Self belief

Personal perception - who do you think you are?



Who do you think you are?


Where does your self belief come from?

Who says you can or can't do something?

Do you ever consider how you have come to your personal perception of who you are and what you are capable of?



It starts early - by the time we're 4

By the time we are four years old we have begun to create our personal perception of who we are and what is expected of us. From then on we build on that identity. But how do we reach this understanding of our self belief?

In the main it’s what we are told by other people, other people who says you can or can't do something.Other people who have their own perception of what they want or expect this child to be like, their own history, their own vision, and they use that to create their own reality of what you, as a child, are like or should, in their opinion, be like. This can begin to build your own self belief.

We are told we are clever, noisy, pretty, good at maths, no good at sports. Not as clever as your brother or sister. Because people make judgements about us when we are young it can be very difficult to change our personal perception of what we are capable of. Often these ideas of our identity are reinforced by other family members, school teachers, fellow pupils and bosses. In your life who says you can or can't?

There are the exceptions who challenge the beliefs  of others and develop their own self belief - despite a school report saying they will not amount to anything they go on to spectacular success. 

Unfortunately it more often happens that individuals will live down to the expectations if they are low and may excel at what their self belief – and other people's expectations expect them to be good at.

We are disposed to return to the past, to these early messages to reinforce what we are doing now. How we are perceived and what we are capable of. However we can change the past - in our minds - then let it go, and live in the now with a clean slate. We can change that personal perception if we methodically go back to the source of the information. So who said you can't....

This can be especially relevant when looking for a new job or career as we have a belief about our ability reinforced by what we have actually achieved over the years. However in later life that perception may alter with the changing belief that no one would want to employ you, then this is even more likely to hold you back. If you consider who says you can't, it might be your own inner voice.


Is our self belief based on reality?        

A friend who is very vivacious and attractive, had for years told me that she was the plain one, her sister the attractive one. However she was more intelligent than her sister. This perception had gone deep into her psyche and while she had supreme confidence in her obvious intellectual prowess, she felt much less confident about her looks.

When I eventually met her sister, I was surprised at what I saw. Having expected a beauty, I found a pleasant, slim lady, but one who did not have the personality or vivacity of my friend.

After the meeting my friend asked for my opinion, which I gave, however she couldn't accept it. Her reality was based on what she had been told as a child by her father. Her sister was the pretty one, and she was the intelligent one.

On the positive side, she had focused on the intelligence, and with that belief firmly entrenched, had gained a first class degree at university. On the negative side, after her personal perception had been fixed, no amount of dissenting views made any difference. Who says you can't can be anyone in your life, not necessarily everyone.Her self belief was based on what she had been told by her father, despite the fact that she did not necessarily believe or respect all  his other views and opinions.     


Living up to parents expectations.

In my work in career and personal development counselling many clients base their belief about what they can achieve, or how they have failed, on the input from their parents, teachers, siblings, and friends. I always ask 'who says you can't?

Many who feel they are a failure believe this is so because they have not lived up to their parents’ expectations. I have had people who have ’failed’  because they have not become what their parents wanted them to become, such as not becoming a doctor, not learning to play the piano, not having a large family.

Why is this a failure? This is simply parents putting their own dreams and expectations onto someone else. Is that fair? Is that reasonable? It’s certainly understandable, and forgivable, everyone is doing the best they can. However it can also be very damaging.

Julie went into medicine because it had been her mother’s dream. Her mother had been a nurse, and had always dreamed of being a doctor, but it had been impossible for her, and she had forced Julie, unwillingly, to fulfil her dream. Julia was not happy being a doctor, but felt trapped by her mother’s ambition, and feared the outcome if she left the profession.

Peter, who was a very successful accountant in his late thirties came to see me because he hated his job. He was a partner in a firm of chartered accountants, and responsible for staff development.

After discussion and analysis it became clear that what he wanted to do was go into personnel. His parents had pushed him into accountancy because it seemed a good idea to them.  He took the brave step of learning new skills, and moving from his safe job into personnel, where his skills were soon recognised.

He was fairly quickly made a Director, whereas previously the personnel role had not been seen as worthy of director status. He wrote to me some time afterwards, and said that for the first time in his life he felt that he was living in the right skin.

 Link to believe in your abilities and try the technique offered there to gain an understanding of the influences that led you to think about yourself the way you do; the barriers in your self belief that may have held you back from becoming good or great at something and perhaps an understanding of why others said what they did.


 If you enjoyed self belief  link to believe in your abilities

Return to feel wanted and valued.