The Power Of Self Belief


This essay first appeared in my newsletter, The Weekly Pep Talk. If you’d like to subscribe for a big old dose of positivity in your inbox every Sunday, you can sign up here.

Last week I watched the new Coldplay film, A Head Full Of Dreams (it’s on Amazon Prime for anyone who’s interested). I’m not a huge Coldplay fan, but I was home alone and nothing else was really taking my fancy, so I stuck it on. Within 10 minutes of watching it, I was hooked.

The film has been made over the course of 20 years, and all of the footage has been recorded by Mat Whitecross, who is a good friend of the band. It follows them from their very first rehearsal together in their student flat back in 1997, right through to the last night of their epic A Head Full Of Dreams tour earlier this year.

There’s so much magic in this film, from the stripped back nature of the footage, right through to the grit, determination and tenacity shown by the band over the years. Whether you like their music or not, there are vital lessons woven throughout the narrative - the importance of doing your best work, the power of sticking with something even when it isn’t working just yet, the merit in never settling for mediocrity.

But the biggest lesson I took away from the film was about the power of self belief. At the beginning of their career, you see Chris Martin making a list of milestones he wants the band to achieve. They’re relatively small things in the context of the huge career they’ve gone on to have - get a gig at a pub in Camden, record their first EP, go out on tour. But what was so inspiring to watch was how the band methodically checked off every milestone on the list, before moving on to the next. No wavering, no questioning whether they were heading in the right direction - just a solid plan and a truck load of belief that they’d deliver it.

At one point early on in the film, you see a young Chris Martin talking to camera. It’s 1998, and the band are buzzing from the small gig they’ve just played. “Just you watch”, Martin proclaims, “in 4 years time, Coldplay will be one of the biggest bands in the world”. It’s a bold statement, considering they hadn’t even written their first album at that point. And yet, the film jumps forward to 2002, and just as predicted, Coldplay are headlining the Pyramid stage at Glastonbury to a crowd of adoring fans. That’s just about as big as it gets.

It was a powerful moment to watch, this physical manifestation of their dreams and intentions coming to life. And it’s a message that’s repeated throughout the film - it’s clear that Coldplay’s secret weapon isn’t Martin’s genius lyrics, or Buckland’s epic guitar riffs, it’s the unwavering sense of belief that they’ve always had in themselves and each other.

It really struck a chord with me, not least because self belief is my biggest downfall. I’m someone who dawdles and questions and shies away from opportunities because I’m too busy telling myself that I don’t have the right skills or experience or qualifications. I’m someone who feels overwhelmed by imposter syndrome on a regular basis, no matter how hard I work to try and keep it in check. It doesn’t matter what I achieve, or how regularly I prove to myself that I’m capable, that niggling self doubt always managed to creep it’s way back in.

But while I was watching A Head Full Of Dreams, I kept coming back to the same question - what could we all achieve if we had the same unwavering level of self belief that those young lads who formed Coldplay had? How much more of a positive impact could we have on the world if we weren’t constantly questioning and limiting ourselves? And what if actually, that secret ingredient we’re all looking for isn’t experience or education or a tonne of hard work, but simply a healthy dose of self belief?

It’s something I want to remember, a lesson that I want to keep coming back to whenever I find myself slipping into that self doubt spiral. And it’s something I hope all of you can learn from too - the world is waiting for whatever you’re ready to give it, you just need to have a little belief in yourself to get started.