The Importance of Believing in Yourself

 The Importance of Believing in Yourself


In your golden years, it is important that you believe in yourself—believing that you can do what you have to do; believing that you can still make waves in the last chapter of your life. In every endeavor in life, beginning the journey is as important as reaching the destination. Make your way through your golden years by doing what needs to be done, and by believing that you can do it no matter how and no matter what! Begin your journey of self-belief.

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.” Lao Tzu

Living is about doing. If you do not do what you can do, and cannot do what you have to do, you are essentially not living in reality. If you are not living in reality, your golden years will mean little or nothing to you. Believing in yourself provides you not only with life goals to create a new dream in your golden years, but also with life tools to turn that golden dream into a reality. Just start believing in yourself!

On September 2, 2013, the long-distance swimmer Diana Nyad made history by becoming the first person to swim the 110 treacherous miles from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage—at the age of 64. "Never ever give up!" and “Never too old!” were her messages to all her well-wishers.


Obstacles to Believing in Yourself


Believing in yourself, however, is not always easy, especially in your golden years. There are two obstacles that you must first overcome before you can start believing in yourself again.

The obstacle of comparing

Do not compare. Santa Claus never compares himself with another Santa Claus, so why should you?

It is not uncommon for seniors to compare themselves with others in terms of past achievements, or present health conditions. It is also not uncommon that at some point in your life you compare yourself with others only to observe where you are or how you are doing. However, by comparing too much and too often, you may end up judging yourself as well as others. Comparing and judging do not help you in believing in yourself.

“Why compare yourself with others? No one in the entire world can do a better job at being you than you.” Anonymous

According to Lao Tzu (author of the immortal ancient Chinese classic Tao Te Ching, which has been extensively read and translated into many languages), being judgmental of self or of others through comparison only paves the way to picking and choosing, which is the source of human stress and misery. Indeed, there is much truth in Lao Tzu’s profound wisdom of “no-judgment and no pick-and-choose” because the wisdom in living in reality, especially in the golden years, is to embrace everything that comes along in life—that is, the good and the bad, as well as the desirable and the undesirable. Once you start picking and choosing, accepting this and rejecting that, you are bound to make some wrong life choices, accompanied by life-devastating regret and remorse. So, don’t compare! Nobody is like you, and you are like nobody else!

The obstacle of looking back

Any comparison in any stage in life may lead to guilt and regret. It is pointless to lament or regret over what you had done or should not have done. The past was now gone and irretrievable. Make peace with your past. Don’t yearn over what was or what might have been! Don’t dwell on what you have lost! Only look forward to the golden days ahead, and do whatever you have set your mind to do!

Now, in your golden years, the important thing is to look ahead of you and not behind you. Don’t look back in anger or with regret. Just learn to come to terms with what you have. Now is as good a time as any to begin a new chapter in your life, and make it a good and memorable one at that!

Living in the past is a dull and lonely business; looking back strains the neck muscles, causing you to bump into people not going your way.” Edna Ferber

According to Lao Tzu, the wisdom in living in reality lies in living in the now. Only the present is a gift, and that is why it is called “present.” So, don’t ever look back!


Believing You Can Do


If you believe in yourself, you will also believe that you can do almost anything in your golden years. What you need are some simple goals to guide you along the way.

“I am only one, but still I am one.
I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.” Edward Everett Hale

Setting simple goals

Santa Claus has goals: delivering presents to the needy children. Life is meaningful only when there are life goals. No matter at what stage in your life, you must have some goals, which of course vary in different stages. In your younger years, they were focused more on your wants rather than on your needs; in your golden years, they should be refocused on your needs instead of on your wants. Simplify your life to simplify your life goals. Set simple goals and go for them one by one, and one at a time. It does not matter how slowly you go, so long as you do not stop!

Understanding needs and wants

Distinguishing between what you need and what you want in life is important, especially as you continue to age. Food, water, and shelter are some of the obvious basic things that every person needs to stay alive, and not much else in that category. Come to think of it, almost everything else is a want, not a need. Just look at your basement: honestly, how many of the items you have accumulated over the years are of any use or value to you now or in the near future? If they are for memory sake, has it ever occurred to you that you might not even have your memory further down the road? Learn to let go of your wants, and letting go is a rite of passage to happiness in your golden years.

In life, we all have our own circumstances that dictate our own unique needs and wants. It requires a certain level of maturity to determine what these individual needs and wants are, but this intellectual challenge develops over time and as we put in our own effort to find out what they are.

So, what are your needs?

“Be thankful for what you have, you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough” Oprah Winfrey

Needs are more basic and realistic, while wants are more desirable and, more often than not, unpractical and unrealistic. As you age, you need to compromise your wants, and focus more on what you need rather than on what you want. This is one of the key factors to successful aging. Whether you like it or not, your life is no longer what it was decades ago. Age has taken its toll on you—especially after years of abuse and misuse; for example, your body organs are not what they used to be in your younger years. By now, your wants may have become constrained and curtailed by your physical needs or incapacity.

Remember, you might not be receiving everything you want, but you are getting almost everything you need—or at least God will see to it that you do.

Just set your present goals to meet your present needs, look forward to achieving them, and do whatever it takes to accomplish them. To strive for your goals, you must do what needs to be done, and no one can stand in your place. Remember, what you desire in life, others desire the same too and you are not alone; that is, you, too, have the same right as they do. That is why you must believe in yourself, and you will then do your best to claim your right. Believing in yourself in not about reality; it is about attitude.


