Find a therapist or coach that you connect with to help you process your feelings. Make sure you find someone who is the right fit for you. You might need someone who challenges your thought patterns and holds you accountable to your goals and dreams. Or you might need someone who can point out when your behavior patterns are unhealthy or holding you back. No matter what style resonates with you, therapy gives you the space to focus on your inner self, work through unhealthy thinking patterns, and help propel you forward.
Starting something new is scary. Learning to believe in yourself can be a critical precursor to starting a new initiative. Why is it so important to learn to believe in yourself? How can someone work on gaining these skills? In this interview series, we are talking to business leaders, authors, writers, coaches, medical professionals, teachers, to share empowering insights about “How To Learn To Believe In Yourself.” As a part of this series we had the pleasure of interviewing Abbey Sangmeister.
Abbey Sangmeister is the Founder, Coach, and Therapist at Evolving Whole. Abbey graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2010 with a MS.Ed. in School and Mental Health Counseling. Against all odds she recently became a Single Mom By Choice through IVF. Abbey believes in making the impossible possible — for herself and with her clients. She is passionate about helping people design and achieve the life of their dreams by staying WHOLE without grinding and hustling.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I was raised by my superhero of a mom. She was the rock of our family and made every day special. After my parents divorced, my mom worked to support me and my sister without any help, financial or otherwise. Although I knew there were struggles financially, it never felt that way. I have so many amazing memories of my childhood. That’s one of the reasons why I wanted to be a mom. I wanted to create and pass on that same feeling.
I think growing up in a supportive home with my mom who worked hard and never let it get her down helped me to be successful and define what success means to me. It is not about the money but about the love and experiences you have and how you carry yourself through. Also, making the job fun whatever it might be. I recall my sister and I fighting over who would mow the lawn, write checks, mulch the flower beds, and do other chores because my mom made them seem fun somehow. Even in the face of challenges, she was always there to help whoever needed it. She worked tirelessly and one of my motivating factors to be successful is to provide for my mom as she did for me for so many years.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.
I first started therapy during middle school when my parents were divorcing. I remember thinking my therapist was amazing. She had a cool office with tons of books and a leather sofa and she was there to help. She was someone who listened to me; someone I could share my inner thoughts with. I wasn’t much of an emotional sharer as a kid and I kept my thoughts and feelings to myself mostly. Unfortunately, the worst happened. This therapist broke my trust and I stopped going. It never felt right what she did and later in life when I went to school to be a therapist, I learned what she did was highly unethical. The experience with her didn’t stop me from wanting to help others, but I knew I didn’t want to be like her.
There was always something inside me telling me that I could inspire others and help them, but I knew that it needed to be done in a different way. I studied psychology as an undergrad and spent a semester in Italy. When I came back from living abroad, I created the art history major at Ursinus College, so I could graduate with a dual major. I wasn’t sure of my path after that so I took time off and worked.
Then during a really challenging time in my life, I suddenly had more clarity. I found my mentor and coach, Ninita Birbilis. During our initial work together, I realized that this is how therapy should be and was inspired to go to graduate school and pursue this career. I still work with Ninita today but our relationship has evolved. We are now colleagues in the field. I still bounce ideas off of her and can share any of my inner thoughts that I wouldn’t want to share with anyone else. She reminds me of my accomplishments when I am doubting myself and the times I said something couldn’t be done or wouldn’t happen for me and then they do. I have learned so much from her and am truly grateful to have found a coach who was the right fit for me.
It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Maybe not a funny mistake but I can now laugh at it and have learned tremendously. When I was first starting out, I had tons of different therapy or coaching ideas. I was never one to trust others in sharing my thoughts and ideas but when I started out I thought I would try something new. I’d be vulnerable and trust others. Only I picked the wrong people. Before I go further, I am not saying not to be vulnerable and to not trust. No I want you to but make sure it is with the right people. For those bigger projects, I would keep them closer until you are ready to launch them or announce something. Share with your coach or therapist or someone you have really vetted…Keep that circle small.
