Refocus the lens you are viewing yourself and the world around you. Changing my view on what “success” means and learning (instead of justifying) from failures have led to big changes in my mental and emotional well-being and created new opportunities. Recently, I got to drive a city bus through an obstacle course. It put in perspective how tough that job is. That helps me lead as president of the board of directors for the public transit system. Mindset can make all the difference in the world.

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 Cameron Howe.

Cameron Howe is the lead project manager for HumanKind, a nonprofit that provides services across the state of Virginia, and is the President for the Board of Directors of the Greater Lynchburg Transit Company. Before taking the leap into project management and the city bus system, Cameron worked in mental health, where her passion in helping others ultimately pointed her to her current path. While working hands-on with the youth aging out of foster care, Cameron saw how the bus system was difficult to navigate, offered limited hours/days of operation, and made it difficult to maintain a job when relying on public transit. That’s when she wrote city council a letter and applied to be on the board of directors, where she’s been serving since end of 2019. A short time later, Cameron got the opportunity to help a greater number of people in a more effective way by switching into project management for a statewide nonprofit, where she gets to focus on the strategic initiatives that help benefit the programs serving the Commonwealth. Cameron’s expertise in mental health, the community, and her ability to connect with people across all walks of life has allowed her to create successful teams that ensure the important work is fruitful.

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 grew up in a small city with lots of family nearby. I struggled academically — I didn’t learn phonics until third grade, which was partly due to absence seizures that I thankfully have outgrown. My dyslexia, ADHD, anxiety, and the bullying I experienced, all contributed to my lack of confidence and difficulties in school. My generation was the first to experience the internet during formative years — where some of the bullying towards me still lives on nearly 20 years later. Despite those challenges, I had wonderful parents who worked really hard to ensure I had the extra help I needed to succeed, and they never gave up on me. I had teachers who believed in me, even when I didn’t believe in myself. Even though I didn’t believe in myself then, I still knew who I was as a person. I always had a voice, but when I was younger, I didn’t know how to use it.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.

While I say the career found me, it was my sister who made it click in my head that I could do this. I had spent most of my time in the workforce in mental health. I loved working with children and young adults as a case manager for children in crisis and youth aging out of foster care. I took some time off from the field when my children were young and got my master’s degree, (in the first class to study medical cannabis in the United States). Shortly before graduation, I received a phone call from a friend working at HumanKind (HK is a 501c3, nonprofit whose mission is to strengthen individuals, families and communities through care, counseling, and education). He said a position as a project manager had just been created and I should consider the position. He said he knew it wasn’t in the field I was seeking, but he thought I would be a good fit for the company and even if the position was temporary until I found what I was seeking. I called my sister, Carter, who is a project manager for a nonprofit. My sister imparted this nugget of wisdom: “Case management is like project management, it is about getting the right people in the room and asking the right questions.” I knew I could do this, so I went for it. (I did watch YouTube videos to learn the lingo of project management and research the fundamentals of what the job entails first — always be prepared!)

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?

I had only been in the position a few months and was working on a spreadsheet for the CFO of the company. For some reason I could not see the information on the spreadsheet he was referencing. I asked him if I was looking at the wrong version of the file. He told me I needed to scroll down. It was the most embarrassing mistake, but I couldn’t help but laugh at myself. What a ridiculous error made over email that made me look completely incompetent. Oh well, you can’t win them all. I learned a valuable lesson: scroll over all documents. Even if it doesn’t look like information will be there, it might.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

I am the President of the Board of Directors for our local city bus system (GLTC). We are working on implementing micro transit. It is the concept of small modes of transportation that can occur more frequently and improve rider experience. Currently, our bus system is a transit of necessity, and I would like it to be a mode of choice. I want riders to be able to get where they are going quicker, easier, and cheaper than we are currently providing. The board is also working on a fare-free policy for when the weather is extremely cold or dangerously hot. It’s important to me that people can get transportation to emergency shelters or to their destinations without worrying about the money of a ticket during intense weather conditions.

