Believing in yourself isn’t about being 100% confident and never fearing failure. It’s about believing that you have what it takes to do get through those doubtful times — knowing and accepting your entire self, with all your strengths and weaknesses. And when you accept your own limitations, it makes you feel more comfortable asking for help. You don’t have to struggle alone. You can collaborate with someone who has strengths you might lack, and sharing your strengths with them in turn.

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 Prita Chhabra.

Motivated by her passion to give back to her community, Prita Chhabra is a graduate of Public Allies Central Florida’s class of 2013–2014. During her term of service she served as the Program Coordinator of High School High Tech funded by the Able Trust. In this position, Prita exposed high school students who live in foster care to different careers in the STEM field. She increased the number of students served by 200 percent and was able to expand the program to the tri-county area. She now works at Embrace Families as a Site Director for Public Allies Central Florida and enjoys using her talents to empower her Allies to find their voices.

In 2017, Prita was honored with a full scholarship to Herzing University, where she earned her MBA. Originally a history making recording artist with six music videos under her belt and being the first South Asian recording artist to sing the National Anthem for the NBA, NHL, and MLB, her latest project, “Unstoppable,” won Best Music Video at the 2018 Melbourne Independent Film Festival. It was inspired by the kids living in the foster care system that she served and is dedicated to all the young adults she continues to work with. In 2021, Prita was recognized as an Orlando Business Journal “40 Under 40” honoree, and she also received the CREST award from Embrace Families.

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 parents were both South Asians born in Uganda, Africa. In 1972, Ugandan president Idi Amin ordered the expulsion of the country’s South Asian minority, giving them 90 days to leave the country. My dad’s family was sent to England, and my mom’s family to India. They both later migrated to Montreal, Canada. That was where they met, got married and had me and my two younger brothers.

My childhood was difficult. Alcoholism and domestic abuse were prevalent in my nuclear and extended family. I also struggled in school, where I was one of the only South Asian students and never truly felt like I fit in. I lived two lives: a South Asian life at home during the evenings and weekends, and a Western Canadian life during the week at school. I was bullied a lot, and I believed it was because I didn’t look like everyone else. During that time, a good close group of friends, music and volunteering were my escape.

When I was in the 10th grade, my family moved from Montreal to Orlando due to the heated political situation in Quebec’s government. There was a lot of pressure on non-white, non-French speaking immigrants to leave. Living in America was a very different world from everything I’d experienced previously, and I withdrew into my shell in the unfamiliar environment.

In the end, I’m grateful for the challenges I faced, because they’ve helped shape me into the woman I am today. Even more than that, I’m proud of all the things that make me different! I’m proud to represent my South Asian culture, and I’ve worked hard to create more inclusive environments so that others won’t have to feel the way I’ve felt.

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

Growing up, two of my biggest role models were Bette Midler and Oprah Winfrey, and my two biggest passions were (and are) helping people and singing. Over the years, both sides of me have inspired and shaped the path of my career.

Initially, I got my bachelor’s degree in psychology because I wanted to help people who were struggling in life. But I was miserable in school. Our classes focused so much on what was “abnormal” and “wrong,” and it didn’t feel like the right way for me to help people. So, after I got my BA, I immediately went back to enroll in music school. I knew that singing and going for my superstar dream would make me truly happy.

During my music program, I was able to take a service-learning trip to Malawi, Africa to do grassroots research on HIV/AIDS. The extreme poverty I saw there made me realize how blessed I was to be born in North America. I had so many resources at my fingertips, so many rights as a woman in North America, so many opportunities to educate myself…and I hadn’t fully appreciated or taken advantage of everything I had.

With fresh determination and a new “attitude of gratitude,” I pursued my dreams of being a singer and started recording EPs and music videos. Although I had to face my own self-doubt — and stand up to the outside voices telling me “Indian girls can’t sing English music” — I won awards and made history as the first South Asian recording artist to sing both the Canadian and American national anthems for the NBA, MLB and NHL.

I achieved a lot and had a great time singing. But I still felt something was missing. Singing made me happy, but it was also a selfish thing I was doing for myself. I felt like there had to be something more.

