Do the scary thing. If you want to make real change in your life, this is absolutely necessary. One year I decided that I would stop sitting on the sidelines and do the things that scared me. If I was scared to do something but knew I wanted it, I’d push myself to go for it. This turned out to be a great year and I tried so many new things. Which leads me to the next strategy.
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 Felicia Keller Boyle.
Felicia Keller Boyle, AKA The Bad Therapist™, is a therapist, business coach, and entrepreneur. As a motorcycle rider and solo international traveler, Felicia has always been a bit of a risk-taker, but running her own business is her biggest adventure. Now she helps therapists in private practice break out of ‘good therapist conditioning’ to create wealth generating and value aligned practices. Learn more and visit her website at thebadtherapist.coach
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?
Sure! I’m the eldest of two kids raised by a self employed single mom with a highschool education. I have always been extremely driven, especially when it came to school. I watched my mom run her own businesses, first as a house cleaner and then as a massage therapist. She was always very good at making sure we had enough, but she wasn’t much of a risk taker. When I was young we didn’t have a lot of money which was hard. Rather than reacting by deciding I wanted to have money, I reacted by thinking that money was bad and rich people sucked. I went in the total opposite direction and decided I really wanted to help people and that being a therapist would be the career for me.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.
It was a conversation with my friend Rosemarie outside of our junior high school science class. She was sharing the latest drama between her and another one of our friends. I remember doing my best to be neutral, curious, and helpful. In that moment I realized that there were people that did this kind of thing as a job and thought I’d really enjoy it.
That’s the really cute (and true) story, but there’s a whole other aspect to why I decided to become a therapist. Growing up wasn’t easy. So many of my family members struggled with substance addiction and mental health issues. I also was having a really hard time but was ‘high functioning’, got really good grades, and didn’t have any behavioral issues. I mostly flew under the radar. I was aware from a very young age that people needed help and I saw what happened when they didn’t get it.
The combination of being averse to money and wanting to be helpful made me absolutely perfect for a career in therapy. It isn’t true that working as a therapist means you have to be broke, but it is true that that is the default. I had to work really hard to undo that narrative in how I approached my work and battle the expectation that therapists who are making money are somehow traitors to the field. Now that I work as a business coach for therapists, I talk alot about what I call ‘good therapist conditioning’ Good therapist conditioning is the tendency therapists have to put all others before themselves and overwork and underearn in their careers. A lot of therapists enter the field like I did — bleeding hearts, averse to money, not wanting to take up space, and focusing on being helpful at all costs. This isn’t all bad, but this can only last for so long before we burn out.
For years I worked in community mental health and after going to grad school, I started my own private practice. I made a decision early on that if I was going to go through the trouble of running my own business, it had to be a great place to work. The cost of pretending like I could ignore money was catching up with me. Even though I loved getting to do therapy, the long hours, low pay, poor working conditions of most mental health jobs were unsustainable. I knew I did not want to recreate that in my own business.
But when I went looking for advice, I found most of it was really dated and downright harmful. I began looking at businesses in other industries, read lots of books, listened to podcasts, talked with other entrepreneurs, and created my own way of running a therapy practice. As my practice grew, my friends and colleagues became curious and I discovered that there was a real need for business coaching for therapists. I started coaching my peers locally and since the pandemic, I made a huge leap and began offering business coaching to therapists all over the country.
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?
This is a goofy mistake but probably not the worst one I’ve made. I gave my therapy business a really silly name because I was fresh out of grad school, ignorant about marketing, and such a therapy nerd. I named it ‘PsycheSom Therapy’ and my website was psysomtherapy.org because I thought at one point that I might start a non-profit. No one knew how to say the name of the business let alone what it actually meant or how to spell it. But it ended up having this strange advantage. My business was on yelp and when people would look up ‘psychologist’ or ‘psychotherapy’, I came up in search results really quickly. I actually got quite a few clients reaching out from Yelp! That was a total accident but it worked in my favor.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
My newest and most exciting project is my podcast, The Bad Therapist Show. I have wanted to start a podcast for years, but I also knew just how large an undertaking it was. Unlike so many other marketing strategies I’ve used in the past, I knew that I didn’t want this one to be DIY or scrappy. Because of that I had to wait until I had the resources — time, money, energy — to do it in the way that I really wanted.
I love listening to podcasts and that has been a huge way that I have gotten support and tips as I’ve grown my own business. I am so excited to be connecting with my audience and creating in this new format.
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’s important because of how our brains and minds work. Literally. Rick Hanson, a psychologist and neuroscientist, talks about the ‘negativity bias.’ Basically our brains have a predisposition to place an inordinate degree of focus on what’s NOT going well rather than what is. This is great at keeping us alive but is terrible at helping us grow and enjoy our lives. If you want to achieve something new, especially something that is challenging, you can’t rely on the way your brain normally functions to help you get there. You have to intentionally shift your focus to what’s good even when it’s the last thing you want to do. Your brain is telling you that if you are nice and encouraging to yourself then you’re going to die — that you’ll miss the big scary tiger hiding in the bushes. But that is exactly what you need to do! You need to learn to put the focus on what’s good. That doesn’t mean you should ignore warning signs or challenges. It just means that you need to counteract your negative and discouraging thoughts with at least five times the number of positive and encouraging thoughts.
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 has to be a decision. It can’t be based on ‘feeling like you should’ because you will probably never ‘feel’ that way, at least not until you’ve begun to take action. You have to decide to believe in yourself BEFORE you have proof that you should. Most of the people who have achieved great things have done so in part because they kept on believing they could. The fact is, there are always plenty of reasons why you shouldn’t succeed at what you want to do.
