Surround yourself with supportive people. The old adage is that it takes a village to raise a child. I believe it takes a supportive community for any individual to thrive. In order for my company to thrive, we need supportive friends and allies. The more I have that, the more I blossom into the leader I’m meant to be. When you have friends, mentors, teachers, and allies, it’s so much easier to create miracles than when surrounded by those who don’t believe in you.
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 Adam Bulbulia.
Adam Bulbulia is a gifted empath who works in the realm of transformation and healing. He has had an extensive client base of individuals, business owners, and families for over 20 years. He is a seasoned expert in the field of autism and has worked with hundreds of developmentally disabled youth and adults. Adam has published three books and will release his next book in 2024. Adam is the founder and owner of Bridging Worlds Behavioral Services, and the founder and president of the non-profit Heart Centered Revolutions.
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 born in New York City and grew up in suburban New Jersey. I always dreamed of moving to California ever since I was little. I have the openness of California with the direct honesty of the East Coast. Growing up, I had the support of my two extremely loving parents who nurtured me and believed in my gifts. My mother suffered a nervous breakdown when I was four years old. She became agoraphobic and couldn’t leave the house for over a year. Supporting my mother with her phobias and her mental illness helped open my empathy skills at a very young age. Often I was the only one in the family who had a clear understanding of my mother. My mother took good care of me–she fed and nurtured me while I took good care of her with all she was feeling.
Supporting my mother was very traumatic for me as a child. It also helped me believe in myself. It hasn’t been easy for me to have gifts that are invisible. Being good at empathy and feeling what other people are feeling doesn’t seem to be a highly valued skill in our current society. It has taken me decades to understand my gifts, and I am still learning to believe in the messages I constantly pick up from people’s subtle energies.
I appreciate this question, because as I look back I remember all of the little ways I have been practicing empathy through feeling other’s experiences. As a six-year-old, many of my friends were torturing insects while I used empathy. I would get mad at my father and brother when they stepped on ants in our house without any consideration for their feelings. How would any of us like it if a giant carelessly killed us? What makes us humans entitled to treat these creatures in such a cruel way? And what makes humans any different from ants to begin with?
It has been a journey for me to find the ways in which I could use my gifts of feeling and empathy in a career. I became a Waldorf teacher, got a master’s degree, and currently specialize in working with people with special needs. Working with children and adults with developmental delays and autism is a joy because our society isn’t structured in a way that accepts these individuals for their neurodiversity. In fact, from my experience, I’ve found that the world isn’t set up to accept people for who they authentically are. My joy is to empower these individuals to understand themselves, believe in themselves, and grow into the person they have always wanted to be. Their goal may be as simple as wanting to live on their own, independent of their family’s help. No matter the goal, helping people to believe in themselves is the essence of everything I do in my work and in my daily life.
Believing in yourself boils down to being authentic. When you have the courage to be yourself, you empower yourself to live your life exactly how you are meant to. What is strange and funny is how much we have been conditioned to believe that if we are truly ourselves and do what we really want to do, then we will become incredibly self-centered and work against what is best for the good of society and the world at large. I have found this to be the complete opposite. As a child, I was always sensitive to what the other people and animals were feeling (like my example with the ants). I placed myself in the position of the underdog to understand their pain. When I am authentically who I am and live from that, everything Is harmonious to the world around me. If we can all learn to believe in ourselves and listen deeply to what we truly want to say and do in each moment, I believe we will catalyze a revolution that transforms the world from the inside out. You can learn more about how to become your most authentic self and truly believe in yourself in my book coming out later this year titled, Authenticity: The Immense Power to Be Yourself. At the end of this article, you will find information on how to join our newsletter for more information regarding my book release.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.
My mother inspired my first career as a teacher. She was interested in alternative education and showed me a flier about Waldorf education, which started me on the path of working with children. My former partner Susan, along with the founder of Multiplicity, Chuck Chojnacki, first gave me the opportunity to work with autistic and developmentally disabled people. I’m inspired by their honesty and authenticity.
The sun and stars inspired the non-profit I founded in 2021 called Heart-Centered Revolutions. Heart-Centered Revolutions allows me to shine the light within me into the world much like the sun lights up our lives.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
One exciting project that’s underway is my book called Authenticity: The Immense Power to be Yourself. I’ve been working on the finishing touches for the second edition. It’s my hope that this book will help people relax into their natural, authentic way of being and help them to share their profound gifts with the world.