Multiple times I made the mistake of sharing ideas for retreats and courses. Only to be hurt and disappointed when those I shared with took my idea and ran with it. I would be so frustrated as they had the funds to go do it and I felt like shutting down. After doing some work on my own self and processing my thoughts, feelings and feels around the broken trust and hurt, I came to the realization that someone could take your idea but they could never approach it or deliver it the same way I could. They didn’t have my education or experiences. When they deliver it it would be different because of that and because they aren’t me or my personality or how I connect with people. I also took it as a compliment. They must think so highly of me and my idea that they had to steal it for themselves
Now I do keep things more of a secret until I am ready to share. I share it with my therapist/coach, my mom, and a friend not in the same field as me.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
I actually have a few exciting things in the works, including my Ideal Calendar Reboot, which helps people take back control of their schedule starting with an ideal day. Whether you are an entrepreneur or high achiever feeling overwhelmed by our pervasive hustle culture or a mom feeling burned out from taking care of everyone except yourself, I’m sure you can relate to the feeling of overwhelm that keeps you stuck and prevents you from reaching your goals or achieving the life you want. I have been there, too, and I’ve used that experience to develop tools and techniques to break the cycle. It all starts with improving one day — or even just one aspect of one day. Those small changes have a snowball effect and help you rebuild your sense of control and allow you to feel more present, more productive, and more connected to yourself and your loved ones.
Much more to come in 2023, though, including retreats and online courses. One of my upcoming courses is especially close to my heart. As a Single Mom by Choice, I have experienced the ups and downs and the pain and joy of that journey and I want to support other women like me who make that choice for themselves. If anyone reading this is considering that path, it is all worth it! Having a support system in place made all the difference for me and I want to offer that support for others.
OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. This will be intuitive to you but it will be helpful to spell this out directly. Can you help explain a few reasons why it is so important to believe in yourself? Can you share a story or give some examples?
If you don’t have a strong belief in yourself then you will remain stuck and on that endless hamster wheel. The world will doubt you but the world does not know you. Others may have good intentions and think they are helping but will often project their fears, history, and self-doubt onto you.
Although we may have wonderful connections and support systems, those people may come and go throughout our life. It is our job to be our own cheerleaders and believe in ourselves because there may be a time when all we have is ourselves. Others who believe in us will add to our own belief and lift us higher but we need to have our own foundation of self-belief.
There have been several times in my life when self-belief, or a lack thereof, significantly impacted the trajectory of my personal and professional life. One of my proudest moments of overcoming self-doubt was in my decision to apply to graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania. I was already in a ton of school debt from my undergraduate degree and was living paycheck to paycheck, eating only what was on sale or special that week. My heart and my inner voice were saying that I should apply to UPenn, but other people’s opinions made me question whether I would get in, and whether I should even try. So after some procrastination, I tapped into the tools I had developed from working with my own coach and went for it. I had one week to write the essays, get letters of recommendation, submit my application in, and take the GRE. I knew if I never tried, I would never know, and I believed if it was meant for me, it would happen.
I got in. I believed I could and I made it happen.
What exactly does it mean to believe in yourself? Can I believe that I can be a great artist even though I’m not very talented? Can I believe I can be a gold medal Olympic even if I’m not athletic? Can you please explain what you mean?
Believing in yourself starts with trusting your intuition and knowing who you are and what you want to be. And that is not as easy as it might sound. Throughout our lives, we are influenced by people, like family, friends, bosses, and teachers, and things like the media and our environment, and can easily lose sight of our true self. We often do not give ourselves permission to take the time to learn about our individual wants and needs, but when you know yourself and become your authentic self, your confidence grows.
It is that trust in yourself that will help you achieve your goals. Even if you lack the natural talent of being an artist or the natural athletic ability of an Olympian, knowing who you are and what you truly want is the first step. That confidence, drive, determination, and dedication will fuel you forward towards achieving your goals. Believe in yourself enough to at least try, because if you never try you will never know. And in the trying, you will learn even more about yourself and gain even more confidence for whatever comes next.
Was there a time when you did not believe in yourself? How did this impact your choices?
Of course! It is completely natural to have moments or even seasons of doubt. But it is in those moments that we can learn even more about ourselves if we take the opportunity to do so. If we continue to work on grounding ourselves and acknowledge when we are HALF, we can evolve into better versions of ourselves. When I look back on times that I didn’t believe in myself, I can now see that those moments allowed me to learn more skills to help me into the next chapter of my life.
