Always believe in yourself (and have a backup plan)

Beieve in Yourself

Curve-billed Thrasher – Hazel Thornton

Do you believe in yourself? Always? Or do you sometimes lose faith?

If this post looks familiar, it’s because I pull it out and tweak it every few years. It makes me feel better to read it. Maybe it will help you too?

Life is hard. We all go through tough times personally, and lately it seems like the rest of the world is on the brink of disaster too.

Even if you generally have confidence, and strength, and a grateful, positive attitude…even if all of your physical, emotional, and spiritual needs are met (for the most part)…everyone gets weary and frustrated from time to time.

Are you trusting your own wings? Or are you just hoping the branch won't break? Click To Tweet

So, I was thinking about this favorite quote by Charlie Wardle:

A bird sitting on a tree is never afraid of the branch breaking because her trust is not on the branch, but on her own wings. Always believe in yourself.

And I had an idea.

The Accomplishment List

But first — have you ever done the exercise where you make a list of your past accomplishments to remind yourself how awesome you are — believe in yourself — and to lift your spirits when needed?

It’s a worthwhile exercise, if you haven’t! And it’s worth reviewing and updating your list, if you have.

Just sit quietly, with pen and paper, and think about your life, starting when you were young. What do you remember doing that you are proud of? Write it down. Have you ever won an award? Developed a skill? Write them down. Did you earn a degree or certificate? Solve a problem? Raise children? Write them down. What did you help someone with that really made a difference? Write it down. Can you list 10 things? 50? Keep the list handy so you can refer to it, and add to it.

The Survival List

Well — and here is my new idea — I decided to make a list of unfortunate events that I have overcome — survived — in my life:

  • physical health issues
  • relationship breakups
  • career downsizing and lost job opportunities
  • death of a parent
  • sudden and extremely expensive car and home repairs
  • home burglaries
  • deaths of friends and pets
  • financial difficulties

Do these sound familiar to anyone else? I’m sure there’s more. I’ll add them to my private list as I think of them.

But — ack! Why on earth would I want to make such a depressing list?!?!

Because things happen. (Branches break.)

And thus far I’ve overcome them all. (I’ve learned to trust my own wings!)

I find that reassuring…don’t you?

As Vinnie Genovesi wrote:

On particularly rough days when I’m sure I can’t possibly endure, I like to remind myself that my track record for getting through bad bays so far is 100% and that’s pretty good.

The Backup Plan

So, if — I mean when — something happens (branches break), I ask myself:

“OK, what am I going to do about it?”

Believe in yourself and trust your own wings.

I either know what to do, or I can find out what to do.

I might need to ask for help.

After a suitable period of feeling sorry for myself, and — unlike the parable of the drowning man — if it’s something within my control, I take action.

I clear my mental clutter and remind myself that I’m prepared for emergencies (the ones that I could foresee, at least). I give myself permission to try new things.

As the Girl Scouts taught me: Be prepared. I have backup plans for photos and files, natural disasters, and even for my loved ones.

Really, what’s to be afraid of? In some ways, hasn’t the worst already happened to most of us? And here we still are. Why Worry? Take Action!

(If you are still worried and fearful, perhaps it will help to consult The Worry Matrix.)

Remember: Always believe in yourself!

And please keep in mind:

Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.

(Quote origin debatable.)

What have YOU overcome that makes you realize you really have nothing to worry about, or to be afraid of?

Extra points if you didn’t just endure the circumstances, but overcame them by using (or developing) your survival skills and backup plans.

Please share with us in the comments.

Or, if you prefer, just make your own private list.



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  1. Anne on October 6, 2014 at 11:03 am

    Great post, Hazel. I’ve already started my list, which is very long – which means I am super awesome!

    • Hazel Thornton on October 6, 2014 at 11:10 am

      Thanks, Anne! And yes…you are super awesome! 🙂

  2. Chris Rogers on October 6, 2014 at 7:20 pm

    Have faith in your own strength! It is amazing how resilient the human spirit can be, and Hazel, you have a beautiful spirit. Thank you for the post, we are all super women (and men).

    • Hazel Thornton on October 6, 2014 at 7:37 pm

      How sweet, Chris. Thank you! Oh, and you’re welcome, too!

