Teach them to manage their emotions and reactions to stress. When we do this consistently, it is easier to do things which seem hard or out of reach and we are better able to manage through challenge.

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 Kate Lund.

Dr. Kate Lund is a licensed clinical psychologist, peak performance coach, best-selling author and Tedx Speaker. With a specialized training in medical psychology from three hospitals affiliated with Harvard Medical School, she uses a strength and evidenced-based approach to help parents and children build resilience so they can thrive in school, sports, and life. During Kate’s childhood she faced and eventually overcame a difficult childhood illness, so she learned at an early age to believe in the possibility that exists on the other side of challenges.

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?

My childhood was a good one, yet not without challenges. I grew up in Connecticut with two supportive parents, an older brother, and a dog. At age four, I was diagnosed with Hydrocephalus which is a condition where the cerebral spinal fluid doesn’t circulate as it should causing pressure to build up on the brain. The condition is managed with something called a shunt. The problem is that shunts break and need to be surgically repaired. So, I spent a lot of my childhood in and out of the hospital which meant lots of missed school and lots of time catching up and trying to redefine. The good thing is that I learned early because of these challenges to focus on the things I could do as opposed to the things I could not do. As a result, I became a strong tennis player, and this became a central part of my identity. This focus, along with the support of family, friends and teachers helped me to balance the challenges of my Hydrocephalus which is something I will always be grateful for.

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

The experiences I had as a child with Hydrocephalus inspired my career. Living with a chronic medical condition as a child taught me the value of appreciating individual difference and fostered a level of empathy and interest in human experience. Throughout high school and college, I took as many psychology courses as I could and searched for volunteer opportunities in hospitals and schools which further reinforced my interest in psychology. Yet, when I graduated from college, I was not ready to go back to graduate school. I had done an internship at The White House my senior year in college and this experience is the reason I moved back to Washington, DC after graduation. I learned during the internship at The White House that broadcasting and working in politics was likely not for me after spending many early mornings on the White House lawn setting up for events and live news feeds. Yet, I wanted to live and work in Washington, DC. So, I moved back, and I took a job as a publicist, working primarily on television and entertainment accounts. After three years of doing this, I got married and my husband and I moved to Boston. I continued working as a publicist working on consumer accounts for a firm in Boston. It was a great experience, yet I started to realize I was ready to go back to graduate school and focus on building my career in psychology. I researched my options and was accepted to a program and never looked back. I am grateful, however, to have had some diverse experiences beyond clinical psychology as I worked towards my end goal of becoming a psychologist.

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 not as much a mistake as it is an experience and life lesson which taught me the importance of learning to work within our own unique context and how this is what ultimately allows us to bring our best to whatever it is we are doing. I had just started working at the public relations firm in Boston and I was assigned to a large newspaper account. One day each quarter, we had an event where we delivered a box of newspapers, along with donuts and coffee to some of our largest clients around the city. The clients looked forward to this event each quarter. I was assigned this task and accepted it, even though I knew from the start it could be a real challenge for me given a horrible sense of direction at baseline and being brand new to the city. While I knew I should have asked for help on the task, I did not. I wanted to believe that I could do this, and all the papers and coffee would be delivered on time and in the right places. Needless to say, it did not work out that way. I got terribly and I mean terribly lost — I was so late for all the deliveries — The coffee was cold — The donuts were about to be stale — The clients were not happy and my boss was not happy. It was not my best day on the job. Even though, I gave it my best, I felt terrible about how it turned out. I should have asked for help and I knew it. In the end, it was a valuable learning experience, an important one as I look back on it.

I learned to know and communicate my limits and to ask for help or request the opportunity to pivot when pushed beyond the point where I will not be able to bring my best to whatever it is I am doing.

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

The most exciting project I am working on right now is my podcast — The Optimized Mind. It launched in October and is part of The Mission Matters Podcast Network. The show focuses on how we can define our own unique context, build resilience and maximize potential through engaging with today’s top thought leader in business, personal development, mental health and medicine.

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 important to believe in yourself because a core sense of belief allows us to so many things. Here are some examples:

Overcome Challenge

Maximize Our Potential

Reach Goals-Take Action

Move Beyond Your Comfort Zone

Succeed (School, work, and life)

Connect with People in a Positive Way

Give Back to Others

Consider the story of an eleven-year-old boy who we will call Tyler who is a fifth grader. He believes that he “can’t do it,” not matter what it is. He believes that “everyone is better than me at everything.” It doesn’t matter if Tyler is in the classroom trying to do something new, or even something he has done many times before, or if he is on the baseball field or soccer field. The negative belief system somehow has come to define Tyler’s view of himself. It is not clear why Tyler feels this way, but this early belief system is affecting his self-esteem and confidence across the domains of his life. This is impacting his ability to live up to his potential within his own unique context.

If we think about it, the challenges outlined in Tyler’s story can be generalized across the lifespan. I have worked with so many people who have been held back in business and life because of a fundamental lack of self-belief and confidence that they can take on new roles and challenges or to take calculated risks outside of their comfort zone which would foster progress. The primary result in these cases is missed opportunity.