There’s a reason why ‘fake it till you make it’ is such a popular phrase. As long as we are truly trying something new and stretching ourselves, the fact is, we don’t yet have the evidence that we can do it — so we do have to fake it. We have to try to connect with the version of ourselves that can do the thing we want to do or has the thing we want to have and act as if we are already there.
Was there a time when you did not believe in yourself? How did this impact your choices?
Oftentimes ‘not believing in yourself’ masquerades as something much more logical. For instance, I used to be very opposed to using social media marketing in my business. If you had asked me back then why I thought that, I would have said because I don’t like it and I think it’s dumb. I probably would have also given you some social critique for how social media is ruining our lives. But there was a whole other reason why I wasn’t showing up to market my business through social media. It was because, in short, I didn’t believe in myself. The fact was that I didn’t yet know how to use social media to market my business and I was scared to get it wrong, look stupid, or waste time. Basically, I wasn’t willing to learn. I wanted to have it all figured out BEFORE doing it. Which in retrospect is hilarious because how is that even possible?!
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 realized that not doing things because I was scared would never lead me to have the life or business I wanted. I had tried staying small — hoping that would make me happy — and it just wasn’t working. That had been my strategy my whole life. And around my early 30s is when that really began to change. The biggest shift happened when I started my business and I knew I didn’t just want to be self employed. I didn’t just want to get by. I wanted to be creative, make money, and have whatever resources I needed to live the life I wanted. I knew that meant I would have to do things that were uncomfortable for me. To help myself stick with it through the hard times, I started using mindset tools like journaling. Most importantly, I made sure that I was doing pleasurable things for myself every single day — even if they were really simple.
What are your top 5 strategies that will help someone learn to believe in themselves? Please share a story or example for each.
1 . Do the scary thing.
If you want to make real change in your life, this is absolutely necessary. One year I decided that I would stop sitting on the sidelines and do the things that scared me. If I was scared to do something but knew I wanted it, I’d push myself to go for it. This turned out to be a great year and I tried so many new things. Which leads me to the next strategy.
2 . Reinterpret your fears
We tend to think that fear means something isn’t right or that we should stop. Of course this is true sometimes, but a lot of the time, it’s not. Fear might just mean that you’re on the verge of change, are challenging yourself to try something new, or are in a learning process. These are all good things. But your ego, the part of you that wants to keep you safe, has a vested interest in making sure that you don’t change. Even if the status quo is uncomfortable, your ego would still rather have you stay the same than try something new and potentially fail or end up worse off. Start to see your fears as a sign that you are on the verge of something really exciting.
3 . Get a mentor, therapist, or coach.
The most successful, happy people aren’t doing it alone. It doesn’t matter how much of a badass you think you are, people need people. Ever since I was young, I looked for mentors and have been fortunate to find them. I had mentors in spiritual, professional and non professional settings. I’ve paid for mentorship and gotten mentorship for free. Mentorship comes in all shapes and sizes. I love to learn from my elders; whether that’s people who are older than me in age or further along a particular path than me. When you’re learning to believe in yourself, you’re going to hit roadblocks or places you want to quit. Having a mentor in these moments can be the difference between you continuing and reaching your goal and not.
4 . Be strategically delusional.
This is something I did a lot in the early days of starting my coaching business. Like I said before, marketing didn’t come easy for me. It would take a long time and I often felt self critical throughout the process. So before I would start doing my work for the day, I would take time to write out some affirmations that simply weren’t true at the time. “I write my copy with ease. Everything I say is pure gold. Writing is fun. Everyone loves hearing what I have to say.” Pretending those things were true or could be true made the process easier, and over time those beliefs became more and more true as new evidence began to pile up.
5 . Dig into community
This is similar to having a mentor, but there is something about being in a group context that one-on-one work will never do. I find that when I’m talking or working with just one person, it’s easy for me to still think that I’m somehow special. But that belief is immediately confronted whenever I’m working in groups. I quickly discover that my problems aren’t unique and that I can indeed find solutions to them.
Conversely, how can one stop the negative stream of self-criticism that often accompanies us as we try to grow?
People imagine that they could stop their self criticism or other ‘bad’ habits, but this isn’t the most effective approach to creating change. This has to do with our negativity bias and our mind’s number one goal being survival. The best way to deal with self-criticism is to interact with the thoughts differently. To practice not believing them, not obeying them, and taking opposite action. If we learn to disobey our negative thoughts, then they eventually lose power and may even begin to lessen. But it’s useless to try to stop them.
Are there any misconceptions about self-confidence and believing in oneself that you would like to dispel?
Absolutely! The biggest misconception is that people who have what you want are in some way ‘special’. And yeah, of course we all have different starting points and different hurdles, but getting bogged down imagining that you need some special thing that you don’t have isn’t helpful to anyone.
What advice would you give to someone who is struggling with imposter syndrome?
Imposter syndrome will not go away by thinking about it, meditating, journaling or anything else besides doing the thing you want to but are afraid to do.
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.
This is actually something I think about a lot. The movement of therapists refusing to be complicit in a system that undervalues mental health care and health care in general is part of a larger movement of professionals in education, medical, and care professions essentially going on strike to achieve better working conditions. We as a culture need to move beyond paying lip service to valuing our teachers, nurses, and therapists — to creating and funding policies that would ensure these workers are well paid for their labor AND that clients and patients are able to access care. It has only become more apparent since Covid how much we rely on workers to take care of our bodies, minds, spirits, and children. This needs to go hand in hand with funding healthcare and education for Americans, which means major tax reform to require wealthy corporations and individuals, those who have benefited from cheap labor markets, to pay taxes appropriately.
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 love the podcast How I Built This with Guy Raz. I listened to it constantly in early days of building my business and would love to be a guest on his show one day. But we could start with a lunch!
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.