judges shoo them out the door and the contestant vows to the camera, “Those guys are stupid!  Especially the British one!  I’m going to be famous!”

That, my friends, isn’t self-motivation; it’s self-delusionment.  Obviously, just ‘believing’ in anything doesn’t make it a reality.  Just like not believing in something doesn’t make it not a reality.  This may come as a shock to some, but you can’t ‘believe’ something in or out of existence.  This includes talent.

They make it look so easy…

Here is another, more practical example: Sally Dreamsbig has just graduated high school, and wants to open a bakery.  She’s wanted this ever since her mom bought her an Easy Bake Oven at age 7.  She knows she’s a good baker, and she knows she would love it, and she knows that’s what she wants to do.  So at age 19 she gathers all her ideas, writes an immaculate and inspiring business plan, bakes a few of her best samples, and trots down to the bank to get her loan and her dream started.

The bank…. says no.  She hasn’t got any credit history.  She only has a few hundred dollars saved up.  She has no experience.  No way.  Though – the banker admits – her chocolate ganache is delicious.

What did I do wrong? She wonders.  Her plan had been laid out perfectly in her mind.  She knew her goal.  She knew she would be perfectly capable of making this happen.  She believed in herself… but the bank didn’t believe in her!   Her dreams are shattered.  She spirals into depression.  Nothing else seems even worth considering…. This was all she’d ever wanted.

You see the problem?  If you’re self-motivating yourself to a certain goal, and “life happens” in whatever form and you are obstructed or delayed from getting there, you can lose your motivation.  And then you’re stuck.  No, believing in yourself isn’t enough.  There are too many factors out of your control.  You aren’t God.

Sometimes it’s more about the journey than the destination.

So what’s the heart of the message?  It’s about not giving up.  You can’t ‘believe’ your goals into the present, but you can keep yourself walking toward them – or, perhaps, looking around and finding a better goal.  We can’t know the path, but we can at least choose to walk it.  You can believe in your ability to put that next foot forward.

So by all means, believe in yourself – but let that be your motivation to improve your abilities, get yourself educated, save your money, make wise decisions, and perhaps even lower your expectations for a while.  After all, we only live this life one day at a time.

20 comments on “Believe in Yourself?

  1. Randel
    March 21, 2012

    Nice Post.

    There are so many myths folks are taught, and they can last a lifetime. I still have some and cannot rid myself of them. Every once in a while I play this game: What stupid idea did I believe in ten years ago?

    In high school they taught the Greek classic mythologies which were bizarre stories, and I never got the point. The teacher never made the point either–every society has myths, you really need to recognize them, and then proceed.

    Thanx for reminding me of this.

    • abtwixt
      March 22, 2012

      Thanks Randel – I always enjoy it when someone gives me evidence that my post made them think 🙂 Greek mythologies are a great examply actually, because to us they seem way over-the-top bizarre…. which makes you wonder what others in the future will think of the modern-day myths we teach our children?

      I say this, of course, in a way that includes myself… I, too, am still trying to pick through my childhood ‘truths’ to work out what still holds through adulthood.

  2. lbtk
    March 21, 2012

    Another popular myth I see being extolled today is “It’s my parents’ fault.” Perhaps the fact that there are 30-somethings who can’t manage a job or their checkbooks or viable relationships are partly because they’ve been spoiled. But there comes a time when all people have to stand up, dust themselves off, and become adults — take charge of their lives and be productive.

    I have tried to tell my children what I see as their strengths. Right now, my daughter is a computer whiz and dreams of workinig in the movie production industry. I’ve told her that her that if she keeps up and develops that talent, she can work most anywhere she chooses. The movies? Maybe, maybe not. Mostly I tell her that I’m praying for her to seek God’s will and that wherever He calls her to be, she’ll be happy.

    Great post. Sandy

    • abtwixt
      March 22, 2012

      That’s a great addition Sandy – “It’s my parents’ fault” is definitely a myth that we all recirculate. Though certainly, in cases where abuse is involved, the scars can run very deep. Generally, as a parent, I think I can fairly assume that every well-intentioned parent “messes up” their children in one way or another – and this has probably been the case since the beginning of humanity. Blame keeps us in the past, but resolve moves us forward.

      I encourage you in all the encouragement you have to give to your daughter 🙂 I firmly believe that it is our duty as parents to identify our childrens’ strengths and help them blossom. Not by telling them they are already the best – but that they can get better and better with practice 🙂

      • lbtk
        March 22, 2012

        Absolutely. My sons suffered at the hands of their birth parents. My oldest (23) is working through it now. He said that he’s decided to do it through a Christian counselor. My youngest son is still really angry at his birth parents. Pray for him. Sandy

        • abtwixt
          March 22, 2012

          I certainly will! Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • Randel
      March 22, 2012

      In America, we have that myth going on that says if you do not get a job or something like that, it must be your fault. I do not know your 30 year olds, but as an economist the economy plain sucks at getting good jobs even with good educations.

