Mind & Meaning


During my first year of Psychology at University, some of my friends working as carers for an autistic child would often regale me with stories about how wonderful the family of this autistic boy was and how great the pay was. I wanted more than anything to work for this family. I therefore called the mother of the autistic boy (her name was Mary) and asked her if I could work as a carer there. She told me to email my resume to her. I sat on my computer and opened up my resume. It was almost blank! The only work experience I had was working three days at my neighbour’s Newsagency outlet. “I would hardly classify this as relevant work experience”. I thought to myself in dismay! I sent it to Mary and two hours later, she emailed back and thanked me but said (as I had thought) I didn’t have the relevant work experience. I showed my friends Mary’s response and they were also convinced that it would be difficult to get a job as a carer considering I had zero work experience. One of my friend’s even suggested to find a job elsewhere as I had no chance of getting a job here.

That night, I sat down and wrote a two-page letter to Mary explaining why I thought I was the right person for this job. I spent considerable time outlining all my strengths in that letter. In addition, I acknowledged I did not have the relevant work experience but I was prepared to work hard and learn how to be a good carer. I posted the letter, keeping my fingers crossed and three days later, Mary called me. She told me she was indeed impressed and taken back with my persistence. I was over the moon! That meant I got the job….and then she said the word “but” and I realised some gloomy news were to follow. She said she cannot give me the job because I did not have the relevant work experience. I thanked Mary for taking the time to talk to me all the while pondering what my next move would be.

Next day, being a Saturday, I begged and pleaded with my friend to let me accompany her to Mary’s house and observe. My friend was very reluctant but I promised her that if she allowed me to accompany her, I would return the favour by tidying up her room. (My friend hated cleaning her room!). She agreed and off we went. I was extremely nervous as my friend knocked on Mary’s door. (The same feeling one gets when they turn up at a party …uninvited!). My friend introduced me to Mary who was confused to see me there. I assured Mary that I was just there to observe and help out and I did not expect any payment.  She reluctantly agreed and asked me to start off by rinsing a pile of dishes in the sink and then to mop the floor. She gave me a list of household duties to do and if I finished all of them on time, I could then sit down and observe the interactions between the carers and her autistic son. I don’t know if this was a tactic from Mary’s end to try and discourage me but I wanted the job and I was prepared to put in the hard work.

Three weeks later, one of the carer’s quit her job and Mary asked me if I wanted the job. Of course, I wanted the job! I thanked Mary and started my paid job next day. There may be days when you wake up in the morning and things are not going the way you hoped they would.

  • Your university professor sends you an email stating you do not have the necessary skills to be an engineer. He believes you ought to think of changing careers.
  • Your teenage son slams the door on your face and yells that they hate you and wishes they had a different parent
  • Your employee calls you and says they are not happy with the way you are running the company, they feel you lack compassion and understanding and as such they wish to resign
  • Your wife angrily shouts at you and calls you useless. She wishes she had married someone else.

It is easy to let these day to day happenings get you down and succumb to the pressures of everyday living. Most of us listen to others opinions of ourselves and take them on board without challenging their validity. However, by listening to someone else’s opinion without challenging that opinion, you are allowing them to define your worth. When things don’t go the way you predicted they would, you have to tell yourself over and over again that things will get better. These are times when you need to trust your own judgement and opinion and believe in yourself. You need to master your mind and develop a strong self-belief in yourself. Self-belief means being willing to go against the opinions and judgements of others and believing in your own skills, abilities and talents.

Examples of Self-Belief

Having self-belief does not equate to being arrogant, overly confident or narcissist. Rather, it is an optimistic view of yourself, your abilities and having a complete sense of trust and confidence in yourself.  Below are some good examples of self-belief and self-confidence:

Sam just received his high school grades and he does not have the marks to get him into a law degree. Rather than giving up, he contacts the Law faculty at the University he applied, and makes an appointment to speak to the Dean to get some pointers on how he can still get into Law.

Sarah goes on a date and really enjoys herself. She is confident her date will call her next day and ask to meet up with her. She excitedly tells her friends she has finally met “the right person”. However, it’s been a week and her date has still not called. Instead of filling her body with negative thoughts, she tells herself “Maybe he is just busy or maybe he didn’t feel the same connection”. She leaves it at that and looks forward to going on a new date with someone else.

