Ask for feedback. If you lack self-confidence, asking for feedback can feel overwhelming. It may also feel like even if you receive positive feedback, your mind tricks you into believing they are just being nice. If you receive negative feedback though, it’s the absolute truth and a reflection of who you are as a person. It’s not. It’s information that you can choose to use in a certain way. Feedback helps build confidence because positive ones show you what you need to keep on doing, and negative ones help you get better. Not having the information leads to stress and anxiety, but knowing gives you actionable next steps.
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 Orianne Gambino.
Orianne is a leadership coach and mindset writer. Before freelancing, Orianne worked as a Program Manager at Airbnb. She is obsessed with the way our minds work and how we can live a more joyful life.
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 remember a happy childhood in France, middle child of a family of three, it felt like we were always entertained and cared for.
The only downside of childhood was school. I loved going there to see my friends, but the system was definitely not for me. I hated being told what to do and found the system stupid and not inclusive. It rewarded a single way of doing things, which impacts self-confidence greatly.
I was a little bit of a space cadet, with imaginary friends and many imaginary worlds but still very connected to others. I liked to write and loved to ask many questions. My favorite of all was, and still is ‘why?’.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.
I’ve always followed what sparked joy in me. I guess that’s why I keep changing what I do.
I started my career, wanting to be an entrepreneur. That was definitely inspired by my dad who has his own company and a strong desire for freedom. Though, I did not know the level of confidence needed to start your own company. It requires being able to be uncertain about money, to trust ourselves deeply, and in my twenties, I did not have that kind of confidence. After a bit of trial and error at launching my own company, I decided I wanted to learn first in a safe environment.
I’d always look up to the unicorn’s CEO. I loved the idea of creating something edgy, unique, and of exponential growth. It drove me to join Airbnb. I joined when they just launched Experiences, activities that you can book on the platform. At the time, I was part of the Middle East and African team. My first manager there, Velma Corcoran, inspired me to be bold and try out creative things. The fun part is, in a corporate context, being bold and creative feels safe, as there is a machine behind you and an army of highly competent people to guide you. I was learning to think and act like an entrepreneur, within the company.
After a few different roles, I felt the need to step back. I was not having as much fun. I took a year off and decided to give another shot at entrepreneurship. To be honest, it felt like I had no choice. No job offer or potential managers really excited me.
Working on experiences, I had been in close relationships with many passionate hosts that were living off their passion. It inspired me to do the same. Coaching makes me feel alive, so I pursued it. While coaching, I reconnected with writing and started publishing on Medium about mindset. My articles led to freelance writing contracts.
So now, I offer coaching and writing. Why choose when you can do both?
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?
Not negotiating… Salary, freelance prices, everything is negotiable and should be negotiated! That was my lesson.
I had this irrational fear that if I asked for too much money or for more, the people hiring me would change their mind, which comes from (drum rolls…) a lack of confidence! Not sure if it’s a funny mistake, but looking back it’s quite funny to think people would change their minds on you, simply because you are asking for a bit more. At worst they state their budget, and you’ll still be in the conversation.
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 working on my book. The book is about the many voices in our heads, including the one that whispers to us, we should not be confident.
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?
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 believing that you can be x or y. It’s about believing in your ability to overcome challenges in the process of reaching specific goals. And a big part of building self-confidence is having realistic goals.
What differentiates successful artists and athletes from others is not only their talent, there is a myriad of talented people out there. It’s their ability to show up consistently, despite setbacks, and to believe in their capacity to take the following step forward.
If you’re not athletic, you’d likely be miserable trying to become a gold medal Olympic. But maybe what lies behind that idea is the desire to be more athletic. How do you build confidence around that? You start with small goals, one workout a week, and showing up consistently. Once you feel more confident, you start setting new goals.
Was there a time when you did not believe in yourself? How did this impact your choices?
Oh, so many times.
I think it restricted me from making bold choices. I would not pursue or take much longer to pursue ambitious goals that I truly wanted, simply because I was second-guessing myself.
I would be less at ease in interviews or public speaking, which would lead to being less visible or even worse, sharing lower-quality information because I was too busy wondering how it would sound. I remember when I worked for Airbnb being afraid to share ideas in meetings because I did not trust what I had to share would be valuable. It took me time and a lot of work to get at ease doing so.
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?
When I started my company. I had to root for myself or no one else would.
You can’t talk to potential clients hesitating about the quality of your work. Even if you should separate yourself as a person and your services, as a solopreneur, you are selling who you are to your client.
I also could no longer afford to get stuck in thinking paralysis, because I was afraid of not being perfect or good enough. Time is money and the time you spend hesitating to reach out to someone or do the interview, someone else gets hired for the job!
I had to teach my brain to accept positive feedback as a reliable evaluation of my work, which was my biggest barrier. I’d get great client recommendations but still believe that it was not good enough, or they did it to be nice. Setting clear goals and delivering on them consistently at work, and outside of work, helped me feel more confident, as I could identify myself as trustworthy.