In 2013, I moved back to Orlando and with my family. I needed money, so I hit the job boards. I was 30 years old and had no professional experiences under my belt. I had no idea what I was supposed to do with my life. In my job search, I found an ad for Public Allies. For the first time in a long time, I felt a spark in my heart.

The ad said, basically, “If you’re selected as a Public Ally, you’ll be able to work as an apprentice at a nonprofit organization for 10 months while receiving leadership training.” As soon as I went in for my interview, I knew it was the right opportunity for me. Those hopes held true when I was chosen for a place in the program: working at Embrace Families to help kids living in foster care who were in high school. My project was to expose them to careers in the STEM field.

Now, I’d like you to imagine a terrified 30-year-old shaking in her new heels and pantsuit, heading to work and feeling like the most stuffily dressed, insecure person on the planet. I had zero experience or knowledge in the field. I didn’t know what foster care was, I didn’t know what STEM stood for, and I was certain they’d realize they hired the wrong person and I’d be caught.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. In just 10 months, Public Allies changed the trajectory of my life.

It was sink-or-swim, and my program manager Nilmarie Zapata and supervisor Karla Radka believed in me so much that I had no choice but to try my best. They recognized strengths in me that I had no idea I had. When I started my apprenticeship, I didn’t know how to write an email and I used a script to speak every time the phone rang. But as I challenged myself to grow, I found that talking to people and planning events came naturally to me — and by the end of the program, I’d formed more than 10 new partnerships for my organization and expanded a program that served 12 kids living in foster care to serve over 250.

More than that, I found was able to connect with these kids in a way that no one else could: through music. My singing gave me “street credit” and helped me form a bond with the kids that made it easier to get through to them. As I encouraged them to see themselves in STEM careers and taught them important career skills — teamwork, positivity, job searching, professional behavior, — they didn’t know that we were learning all these things side by side. Public Allies gave me the encouragement and resources I need to grow, and I was able to do the same for the kids I served.

This program taught me that a meaningful life is one in which we use our talents and leadership to serve others. My life was never meant to be the “Prita Chhabra” show. It was always about giving back to those who needed my talents.

Since then, I’ve gotten my master’s degree and was named a “40 Under 40” honoree by Orlando Business Journal. For the past 10 years, I’ve continued to work at Embrace Families in a variety of roles, including (currently) as the Director of Public Allies Central Florida.

My life has taught me that things happen, and not always in the way we expect. When our hearts speak, we need to listen and act, even if it means taking risks. Rather than choosing my path in life, I feel that my career found me. It’s shifted and evolved over the years, and I’ve changed too. Every experience I’ve been through has brought me closer to my life’s mission: to create spaces where people can heal their hearts, find their voices, and use their gifts to serve others.

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?

As I mentioned earlier, I came into this field with no professional experience. During the selection process to become a Public Ally apprentice, my first interview was in a group with nine other people. It was terrifying. When we finished, the interviewers congratulated us. I thought they meant I got the position — and I was so excited, I jumped up and hugged one of the interviewers. In reality, they’d only been congratulating us on making it through the interview. Talk about embarrassing!

When the Public Allies team later called me to actually offer me the position, my then-supervisor congratulated me … and then advised me that while it was okay to be excited, I probably shouldn’t hug people in the office since it wouldn’t be seen as professional. Yikes! I was mortified — but thrilled that they were willing to overlook my mistake and choose me for the job.

That moment taught me that, yes, you need to be professional and follow the expectations of your office environment — but there’s always room for you to be yourself. Everyone at work knows me as a high-energy person with a big heart, and I love that I’ve been able to create an environment where others can feel brave enough to show up as their full authentic selves. Becoming the person I am today wasn’t easy, and I needed a lot of polishing, but I did it in my own unique Prita way.

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

The entire Public Allies program is focused on helping others: nurturing leadership talents while also helping local nonprofits to better serve the people who need their services. My job is deeply fulfilling, because every day I go to work is a new opportunity to help someone. And with my recent promotion to Director of Public Allies, I’m experiencing so many exciting things! I’m learning how to manage a team and work on big-picture goals. I love showing appreciation for my staff and being a brown #girlboss.