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 means that you understand your own unique context and what you are capable of within that context and the possibility for yourself within that context. Believing in yourself also means on a foundational level that you believe you will be able to move through and beyond challenge when challenge arises, you willl be able to get back up and move forward when you encounter failure or an obstacle. There is no one size fits all in this. We are all coming from different contexts, experiences, points of passion and goals.

Believing in yourself needs to be based in the reality of your own unique context. This means that if one is not artistic at the core or does not have a fundamental aptitude in art, the chances of becoming a “great” artist are low. Yet, it is important to clarify what we mean by “great” here. Even though one is not artistic at the core, one can set a goal to develop skills in art which will allow them to develop a love of art and improve to the point of being a solid artist. Yet, this does not equate to being a professional or “great” artist. The same idea is true when it comes to becoming an Olympic athlete. It is simply not possible to “think” your way to such a high level of performance and/or achievement. Yet, belief in self will help one to build skills in each sport and even become an accomplished athlete.

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

An example of me not believing in myself and ability relates to learning a new sport or physical activity. Although I am highly active and participate in many fitness activities, I hesitate to push myself outside of my comfort zone when learning something new. Rowing and achieving full potential on the erg are a salient example of this. My form is not optimal and as a result, I worry I will hurt myself if I push too hard. So, I hold myself back more than I should, and it takes me longer to make progress. This relates back to when I was a child and as a result of many surgeries and long periods of recovery, my ability to trust my physical abilities was impacted. The good thing is I am awareness of this reality has helped me to move through the fear and take on new challenges. Yet, it is a slow process at times and I know I still hold myself back in some ways.

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 learned early that to get to the next level, I would have to build my fundamental belief in myself. This was a direct result of growing up with Hydrocephalus and the challenges that came with it. The biggest lessons I learned through those early experiences were the importance of believing in my own unique context — the things I could do as opposed to the things I could not do and this was important — It helped me to believe in myself at a core level, see my strengths, see possibility, be grateful and optimistic. I also learned to persevere — I had to work harder than most of my peers to achieve the same result early on. Hard work became my default and so even when it was not necessary, I worked harder, and this helped me to achieve more within my own unique context in the long-term. This helped me to build my overall confidence. I also learned that it is okay to try again when things don’t go right the first time — I have had to try again so many times throughout my life for so many reasons — This has been a good life lesson which started in childhood and has in ways added to my ability to believe in myself and ability to do things which are hard.

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

1 . Teach them to manage their emotions and reactions to stress. When we do this consistently, it is easier to do things which seem hard or out of reach and we are better able to manage through challenge.

2 . Teach them to appreciate and embrace individual difference, particularly their own. This will allow them to appreciate their own unique context and build on strengths within that context without the distraction of comparison.

3 . Teach them that failure is a part of life to embrace as an opportunity. This will foster belief in self and build confidence, perseverance, and grit. Failure or failing on the first attempt is a catalyst for success.

4 . Teach them to notice their strengths and to find ways to use their strengths to move forward toward goals and beyond challenge when it comes up.

5 . Teach them to move outside of their comfort zone as often as possible. Trying things that seem scary and making progress in those areas will build fundamental belief in self.

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

A useful strategy in stopping or reducing negative self-talk is to focus on daily wins. Take five minutes at the end of each day to focus on 3–5 things that did go well that day. Human nature leads us to think about the things that should be better, or we could have done better, etc. In other words, human nature leads us to focus on the negative before the positive much of the time. This can lead to negative self-talk and self-criticism which will hold us back. Focusing on daily wins helps to neutralize the lens and at best helps shift us into more positive self-talk.

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

Some people believe that self-confidence is a fixed trait or attribute that one is born with. I disagree. Confidence can and is built over time through lived experience, both good and bad. When we move through and beyond challenge, we become more confident in our ability to overcome obstacles. When we push ourselves outside of our comfort zone, and do something we never thought possible, we build confidence. Small successes over time add up and enhance our sense of self confidence. When we do something repeatedly, we desensitize to fears that we might have had, and we become more confident. Another misconception about self-confidence is that confidence does not always generalize across domains. One can be highly confident in one area and lack confidence in another. We need to keep this in mind and not assume that because someone is confident in business, they will be confident in relationships, for example.

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

I would encourage that person to take a step back and look at their accomplishments and what they bring to the world objectively and base their reality on this assessment. I would also encourage that person to ask a trusted friend or advisor for honest, authentic feedback on how they see you as a professional and someone contributing to the world.

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 lead a movement to bring animal assisted therapy to every pediatric hospital in the country. I just recently trained my puppy Wally as a certified therapy dog and we visit assisted living facilities each Friday. The joy on the residents’ faces is contagious as they see and interact with Wally. It is heartwarming and rewarding for both of us. When Wally turns two, he will be eligible to go to Children’s Hospitals and this is our plan. I know from my time in the hospital as a child and from my psychology training in a range of children’s hospitals how meaningful visits like this can be.

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 🙂

Michelle Obama is the person I would choose. I respect her so much on so many levels and I would love to discuss ideas related to building resilience and wellbeing in children. I can’t begin to explain how meaningful a lunch like this would be.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

People can follow my work on Linked-In @Kate Lund. They can also follow me on my website www.katelundspeaks.com and The Optimized Mind on all podcast platforms.

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.