Own and Accept — Own your choices, and accept where you are. No one excuses their way to accomplishment. In order to start believing in myself again, I had to first own the choices that I had made and accept where those choices had landed me in life. No one made me sleep with a married man. That was my choice. I had to stop blame-shifting and own and accept that I was now a divorced, single working Mom. That is where my choices had landed me. This is a key step to helping someone believe in themselves again. In my mentoring experience, if a woman cannot take this first step, I cannot help them.
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 Christy Neal.
As a Relationship Recovery Expert and Author of Don’t Ever Tell,Christy Neal has trail blazed a path for hope and healing after adultery. She has become the catalyst for healing she desperately needed but never found over a decade ago after her own affair. Christy now empowers women stuck in shame and guilt to forgive themselves and press on to a life filled with purpose and unshakeable confidence.
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?
What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.
I was born and raised in Nashville, TN by an amazing single Mom. My mother did not have a college education, and growing up we did not have much in the way of monetary belongings. However, my Mother had an incredible work ethic and fierce faith. She taught my sister and I from an early age that we had a purpose. I had no idea how well that would serve me later in life.
As a child, I was an extroverted tomboy with a remarkable imagination. I enjoyed the outdoors at every given opportunity and preferred boy’s toys to girly dolls and boring dress-up games. I adored He-Man and The Masters of The Universe and all things Hot Wheels. In fact, I can remember sneaking my sister’s Barbie dolls and burying them in the backyard. Interestingly enough, she never knew nor did she miss them. I loved my friends, music, dancing and creating comical commercials with my treasured tape recorder. By the age of 15, I had moved six times and experienced two divorces in my immediate family. This bore a deep seeding belief that I would do things “the right way”, and that I would never be divorced. I have since learned the hard way to never say never.
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?
When I decided to found Choose Different Media, I remember being at one of my first business networking events in Nashville. Each new attendee was asked to stand and give a small introduction. When it was my turn to share, I jumped right into an energetic exclamation that I was “The Voice of hope and healing after adultery that I so desperately needed but had never found after my own affair”. Not only did the Southern room filled with business executives get so quiet you could hear a pin drop, but immediately the mood shifted to utter disbelief and shock over my announcement. Needless to say, that didn’t stop me from my mission, but it did teach me an unforgettable lesson. My message is not for everyone, and that is okay. I whole heartedly believe that fifty percent of the people will love what you do, and fifty percent of the people will hate what you do. That is why it is crucial that each of us do what we feel called to do. Our messages will not be for everyone, but they will be for a select audience. Your audience is waiting. Don’t allow the ones who don’t need your message to keep you from reaching those who do.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
Currently, my Producer and I are beginning a video podcast to go along with the audio podcast of ‘Everyone Has A Voice’. I interview guests with inspiring comeback stories to give hope to our listeners for a better tomorrow. I believe we are all ‘Choosers not Losers’, and that we all could be just one different choice away from a better tomorrow. We recently hit our 100th episode, and it has been one of my most exciting media projects to date!
I am also working on the Choose Different Today Mentor program. This online video teaching series contains all of the wisdom I wish someone would have taught me when I was seeking healing after my own affair. It took me seven long, grueling years to truly forgive myself, like myself again, and belly laugh. I honestly didn’t know if I would ever like myself again. In fact, the number one question from women that I mentor is ‘how long will it take for me to like myself again?’ When I mentor women now, I have found we can get their healing time down to one year to two years. I am beyond ecstatic to release Choose Different Today. This online Mentor Program will allow me to reach thousands of women in a much more efficient, self-guided manner. Over fifteen years ago after the truth of my affair came out, I endured years of shame, guilt, gossip and labeling. I chose to get better instead of getting bitter, and I became the voice I so desperately needed but never found. I am humbled and honored to be the voice of hope to women who feel they have messed up beyond repair. I can relate, and I can share that there can always be purpose beyond our pain if we choose it.
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?
It is imperative to believe in yourself if you want to live a life full of purpose and unshakeable confidence. I am a firm believer in ‘what you think about, you bring about’. If we are constantly telling ourselves we are losers and that we will never accomplish this or that, we absolutely won’t. It reminds me of the timeless saying; if you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right. Our self-beliefs, whether positive or negative, guide our thought process which directly affects our course of action. Every action first begins as a thought.
Through my own experience of healing after huge personal failure, I discovered that I was the only one who could change my negative headspace. I chose to re-train my stinkin’ thinkin’, overcome my negative self-limiting beliefs, and pivot to a new, true positive set of self beliefs. Without that one intentional choice of action, I would have never founded Choose Different Media. I also would have never had the self confidence to write my book (Don’t Ever Tell), and I certainly wouldn’t feel worthy enough to have a podcast interviewing other underdogs who have had amazing comeback stories. When we don’t take inventory of and choose to overcome our negative self talk, we are keeping our skills, talents, and message from those who need it. We are stealing a blessing from the world. At the end of the day, it isn’t about us. It is about who we are meant to serve.