My dream is to live in a world that works for everyone. In the work I do as a behavior analyst with families of autistic and developmentally disabled youth and adults, I’ve found a way to make a home or family culture serve everyone who is a part of it. In my business, I have structured the company to create a work culture where every member of my team can thrive by bringing the whole of who they are to their job. I’ve been able to create cultures that work for everyone involved through the principles of empathy and unconditional love. My ambition is to apply these principles to the world and create a world that works for everyone. Empathy and unconditional love allow people to feel nurtured and supported. As both the individual and collective begins to feel the stability of that nurturance and support, humanity will begin to unfurl its manifold gifts into the world. Embodying the principles of empathy and unconditional love to create a world that truly works for everyone is a massive undertaking. I am currently working to create a new development within the field of ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) using these principles.
What excites me about creating a world that works for everyone is that I am stepping into my destiny in a way that I have never known before. This feels exciting. Creating different cultures that serve everyone involved, whether it be within a client’s home, in businesses, or on a larger scale, requires an extraordinary amount of belief and faith. I have to believe that things don’t have to be as they currently are.
Believing in myself has not been easy either. I’ve asked myself, “Who am I to change the world?” When I look inside my heart, I feel this intense mission and calling. At the same time, I’m no greater than anyone else. It feels weird to be called to such a huge mission while simultaneously feeling small and poorly equipped to make it happen on a meaningful scale. It feels like a test of faith. A Marianne Williamson quote made famous by Nelson Mandela comes to mind, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.”
Okay, 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?
To believe in yourself is to empower yourself. Belief breathes life and inspiration. When we don’t believe in ourselves, it’s like trying to climb a mountain without legs. Not believing is a direct attack on our own efforts. Just like the children’s story The Little Engine That Could, believing is what allowed the little engine to succeed. When I founded my company, several of my friends advised against leaving my high-paying job to start this company. I had to follow my heart and believe it was possible. Within three years I had a thriving business with over 20 employees and 40 clients, making amazing and profound changes in their lives. I was also making more money than I was before I took this leap of faith.
In all my work with clients and families, the key to everything has been self-acceptance. Acceptance comes first: once we accept ourselves, we can believe in ourselves. I once worked with a young child who believed he was fundamentally bad. Through providing him with loving acceptance and supporting his parents, he was able to have more and more self-confidence. This paved the way for him to have a successful life. Self-acceptance leads to self-confidence, which leads to faith. When we have faith in ourselves, we follow our intuition even when we don’t know how it will happen. When we don’t have self-acceptance and self-confidence, we lean on others for the answer to our own questions. Others can only provide us part of the answer. The full answer is inscribed in each of our hearts. No one else can tell us how to live, just like no one can tell us the right partner to choose. This we must choose for ourselves.
Ralph Waldo Emerson was one of my greatest inspirations. The way he was true to himself has inspired me to find my own way. One of his quotes, “A weak man is made by his experience, a strong man makes himself out of his experience,” inspires me to rise up and transmute my suffering rather than becoming a victim of my traumas.
I’ve always had a natural talent for working with people’s feelings as a way to support their natural process of growth. In my own life I’ve found learning music more challenging than accessing feelings. The more I can believe I can sing well, the better my singing is. It’s not as good as helping others to believe in themselves, but the more I practice, the better my music gets.
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?
My first lesson about believing in myself happened when I was a boy and dreamt I could one day be a professional basketball player. I practiced and worked at it, but it wasn’t the right thing for my destiny. Being a professional basketball player didn’t match the truth of my heart. Our heart’s desire will always be possible. For example, the ugly duckling couldn’t be a duckling, it had to be its heart’s true nature as a swan. Sometimes we have to let go of fantasies — I was not meant to be a professional basketball player because it’s not my calling. Yes I can enjoy basketball, but I’m not meant to be a professional player.
You can only be the best at what you are meant to be. You might want to be a great artist or an Olympian, but each of us must use our hearts and intuition to discern if what we think we want is true. We have to understand on a deeper level why we are here and what we are meant to accomplish. Then we must believe we can accomplish it. Why else would we be put on earth other than to fulfill our true heart’s desire? And in the process of fighting to become who you are meant to become, you will face your greatest fears and challenges.