  3. Jane on October 14, 2014 at 5:07 pm

    Great post, Hazel! You are truly an inspiration.

    • Hazel Thornton on December 4, 2014 at 8:13 am

      Thanks, Jane!

  4. Janet Barclay on November 14, 2014 at 9:09 am

    Yes! Whenever things go badly, I always remind myself that I’ve been through worse.

    • Hazel Thornton on December 4, 2014 at 8:44 am

      I’m thinking now of the phrase, “This too shall pass”….maybe we should change it to: “This too shall pass, and this too will I deal with successfully, and learn from, and find the humor in one day.”

  5. Nancy J Ryan on December 3, 2014 at 12:06 pm

    I want to thank you so much for this article. I am going through a period of self-doubt and feeling inadequate. Reading your article is such a profound “pick-me-up” and reality check! I am going to print it and read it whenever I am in fear or worry. I can’t thank you enough for sharing this article!!

    • Hazel Thornton on December 4, 2014 at 8:00 am

      Oh Nancy….your comment made my day! I always hope that what I am writing will help someone. I’m glad it was you today. Never forget to always believe in yourself!

  6. JIll Robson on April 30, 2016 at 6:46 am

    Great post, Hazel. You are right, even though things seem monumental at the time, we wake up to another day and continue on, I think that is an important thing to remember.

  7. Seana G Turner on April 30, 2016 at 6:49 am

    I once heard a busy mother remember telling herself, “I’m not sure I can do this.” But then she said she simultaneously thought, “Well, actually I guess I am doing this.” Self-talk is so important! Be kind and encourage yourself:)

    • Hazel Thornton on April 30, 2016 at 1:26 pm

      I do that, especially if it’s something I’ve procrastinated on, when I finally get started (usually the hardest part) and I get on a roll, I say to myself, half out of disbelief, half out of relief, “I’M DOING IT!!!” Lol!

  8. Linda Samuels on April 30, 2016 at 7:38 am

    Brilliant! What an excellent reminder that we ALL need to hear. I love the quote about the bird trusting its wings and not worrying about the branch that might break. I also appreciate the list you shared of life events that test us to the core. They absolutely resonate with me. And there are periods when we’re tested more regularly than others. Thinking about the past times of how we got through and the inner strengths we relied on, has helped. And again, your reminder is so much appreciated.

    Just the other day I was thinking about writing a note to my younger self. And then future thinking about writing a note to myself as if it was 20 years from now looking back to now. Sometimes we forget about the self-knowledge and insights we have and just need to remind ourselves of that.

    As always, I appreciate your thought-provoking post.

    • Hazel Thornton on April 30, 2016 at 1:20 pm

      This exercise could totally be a first step in writing such a letter to one’s self! Good idea, Linda. I think we would all have more insight if we would only stop and think about it. And we do forget. All the time. I just created a customizable app in my head that you program to remind you daily of a lovely memory or accomplishment: “Remember when you spoke to the group that gave you the standing ovation? That was awesome!” Or, “Remember when you were driving alone in the Camargue region of France and you saw the men with guns and dogs, and you were afraid at first, but you figured out they were just hunters, and it was so wild and beautiful?” What do you think?

      • Linda Samuels on October 16, 2023 at 9:55 am

        Thank you for updating and resharing this post again. The world needs this message, especially now. It’s a testament to our inner strength that supports us as we endure, survive, and thrive.

  9. Sarah Soboleski on April 30, 2016 at 12:26 pm

    Such a thought-provoking post, Hazel! It makes me think how I (and I think you too) have a jar I keep throughout the year that I stuff with notes of happy memories and then open and read on New Year’s Day. Maybe I need an obstacle jar too, to remind me that I made it through the year despite those “broken branches!” Thank you for your positivity today!

    • Hazel Thornton on April 30, 2016 at 12:57 pm

      Yes, mine is a box (see The Gratitude Box blog post). I find it hard to be grateful for tough times when they are happening, but if one made a list of things to be grateful for having overcome, it could totally go in the jar or box! Thanks for tying those two things together, Sarah!

  10. Maureen DeGarmo on April 30, 2016 at 7:14 pm

    I like the idea of a list of “unfortunate events that I have overcome.” Perhaps it could be called the Survival List. Thank you for sharing your widsom, Hazel.