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?
In my experience, believing in yourself is a choice. Sometimes as humans we want to make the answer difficult and complicated, when in reality it can be simple. The true question is, do you want to get better and find purpose beyond your pain? Or, do you want to remain bitter and complain about things you cannot change? It all boils down to our choices.
On my journey to healing, I discovered that my mind believed what it was hearing repeatedly from other people. At the time when the truth of my affair came out, I was constantly hearing negative labels, gossip, and shame-slinging. In my hard of hearts, I knew I was a good Mom that loved her family and loved God. I believed deep down that I had a purpose. I had simply made a very selfish, stupid choice to have an affair. So why was I struggling with so much self-loathing, self-doubt, and suicidal thoughts? It was because I was choosing to accept the labels and lies that were being slung at me. Well, I got mad enough to do something about it.
I knew I had a choice. I did not have to accept the lies that were being spread about me. I knew the truth. I knew my heart. Allowing that season of failure to define me and steal my self-confidence was a choice I was not willing to make. I had a choice everyday to either speak kindly to myself or to speak negatively to myself. There were enough people speaking ill of me, so I chose different. I chose to speak love and kindness to myself daily when no one else would. Hearing positive words spoken out loud was healing and uplifting for me emotionally and mentally. Not overnight, but overtime, this allowed me to begin to believe in myself again and helped me re-build a new internal dialogue of self-love. It was a game changer. Now I help other women just like myself learn to believe in themselves again and heal much faster than I did. We as humans are not perfect, but we all are perfectly imperfect. I believe we all have a purpose in this life, but we have to choose to fight for it.
Was there a time when you did not believe in yourself? How did this impact your choices?
After my affair, I found myself drowning in guilt and shame over what I had done. It was a very difficult season, and I struggled with suicidal thoughts. For a time, I went along with the labels that were being put on me. Because of this, my actions continued to down spiral. I was wise enough to know that lifestyle was not sustainable if I wanted to raise an emotionally healthy, thriving child.
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?
My father had cheated on my mother, and my grandfather had cheated on my grandmother. I swore as a teenager and young adult that would never be me. Yet there I was only a decade later, a divorced working single Mom who had fallen into the one situation I swore I would never be in.
One evening while my daughter was away at her Dad’s for our new every other weekend rotation, I was alone for one of the first times in my new-to-me three bedroom, two bath house. As a single mom you don’t get many moments of quiet alone time to break down or grieve. In that moment, I was a complete mess. I went into my daughter’s tiny pink bedroom and kneeled beside her twin bed. I was hysterical and wailing out to God for help. “GOD HELP ME! I have thrown away everything you blessed me with. I am such a loser. I’m so sorry. Please help me. Please God! If you are there help me.” I was drowning in guilt and shame over what I had done and the family unit I had lost. I had lost it not just for me, but I messed it all up for my sweet, innocent daughter. I felt like such a failure. I failed my precious five-year-old girlie. Again, I began begging God for a woman who had been where I had been and done what I had done. I needed her to have a tremendous bounced-back story. I needed that woman to sit across from me and tell me I was going to be okay. For the first time in my life, I heard a gentle, calm whisper on the inside of me. It said, “You are her.” I remember yelling out angrily “NOOOO! NO, I AM NOT HER! I NEED HER! Can’t you see?! I screwed it all up! I had an affair in the South with a man at my church! No one is going to listen to me!” Again and again I would hear this calm, gentle whisper on the inside of me repeating “You are her.” “You are her.” I laid my head on my sweet girl’s bed in total confusion and defeat. That moment was over thirteen years ago. It was the moment that changed me forever. I didn’t understand all of those years ago, but I do now. Today, I can say with full confidence that I am the voice of hope and healing after adultery. You don’t have to be perfect to choose to help others. You just have to choose to help others.
What are your top 5 strategies that will help someone learn to believe in themselves? Please share a story or example for each.
1 . Own and Accept –
Own your choices, and accept where you are. No one excuses their way to accomplishment. In order to start believing in myself again, I had to first own the choices that I had made and accept where those choices had landed me in life. No one made me sleep with a married man. That was my choice. I had to stop blame-shifting and own and accept that I was now a divorced, single working Mom. That is where my choices had landed me. This is a key step to helping someone believe in themselves again. In my mentoring experience, if a woman cannot take this first step, I cannot help them.
2 . Choose Gratitude –
Gratitude is a powerful catalyst for happiness. I believe that there is always something to be thankful for. After my divorce, I went from being a stay-at-home Mom who had all day everyday with her daughter, to being a full-time working, single Mom who only saw her daughter on week nights and every other weekend. It was an excruciating transition, and something that could have ruined what little time I did have with my daughter. However, I chose to have an attitude of gratitude. I remember choosing to be thankful that I got to experience being married, having a healthy child, and being a stay-at-home Mom. Many women never get to experience those things. I love the Dr. Seuss saying, “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” That saying helped me choose gratitude on some of my most difficult days.
