Business Management

Rant: Weird self-belief rituals

A few years back, in Florida, I was treated to one of the most nonsense speeches I’ve ever heard. The message was self-belief. And needless to say it was delivered to a fanfare of stomping and whooping.

The idea is simple: in order to thrive our self-regard must be cast iron. And according to this fine speaker, in order to achieve this, we must perform a simple daily ritual.

“Each morning,” yelled the guru on the dais to a packed hotel conference room of eager delegates: “I want you to go into the bathroom look yourself square in the mirror…”

The room hushed in readiness as this inspirational sage pointed his finger into depths of the hall.

“And when you look at yourself in the mirror, I want you say ‘I’m The Best’… but I don’t want you to just say it – I need you to believe it. Now say it with me…”

I squirmed in my seat and concentrated hard not to catch my British colleague’s eye. The rest of the room broke into a faintly disturbing religious-esque chant.

“I need you to believe it,” screamed the man brandishing his microphone aloft to show how unimpressed he was by ‘our’ efforts.

“I’m the Best,” roared the crowd, this time with more gusto as I focused on not letting out a ridiculous high-pitched yelping giggle.


“I’m The Best!”

“See how good that makes you feel! Now I want you to repeat that five times each and every day. Because,” a cautionary note entered his voice “if you don’t believe nobody else will.”

“Remember you’re beautiful, you’re brilliant… you can do anything.”

The room broke into an uproar… which I used as much-needed cover to relieve a fit of almost unstoppable laughter. Because stupid methodology aside… the message just isn’t true.

I might want to be a world famous tennis champion but the fact that I’m cack-handed and generally useless at all sports is going to hold me back. President of the United States, you say, go on then… um it is not my lack of self-belief that is the only thing stopping me.

This type of honest good sense gets bandied around a lot. It is the type of thinking that runs through all of the more rubbish LinkedIn articles and is inherent in the cash-generating pitches of ‘life coaches’ and ‘self-help’ books. And while sometimes it is very laudable - it can give people a self-esteem when they have none – it is generally pure claptrap.

“You’re master of your own destiny!” a professional pep-talker might counter but isn’t this setting everyone up for a fall? Because however you look at it, self-esteem and willpower are not the only obstacles to success… there is also skill, talent, connections, luck and a whole host of other things too.

And besides, none of this is really about the people lapping up the messages. The true winners are the canny bunch at the top skimming off the cash. In fact, mantras, slogans and other motivational bilge have been the stuff of large companies for years. And back in the day, nobody did this better than IBM… where sales teams had to convene each morning for a hearty company sing-along.

Surely a little niggle of self-doubt is a good thing? If nothing else it saves you from acting like an out-and-out chump. But either way, I certainly can’t imagine standing in front of the mirror telling myself I’m the best. I wouldn’t believe myself…

I’d just think I was a bonkers woman with outsized hair talking to myself in the bathroom.


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