Following a recent meeting of family friends, a waver in self-belief resulted in the calming retort: “Have some faith”. This simple statement came from a dear friend of my late parents, with added resonance because he has known me since youth and through to adulthood. It was not a dispersion on my character, more of a reminder that I have the power to focus my mind with strength of spirit. It led me to consider what does ‘having faith’ really mean?  Some research into definitions brought some varied insight:

Words: The New Dictionary (published 1957): faith (fayth) n. 1. Belief; trust, esp. in God or religion.  2. Fidelity, loyalty.  3. A creed; esp. a religious doctrine. – interj. In truth.

Oxford English Dictionary (published 2008): n. 1. complete trust or confidence.  2. strong religious belief.  3. a system of religious belief.

Twitter – Conversations utilizing the #faith hashtag show concentrated use in mainly Christian countries too, with the top 3 cities based in the southern states of North America and the Philippines.

It is no wonder then that we associate powerful links with God when referencing faith, as this is a basic foundation for belief. Growing up in a strict Catholic household meant this foundation was quite familiar, my Mother’s best friend was a nun and I was always reminded how church attendance and prayer would provide resolution to any of my human woes, that if I prayed hard enough for something, it would manifest.  Outward motions of faith would demonstrate my integrity and would form the basis of my success at school, rather than purely through study and my own talent. So consider these questions; how confident are you in your abilities? Did you hone your skills through education or experience? Are you motivated by peer support or self? This is something I have been observing and it is reflected in the social worlds we live in, where the click of a ‘Like’ could mean agreement or discord. But I am more concerned about our self-motivation, as peer approval is too often the dominant factor that steers so many decisions in our lives. Where is our faith these days?

We invest so much in other people but understandably so, as this builds community and connection, however ultimately, only one person is responsible for facing and dealing with our daily personal challenges.  The Stoic values and teachings that I refer to often form the basis of a certain type of faith, which enables oneself to overcome almost anything. It is not an ignorance of outcomes, more of an enforcement of values that helps our emotional wellbeing stay motivated and consistent. Mental health can be entirely overlooked in everyday society because it is not a flesh wound. So it is our responsibility to recognize our vulnerability and attend to it.  We can all be at the mercy of the negative voice in our head, berating our potential and questioning our abilities. Throughout history, those who have demonstrated their talent are more likely to have been believed of it. Perhaps this is why we aspire to be actors and musicians, even politicians, as these roles affect immediate reactions and sometimes change (whether for good or bad) as they all perform outward motions of ability. What may go unseen behind any of these intrepid roles are the songwriters, the scriptwriters and the lobbyists, key to performing these tasks but with a somewhat more introvert nature (although recognition can still be shone upon them through thanks and acknowledgment).  We are visually stimulated creatures and it is understandable why photo and video related content always out-perform solely written word.  We need impact.  We need inspiration.  This all acts as ignition to help us take action.

So to feel that sense of achievement, what is your personal measure for success?  My Mother’s contentment rested on my employment status; if I had a job, I was successful. There was never an indication of what this job should be (although the more globally recognized a company was, the more she could relate to it). There was no mention of if I was ever ‘happy’ in these jobs, whether I was receiving pay relative to my talent or if my co-workers liked me. My Mother’s measure of her own success was her child turning out well in society, with the ability to interact and sustain employment versus a spiral into the depths of benefit support or drug culture. Being a good mother was her only measure, which meant no qualms for monetary or physical support when needed. I was fortunate to have parents that never begrudged me what I wanted and what they could afford. Adulthood lacks their presence and has now led me to focus on faith as my motivation.

So what IS faith?  It goes by many names I think but it is that silent nod to yourself when you’re reminded that you are doing a good job, that regardless of external events, you will get through it.  Putting faith in statistics and evidential analysis also provides us with fact-based insights that enable us to make better decisions when we are overwhelmed by problem solving. Quite often when faced with scenarios that strain our emotional well-being, our rational and logical nature is shaken, so we should pass on the decision making to a more confident person.  That is faith in one another. So therefore, whilst we should not rely on others for our own sense of self-worth, we should still seek to motivate one another to stand steadfast in the face of dissolution.  It is faith that wakes you up in the morning, that pours that cup of coffee and helps you head out to work.  It is faith that looks at you in the mirror and sees that within those eyes lie courage and possibility.  It is faith that looks at the years gone by and shakes your hand because you are still moving forward, even after multiple tests of character.  Because it is always within you, just never forget it.