Kevin works all night on a presentation he has to give in-front of a group of advertisers. Kevin gives the presentation but the head of the advertising firm calls and says he is not impressed with Kevin’s sales pitch. He will therefore be pulling out of the deal. Kevin’s boss is livid and points the blame finger at Kevin. However, Kevin is unfazed. He makes an appointment with the head of the advertising firm. Together they resolve the indifferences and the advertising firms goes ahead with the deal.


Real Stories of People with Strong Self-Belief

Glenn Cunningham’s Story-Attempt To Do It With All Your Might

Glenn’s school house was heated by an old fashioned, pot-bellied local stove. As an 8 year old,. Glenn’s job was to come to school early each morning and to start the fire in the pot-bellied stove and warm the room before his teacher and classmates arrived. One morning, when the teacher and classmates arrived, they found the school house engulfed in flames and Glenn lying unconscious with major burns on the lower half of his body. He was rushed to hospital where he overheard the doctor telling his mother that he, Glenn would most likely not be able to survive this ordeal. Glenn kept telling himself he was going to live over and over again. Somehow, to the amazement of the doctor, Glenn did survive. The doctors were worried about the degree of burns to his lower body and were convinced he would not walk again. The doctor told the mother that Glenn would most likely be crippled his whole life because there was no sensation on the lower part of his body. After being released from the hospital, Glenn was confined to a wheelchair. One sunny day, Glenn was in the yard in his wheelchair, he threw himself from the chair onto the grass and used his arms to push himself forward to get to the fence. Once he reached the fence and with great determination and effort, he raised himself up. Taking one painful step at a time, he forced himself to walk along the fence. He started doing this every day, resolving that he would soon walk. Through sheer determination and willpower, he developed the ability to stand up, then walk and then run. During his sophomore year, Glenn ran 1,500 meter race at the 1932 Olympics and finished fourth. By senior year, he set a world record for the mile of 4:06 and held position seven of the top 13 fastest recorded times for a mile. While in New-York, he won 21 of 31 races at Madison Square Garden. Glenn’s example clearly shows that you can have whatever you want in your life  as long as you have that strong belief in yourself. Neither the doctor’s verdict nor the numb sensation in his legs or the presence of the wheelchair deterred him from wanting to walk again.

Gwyther’s Story-A Dream Takes Self-belief, Determination and Hard-work

Nine year old Lennie Gwyther was fascinated with bridges and his dream was to be present for the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. At the time, the Sydney Harbour Bridge was the largest single-span Bridge in the world with six traffic lanes, train and tram carriage ways.  Lennie lived 1,000 km away (in rural Victoria) from the harbour bridge however, this did not deter him from his goal. He mapped out his own route and set off on a four month journey on his pony Ginger Mick. He faced heavy rain and fog, battled bushfires, camped alone in the bushes and even faced a thief at night. Word spread fast about this courageous boy. In Canberra, Lennie shook prime minister Joseph Lyons’ hand, and took tea in the members’ refreshment rooms.  When Lennie arrived in Sydney, he was greeted and cheered on by crowds and even had a police escort through the crowds. Finally, on the day of the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Lennie and Ginger Mick formed part of the Sydney Harbour Bridge opening pageant.  Lennie’s father was transported to Sydney to join his son. Lennie convinced his father that he should ride Ginger Mick all the way back home to complete the round journey.

Characteristics of people with a strong self-belief

The above examples show that people with a strong self-belief can achieve almost anything.

Common characteristics of people with strong self-belief include:

  • Their willingness to be vulnerable
  • Less likely to blame themselves if things do not work out
  • Confident of their own decision-making process
  • Will not take NO” for an answer
  • Will accept responsibility for their mistakes
  • Willing to admit then they are wrong
  • Willing to take risks and “go the extra mile” to get what they want

Start your journey by believing in yourself.

“Believe in yourself, take on your challenges, dig deep within yourself to conquer fears. Never let anyone bring you down. You got to keep going”- Chantal Sutherland

This article was researched and compiled by Dr. Sonia Shah

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