One of my students, one who is making good progress in her quest to become a funny stand up with a unique voice, asked me how she could believe in herself more. Great question.
I believe in her. Part of my job as a teacher, coach, muse is believing in my students and clients. I start out from a place of believing they can be better. Believing they can find their voice. Their project. Believing they are in the right place.
But me believing in them isn’t enough. They have to believe in themselves. It’s a huge piece of the puzzle.
So part of my job is to help students learn to believe in themselves.
Which means while I am always giving real notes, and telling the truth about how to get better, I’m also looking for ways to shine the light on what they are doing right. And one of the things we all have to do as creatives is believe in ourselves.
Here are the things I suggested to the lovely stand up who asked.
DO WHAT YOU SAY YOU WILL DO
Accountability. It’s a huge part of success in anything. In all of life. Esteemable actions give you self esteem.
So if you say you are going to write for an hour a day, write for an hour a day. If that’s going to be hard to accomplish make a different commitment. I’m going to write for half an hour a day. I’m going to write mornings until I have to go to work. I’m going to write all day Saturdays. I’m going to write whenever I’m on the train. There’s no one commitment that’s the perfect commitment.
Personally I think it’s better to write consistently, for shorter periods if necessary, but life is not always ideal. Sometimes even with greatest effort daily work is not possible. So try to be honest with yourself. Without beating yourself up. And be honest about that too. Are you letting yourself off the hook too easily, or being too hard on yourself?
There was a time when I really wanted to finish a script. I got up at the crack of dawn to be at my 7 AM workout. Meditated in my car afterwards. Came home and wrote until noon. Then I crashed for a bit and picked up all my other work. It wouldn’t have been sustainable forever but I did it long enough to get that script done.
This year I am sitting on a two scripts and a few book ideas and my commitment is to daily action to get them out into the world. Every phase is a different phase. Make the appropriate commitment. And then do it. I need to do more video. I keep saying I need to do more video. But I haven’t found the commitment I want to make. So I am thinking about it and dipping my toes in. Sometimes you don’t know what commitment to make. You are allowed to ‘date’ a process. But once you do make a commitment, keep it.
Doing what you say you are going to do makes you trust yourself. Trusting yourself is another way to say believing in yourself.
REMEMBER THE TIMES YOU’VE DONE WELL
It’s easy as a creative person to dwell on the things you’ve done badly. In a way these times are more interesting. And if you are a comedian they can be the funniest parts of your story.
And, since you are a creative, the things that didn’t go well are the problems you need to fix. And more interesting. In a tree, the knot is the problem. It’s where the tree fought off an infection. Or something like that. And it’s also the interesting thing to look at. Your eye naturally goes to the knot. And if there is a knot in a string or yarn, your hand naturally yearns to untangle it.
Knots draw us in. And that’s ok. There’s plenty to learn from looking at those knots. But also knots are nots. What not to do. And if you continue looking at nots you erode your belief in yourself. If you keep focusing on what was wrong it becomes cemented. Not just something you did, but who you are.
You keep asking yourself: Why did you do that? What’s wrong with you? Can’t you do anything right? Blah blah bah. It’s ok to focus on it as long as you are wondering how you can do better, what you can extract from it, how to avoid the mistakes next time.
But you’ve also done well. Maybe even really well. Perhaps amazingly well. Think about those times. The successes. Spend time basking in the feeling of doing well. Remember how great that was. Believe that you can repeat that. And remember especially the times you took a bold leap forward. How you dug down inside for the strength to do that. How you took every ounce of knowingness and used it. How you knew things you didn’t even know you knew. How you were kind of a genius.
That will help you believe in yourself.
CUT OUT THE PEOPLE WHO DON’T BELIEVE IN YOU
Protect yourself. You are sensitive. How do I know this? Insensitive people don’t worry about believing in themselves. They have too much belief in themselves. They are the bullies.
So. Ask yourself who’s in your circle that doubts you. Who is the person that you tell your ideas to that wonders if they’re good? Who questions your path? Who erodes your excitement? Who dampens your light? This can be hard at the beginning because you might not have built your life around the thought that everyone around you needs to believe in you. So you might need to cut out some people. It can be tricky.
But think about a corporation. Is it acceptable to work at a company and loath them. That’s just what you are doing by working for yourself and letting people who don’t believe in you in.
It might be a parent or a spouse. Or someone else you really can’t, or don’t want to, cut out of your life. That’s ok. Just stop talking to them about your work. Don’t give them a chance to bring you down. Hold your work close to your heart and love them without sharing what is fragile. They will barely notice. If they ask, you can answer in vague terms, don’t tell them you aren’t telling them.
And look for people who are supportive. But also honest. You want people who believe in you but have taste that you trust. Surround yourself with these people. And become one of these person.
DO BETTER WORK
As you get better it will be easier to believe in yourself. It’s a right foot, left foot kind of thing. You believe in yourself then your work gets better. Your work gets better its easier to believe in yourself.
BELIEVE IN SOMETHING BIGGER THAN YOURSELF
Believe in something bigger than yourself. If you can. Not everyone does or wants to. That’s ok. Do the rest.
But if you can believe in something bigger than you it does take a little of the pressure off. You can hand over the problem of believing in yourself to that bigger universal mind. Higher Power. HP. The Great Goddess. Whatever you call it.
If you feel there is an order to the Universe at all, and if you feel you have been given any gifts, then there is almost no belief in yourself required. You merely have to show up and be grateful for the gifts you have been given. And by being grateful I mean use the gifts. Grow the gifts. It’s like you have been given seeds. And it’s up to you to water them and turn them into a plant. Or you can toss the seeds in the trash. They might now anyway. It happens.
Before you sit down to write or get up on stage or start in on a new canvas, or walk onto a set, ask to be used. Ask to be of service. First do all the first three things, then hand it over.
Believe in yourself. Do what you say you are going to do. Surround yourself with the right people. And do better work. Then surrender to being of service. That’s it. Next question?