Believe In Yourself
Is it self belief or naivete?
I’ve been pondering my relationship with my self-belief and looking back at some of the things I’ve achieved. I’m not sure if it was genuine self-belief or naiveté that got me through various situations and ensured I kept the faith* in my younger days. Let me share a couple of examples and my learning from them.
Where there's a will, there's a way
Thirty-eight years ago, I left my hometown of Leigh, Greater Manchester. A small place where everyone talked to each other at bus stops and most people worked in a factory or down a pit. I moved to the East Midlands. To Loughborough to be precise, to embark on a degree course in Textiles and Fashion Design.
I’d worked hard to get this opportunity. I’d done an extra year of study to get to this point. I’d applied the year before and been rejected. My drawing had let me down. I was devastated but rather than accept the place I was offered at my second choice uni I’d decided to have another go the following year.
I had to muster up all my self-belief and really apply myself to the end goal. That year I went back to my 6th form college and drew and drew and painted and drew…I improved a lot. I also worked 2 jobs, evenings and weekends in pubs alongside. I was determined, focused and, getting that place (in one of the most prestigious art colleges of the time) was my absolute priority. Where there’s a will, there’s a way – another phrase I believe to be true. If you want it enough, you’ll do whatever it takes.
The rejection was repeated once I graduated in 1985. My degree was in textiles and fashion design, I’d specialised in printed textiles and surface pattern. Design jobs were like rocking horse sh!t. As I’ve mentioned even getting accepted onto the course was hard, it was severely oversubscribed. And then, once you’re out in the real world and in the design industry, it was extremely competitive and to be honest I wasn’t the best designer. I was average but had worked hard to get that uni place. Truth be told once I’d got there, I let my standards slip, heartbreak, partying hard and working in the pub took up most of the three years that I should’ve been studying.
I had nothing but enthusiasm and determination
Anyway, on graduating I’d got this notion that I’d go “freelance” and do handmade cards to sell in gift shops whilst still looking for a design job. This income would need to be topped up by bar work so that I could pay my rent.
I approached my bank for a loan to get me set up with some basic printing equipment to make these cards I’d be selling. I took my card ideas to show the start-up manager and asked for £500 (equivalent of around 10 months’ rent at the time). I felt like he was humouring me and was quite condescending. He said come back when you’ve made that much in sales and can match our loan. He knew he’d probably never see me again, I had zero business acumen. Ouch. I felt quite dejected. I cried when I left that appointment.
I was up to my overdraft limit, always worrying about how to pay my bills and really crap with money. I had nothing but my enthusiasm and determination to make it work. My motivation then was to not have to go back home after moving away from the working class town and the tiny bedroom I shared with my sister. I was the first in our family to go into higher education. My parents had gone into debt to support me through my studies. It was a big deal to me and them. I kept on with the bar work and showed my portfolio to anyone who’d give me the time of day.
“Believe in yourself and there will come a day when others have no choice but to believe in you.” Cynthia Kersey
I persisted by writing letters to anywhere I thought might have design work available. Within a couple of months, I found some rocking horse sh!t! I was offered a part time job in a design studio – success! (It was a very weird set up, but that story is for another day.) The money was pitiful, but I learned so much about the industry in the time I was there. I like to think of it being an apprenticeship.
I kept going with my freelance stuff, I had an agent who touted my design work around for me and took 40% commission. More rocking horse sh!t as a part time opportunity came up in their design studio! The money was almost double, it meant I could pack in at the weird place but also stop the bar work which was proving to be playing havoc with my dodgy hip! I jumped at the chance and spent 5 happy years there honing my skills. We worked on commissioned printed textile designs for all the major High Street stores. Chances are if you wore ANYTHING with a pattern on it in the late 80’s, early 90’s I might have had a hand in it. I never did go back to the bank for that loan. I didn’t need to. I was actually working as a designer!
Self employment is not for the feinthearted
And this brings me to think about where I am now and what I’m doing these days. My amazing husband has been the one that’s supported me when the going’s got tough and I’ve felt like packing it all in. Self-employment is not for the feint hearted. At times you need to borrow someone else's belief in you when your self-belief is waning. I made a conscious decision to ‘break up’ with a few naysayer ‘friends’ who doubted my ability to make my business work. It was probably more to do with the fact that they didn’t believe they could do it, not me. You might have similar 'frenemy' types you need to distance yourself from.
I firmly believe that when you want something enough, you’ll make it happen. Where there’s a will, there’s a way – If you want it enough, you’ll do whatever it takes. Determination and focus are what get results. Dig deep and look back at earlier challenges you’ve overcome. Look for evidence to prove yourself wrong when you are having doubts.
Like the two examples I’ve shared - working 2 jobs and putting in an extra years study dedicated to improving my drawing to get that coveted place at Loughborough University. Or persisting in touting my portfolio around to secure a job in the design industry despite their scarcity. It’s about not giving up and having self-belief. Even on the hardest of days you’ve got to remember why you want to do something.
Prove them wrong
We all have days when it feels hard to keep going and it would be easier to pack it all in. But you have to prove the bank manager types wrong, he did me a favour. He’d didn’t believe in me but made me realise that I did believe in myself. When the going gets tough you have to dig deep, draw on your self-belief and keep going. What’s for you will not pass you – but it does help if you’re prepared to create opportunities to make it happen.
Keep the faith
*As an aside. Keep the faith. Whenever I hear or see that phrase, I at once think of the iconic clench fist linked to the Northern Soul subculture that the infamous Wigan Casino all nighters were renowned for. Just a few miles away from where I was brought up it shut its doors in 1981, so I was just that bit too young to ever go, but I do love a bit of northern soul music to this day. In fact, Paul and I had Do I Love You by Frank Wilson as our first dance at our wedding 4 years ago.
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