      Make sure folks are aware that it is not always their fault. It can be society’s, like letting a banking system become so deregulated that it collapsed the economy, destroying so many jobs and folks hopes for jobs. That makes it very hard for the 20s and 30s to get started.

      I see that in my extended family. I make sure I draw the line between their energy and enthusiasm versus the bad cards society is handing out to this generation these days. I started out like them in the 1980s, but now looking back I had it easy. Today’s younger ones do have some entitlement syndrome, I see that, but the Congress has handed them a bad hand too. When I was 18-22 I thought the world owed me too. One of those ideas that died about ten years later, if you read my other post.

      Yours and this blogs are great posts on a great subject.

      • lbtk
        March 22, 2012

        Both my sons are working. The oldest is going to school as well. My comment was directed to parents that do not require their 30 year olds to help around the house and contribute to society in some way. I have seen this with my own eyes — a mother that does this child’s laundry and picks up his dirty plates from his room and a father that at 65 is still cutting the grass, taking out the trash, and other chores this young man should be helping with instead of playing Xbox all day and partying till all hours of the night. When he gets in financial trouble, they bail him out and I see them working through their retirement before they’re even retired.

        I’m all for the extended family helping out in this current economy but just because a child cannot draw a paycheck doesn’t mean that the child doesn’t have a job to do. Sandy

  3. Francesca Zelnick
    March 21, 2012

    This is so, so, SO great!! Well said!

    • abtwixt
      March 22, 2012

      Thanks Francesca 🙂 I’m so glad you enjoyed it!

  4. gingerfightback
    March 22, 2012

    Well said and with compassion too!

    • abtwixt
      March 22, 2012

      I find it sometimes far too easy to rattle on so long about a point that I forget to make it actually matter — and what matters, of course, is people. 🙂 Thanks for the encouragement!

  5. aFrankAngle
    March 22, 2012

    1) Simply well done.

    2) You are wise.

    3) My fav line: “That, my friends, isn’t self-motivation; it’s self-delusionment.”

    4) All successful people have a goal, with a plan, and know their priorities – thus are able to make decisions based on the goal and the plan.

    5) If at first you don’t succeed, you did it wrong.

    • abtwixt
      March 22, 2012

      1) Many thanks!

      2) Lalala – I can’t hear you! – “Do you see a person wise in their own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for them.” 😉

      3) Sadly, we are able to talk ourselves into all sorts of wrong ideas…

      4) I like how you’ve worded this – “makes decisions based on the goal and the plan” – this accounts for taking things one step at a time, and considering every new hindrance put in one’s way.

      5) I don’t remember seeing that quote in any of my classrooms… :-/

      • aFrankAngle
        March 23, 2012

        Ha ha … I intentionally didn’t finish the last quote … If at first you don’t succeed, you did it wrong – so try, try again a different way.

  6. brains
    March 22, 2012

    here’s where i waver. if we tell them they can do/be anything, then it gives them positive, hopeful, but possibly false thoughts. if we tell them the truth, they might not try and resign themselves to average at best. so maybe we need to refine that thought about working hard, trying your best in order to be in the right place at the right time as closely as you can. but we also need to stress that backup plans are needed, and sometimes things just don’t work out, no matter how hard we try. and we can also stress that nothing is still. nothing is “where it is.” at all times, we’re either moving forward or backwards. if we stand still, everyone else might be moving forward, and thus we’re moving backwards.

    many years ago, hockey legend wayne gretzky was criticized for shooting too much. he said something that i still repeat often. “100% of the shots you don’t take, don’t go in.”

    • abtwixt
      March 22, 2012

      You’re very right Brains, and what a great quote! I don’t think there’s anything wrong with telling our children they can be anything they want to be…. not at all! But we have to be careful about it… as a full-grown adult measuring under 5 feet tall, if I said I wanted to be a pro basketball player, it would be cruel for someone to come along and convince me that I could believe hard enough to make that happen. I think it is the most helpful to say, “Great! I’ll help you! Now this is what it’s going to take, and what you should expect…”, to the best of our knowledge.

      Thanks for the read!

      • brains
        March 22, 2012

        thanks for writing something worth reading.

  7. Pingback: new myth, old god (and the origin of heaven and hell on earth) « JRFibonacci's blog: partnering with reality

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This entry was posted on March 21, 2012 by in Philosophy, Question the Norm and tagged , , , , , , , , , , .
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