When I saw the video of Kevin Costner’s eulogy for Whitney Houston, I was struck by his description of the singer. He said, “The Whitney I knew, despite her success and worldwide fame, still wondered ‘Am I good enough? Am I pretty enough? Will they like me?’ It was the burden that made her great and the part that caused her to stumble in the end.”
Whitney’s battles with self-doubt made me think about the times I struggled to believe in myself. I know what it’s like to have immense self-doubt create seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Now I know a little more about the myths that hinder people from believing in themselves, and I have learned a lot about gaining confidence and self-belief.
LESSON #1: I DON'T NEED PEOPLE'S SUPPORT TO BELIEVE IN MYSELF.
Whitney had millions of fans, but that didn’t stop her from doubting herself. Whitney’s mind was a powerful tool that created its own reality. Why did she choose a dismal one? Why didn’t she choose to appreciate herself, to give herself a little credit, and cut herself some slack?
I also experienced the same amount of self-doubt when I first joined the Ateneo Debate Society. I entered the debate world as a girl who was battling a crippling sort of shyness. As a kid, I was afraid to buy something from the sari-sari store because I was too shy to talk to the tindera. Before making a phone call to my friends, I would make a list of topics to talk about because I knew that I would freeze up in conversation. My mind was filled with imaginary conversations or fantasies in which I talked to a crowd and made them laugh.
Debate didn’t come naturally to a shy girl like me. It started out as an agonizing experience. I didn’t know how to talk, and I didn’t know how to be brave, but I pushed myself. To my surprise, I gained the support of the older debaters. They told me that my arguments were really good and that I had great potential, but instead of feeling delighted, I felt pressured. I can still remember my orgmate Leloy telling me, “Ja, we all love you. Why don’t you believe in yourself?” The problem was that, even if I was getting praises, I still didn’t feel confident about my abilities. I was waiting for those praises to finally make me believe in myself, but that never happened. That’s when I realized that other people could be cheering me on and believing in me, but this would never make a difference as long as I kept contradicting them in my mind and conceiving obstacles for myself. From then on, I decided to stop being dependent on people’s praises, and I slowly began to believe in myself.
LESSON #2: IT'S OKAY TO BE CONFIDENT IN THE TALENTS I POSSESS.
Whitney’s records topped the charts, she starred in movies that were box office hits, and she was universally acknowledged as one of the world’s most powerful singers, but she still thought she wasn’t good enough. Self-doubt must have caused her so much pain. Is that why she took drugs, to numb the pain? Was this the reason why her stellar career came to a screeching halt? Did she think that her body was not worth taking care of, and did this frame of mind contribute to her eventual demise? It makes me wonder if all of those achievements weren’t good enough to make Whitney feel confident, what was?
Like Whitney, I struggled to believe in my talents. In debate, I stuttered through my speeches because I thought it was embarrassing to speak with confidence only to find out that you’d said something completely stupid. Again, I was surprised when the older debaters said, “We really liked your arguments, but you have to fix your manner.” My manner, my way of speaking, my way of projecting my voice, my way of expressing myself—all these broke my ideas into incomprehensive stutters, and I didn’t know what to do. Then I realized that all I needed was to believe in my arguments. When I believed in my arguments, I delivered them with confidence. Self-belief helped clear out the muddle of worries, and this enabled my mind to become sharp enough to flesh out those arguments and make them even stronger. It was only when I started to believe in myself that I discovered I was better than I thought I was.
LESSON #3: IT'S NEVER TOO LATE TO DEFEAT MY INNER DEMONS.
In the song “The Greatest Love of All,” Whitney sings, “learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all.” I wish she had taken those words to heart. If she had, maybe she could have avoided the self-sabotaging behavior that characterized the last few years of her life. Whitney’s story tells us how our beliefs can alter the course of our lives. To survive, we need to guard our minds against the insidious power of doubt.
Like Whitney, the demon of self-doubt used to reduce me to pieces. These doubts made me too shy to speak up and express myself. I didn’t know how I could break out of my shyness or if it even was possible, but I was determined. I thought to myself, “I will not graduate a shy person.” I made a choice, a simple choice, and I worked on that choice every day, trying to defeat the demons within my mind and struggling against something that was eating me up.
I ended my debate career on a high note—I was ranked the fourth best speaker in Asia after joining the United Asian Debating Championship. When I accepted the trophy, my friends said that I looked like I had won an Oscar. An Oscar? No. That definitely did not sum up my feelings in that moment. It was so much more. Now, every time I feel like I can’t do it or I’m not smart enough or I’m not strong enough, I remember my battle against my shyness. If I can defeat the crippling shyness that seemed like a permanent part of my identity, then I know that I can think my way to greatness and to success.
For more from Jasmine, check out the link below or go to her blog, “The Self-Help Junkie”:
You can also go to the Staff Blogs page to check out stories from more members of the Female Network team.
For about self-belief and positive thinking, check out these links:
(Photo by his grace via Flickr Creative Commons)