What Does Self-Belief Have To Do With Sustainability? guest blog header green text on pink background

What Does Self-Belief Have To Do With Sustainability?

*Guest post by Kirsty Brunker*

Hello! I’m Kirsty, of Coaching by Kirsty, and I describe myself as a Self-Belief Nurturer (aka mindset/life/personal coach). At this point, you may be wondering why on earth a Self-Belief Nurturer is writing a blog for a website dedicated to sustainable living…it’s an excellent question and I’m glad you asked!

Sustainability may look like a simple matter of making the right practical choices: but choices are made by minds and there’s a hell of a lot that affects our minds, whether we realise it or not. And a pretty bloody massive one of those things is self-belief.

For me, self-belief is fundamentally the recognition that you are good enough. (And yes, I do mean YOU.)

It’s about knowing, liking and trusting who we are. Because the more we do that, the more we understand what really matters to us, the more we believe we deserve it, and the more we have the courage and resilience to live our lives accordingly.

Self-belief is what allows us to make choices that feel right to us, even if acting on them may result in discomfort, inconvenience, criticism or challenge.

Tribes and sabre-toothed tigers and stuff

Perhaps the biggest obstacle to making the choices that we instinctively feel to be right for us is our primeval need to fit in with and be accepted by others.

You see, in the early stages of human evolution, you were born into a tribe and belonging to it greatly increased your chances of physical and genetic survival – the driving force for most living things.

Piss the tribe off enough to get kicked out and you found yourself alone in the wild: there was no one to help you find food or help you avoid becoming food; if you were sick or hurt, there was no one to tend to, feed or protect you, and your chances of a quick, productive shag were decidedly minimal. Being accepted by the tribe was literally a matter of life and death.

Even though those risks have been minimised for most of us today, it appears that the limbic system is still catching up with the pace of humanity’s social and technological evolution.

While the rustle in the bushes is more likely to be next door’s cat looking to con you into feeding it than a sabre-toothed tiger intent on making you its next meal, our primitive survival instinct is still looking out for those sabre-toothed tigers and telling us we need to be part of a group for protection.

By the way, if the rustle in the bushes does turn out to be a sabre-toothed tiger, please do try to take and share pictures before it eats you – I mean, how cool would it be to see one?! But I digress (I do that quite a lot, tbh).

To get back to the point (yes, there is one, honest), we are programmed to believe that our best chance of survival comes from being part of a tribe, and that means that we need to fit in, right? The tribe is unlikely to protect those who antagonise it, or upset it, or do things differently. Those who don’t follow the tribe’s traditions and rules are likely to be seen as a liability rather than an asset in a group whose physical survival depends on working closely together and trusting each other.

Tribal overwhelm

It used to be the case that our tribe (which I’m using as shorthand for “close-knit, protective social group”, which doesn’t exactly roll of the tongue, does it?!) was basically the family/immediate community into which we were born. However, development of transport, communication and information technologies mean that nowadays we can travel and interact with people all over the world, creating endless possibilities for connecting to different tribes.

Even if you live your whole life in the same house, you have a mind-boggling array of tribal options: for instance, those who live in the same county/country/continent/hemisphere; new groups of people you encounter during education or employment; those who share the same identifying characteristics as you (eg race, sexuality, gender); those who share your political views; those who follow the same celebrities/influencers/gurus on the same social media platforms as you; those who support the same sports teams; those who have the same religious faith (or lack thereof); those with the same hobbies and interests; those whose kids are in the same class as yours….the list is endless (or at least mahoosive, if we’re going to be pernickety, which I often am).

The good news here is that there’s plenty of opportunity to find “your tribe”, or even various tribes which meet different needs for you.

The bad news is that there can be a whole heap of pressure to conform to a gaziliion “shoulds” in a bid to gain acceptance from all the tribes you encounter. And that’s where self-belief becomes so important (see, we got there eventually, didn’t we?!).

Square pegs and round holes…

When we unconsciously submit to the need to belong, we can find ourselves adopting behaviours and choices that aren’t (fully) our own. And let me be clear that that’s said not from a place of criticism or judgement, but from personal experience.

Assorted-colour Dice Toy on Wooden Table
Photo by Digital Buggu: https://www.pexels.com/photo/assorted-color-dice-toy-on-wooden-table-311268/

In the face of perceived peer pressure from those we want to be accepted by, and all the “shoulds” and heavily airbrushed images of perfection being presented to us by the media and social media, it’s a rare individual who has never allowed themselves to be influenced by values and beliefs that are not truly theirs, wouldn’t you agree?

On top of that, when we’re conscious that we don’t seem to naturally fit in with those around us, there’s a tendency to assume not that we’re in the wrong place, but rather that there’s something wrong with us – that we are not likeable, not good enough.

