Once upon a time there lived a group of flying talking pigs on a planet made of mud, orbited by moons made of chunks of dried mud. They were all very miserable indeed, because while neighboring planets possessed advanced civilizations with fancy gadgets that could thread across the galaxies in the blink of an eye, all they had was mud, and useless little trotters to mold it with.
With the mud they made houses and swimming pools and seating areas and slides, and wallowed in the mud, all day long, feeling miserable. One day one pig decided enough was enough, and started burrowing in the mud, certain that there must be something more beneath the brown filth. The other pigs laughed to see the porky idiot with his nose and trotters in the mud, digging away, and eventually it dragged on for so long everyone lost interest, but still the pig kept digging.
He dug, in the rain, during electric-storms, and dirt-storms, because he believed there were treasures at the core of the planet – and one day, a few fathoms beneath the surface, he found them: green energy crystals that could teleport any objects from one place to another. From henceforth the porcine civilisation was a major player on the galactic political scene, and were never seen as stupid old pigs again, all thanks to one little pig who never gave up.
So it isn’t the most flashy allegory, but you get what I mean. Throughout civilisation it is those who were jeered, who had no-one to believe in them except themselves, yet never gave up, who instigated the greatest progress for humanity. If you jumped back a century or so and asked Thomas Edison’s contemporaries whether it was possible to capture electricity, essentially sunlight, in a little glass globe, they might have given you a bemused grin, and said something along the lines of “Oh, that crazy old sod!” Yet here we are: I type this as I sit in my room, the screen illuminated by a small desk lamp. My point is, in life, in every endeavor, whether you are trying to become the next Thomas Edison or shed a few pounds at the gym over the Christmas holidays, there are always going to be people who believe you can’t do it, while the vast majority of humanity do not care what you do, either way.
This can be a cause for despair. I know it was for me, for a long time. Because I was so uncertain as to whether I could succeed as a writer, because I did not believe in myself, I tried to seek validation in others.
For instance, recently I sent in a story to a writing competition that was quite good, and had a brilliant idea, only, once again, for more mediocre stories from other teenagers to get shortlisted and gain the winning places. After I gave the story to a trusted older friend to read, she told me she could imagine it as a book, and that the judges, who were all recent graduates of Creative Writing degrees, had probably stolen it – she said it lightly, but her eyes were a little dark.
I was stung. My idea! Of course, she could be wrong, but I had been competing against teenagers, and I was a good writer for my age, and I had had a really good feeling about the story. And then I realised my problem wasn’t so much fearing someone stealing my idea, but a lack of belief in myself, and my own writing.
If I truly believed in myself, I would have been able to reassure myself that ideas were a dime a dozen, that it is the execution that matters, that even if they had stolen one idea they would never be able to steal my brain or creativity, and therefore I would always be able to generate more ideas. And even if two people used the same idea, they would not write the same sort of book, because everyone is different. We are all unique. Sure, I am still a little upset at the thought of someone capitalizing on my idea (which was really a book condensed into a short story), but, at the end of the day, they can never steal who I am. And so I reigned in my anger and depression and despair, and I put my head down, and went back to work.
Another time I would not have reacted so placidly. Each day in the life of every human is full of pinpricks: having to deal with people you dislike, uncomfortable situations, self-doubt, fear of the future – and being a depressive and melancholy person by nature, these “pinpricks” tend to bring me down a little quicker than it might more optimistic creatures. I have had an aunt tell me I did not have a way with words, and that someone like me should not put her hopes on becoming a writer. I have read published books, and lain on my bed, clutching it to my chest and crying at the hopelessness of my ever writing anything so perfect. I have stood in a crowd of students, and felt like a talentless, little nobody in a sea veritably swimming with talent. But most of all, I have had days where I was so wracked with self-doubt and fear I felt quite nauseous with it.
Why did I let all these things get to me? Because I did not believe in myself.
You must believe in yourself. It is all you have in life. No-one can do the things you want to do for you, no-one can put in the grind on your behalf, and most of the time no-one will be there to offer you any encouragement either. Most writers and other successful people slaved away for years and years, unseen and unheard and unnoticed, before achieving any sort of success. We only see the success; we do not see the long nights, the tears and the moments of doubt and self-hatred. We do not see the pain and hard work that must be paid to make dreams come true.
One adage thrown around an awful lot is something along the lines of “If it were easy, then everyone would be able to achieve it!”, which is true, but not very comforting when you are so wracked with self-doubt that you cannot, say, put a pen to paper, or start studying for that test, or do whatever it is you need to do to take yourself a step closer in the direction of your dreams. I propose a more savory alternative. If you do not believe you can do it, then delude yourself into thinking you can, and eventually it will become a reality.
Easier said than done, I know, and it helps if you are a natural daydreamer already. But I think – and you may disagree – that every person who wants to achieve success needs a good dose of persistence, faith and delusion. If people were too realistic, then they would be too afraid to try something new, to doggedly work at pushing past the parameters of what has been done, which, a lot of the time, is all that success is. In the end, all that matters is how you feel about yourself and your goals.
By believing in yourself, a strange metaphysical alchemy is catalyzed. Your body becomes magnetized, the compass needle of your mind swinging north and staying there, and you know that all you have to do is walk in the direction where it points, one step at a time. You will still have moments of self-doubt and fear, and days where you are miserable with the burden of being a conscious creature, but some part of you now pushes you to keep on going when in the past you would have thrown down your pen and given up.
Whatever it is that you want to do, I am not going to tell you that you can do it, like some twitchy little cheerleader high on attention. I am not going to tell you that you cannot. I am telling you that you must, and whatever you have to do to get yourself in the right mindset to make that dream into a reality – even if it means deluding yourself into thinking that you have what it takes – go do it. When no-one believes in you, make yourself believe in yourself.
And one day you will no longer need to delude yourself into thinking you can make it, because what you hoped for will have become a reality, and your happiness will be as great as a thousand comets streaming up from the Earth towards the stars.