    • Hazel Thornton on May 5, 2016 at 8:04 am

      Or maybe Survivor List? Survival List reminds me of emergency preparedness. Although ….that IS what we’re talking about, right? Ways to prepare one’s self for inevitable hardships and not dread them so much or hope them away?

  11. Nancy Haworth on May 3, 2016 at 1:14 pm

    This is a fabulous post, Hazel. I have never thought of making a list of things I’ve overcome, or how that list could help with positivity. Thanks for the idea!

  12. Pamela Cristals on May 4, 2016 at 9:49 pm

    Overcoming treacherous parts of your life is hard, but every one else is doing it. Great post, I enjoyed reading it and helping contribute to my self development.

  13. Linda Samuels on November 5, 2018 at 10:25 am

    What an important message to continue sharing. I’m glad you brought it back again and highlit it for us to see. Life has darkness, and we all need tools to help us through. Finding that inner strength, knowing that we can endure and to grow it sometimes all we need to keep during those challenging times. A few years ago I worked on a happiness or positivity project that combined pictures, words, descriptions of personal discoveries, accomplishments, and words of encouragement and support from others. Every so often I revisit it. It gives me a boost and fills me with an immense amount of gratitude.

    • Hazel Thornton on November 6, 2018 at 11:03 am

      Thanks, Linda. I think any sort of gratitude or happiness project helps boost self-esteem too!

  14. Lucy Kelly on June 16, 2020 at 1:00 pm

    I don’t think you can share this too many times, Hazel! I forget this lesson over and over again, appreciate the gentle reminder today: “Really, what’s to be afraid of? In some ways, hasn’t the worst already happened to most of us? And here we still are.” Yes indeed.

  15. Julie Bestry on June 18, 2020 at 6:12 pm

    This post, Hazel? It’s worth the price of admission. It was exactly what I needed to read exactly when I needed to read it. I’m going to keep this tab open for a while and keep a running list — it’s easy to “yeah, yeah” one’s own accomplishments, but being able to see where we’ve survived is really empowering. Thank you!

    • Julie Bestry on October 16, 2023 at 3:43 pm

      This post gets better and better, Hazel. This reminds me that I’ve always complained, when people say “adversity builds character,” that I don’t need or want any more “character development” — I want better background music and a nicer video of me in the opening credits! Sometimes, no matter how resilient we are, it’s frustrating to have to be resilient. Instead of recovering, it would be nice to never have anything *from which* to recover. But your points are well-taken; we really do need to trust ourselves (and if it’s necessary to do that, build up our resources and keep that backup plan well-tended). As always, great stuff!

      • Hazel Thornton on October 23, 2023 at 11:03 am

        Right?!?! Could there maybe be a day, or — heaven forbid — an entire week where everything is going smoothly?

  16. LISA GESSERT on June 22, 2020 at 5:32 am

    Great post Hazel. My branch broke when my husband passed away 20 months ago. I am fluttering not fully flying yet but getting there. This was a great read for me. I lost my mom 4 months before losing Bill, what a hard year 2018 was for me. But I am a pusher, doer, flyer. I push through adversity but yes I sometimes get tired. This was a great reminder. Thank you for this

    • Hazel Thornton on June 29, 2020 at 8:46 am

      I know it’s still hard for you, Lisa. Just think — if you can overcome this (which you ARE doing), you can overcome anything!

  17. Jonda Sue Beattie on October 16, 2023 at 9:37 am

    A great reminder to remember all that we have survived. We will get through the hard times now as well. Having a plan and then being prepared to go off the plan is pretty critical to my survival.

    • Hazel Thornton on October 23, 2023 at 11:05 am

      The phrase “cautious optimism” comes to mind. I’m prepared. I think. And I’m aware that things could go wrong at any moment!

  18. Janet Schiesl on October 16, 2023 at 4:24 pm

    Great post Hazel. I specifically love how you named your different lists. We tend to be moving forward ready to spread our wings never prepared for the branch to break. Things happen, and if the branch breaks, what are we going to do about it? Every situation is different and people deal with it differently. “Be kind, always” I love it.

    • Hazel Thornton on October 23, 2023 at 11:04 am

      Thanks, Janet! I love the “be kind” quote so much I just used it again in a new post!

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