Rather than trusting in who we are and our ability to find where we do belong, we reject our true selves and work on creating an alternative self to please others. In so doing, we become increasingly dependent on the approval of others and increasingly out of alignment with who we really are and what really matters to us.

When sustainability becomes unsustainable

Given all this, making choices to support a sustainable lifestyle is not always easy or comfortable, in spite of growing general recognition of the need to do so if we want to preserve and protect the natural world, and thus ourselves.

How many different voices are there expressing different views about the extent of, prioritisation of, and responsibility for more sustainable behaviours? Bloody loads, at a conservative estimate.

Some tell us that the single biggest thing we can do to make a difference is to become a vegan. Others that it’s to eliminate single-use plastic from your life. Others that it’s to minimise your carbon footprint. Others that it’s about buying only natural, organic, ethical products. Others that we should go and live off grid and off the land. Others that it’s down to governments and big corporates to ensure we have the right infrastructure and options in place. Others that there’s no point bothering with any of it because it’s all going to hell in a handcart whatever we do. And so on, and so forth, ad nauseam.

When your self-belief is low, following your instincts on these issues can seem impossible. But being all things to all people is similarly impossible, and the effort of trying to do it all from a place of fear and insecurity is incredibly exhausting.

Globe place among green plants sustainability
Photo by Nothing Ahead: https://www.pexels.com/photo/earth-globe-toy-placed-among-green-plants-7425355/

Even choices that may seem purely personal can have the tribe turning on you – or, at least, have you fearing that it will. Becoming vegan may seem to be of no concern to anyone but you…unless, perhaps, you live in an area where a lot of people work in dairy/meat farming…or if your family has a blinkered “meat and two veg” approach to food and is convinced you’re just being difficult and attention-seeking…

Sustainability your way

When faced with the vast array of choices, opinions, information and misinformation about living sustainably, and the depth of feeling that exists about them, self-belief – getting to know, like and trust yourself more – is essential to finding YOUR way.

Knowing yourself allows you to understand and focus on YOUR values, rather than unconsciously taking on those of others. It allows you to understand how you want to show up in and experience your life, the change you want to create in the world.

Liking yourself allows you to recognise that you have worth; that there are people out there who will value and appreciate you even if some of those you’re trying to fit in with don’t; that you deserve the life you want to create; that you and what you do matter.

Trusting yourself allows you to detach from the need for acceptance at any price and to instead find where you truly belong. It allows you to follow your instincts and take action even if you don’t know whether you’ll get it right first time, because you know that you’ll learn from any mistakes and can cope with whatever happens (even if it’s shitty).

Tips for growing your self-belief

So, how do you work on your self-belief?

There’s no guaranteed, one-size-fits-all approach to growing self-belief – because we’re all different and unique. However, there are definitely tools that can help us start to explore and express who we really are. Here are a few short, simple exercises/reminders that I keep coming back to:

What did you want to be when you grew up? What it was about the job – or the idea you had of that job – that appealed to you? What does it say about who you are and what lights you up?

Consider 2 or 3 decisions you’ve made that stand out for you as being good ones (it doesn’t matter how “big” or “small”): for each one, write a list of what you got from the outcomes. What stands out for you?

“Would you believe in what you believe in if you were the only one who believed it?” – asking yourself this question from Kanye West is so helpful in clarifying what really matters to you. You don’t have to justify or explain your answer – just be honest with yourself about your instinctive response.

Whenever you’re worried about dealing with the outcome of a decision, remember this: You have a 100% track record for dealing with all life’s shit – you are a fucking rock star!

As close to salesy as it gets…

Working on ourselves is incredibly beneficial, but working with a coach can take it to the next level – because we don’t see our own blindspots or what we’re avoiding, do we?

My coaching is all about listening and asking questions to help you better understand yourself and make the changes you want to make. It’s a conversation focused totally on YOU. If you’re curious about coaching, I offer the opportunity to try a free coaching conversation – simply book an online tea and biscuits chat and select the relevant option. Oh, and if you just fancy a chat about anything mindset related, that’s cool too!

If you enjoy mindset chat and a bit of general silliness, come and join in with me on your platform of choice: Instagram | Facebook

About Kirsty: After years of making myself miserable trying to be who I thought I should be in my home, social and corporate life, my mission is to help others cast off the cloak of conformity and shine their true, unique, weird and utterly bloody wonderful light. Because does the world benefit from a bunch of acquiescent clones? I think the fuck not. If you enjoy a bit of mindset chat, random silliness and a good swear, then please come and say hello on Instagram! This guest blog are my own views.

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