One moment of strong significance was wanting to be in private practice. It was always my goal, but when I started sharing my plan with others, doubt creeped in. The self-doubt took over and I put my dream on hold. I wish I would have believed in myself and taken the risk earlier, but it does give me a story to share to help inspire others — and to inspire myself whenever doubt ever starts to creep in.
From that experience, I now know how to really check-in with myself in times of doubt or uncertainty. A recent example is making the life-changing decision to become a Single Mom by Choice through IVF. Despite the doubts and fears and statistics and worries of what other people might think or how that decision might impact my business, I knew that I had to try. No matter what the outcome, I would learn something. For anyone who has gone through IVF, you know it is a physically, mentally, and emotionally draining process, but I kept reminding myself that I have made the impossible possible many times before and that if I never tried, I would never know. I am now a mom to a healthy, wonderful six-month-old baby girl and my business is thriving. I know there will continue to be challenges as a single mom and an entrepreneur, but even if I don’t have all of the answers now, I believe in myself enough to know that I will figure it out along the way.
At what point did you realize that in order to get to the next level, it would be necessary to build up your belief in yourself? Can you share the story with us?
Each chapter in my life has pushed me to build a stronger belief in myself. The current chapter of my life started in July 2021 when I began my journey to become a Single Mom by Choice. After meeting with my reproductive endocrinologist and doing some baseline testing, my rate for success was determined to be about 11% on one round of IVF. After learning more about those statistics and the cost, I was worried that I might never have the opportunity to have a biological child. That moment quickly passed when I remembered who I was. I was someone who overcame obstacles at every turn to get to where I was and I knew I would find a way to make this dream happen. At the very least, I knew I had to try. Trying and failing was better than never trying and always wondering “what if.” My greatest fear was not becoming a mom and I often questioned whether I would survive that. The answer was yes, I would — but I also knew I would not give up quickly.
What are your top 5 strategies that will help someone learn to believe in themselves? Please share a story or example for each.
1 . Find a therapist or coach that you connect with to help you process your feelings. Make sure you find someone who is the right fit for you. You might need someone who challenges your thought patterns and holds you accountable to your goals and dreams. Or you might need someone who can point out when your behavior patterns are unhealthy or holding you back. No matter what style resonates with you, therapy gives you the space to focus on your inner self, work through unhealthy thinking patterns, and help propel you forward.
Finding the right coach or therapist is like dating. Ask them questions, too, to make sure it’s the right fit, and if it isn’t, it’s okay to move on. The first business coach I worked with didn’t challenge or push me as much as I needed. As soon as I realized she wasn’t the right fit, I was able to find someone who was. Remember that it’s a journey and it’s not always linear. Even if something doesn’t work out, you will always learn something from that experience.
2 . Reflect back on times you believed in yourself and overcame an obstacle or a challenge. Even the small things count! If you are struggling, ask your close friends and family for examples. Now write those down, and as time goes on, continue to add to this list and refer back when you are doubting yourself.
When I first started this practice, I drew a complete blank. I couldn’t think of anything. I only wanted to count big accomplishments like finishing graduate school. But as I spent time journaling and reflecting, I realized that no challenge or obstacle or accomplishment is too small because they are all connected and led me to where I am now. I still add to that list, and on days that I am struggling, I look back to help me remember what I’m capable of.
3 . Build a library of empowerment. When someone sends you a thoughtful text or gives you a meaningful compliment, save them in a folder or your journal. I like to jot down quotes, too. Then when you are struggling with self doubt or insecurity, you can look back on these messages to recenter yourself.
I created a folder on my phone that has screenshots of various messages from colleagues, family, friends, and my coach. I also keep quotes someone may say to me in person in the notes section of my phone. If you are going through a particularly difficult time and need more frequent reinforcement, write these notes onto post-its and place them around your house. I still have a note on my mirror that I have looked at every day for the past 10 years. It says, “Fearless.”
4 . Take the time to learn about yourself. I know it can be hard when there are a million other things on your to-do list but finding time to be alone with your thoughts and feelings will help you drown out the noise of other people’s opinions and tap into your authentic self. The more authentic you are, the more your confidence will grow.
I like to do this while hiking. Being in the quiet and challenging my body to climb and hike various peaks helped me build confidence and hear my inner thoughts more clearly.