Was there a time when you did not believe in yourself? How did this impact your choices?
There have been many times I have not believed in myself. While those experiences have been very difficult, they’ve also been necessary for me to find a deeper faith in myself. When I founded my company, we immediately gained employees and clients. While the company was doing well financially, it soon became clear that not everyone who was working for me was the right fit. In a particular situation, I became incredibly angry at the way I was being treated by some of my staff. When I started questioning whether my anger was appropriate, several of my staff told me that I was inappropriately using power. They started questioning my leadership skills.
I had to trust my feelings and let my feelings guide me. Even in the face of many against me, I held my ground and spoke the truth of my experience. I had to have love and faith and believe in myself. And at the same time, I had to be patient and wait for the future to sort itself out and reveal itself to me. Believing in myself to that degree, especially when others didn’t, required that I let go of control over the future and over my company, and just keep staying true to myself and my truth. As I listened to the quiet voice of my heart, it began to grow louder and louder. I found my true compass by listening to this voice of truth in my heart.
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?
In the early part of my career, I was working for a company as a regional leader. At some point, it didn’t feel right to be at the company, so I left my high-paying job to found my own company. During this time, I knew I had the clinical skills to do the work, but I didn’t know if I believed in myself to make this new company happen. Something in my heart told me it was time and I followed that voice. It reminded me of the time when I was first teaching elementary school and had to learn to believe in myself. Before I was about to teach the children, I was terrified. In my mind’s eye, I practiced standing in front of the class I hadn’t met yet. I started practicing believing in myself in order to be able to teach.
Every time I level up, I find I need to have deeper faith in myself than before. This is still the case. Right now, I am finding myself reaching the limit of my leadership skills. It’s time to level up again. I’ve learned to trust in the process. Every time I step out, I realize it’s safe to trust myself more and more — even when I feel scared and even when I might fail. I trust simply moving forward, aligning with my heart.
What are your top 5 strategies that will help someone learn to believe in themselves?
1. Remove Obstacles — It’s like debugging a computer. You have to recognize and undo your conditioning so you can be free to move forward. You have to catch and release all of your thoughts about yourself that divide against your sense of self-love. I call this divisive thinking, these thoughts against ourselves or others. Like the story of the little engine that could, when we think we can, we can. When we think we can, we set ourselves up for success. Every little thought that undermines our ability to do something is divisive. Thoughts that are constructive criticism are neutral, yet divisive thoughts erode our self-esteem. The fact that I’m singing off key is just neutral information. Blaming myself by asking what’s wrong with me that I’m singing off key is divisive. When I stopped giving myself a hard time for being where I was at with music, my music started getting better and better.
2. Identify what you want — find your heart’s desire. Whatever we truly want is in our hearts. I believe you can succeed at anything that is inscribed in your heart. The important thing is to find the thing that is truly in our hearts. I had two desires when I was very young. One of my desires was to live in California. I loved the 49ers, the Golden Gate, the Led Zeppelin song “Going to California,” and studying about the gold rush. After graduate school, I made that dream come true by moving to California.
My other dream was to be a professional basketball player. I practiced a lot and got fairly good at it, but my natural capacities in basketball could only take me to our college team. When I realized this dream was not coming true, I was deeply disappointed. I learned that my heart’s desire wasn’t to be a professional basketball athlete. Instead, I learned to be a heart-centered entrepreneur, which is much more aligned with my heart’s calling. Not everything we want is what we should go for. While it was right to strive to improve my basketball skills, it was not truly in my heart to be a professional basketball player. Too often in the self-help world we’re told we can achieve anything we want. While that is helpful, there are limits. While I believe we can achieve whatever is in our heart, this doesn’t mean we will achieve anything and everything that pops into our brain.
3. Finding the faith in yourself — this often comes through finding your resilience. For me, having my former fiancé and former teacher lose faith in me and what I’m here to do was an intense catalyst for me to find a deeper faith in myself. It’s so important we believe in ourselves and find other people who support us in that. The more we can endure adversity, the better we fare. For example, I found my resilience when I drew a line in the sand in support of our company values that required everyone to practice empathy and unconditional love. If people weren’t willing to practice these principles, they were asked to leave. Plenty of the 22 staff left over the next six months. We went from making several hundred thousand dollars a year to losing money — yet two years later, we’re back to our original size with a team that is in full support of and benefiting from living our values.