I’m hoping that this year, we’ll be able to recruit a much higher percentage of emerging leaders who come from underserved backgrounds and disadvantaged beginnings. I’ll always remember what a life-changing opportunity I was given by the Public Allies program, and I look forward to being paying that forward by helping many more people achieve their own dreams.

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’ve got to believe in yourself because life is short. That’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently. Just a few weeks ago, my cousin passed away at age 34, leaving behind his wife and two children — a three-year-old and a one-year-old.

We all want to know what our future is going to hold — and, without coming across as morbid, death is the one thing that will happen to all of us. We just don’t know when. So we have to make the most of every moment we have. It’s easy to get weighed down, thinking about our shortcomings and our struggles, wondering how our lives could be different, better, easier … but time is limited, and we can’t waste it on worry and doubt. We are the authors of our lives, and that starts with believing we can achieve our dreams.

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?

For me, believing in yourself isn’t the same as being delusional or having blind faith. As someone who’s just over five-foot-two (and proud of it), I know that no amount of belief is going to make me an NBA star. No matter how much I were to practice, no matter how much effort I put in, it wouldn’t. And even if I did somehow make the league, how could I be happy? I’d always be struggling to keep up with players who were born with height and natural athletic abilities.

Instead, I think believing in myself as “believing in the best for myself”: knowing my strengths, knowing what I want, and believing that I’m worthy of it. Not only is it a much better use of my time and effort to use my talents to achieve a goal I’m suited for, but it also yields a much greater reward for me. And, naturally, I’d be happier.

Everyone is born with natural talents. Some skills might come to you more easily, and some activities might make you feel energized and alive. Start there. What can you do for hours and hours without getting bored? What topics always spark your interest? What do you love to do? Chances are, you’ll find you’re already using your strengths without even realizing it — so the first step in “believing in yourself” is to take the time to get to know yourself.

Self-help and self-development so often focus on eliminating our weaknesses, shoring up our faults and improving on our flaws. There’s nothing wrong with that. But I truly believe that if we put the same amount of effort into improving on our strengths, we would be happier and more successful. That’s why “believing in ourselves” is rooted in knowing our strengths and using them to their full potential to create positive, meaningful lives.

Believing in yourself requires courage and risk, but it doesn’t mean you take unrealistic and damaging actions. You always honor and respect yourself when you believe in yourself (because it’s about what is the best for yourself) and you continue going despite natural and normal doubts that may come up.

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

Of course! Doubt and anxiety are feelings I encounter every day, and learning how to face them has been a lifelong journey.

My earliest memory of giving in to anxiety was in the fifth grade. Even then, I loved to sing, and I had auditioned along with my classmates to sing a solo of Bette Midler’s “From a Distance” at a school assembly. Four of us made the cut — but at the final dress rehearsal, when it came time to sing the solos, we were all shaking with stage fright. One by one, we stepped up to the microphone and could barely get our voices out. In the end, our music teacher decided to cut our solos and we sang the whole song together at the final assembly.

In that moment, I let my doubt win. Even though I knew I was a good singer, I let fear control my decision — and for a long time, that experience shaped how I reacted to stressful situations. I’ve since learned that you can either move in the direction of what you want (pleasure) or you can move in the direction that which feels most safe (avoiding pain). Anxiety and self-doubt always want you to take that second path. It’s taken me a lot of time to learn how to face that feeling, move past it, and achieve what I want to do.

Believing in yourself isn’t about being 100% confident and never fearing failure. It’s about believing that you have what it takes to do get through those doubtful times — knowing and accepting your entire self, with all your strengths and weaknesses. And when you accept your own limitations, it makes you feel more comfortable asking for help. You don’t have to struggle alone. You can collaborate with someone who has strengths you might lack, and sharing your strengths with them in turn.

People who believe in themselves know that not succeeding every time doesn’t make them a failure. They understand that belief in oneself is internal. It’s not tied to any outcome, good or bad. And that empowers them to move past mistakes and challenges to keep going, learning, and growing. Belief in oneself is present throughout the ups and downs that life brings us.

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?

Self-doubt holds you back. It’s the voice in your head that tells you to sit down, keep your ideas to yourself, and let others convince you that what you want won’t be possible — in other words, to “play small.”

