Everything is a learning opportunity. Believing in yourself is not about being perfect or never making mistakes. This ties in to being kind and compassionate to yourself. Finding the lesson in every interaction I have with clients I work with or every encounter I have with someone (both positive and negative) helps guide me to whoever and wherever I am meant to be. It frames life as an endless chance to learn and grow rather than dodging mistakes like bullets.
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 Philip Osher.
Philip is a Certified Addiction Recovery Coach and a Certified Recovery Peer Advocate. As a Recovery Coach at Mountainside Treatment Center, Philip draws on his personal journey through addiction and recovery and empathizes with the challenges that his clients face and brings acceptance and warm, compassionate energy to his clients. Philip works with a wide range of clients from adolescents to professionals. As a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, Philip is passionate about working with this demographic and giving back to this community. In his spare time, Philip enjoys reading (particularly non-fiction and social science books), running, biking, yoga, and learning French.
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 was born in Brooklyn and raised in Staten Island. I’m a native New Yorker. There aren’t many of us left. Staten Island has a small town feel even though it’s a ferry ride or 40-minute drive to one of the biggest cities in the world. As far back as I can recall I always had big city dreams and wanted to leave Staten Island and never look back. Part of that was because of my sexuality. The Staten Island gay scene is small to non-existent. I am also a person who stutters. I started stuttering around the age of 4 and didn’t grow out of it like most kids do. I never felt comfortable in my own skin. Between being gay and being a person who stutters I tried to make myself as invisible as possible which I carried into adulthood and led me down a path of escapism and avoidance for a long time. I didn’t feel like I had a place in the world, and I carried a lot of internalized stigma because of my stutter.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.
What inspired my career was being a person in recovery myself and wanting to give back what was freely given to me. I wanted to be a positive force in someone’s life and be a rung on someone’s ladder as they try to move forward from addiction. It took a small village to get me where I am today, and they say that you can only keep what you have by giving it away.
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?
My boss knows this story, so it isn’t inappropriate to say it here. When I was looking for jobs, a friend of mine and my counselor in my outpatient program had both referred me to the job I have now as they were hiring more coaches. I was terrified of working at Mountainside even though I really wanted to. I thought the job was way above my skill level at the time and that I would be a complete fraud if they hired me. I thought there was no way of “tricking” them into hiring someone like me even though people who knew me were putting their name on the line. I mulled over it for a few weeks. My friend asked me if I had applied, and I said I had even though that I hadn’t. My friend obviously found out and called me out (and rightfully so) and I wound up applying and getting the job. It was a perfect example of how important it is to see yourself the way other people see you and to give yourself a chance no matter what the outcome is.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
I’d have to say the most interesting and exciting project I’m working on is myself. I am a work in progress as they say. Bettering myself and my life allows me to show up as the best version of myself to other people. By making a difference in my own life, I believe that I can make a difference in the lives of others. I facilitate recovery meetings both professionally and in my own personal life and give back to my community. I have been on a journey of acceptance of my stutter in group therapy for the last couple years and reach out to newcomers in the stuttering community now that I know there is one. I am in recovery both from addiction and from the fear and trauma of stuttering and I try to be a beacon of hope for others that your inner saboteur may not ever go away but you can learn to live peacefully alongside it and not give it impeding power over your life. I’m also facilitating a workshop at a wellness retreat at the end of this month that I attend every year on Step 12 of AA (the service step). The workshop is going to be an inclusive workshop showing attendees that no matter if you are in early recovery or have long-term sobriety, being of service to others no matter how small the task starts to build self-esteem.
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?
You never know what you are capable of. I surprise myself every day. I often have to look back (but not stare) at the past to see how far I’ve come. We all need someone to believe in us and if we keep looking for other people to believe in us then we’re going to be disappointed. Consistency plus time equals results. The longer that I’ve been on this path of recovery and acceptance of myself, I have proven to myself time and time again that I am capable. The most important part for me is not needing to prove to myself that I am worthy. For me, self-worth is something I have or I don’t. Once I decided I was worthy of a good and decent life, my life has gotten bigger and better.
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 possibility makes life an adventure. Funny thing is this year I discovered that I am a talented runner. I volunteered with a coworker at the NYC Marathon in November 2022 and was blown away by the experience. Seeing everyone cheer each other on at the start of every wave brought me to tears. It was so inspiring and not something you see as often as we would like so I decided to sign up for some races and turns out I’m pretty good at it. I’m completing a 9+1 so that I qualify for the marathon in 2024. I find running very meditative and it’s such a cool way to see a city that I’ve lived in my whole life. I’m falling in love with my city all over again.
Was there a time when you did not believe in yourself? How did this impact your choices?
To be honest, I doubted whether I believed in myself enough to take part in this interview which is kind of ironic considering it’s an article about believing in yourself. I don’t believe in myself every second of every day but I believe that I was asked to do this article for a reason and so I said yes without hesitation. Believing in yourself is simply showing up and doing the best you can every day and remembering the things you’ve shown up for and accomplished the next time you doubt yourself. As a person who stutters, every time I open my mouth to say something is a test of whether I believe in myself or not. I could simply stay quiet and not speak up or word switch to avoid stuttering on a word I tend to stutter on. One of the gifts of stuttering is the many opportunities to challenge myself to say exactly what I want to say however it comes out and, over time, getting more comfortable sitting in those moments of stuttering.
