The Power Of Belief

“Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re probably right.” –Henry Ford 

In life, I have always been a very black-or-white thinker, which has resulted in perfectionism, self-induced pressure, and anxiety. When I started running, it was a way to help cope with these habits as my time spent running felt calming and freeing. Running essentially served as my escape, and at the initial stage, it was for fitness and recreation. Within a few years, as my running progressed, it transitioned from recreational into something of a competitive nature. I became more concerned with time, distance, and rank when racing. In retrospect, my daily running no longer seemed like a sanctuary as my black-and-white thinking was now present.

What happened next? My running was no longer a time for self-care, rather I began to passively accept the various negative beliefs and statements that have plagued my mind in my day-to-day life. My running became black and white and my negative self-talk reflected this. In my last race, the Lavaredo Ultra Trail, despite being physically ready, I had mentally stacked the cards against myself by mile five. The resounding internal dialogue that echoed throughout my head ranged from, You don’t look as strong and committed as the other females, to, You didn’t train hard enough and with enough focus. By the first crew stop, I declared to my mother, “I am defeated.” The race was not even a third over, I had no real grasp of my pace or position, and yet I had allowed myself to believe all of the negative statements that flowed so easily through my mind. With each step, the weight of this negative self-belief became more and more burdensome. The reality is that for so many years I have been discounting the importance of belief and have noticed that I am finishing races feeling unfulfilled.

After mulling it over, I realize that self-beliefs are tricky. To me, a self-belief is something that you regard to be true about yourself. Our beliefs may not always represent accurate reflections of reality, but rather they are our perceptions. Just because we see something a certain way does not mean that it is necessarily true. This is important to recognize because once you accept your feeling of certainty about something, whether it is true or false, it has the power to increase or limit possibilities in your life. Obviously, my internalized statements of, I am not fast enough, I am fat, I am not an athlete, are limiting beliefs not empowering beliefs. It’s happened long enough and I have had enough.

I have committed myself to taking action because I deserve to believe in myself, I deserve to feel good, I deserve to demonstrate my potential, and I deserve to be the best version of me. I need to be patient, practice, and execute as these established self-beliefs are going to take time to shift. To help with this process and to help prepare my for my next race, UTMB, I have created some positive affirmations:

I have faith in my training and trust in my abilities.

I can do this. I will do this. I am doing this!

I am focused; I am a physical and mental competitor.

I am capable and strong.

I treat myself with kindness and respect.

I am positive, present, and fierce!

I am working on internalizing these beginning when I wake up each day, throughout the day, and remaining diligent about them when I run. Taking the time to analyze and confront self-beliefs and self-talk has been eye-opening. I have always openly deemed my outlook as a realist approach, but now I realize it is more that of a pessimistic one.

Does it really matter if we see the glass as half full or half empty? Yes it does. Our beliefs bring meaning, purpose, and direction to our life. They help determine what colors we will see or not see in our world. They determine our actions or inactions, and how we feel. One of the feelings I don’t like having is finishing a race feeling unfulfilled. A feeling that comes when I don’t show my potential because I have restricted myself.

I am reminding myself and reminding you that our perceptions are not necessarily reality. Think about what beliefs you have accepted for years and years and just not questioned. Think about things you have said internally or aloud that limit your capabilities instead of enhance them. Examine those thoughts, question them, and reframe your self-limiting beliefs. If I can take this step, I know and believe that you can, too!

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • Do your self-beliefs match reality? Or do you, like Aliza describes about herself, find that you can be overly critical of yourself?
  • What do you do, if anything, to help control and eliminate negative self-talk and self-beliefs?
  • When was the last time you really, truly believed in yourself? Can you describe the situation?
Aliza Lapierre - The Power of Belief 1

All photos courtesy of Aliza Lapierre.

Aliza Lapierre - The Power of Belief 2

Aliza Lapierre

finds peace and a sense of belonging while trail running. Her passion began by exploring the trails in her home state of Vermont and has been regenerated by exploration across the world. She continually works to redefine her perceived boundaries, while trying to inspire others to explore their capabilities as well.

There are 7 comments

  1. Linn

    Hear hear; you are not alone. Our brains adapt to our concious thoughts that we feed it with which then becomes a part of our beliefes. In order to change our schema, our inherited belief system, we need to change our thoughts and self-talk so that we can change our actions and feelings, since it is all linked. Emotions drives thoughts that drives physcial sensation that drives actions, in no particular order, etc etc. Since the brain is plastic (neuroplastisticy) i.e. changeable, we have the ability to change this loop of emotions, thoughts, actions and physical sensation to our favour. To target the subconciuos mind, the one making the fast decisions (derived from our schema), hypnosis is a great tool. Alongside that I use written notes on walls, whiteboards and sometimes make recordings to myself that I end up having as a mantra in my head during races – everything that allows your subconcious mind to be “tricked” into a super positive state! After all, your mind is your greatest challenge, the road ahead is the easy part!

  2. Pierre

    I’ve been DNF’ing a lot in the last few years. Started lately to think exactly what this article and this comment brings. It’s all up there. Most ultra veterans know that. But to put this into work…. takes the right attitude. I’m going back to a marathon this fall to re-build confidence to start with (and maybe BQ for my 1st time). My long training runs have never been so pleasant with this re-focus. I hope to complete a 100M in the next few years which I’ve been unsuccessful so far.
    Thanks for sharing Aliza and Linn.

  3. Roman

    You might be right. I always say: My biggest weakness is my hubris, but my biggest strength is my ability to ignore this insight.

  4. John Vanderpot

    It hurts to read this — I took a quick look at your results, and you’re among the best there are! I, on the other hand, finish at the back almost always, but have the best days of my life out there…there has to be a moral here, no?

    Even, as recently happened, when something goes “wrong” (we were, to be uber fair, a bit mislead about the nature of the cuts) I assume something good will come of it, and sure enough before the weekend was over all was revealed, and the following week things went even better…

    Head up,

    JV

  5. Evie Serventi

    This is such well-written, reflective article! Thanks Aliza :-) I’m a runner and triathlete and have had similar experiences with self belief and limiting self-statements. I think I became a sport psychologist partly to help me practice what I preach too! There’s growing evidence that self-compassion and positive self-talk nurtures self efficacy and self belief – which often has a knock on, positive influence on performance – that is, your perceptions around your performance :-)
    Good luck with your running and next goal, the UTMB!

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