Early in my career, I got tired of playing small. I had big ideas and solutions to help the kids I served who were living in foster care, and I wanted to share them. Most of all, I wanted to be a role model who could show them what it looked like to believe in themselves. So, I started taking risks and daring to ask for more, because it was the only way to create the opportunities these kids deserved.

One year, I decided to teach all the kids a song to sing at Hard Rock Live as the opening act for a fundraiser at Embrace Families. It wasn’t easy. I had coworkers telling me that it was crazy, that it wouldn’t work, and that the kids couldn’t handle the pressure of a live performance. I had to pull us through months of rehearsing and encouragement. Sometimes I doubted myself: What if I really didn’t have the skills for teaching? What if none of them showed up on the day of? What if all the kids hated me?

The big day arrived, and it was a soaring success. We got a standing ovation, and the kids were so proud of themselves and what we’d accomplished together.

In the end, it was my belief — as a teacher, as a supporter, as a person who loved these kids and had faith in their abilities — that got us through the doubts to show up, practice, perform, and succeed. I believed that the kids deserved a spotlight and a chance to showcase how amazing they were.

Courage is something that takes practice. The more I dare to believe, the more I overcome the discomfort that comes with the fear of failure, and the better I’m able to do what’s best for myself and all the people I serve. I know others are depending on me to lead by example — and if I show them I can do it, I can show them that they can do it too.

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

  1. Start with your strengths. Are you a math whiz? Do you have a knack for decorating cakes? Are you at ease speaking to large groups of people? No matter where your talents lie, you can use them as the starting point to create a more fulfilled life. If you’re not familiar with your own strengths, set aside some quiet time to reflect and get to know yourself through an asset-based lens.
  2. Learn your weaknesses. When you encounter your weaknesses, don’t run away, sit in that discomfort for a little bit! Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Believing in yourself doesn’t mean you have to accomplish everything on your own; it means working collaboratively with a team that can complement your strengths to achieve your goals. Staying aware of your shortcomings is the first step to learning how to navigate them — and making sure they don’t stop you from moving forward. Honestly, no one truly gets anywhere alone, you will always achieve more than you ever could have alone, when you have the support of others.
  3. Get comfortable being uncomfortable. Everyone faces doubt and anxiety, but that doesn’t have to get in the way of your goals. Find tools and habits that can help you stay centered and supported when you feel afraid — whatever that means for you. For some, it might help to write down positive affirmations or keep a journal; others might prefer prayer or a conversation with a trusted friend.
  4. Practice being courageous. Don’t shy away from your fears. Dare to take little risks every day. Put yourself in a position where you can make mistakes and learn from them. While making yourself vulnerable is never easy, it does get easier with practice — and it’s the only way to achieve big things.
  5. Remember that you (and only you) know yourself and what you’re capable of. This is your one life to live, and no one else can tell you how to live it. Listen for inspiration. Look for purpose. When something moves you and sparks your passion, don’t take that feeling for granted — follow it. Let it be the north star that guides you through the fear, the doubt, and the naysaying to get where you need to be. Remember, too, that believing in yourself isn’t all about you: You can be the example that inspires others to live more fulfilled lives. Sharing your gifts and talents is your responsibility because there are others that rely on them.

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

Self-criticism and negative thoughts will always be there, so you have to accept that. If you can, I’d encourage people to try to befriend their inner critic. Your self-doubt is there to keep you safe. Can you really blame it?

Sometimes I talk to my self-doubt. I say things like, “Of course you’re scared, who wouldn’t be?” or “It’s normal to feel scared. You don’t know what to expect and you’re worried about getting hurt. But you’ve gotten through worse, and you can get back on your feet if you fall. And I believe that you can get through the painful parts of ‘failure,’ and I know that the only true failure is when you stop trying.” I try to give that part of myself a lot of compassion.

At the end of the day, I have my own criteria for success. It’s about the effort I put in and not what I got at the end of it — so as long as I faced my fear and self-doubt, believed in myself, and gave it my all, I succeeded. A mentor once told me: “You never have to worry about giving your 100% effort into something you believe in, because you will always reap what you sow. It may come at a later time than you expected, but when it does, it will be greater than you could have ever imagined”. It’s true. I would have never dreamed of being the only person in my family having an MBA, and being the Site Director for the very program that changed my life, but I put all my energy into my roles and I had amazing women like Stacy Peacock, Rebecca Leininger and Jamie Hollis who took notice and supported me. I can’t believe how far I’ve come.