3 . Speak Kindly to Yourself –
Every word matters. How we speak to ourselves makes a difference. We have a daily choice to speak kindness and love to ourselves despite what other people are saying about us. This one choice can change the trajectory of your future. I am living proof.
4 . Serve Others –
Serving is medicine for our soul. If I had been allowed to stay at the church where my affair-partner and I met, I would not have been allowed to serve there. After some serious soul-searching and trying to figure out if I even wanted to be associated with another church ever again, I decided to find a community church that focused on my future rather than my past. Joy Church International was a large part of my healing journey. Many churches do more harm than good when dealing with messy topics like adultery. Joy Church made me feel welcomed despite my past. They allowed me to serve the children there and even teach. It helped me heal a part of my heart that I didn’t know could be healed. Whether you are a believer or not, serving heals us from the inside out. There is always someone worse off than us in the world. Find them and ask how you can serve them. It will boost your spirit and can lift you out of depression. It did worked for me.
5 . Move Forward –
You can’t move forward when you’re looking back. Victorious people know when a season has passed, and they move on. Defeated people tend to hold on to a season way too long after it has passed. I believe in taking the memories and the experiences of a past season, embracing what your learned, and choose to take those lessons into the future. You have a bright future ahead, but you will never find it staring into your rear-view mirror.
Conversely, how can one stop the negative stream of self-criticism that often accompanies us as we try to grow?
Choose to tackle self-criticism head on with your words. I recommend these five positive self-beliefs that can apply to anyone. These are the very statements that I used over a decade ago to change my negative self-talk, and that I still use to this day.
“I am more than enough.”
“I am perfectly imperfect like everyone else.”
“Success comes easy to me.”
“I easily accomplish anything I set my mind to do.”
“People will listen and need to hear my message.”
Are there any misconceptions about self-confidence and believing in oneself that you would like to dispel?
You do not have to be successful to believe in yourself. I failed miserably, but I chose to believe in myself for my daughter’s sake and for the women I knew I wanted to help. You also do not have to believe the words coming out of your mouth at first. It is a process. Trust the process. It works. I challenge you to choose to speak kindly to yourself twice a day for 21 consecutive days.
Here is the challenge: Spend ten minutes of alone time to take inventory of any negative self-talk you hear in your mind. List them all on a piece of paper. (I believe writing them out is more beneficial that typing.) Then create your opposing, positive self-beliefs list by writing down the exact opposite of each negative thought. If you need help getting started, use the five statements above to begin your new list. Speak your list out loud first thing in the morning and last thing right before bedtime. Make sure to look yourself in the eyes in a mirror while you speak kindness and success to yourself. If you do this consecutively twice a day for 21 days, you will have re-recorded a new, true positive ‘self-talk tape’ in your mind. It sounds too good to be true, but it works. Try it, and prove me wrong.
What advice would you give to someone who is struggling with imposter syndrome?
Know that you are not alone. Most people who have set out to do something new feel incapable. Negative self-talk is common. After we have failed, this negative dialogue can drown out anything positive. Be comforted that failure is universal. We have all experienced it. It isn’t how many times we fall that matters, it is how many times we get back up. Decide to get back up one more time despite the doubt and fear. Choose to label yourself a ‘work-in-progress’ and proceed with a gentleness towards yourself. Learn from my story. I was a whole construction site and look how my mess has been turned into a beautiful message of hope for others. It can happen for you 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 have often dreamed of Choose Different as a movement. The belief that we all could be just one different choice away from a better tomorrow is so empowering. As humans, we often make things more difficult than they need to be. In the South, we say ‘you are making a mountain out of a molehill’. What if it was as simple as choosing different? When we know better, we do better. I believe everyone is searching for a better tomorrow. We all have ‘growing-edges’ that we can work on, but what if we choose to take what we have learned and share it to help someone else? I have personally experienced so much joy in helping others with my story. Each time I mentor or speak, I feel humbled that my mistake is now a mistake that counts. It was such an ugly time in my life, but now it is a beautiful mission that is helping others. One choice at a time, one day at a time, we can choose to change the world for the good. Choose Different Today.
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 🙂
I have been a long time fan of Kathie Lee Gifford, and I would be completely honored and humbled to buy her lunch one day. I watched her ‘Live! With Regis and Kathie Lee’ show for years with my Grams. My sweet Grams lived to be almost 99 and loved Kathie Lee. I always admired Kathie Lee’s interview style, joyful personality, and her kindness towards all people. She has made a tremendous impact in the world of television and media all while keeping her strong, unapologetic faith in God. I have a great deal of respect for Kathie Lee.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
on Instagram: @choosedifferent
on FB: @choosedifferentmedia
on YouTube: @choosedifferentTV
Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.