Knowing Who and Where You Are


Before you can identify your needs and set your goals to meet those needs, you must know who you are, and where you are at this point in time. They are fundamental to believing in yourself.

“Who am I?” is the question you should be asking yourself, especially in your golden years, or as you begin the second half of your life.

Who are you?

According to Lao Tzu, knowing yourself is true wisdom.

“Knowing others is intelligence.
Knowing ourselves is true wisdom.
Overcoming others is strength.
Overcoming ourselves is true power.”
(Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 33)

“Who you are” determines where you are going for the rest of your life, what you are going to do with the rest of your life, and what kind of a person you are going to become for the rest of your life. Nobody can answer those questions for you, because nobody knows you better than you know yourself.

Life is all about asking questions, internalizing them in your mind, and finding appropriate answers to those questions asked. Asking questions is introspection, which is a process of self-reflection, without which there is no self-awareness and hence no personal growth and development. A static life is not worth living. Therefore, asking questions is self-empowering wisdom—a life-skill tool much needed in your golden years. Your questions may trigger a set of mental answers, leading to actions or inactions based on the choices you make from the answers you have obtained. It is the natural habit of the human mind to try to solve problems by making things happen.

Finding out who you really are also determines your physicalemotionalintellectual, and, spiritual needs. They all play a pivotal part in your golden years, in particular, how you are going to age. In other words, they not only determine your attitude toward the challenges and changes ahead of you, but also define your purpose in your remaining life. Coming to a crossroads in life may help you re-define your identity, and hence your special needs in your golden years.

Finding your true identity

An unexamined life is not worth living.” Socrates

To find out who you really are, there is yet another important question that you should be asking yourself: What is your true identity?

Your identity is neither a social security number nor just a face. Your identity is your inner self or your worth as a person. Many people strive to build their identities by manipulating acceptance and attention from others. Sadly, that oftentimes does not work: your true identify should be based on how you perceive yourself, rather than on how you perceive what others may think of you. In addition, your true identity should not be built upon your ego.

What is the ego-self? How does ego affect your true identity? According to the ancient wisdom of Lao Tzu, the ego-self is a reflection of the subconscious human mind.  More precisely, it is the “false” identify or self-image that an individual has erroneously created in the subconscious mind.

How is the ego-self created?

When you were born, you did not have an ego-self, which is personal or individual identity. With the development of the five senses (sight, smell, hearing, touch, taste), you began to be aware of the things and people around you through your perceptions. This awareness of self becomes the substance of your identity or ego-self, which is essentially the reflected awareness of the things and people around you. In other words, your ego-self is built upon a reflection of "what" others think of you, as well as “how” you perceive what others may think of you. An example, people around you say you are smart; soon enough, you will begin to believe that you are really smart. Another example, you have repeatedly made some good money on the stock market; before long, you will begin to think that you are a successful investor. But your ego-self is no more than a reflection of the self-awareness of your mind; it may not be the absolute truth. As a matter of fact, your ego may compromise, if not confuse, your clear thinking, causing self-delusions.

As you continue to grow older, your life experiences (both good and bad), and your perceptions of those experiences begin to be stored in both your conscious and subconscious mind. Unlike your conscious mind that remembers what you want it to remember, your subconscious mind does not voluntarily filter all the mental input of your perceptions. But it is your subconscious mind that dominates as well as controls your conscious mind. As a result, over the years, your subconscious mind has given you but a reflection of your perceptions of those experiences—or the false ego-self you have thus created for yourself.

Unfortunately, your ego-self is unreal because it is only a reflection of your perceived thoughts.

Once the ego-self is formed, you will consciously and subconsciously do just “anything”—to cheat, to do injustice to others, or even to break the law—in order to protect and preserve it. An example is the once celebrated but now disgraced and dishonored cyclist Lance Armstrong, who used performance-enhancing drugs to inflate his ego-self. In addition, you will do more than what is necessary—what Lao Tzu, the ancient Chinese sage, calls “over-doing”—to make sure you will accomplish your goal in order to sustain your ego. Furthermore, you will anticipate in your mind's eye that things will happen the way you want them to happen to further boost your ego. The presence of the ego-self often becomes the source of human miseries, such as anxiety, fear, disappointment, and regret, among other negative emotions, which are also some of the mental attributes of a senior in the golden years.

The danger of the false ego-self is that once it is formed, it continues to seek attention from others. Sometimes you need not even seek it; people are too wiling to give it to you. The ego simply feeds itself on attention from self as well as from others.

So, can you get rid of that false ego-self to find your true identity?

No, it is almost impossible once it is formed. However, the good news is that you can be the master of your own ego-self: that is, you can separate the illusion from the reality because it is no more than a mere reflection of social phenomenon, which is a reflection of the conditioned thinking of society. The words “smart” and “successful” have little or no meaning other than the definitions attributed to them by human society; it is all in the human mind. To let go of the self-ego, you need to learn how to discern the real from the unreal. A mind that has no problem of its own can clearly see through itself, can separate the truth from the illusion or self-delusion. A mind that is composed and relaxed will let you see your true identity as opposed to the false image of your ego-self.

So, you need not strive to suppress your ego-self. Simply live in the present moment, and watch the comings and goings in your life with acute awareness. When your body and mind are in perfect awareness, such as in meditation, your ego-self will gradually disappear into thin air. The major problem with contemporary living is that the compulsive mind never stops. The good news is that now you are in your golden years, you have more time to slow down your mind, to relax your body, and to re-define your life goals. So spend some time everyday in silence to quiet your mind and relax your body to deflate your ego-self.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

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