Go Beyond “You Just Have to Believe in Yourself”

I used to get really discouraged watching athletes interviewed after their winning performances, especially the young, amateur athletes like you see on the Olympics. The news correspondent would say: “So, how did you do it? What do you recommend for all those aspiring swimmers, ball players, dancers, etc. out there?” This was inevitably their response,

“You just have to believe in yourself.”

This was discouraging, because I knew that it took incredible dedication, drive, skill, resources and probably a good bit of luck to end up where they were. I could believe in myself all I wanted to and, without these other things, I would never stand where they were standing. Belief was not enough. In fact, it felt like a lie.

Oh, they weren’t lying. I am sure they had tremendous belief in themselves and this propelled them. But so did the guy who qualified for the Olympics but didn’t make the finals and the one who finished 52nd with a personal best time by 3 seconds. So did the lady who broke all social barriers even to compete there. So did the Paralympic athletes. So did the Special Olympic athletes. They all believed in themselves to get where they got…which was not on the Olympic medal podium.

The deception, I realized, was the sampling method used by the correspondent (and my selective listening). The interviews given, and the ones I attended to were with the winners. Winners, across the board, believe in themselves. And when you ask them how they got to be winners, they’ll tell you so. But it is my error to think that believing in myself will cause me to win. Belief is not causal.

“Just believe” is a much tossed around phrase in Christian circles. As if, believing is something you do without thinking. That it is a mindless act or a desperate plan. But when the “just believe” is offered to people who are seeking in today’s world, people who subscribe to this “just believe in yourself” mantra, who reason that ‘if I believe hard enough or believe properly or with enough diligence, I will make it so,’ their belief gets misplaced. And is probably going to disappoint.

On the other hand, there are plenty of folks out there, perhaps most, who don’t believe in themselves. They don’t believe they can succeed, don’t believe they can win, and have real uncertainty about whether they’ll amount to anything. I have coached plenty. I have been one. One who, before the race is ever run, looks at opponents or reads the scouting report and thinks (maybe even says) I can’t beat him. She’s faster than me. He’s better than me. These people are the realists, one might say. But the one thing I know is, if I say I can’t do it, I am right – already. I have defeated myself before I have begun.

So, motivators the world over tell people to “fake it till you make it,” “be the person you want to become,” “act as if you’re champion and you will become one.” These coaches can’t guarantee outcomes, but they know this sort of approach gives their athletes, teams, or clients a fighting chance. They’ve figured out that defeating yourself is the first thing you have to overcome. And they know full well that in every contest all the competitors want to win, may even believe they will win, but there’s always a loser. Belief, not withstanding.

Perhaps that’s why so many of my coaching and athletic friends have trouble with believing in God or believing in Christ. Because they have competed their whole lives believing in themselves. They have, through hard work and dedication, brought about their success. But they know that belief cannot make God so. And perhaps, if they invested in that belief, they would feel responsible for that win. They don’t want to risk losing.

I have lost at plenty of things in my life so far – even things I believed in with all my heart. But of the things I have achieved, none of them can compare to the things I was sure I had lost that I turned over to God who showed me a new way to see them and a new way of winning. A way I would have never believed.

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About wlebolt

Wendy is a health and fitness professional and coach who specializes in helping young athletes dig deep to reach high. Her business, Fit2Finish, LLC, serves the Washington DC metropolitan area.

Posted on September 14, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. a new way of winning!:)

  2. Mary Anne Noland

    Another ‘coincidence’. We are reading Philip Yancey’s book, Prayer, Does really Make a Difference. Wed. we were talking about unanswered prayers–ask and it shall be given to you–and how that often plays out. Lots of questions to ponder but no real answers. Trust and wait. That is so often so hard to do.

  3. I am not a big believer in coincidences, as you know, Mary Anne 🙂 But yes, if all our prayers were answered just as we asked them, God would be Santa Claus and the world would not be a place any of us would want to live. I have heard it said that when we don’t see those answers, that’s when our belief requires faith. To trust and wait, I would add “watch.” Expect God to show you where He is at work in your life. In those special moments I find myself going “of course, it’s so simple!” What makes perfect sense to a “mind” like God’s is complete confusion to us – until He shows us.

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