I still struggle with self-confidence, especially when I am getting out of my comfort zone, but I’ve learned to get out of that pattern fast enough that it does not impact my business as much.
What are your top 5 strategies that will help someone learn to believe in themselves? Please share a story or example for each.
1 . It starts with identifying what is going on. Sometimes we don’t even acknowledge that we lack self-confidence, we just tell ourselves we don’t want to pursue this opportunity or that we are not cut out for the thing we want. Identifying that lie and acknowledging it whilst still being gentle with ourselves is critical. Over-preparation is also a big signal of lacking self-confidence. We won’t send the email unless it’s perfect when really the email is good, we just don’t trust that we did a good job.
Ask yourself, am I pushing this or refusing this out of fear? If the answer is yes, work through what you are afraid of.
2 . Being consistent. If, like me, you hate repetition and routine, bear with me, I promise you there is a way to be consistent without doing the same thing over and over again. Self-confidence can be built in any category, and when you build it in one aspect of yourself, it positively impacts your self-confidence in many others. Find a goal that is challenging but that feels safe and start working towards it weekly or daily.
If it’s learning a new language, do Duolingo twice a week and watch a movie in that language every month. If you want to be athletic, try out different workouts, what is important is that you show up for yourself. It’s an act of self-love to do so. If you feel worthy of love, you’ll feel more confident, so show yourself some love.
3 . Accept setbacks as what they are, not as a signal to run away. That one was a big one for me. When you want to do something, any setbacks will be a field trip for your mind. ‘See, I told you we could not do this!’. Setbacks are part of the journey, they don’t define your value. How you react to them does. If a client says no to me or decides to stop getting coached. I can take it personally and think that I am a terrible coach, or I can ask for feedback to understand why they are stopping. From that, I’ll learn. There is nothing more to it.
4 . Being specific with your goals, focusing on how you want to feel about it. I know, as a coach you’d expect me to talk about SMART goals, but these just put pressure on you. How do you want to feel about it? Back to the language goal, it could be the goal to feel confident enough to order food when you travel to the country of the language you are learning. If your goal is to be more athletic, it can be about feeling strong and being able to go up the stairs feeling great instead of short-breathed. If you have a big ambitious goal, break it down into mini-goals.
5 . Ask for feedback. If you lack self-confidence, asking for feedback can feel overwhelming. It may also feel like even if you receive positive feedback, your mind tricks you into believing they are just being nice. If you receive negative feedback though, it’s the absolute truth and a reflection of who you are as a person. It’s not. It’s information that you can choose to use in a certain way. Feedback helps build confidence because positive ones show you what you need to keep on doing, and negative ones help you get better. Not having the information leads to stress and anxiety, but knowing gives you actionable next steps.
Conversely, how can one stop the negative stream of self-criticism that often accompanies us as we try to grow?
Identifying it and taking these thoughts for what they are passing thoughts. I talk about this in one of my articles, but really catching ourselves in the midst of self-criticism is the first step.
You can then ask yourself, would I talk to anyone like I am talking to myself? if the answer is no, which it will likely be, acknowledge what is happening. You are in a negative loop and it’s ok, these thoughts are not the reality though. Just doing that mental exercise will release a lot of pressure.
Are there any misconceptions about self-confidence and believing in oneself that you would like to dispel?
That we either have or don’t have self-confidence. Confidence is a series of muscles we need to build in many areas of our life. If you stop practicing, the muscle weakens.
We are tricked into thinking that people just are confident. It’s not true, they may have a bit more self-love and self-confidence, but when a challenge arises, all of us question ourselves. If we show ourselves consistently that we can overcome challenges, we feel more confident. A tiny setback in life could throw us off the wheel of self-confidence, what matters is our ability to get back on track.
You’re pretty normal for not feeling confident in all areas of your life!
What advice would you give to someone who is struggling with imposter syndrome?
Read this article about it!
Hm, more seriously, I would start by saying, congratulations you’re out of your comfort zone, you’re growing. That’s what imposter syndrome indicates to us. We’re doing something new and exciting that we really want.
Just reframing that should help relieve a bit of the stress.
Then I’d invite them to think about other times, when they got out of their comfort zone and remember that they overcame it, it should remove another layer of stress.
Finally, I’d invite the person to write down everything that they are afraid of, everything that could go wrong. Get all out of their mind. Read it as if it was a friend telling them about it, it will help dissociate from the fears.
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.
Stop thinking in binaries. I am obsessed with this at the moment because I am realizing how much of a handicap it is. We think in either good or bad, and that tetanizes us. It makes us afraid of others and of differences, instead of embracing them.
It makes us feel not good enough because we think others have confidence and we don’t. Acknowledging that there is a gray area, one where we feel confident in some areas and not in others and that it fluctuates with time would relax all of us and allow us to focus on what we want instead of comparing ourselves.
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 🙂
Sophia Amaruso. She is an amazing example of leadership.
She is super bold and seems to be pursuing what she wants and loves. She takes on ambitious goals and still openly shares on social and in her newsletter how tough that can be sometimes. And it takes great confidence to be able to share that!
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.