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?
At some point I just got fed up with getting in my own way. I was sick of being my own worst enemy. The negative self-talk used to protect me from perceived threats. I spent a lot of emotional energy and performed a lot of mental gymnastics to make other people comfortable, to not be a burden on others, and to align myself with standard norms. My default setting is to harshly criticize myself and only notice where I come up short. I used to judge every sentence that I stuttered on as a failure. I went to a speech immersion program in the summer of 2020 determined to “fix” my stutter. They promised fluency in 12 days with some very convincing statistics. I went to the program, worked my butt off, and after 12 days I still stuttered and felt even worse about myself. I felt guilty that I perhaps didn’t work hard enough. However, taking part in that program catapulted me in the opposite direction of radical acceptance that my stutter isn’t going anywhere and it is just a part of me. The less power I give it over my life the more room I have for other things. The same things go for my past. I made a lot of mistakes and had a rough go of it for a while, but accepting that I can’t change the past allows me to leave the past in the past and not put the past in my future.
What are your top 5 strategies that will help someone learn to believe in themselves? Please share a story or example for each.
1 . Stay present. For me, it’s important to stay in the moment. Thinking about the past is depression and thinking about the future is anxiety. I only have right now and if I can simply focus on performing the next right action I will get to where I want to be. Everyone is on their own path and their own timeline, and I veered off the straight and narrow years ago so I might as well keep clearing my own path wherever it leads me.
2 . Be vulnerable. There is so much power in vulnerability. As a person who stutters I wear my vulnerability on my sleeve which is another gift of stuttering. Being vulnerable with others gives people the space to be vulnerable as well. A lot of strength and courage can come from being open and honest about your feelings, experiences, and struggles. It’s allowing yourself to be seen and promotes connection with others on an authentic level. Connection is the opposite of addiction, and I was addicted to not only substances but the “high” of moments of fluency and kicking myself when I was down despite the effect it was having on my life and my choices.
3 . Celebrate your successes. This one is easier said than done for me. I could easily rattle off a laundry list of things I could have done better and struggle to think of even one thing I’ve accomplished that I’m proud of. I allowed stuttering to bring out the worst in me. Struggling with something as simple as communicating with others, which many people take for granted, didn’t set me up with very much self-confidence and bled over into every other area of my life. I have a practice now of writing down one thing I’m proud of myself for doing every day because it’s important for me to see it on paper. Seeing that I’m living up to the values that I hold has been a big self-esteem booster.
4 . Everything is a learning opportunity. Believing in yourself is not about being perfect or never making mistakes. This ties in to being kind and compassionate to yourself. Finding the lesson in every interaction I have with clients I work with or every encounter I have with someone (both positive and negative) helps guide me to whoever and wherever I am meant to be. It frames life as an endless chance to learn and grow rather than dodging mistakes like bullets.
5 . Ask for help. This was a total game changer for me. The moment I stepped out of my comfort zone and asked others for guidance or assistance my life began to improve. You cannot do this alone, and the best part is you don’t have to do it alone. Also, reaching out to other people gives you an outside perspective on what your experience is. The last person who should be giving us advice is ourselves sometimes, especially if historically we’re not kind to ourselves. My default setting to this day is to say “I got this” but that all stems from a lack of trust in others and fear of being “found out”. Once I started letting other people in, things started to change.
Conversely, how can one stop the negative stream of self-criticism that often accompanies us as we try to grow?
We were all put here to shine and make the most of the hand we are dealt. I truly believe that. I have to consciously switch from my default setting of thinking “Why bother? Someone else could do it better” to friend setting where I treat myself like I would treat a friend of mine. If a friend of mine were struggling, I wouldn’t belittle or berate them, or I’d be a pretty crappy friend so why do that to myself? You can’t be anyone other than yourself. There is something that you have that is unique to you that no one else can bring and that is your superpower.
Are there any misconceptions about self-confidence and believing in oneself that you would like to dispel?
For sure! Beginning with stuttering! People who stutter are not nervous, anxious, or shy. Stuttering has made them that way. Many people who stutter feel that their personalities are trapped inside them, and they feel defeated before they even say anything. What is going on in our minds and hearts cannot be easily expressed but we are some of the most empathetic and sensitive people you will meet, and we have a lot of good things to say. All we ask is some patience. The funny thing is that once you get a person who stutters to start talking you can’t shut us up.
What advice would you give to someone who is struggling with imposter syndrome?
You are not alone. Everyone struggles with it. It doesn’t matter how important you are. Even the President of the United States feels it. Self-doubt is part of me being human. Also, imposter syndrome is probably a good thing. If we’re out of our comfort zone at a job or anywhere really it means we have a chance to learn something.
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.
Everything in the song “Imagine” by John Lennon. He already said it.
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 🙂
Zac Efron. I served you drinks years ago at the Crosby Street Bar. Call me. More seriously though, representation matters. Seeing people who struggle with what you struggle with succeed is the best motivation. Shout out to all the celebrities who stutter and are open about it, Samuel L. Jackson, Emily Blunt, Bruce Willis, James Earl Jones, Joe Biden. They are the embodiment of the possibilities of life with a disability.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Philip Osher | Mountainside. Also, American Institute for Stuttering | Speak Freely, Live Fearlessly! (stutteringtreatment.org). This is the organization I do speech therapy with, and they have changed my life. They do amazing work.
Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.