HumanKind turns 120 years old this June and one of my projects is a campus exploration project. As a nonprofit that has been helping the community for such a long period of time, we are looking where we’ve been, what we have now, and where we could go with it. We want to preserve our history so we can celebrate and learn from it, while highlighting the incredible work we are currently doing and share our strategic goals for the future. We have gotten the deeds of our property (nearly 400 pages, some pages written in cursive, some photos taken from the books of courthouse records), looking at our different easements, historical registry details, photos, and videos of campus from the 1920s through today. I’m digitalizing our archives and using metal detectors on the grounds (nearly 160 acres) — I would love to find a time capsule, or old toys from when we were an orphanage. I want to learn everything I can about the campus and the positive impact we’ve made and continue to make. This agency is close to my heart, but it wasn’t until I started working at HumanKind that I found out my great-great-great-grandfather, John W. Craddock, and his wife, Peachy Craddock, were financial supporters of the organization in the early 1900s. I’m helping the same organization that my family supported over a century ago.

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?

When you don’t believe in yourself it can be easier to justify a failure (“I never had a chance” or “they were always going to get the job over me”) than to learn from it. While other people might believe in you, the most important thing is that you believe in you. If you don’t believe in yourself, you will increase the chance that you will miss out on wonderful opportunities. I didn’t believe in myself until attending University of Lynchburg. It was there that I had a change in mindset. Instead of looking at challenges with “I’m going to fail so why try” lenses, I thought of it as a learning experience. I started to look at why someone succeeded where I had not as a way to learn from them, not as an opportunity to reinforce a negative, inaccurate view I had of myself. The change in mindset set me up for success. I started to believe in me, and doors started opening that I didn’t even know were there.

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 is not about being the best at something, it is about having the courage to try. When I redefined what I viewed as success was when I started believing in myself. As a wise classmate once said, “What do you call the last person in a class to graduate medical school? Doctor.” (That classmate was already a doctor, but he was continuing his education). Just because I didn’t get the exact outcome I had hoped for, doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth it or that I was less than successful for having tried.

Was there a time when you did not believe in yourself? How did this impact your choices?

When I was young, I didn’t believe in myself and as a result, I would unconsciously self-sabotage myself. I wouldn’t try out for the play because I wouldn’t get the part anyway (and the one time I put myself out there for a play in high school, I was bullied for it). I wouldn’t study as hard as I should’ve for a test because I’m a bad test-taker, I wasn’t going to do well anyway– or so that was the lie I would tell myself. I am a bad test taker, that’s true, but I can compensate for that by studying harder, making flash cards, taking practice tests, and implementing other techniques to help me learn the material. My lack of confidence deterred me from trying, and for many years I missed the opportunity to see what I was truly capable of. At that time, I would rather fail on my terms, than try and fail. I missed out on learning opportunities and experiences, which is the biggest mistake I could make and leads to the worst kind of failure.

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?

I heard a quote once that said, “the difference between someone who fails and someone who succeeds, is the person who succeeds tries again after a failure.” That quote has resonated with me ever since. There wasn’t a specific point, where I woke up one day and said, “I need to believe in myself.” It was a more subtle, frequent, change in mindset. It was the gradual understanding that for me to be who I want and be where I want in life, I need to exhibit the changes I wanted to see. Belief in myself started with small steps — in my case it was changing my internal self-thoughts.

What are your top 5 strategies that will help someone learn to believe in themselves? Please share a story or example for each.

1 . Practice makes progress, not perfection. The goal of believing in yourself is not to be perfect — no one is perfect. It is about trying. Practice, try, and most importantly, learn. Not every day or in every experience will you (or anyone) believe in themselves. But if you use all experiences as a learning opportunity, belief in yourself can start to organically occur.

2 . Power-pose. There is a fantastic Ted Talk by Amy Cuddy on how our body language shapes who we are. Listening to your body is an important part of gaining belief in yourself. I like to spend a few moments power-posing, getting ample sleep and having a good breakfast before an important event. Having my body physically ready, helps my mental well-being, which is a fundamental part in believing in myself.

3 . Prepare so you start out ahead. The day before my first in-person symposium in graduate school, I walked the campus, figured out where to park, and where I was supposed to go. The 45 minutes I spent exploring the day before helped decrease my first day anxiety and ensured I started off my day right. I showed confidence walking in because I knew where I was going. I didn’t know the day before, but I did the day I needed to.