4. Live into who you’re becoming — it’s kind of like practicing a skill. I practice playing music as if I’m a lead guitarist. Once I practice enough and act as if I am, then I am. It’s like the saying, “Fake it till you make it.” Practice, practice, practice. There’s an old story of someone who went looking for a performance at Carnegie Hall when they saw a person with an instrument and asked how to get to Carnegie Hall. The person replied, “Practice, practice, practice.” When we do something daily, it helps us to blossom. There’s a pottery teacher who did an experiment with his students and asked them to make a perfect pot by making 100 pots. After the 87th pot the students were better. The more we do something, the better we become. For example, I struggled with writing in high school and college. I received extra help through tutoring. I wrote in my journal every day and practiced expressing my ideas and thoughts. When my father was nearing his death and in a coma, I wrote to express what was happening and update my family. Without all that earlier practice, I would have struggled. Instead, it flowed from me naturally. I’m finding that the more I write the better I get at it. I’m now finding my voice for the non-profit I founded, Heart-Centered Revolutions, which is dedicated to making a world that works for everyone.
5. Surround yourself with supportive people. The old adage is that it takes a village to raise a child. I believe it takes a supportive community for any individual to thrive. In order for my company to thrive, we need supportive friends and allies. The more I have that, the more I blossom into the leader I’m meant to be. When you have friends, mentors, teachers, and allies, it’s so much easier to create miracles than when surrounded by those who don’t believe in you.
Conversely, how can one stop the negative stream of self-criticism that often accompanies us as we try to grow?
Stopping the negative stream of self-criticism is impossible. We can, however, harness this stream for creativity. The way I did this in my music learning was by writing songs about how bad I was at singing. I gave the negative thoughts a voice but didn’t let them stop me. Another practice I use is in mediation, when I allow the thinking mind to think and allow thoughts to go by not giving them much attention. In acting, I learned to take my stage fright and harness it. Negative energy is merely fear, and it’s a massive reservoir of untapped energy waiting for us to fulfill ourselves with it. Overreacting to negative thinking empowers even more negative thinking.
Are there any misconceptions about self-confidence and believing in oneself that you would like to dispel?
The biggest misconception is that there are people out there who are better or worse than you. We all have the same fundamental value as humans. The greats in history, or any area you want to excel in, are all human beings just like us. When we don’t place our role models on pedestals and believe we can do what’s in our hearts, we are thinking in the right way about things. No one can tell you how to believe in yourself. No one can tell you how to be yourself. We can only share our way with others. Each one of us must find our own unique way of believing in ourselves. We are each on our own hero’s journey if we choose to accept it. Going on our unique hero’s journey requires faith in ourselves.
What advice would you give to someone who is struggling with imposter syndrome?
We all feel insecure and inadequate. When we’re new at something, we often feel like imposters. When I first started working in the field of behavior analysis, I felt like an imposter. After years of experience and becoming certified as a BCBA (Board Certified Behavior Analyst), I realized I had been good at it all along. We don’t recognize our gifts because they seem common and ordinary to us.
Okay, 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.
Since I was a child, I’ve dreamed about how to make a world that feels good to and supports everyone. I started a non-profit organization, Heart-Centered Revolutions, to practice empathy and unconditional love in families, businesses, and communities as a way to have these values begin radiating throughout the world. When businesses are run from the heart, they care about and serve their communities. When parents care and bring their hearts to the center of their parenting, they care about family patterns. When communities are run with the heart at the center, serving the needs of the people is at the center instead of leadership and politics.
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 🙂
Terry Tempest Williams is an amazing nature writer who embodies nature and authenticity. I once got to see her speak and talk briefly with her afterward. She’s a very loving person and I’d love to get to know her better. I named my first guitar after her.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
The best way to follow my work is by joining Heart-Centered Revolutions’ mailing list. We put out a monthly newsletter sharing insights on how to live a heart-centered life; video content about authenticity, parenting, and other topics; and we also announce upcoming workshops, events, and books as they are released. When you sign up for the newsletter, you will receive a gift of the first three chapters of my book, Nurture Being. Included in the excerpt are foundational 30-second exercises designed to remind you of who you really are and return you to living from your deeper being.
Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.