5 . Keep daydreaming! I have always been a huge daydreamer and I think that helped me get to where I am today. But there were times that my imagination worked against me. I would envision negative outcomes that kept me from pursuing certain goals. I had to stop myself from focusing on the negative and reframe them with positive outcomes. Of course, negative things will happen, but you can deal with them as they come.
Conversely, how can one stop the negative stream of self-criticism that often accompanies us as we try to grow?
I really like to journal about those thoughts to get them out of my head. Often when I see them in writing, their power dissipates or I can take the time to dig into where these thoughts are coming from. Whose voice are they really? I also like to reframe them and look at the criticism as a gift that is showing me an area that either needs improvement or acknowledgement.
I struggle with the same self-criticism that many women do, which is around our bodies. The negative self-talk about how we look can quickly spiral into self-doubt around other areas of our life, especially when we are burned out. As a new mom, my body doesn’t look or feel the same as it did pre-pregnancy, so I actively remind myself that this is the season for it, that it will not always be this way, and that I have been able to change my body composition before with hard work and dedication. So for now, I reframe and accept my body as it is. This does not make me less than and I am more than enough as I am. Trust me, it was not a simple process to get to this point of self-acceptance, though! I dedicated a lot of time to work on myself and build a foundation and a set of tools to change my thought process. It all started with journaling and working with a coach, and it’s part of the lifelong commitment I have to my mental health.
Are there any misconceptions about self-confidence and believing in oneself that you would like to dispel?
It’s a common misconception that people who are outgoing are always self-confident. That is not always true. Sometimes people who appear to be outgoing are actually overcompensating to hide their insecurities — and sometimes we do need to fake it till we make it. That might be the right strategy or coping mechanism for some people, but for others, it may mean you are masking who you really are and not being your authentic self. After a while, that can impact your self-confidence and your self-worth. It really comes down to you knowing your true self and acting in an authentic manner. The more you are true to yourself, the more your self-confidence will grow because you feel like you and won’t question each step.
What advice would you give to someone who is struggling with imposter syndrome?
Everyone has it! Some people ignore it, some overcompensate, and some let it take over. The best way to overcome imposter syndrome is by facing it head-on. When you ignore it, it will creep up and impact you when you least expect it.
Take the time to process these thoughts and feelings; identify when they are coming up. Most likely it is when you are feeling overwhelmed, burned out, or tired. Acknowledge those feelings and name them. Are you stressed? Drained? Anxious? Sad? Exhausted? What can I learn in this moment? What do I need to learn? What do I know to be true about me that will rebuild my self-esteem and minimize my self-doubt? This is where that empowerment library comes in handy, too!
Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I am very passionate about ending the hustle culture. You do not need to grind to be successful and I think it is more detrimental and less productive to do so. The more you are grounded and WHOLE the more successful you can be, no matter how you define success. This all starts with believing in yourself and taking the time to slow down and really listen to your inner voice.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂
It’s impossible to pick just one, so I’ll narrow it down to three. We can all have one big brunch together!
The Lumineers was my first thought. I have been a fan ever since 2012, when I first heard their song, “Dead Sea.” Their music has been the soundtrack to countless road trips and hiking adventures with my dog, Sadie, and throughout my mom’s treatment for Stage 3 Pancreatic Cancer. I have seen them play many times, most recently when I was six-months pregnant. I never felt my baby move so much as when we were at their show — she is clearly a fan, too!
Next would be Mindy Kahling. Aside from being a brilliant writer, actor, and producer, she is also a Single Mom By Choice. Her attitude and approach to becoming a Single Mom by Choice is similar to mine and I would love to learn more. Maybe we could create something together to support other women who want to become moms without waiting for — or settling on — a partner to do so.
Last but not least, I would love to connect with Yitzi Weiner. His interview with Robert Brill really resonated with me. People can learn so much from people who have carved out their own path, and who aren’t afraid to pivot and create a new one. Most of all, we have a shared goal. We both want to empower women and create a world for our daughters that is better than we have now.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
My website, where you can always find new content and learn more about my services: www.evolvingwhole.com
A great way to stay up to date is by joining my newsletter. I don’t want to contribute to email overwhelm, so I will only email you with content to inspire and motivate you — and of course, when I launch new services or have a podcast appearance to share.
Instagram is a place where I hang out in stories. So give a follow at EvolvingWhole
Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.