4 . For a boat to change directions, it must make some waves. Gaining confidence in yourself isn’t always going to be smooth sailing. All change has the potential to ruffle feathers and cause a ripple effect around you, but when staying the course is no longer beneficial, you must be willing to take the wheel of your life and make the change. Show yourself grace, kindness, and forgiveness as you navigate life. Believe you are worth it because you are.

5 . Refocus the lens you are viewing yourself and the world around you. Changing my view on what “success” means and learning (instead of justifying) from failures have led to big changes in my mental and emotional well-being and created new opportunities. Recently, I got to drive a city bus through an obstacle course. It put in perspective how tough that job is. That helps me lead as president of the board of directors for the public transit system. Mindset can make all the difference in the world.

Conversely, how can one stop the negative stream of self-criticism that often accompanies us as we try to grow?

When that internal dialogue starts, ask yourself, “would I talk to a friend this way?” If the answer is no, immediately stop that negative self-talk and practiced what you would tell someone else, like: “you can do this. I believe in you.”

Are there any misconceptions about self-confidence and believing in oneself that you would like to dispel?

People who are not self-confident or self-believing will often view those that are as being arrogant or egotistical. While there sometimes is overlap, for most people believing in themselves is something that takes time, practice, and on some days is nonexistent. While other people’s opinions of you are none of your business, remember that those people that are worth `having in your life will encourage zyou to be the best version of yourself and love you even when you aren’t.

What advice would you give to someone who is struggling with imposter syndrome?

Own who you are and all that you aren’t. We are all works in progress, and all have opportunities for improvement. It’s beautiful. It is also beautiful to appreciate who you are and the work you’ve done. Focus your mental energy celebrating the accomplishments, not discrediting them.

Photo Credits: Danielle Ulmer

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 would love to inspire everyone to join a volunteer board or committee of a nonprofit or government entity. Having passionate people serve on a board of directors and selecting members that are engaged in committees, is fundamental to the outreach potential of an organization. Recruitment for boards can be really challenging, but it doesn’t have to be if employers prioritize volunteering and individuals find causes that they are motivated about. Board members are crucial in helping a nonprofit advance its mission, obtain adequate resources, ensure a sustainable future, and steer the organization in the direction that makes the most positive impact possible. I hope that one day all nonprofits will have a waitlist of volunteers eager to serve.

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 🙂

Mackenzie Scott. I find her to be very inspiring — she’s resilient, confident, smart. She’s a woman, mother, and philanthropist. On the surface, we have a lot in common, but there is also a lot we could learn from each other. I would love to show her wonderful work HumanKind is doing. I want to talk to her about the high rise of Amazon’s popularity and raising children with a strong sense of self-believing. Most of all, I want to talk to her about the Bystander Revolution. Taking the power out of bullying by empowering yourself through your thoughts and actions is a vital life lesson that I’m still practicing. I’m grateful this resource exists, especially for my daughters who are growing up in a world full of cameras in a clickbait culture. The community and resources that Mackenzie has created online to support people experiencing bullying is incredible. I would love to thank her and discuss the ways I can best support the Bystander Revolution.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

LinkedIn is one of my favorite places to share my current projects. I would love readers to connect with me:

Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.


  • Savio P. Clemente

    TEDx Speaker, Media Journalist, Board Certified Wellness Coach, Best-Selling Author & Cancer Survivor

    Savio P. Clemente, TEDx speaker and Stage 3 cancer survivor, infuses transformative insights into every article. His journey battling cancer fuels a mission to empower survivors and industry leaders towards living a truly healthy, wealthy, and wise lifestyle. As a Board-Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), Savio guides readers to embrace self-discovery and rewrite narratives by loving their inner stranger, as outlined in his acclaimed TEDx talk: "7 Minutes to Wellness: How to Love Your Inner Stranger." Through his best-selling book and impactful work as a media journalist — covering inspirational stories of resilience and exploring wellness trends — Savio has collaborated with notable celebrities and TV personalities, bringing his insights to diverse audiences and touching countless lives. His philosophy, "to know thyself is to heal thyself," resonates in every piece.