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

Yes! A self-confident person isn’t someone who’s prideful and full of themselves and thinks they’re perfect. True confidence is about loving yourself as you are — fears, anxieties, doubts, and all — and about accepting that both strengths and weaknesses are what make you you.

Confident people talk about their fears. Confident people are comfortable with their insecurities. They don’t turn a blind eye to their faults; they work on them. They don’t need to lose 20 pounds, get a promotion, or find a partner to feel confident — they feel good about themselves right now, as they are.

There’s a quote that says, “If you’re not good enough now, you never will be”. In other words, you have to believe you’re worthy right now, just as you are. There isn’t going to be a moment down the road where you suddenly become the ideal you. No external achievement — at work, in life, in relationships — is going to give you real, lasting confidence. So you have to find it within yourself.

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

As a woman of color born and raised in North America, I’ve had to deal with imposter syndrome my whole life. I’ve never felt like I fit in, and often I’m the only South Asian in the room. It’s so hard to not compare myself to other people; I’ve spent so much time and effort trying to “prove” to myself and others that I’m equal and that I belong.

When that critical voice in my head gets loud, I focus on gratitude and service. So, first, I’d say something like, “Wow, I’m really lucky to be in this room right now.” And then I’d think, “This is my chance to make space for other brown girls, so they can come up and join me.”

That gives me a chance to shift from fear to joy, and it allows me to show up fully as myself and contribute. I don’t take those moments for granted. The more I speak up, share my ideas and allow myself to occupy that space, the more it becomes normal to see a brown girl leading and creating change — and the more likely it is that I can create spaces for others like me. I wish I had more Indian women working in nonprofits to look up to when I was young. Now is my chance to let others imagine themselves in my place.

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’m thinking back to a conversation I had with my mom last week. She just retired and was expressing to me how weird she felt because all her life, she worked so hard for everyone else…and now… for what? South Asian women grow up conditioned to put themselves last. They are conditioned to feel guilty about their own feelings, their own needs and their own desires. To be a good woman means that you have to give to everyone else, that you are less than and that your own needs and desires don’t matter. We are taught to keep our heads down, don’t speak up and respect the men and elders — even at the cost of our own discomfort. I’m grateful for all the hard work and dedication both my grandmother and mother have put towards their families — I get to reap the reward of that effort — but I wish they had taken the time to honor themselves too. I wished they learned what makes them happy — just for themselves.

And I’d give the advice I gave my mom that day: stop wasting time living in doubt and regret. Time is on your side now. You have the choice to create whatever life you want — simply because you want it. That is the only requirement. You don’t have to prove worthiness to earn it. Start small, just do one thing for yourself simply because you want to. Choose YOU.

I hope that if even one person reading this decided to take a risk and do something they’ve always wanted to do, I’d be happy with that!

So, if I could start a movement, it would be “believe in your strengths, and act on them.” It’s the first step to more people leading happy, fulfilled lives, sharing their talents to serve others, and creating a healthier community. If there’s one reason I wanted to do this interview, it’s in the hope that someone will be inspired to take a step in the right direction and take full advantage of every moment they’re given. There’s someone out there that needs you!

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 🙂

The answer to this question will always be Oprah Winfrey. When I was a kid, I loved watching her show. I used to dress up in my mom’s heels, put on red lipstick and pretend to be Oprah while I interviewed my Raggedy Ann doll in the mirror. I really believe God used her to talk to me through the TV!

I didn’t have many positive influences growing up, but Oprah was the one person who made me feel loved, encouraged me to follow my bliss, and told me anything was possible. Her words always stuck with me, and I’d love to meet her to say thank you. Just imagining the possibility makes me tear up — she’s had that much of an influence on my life!

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can find me on Instagram @pritarocks and LinkedIn as Prita Chhabra. If you need a boost of inspiration, check out my song “Unstoppable” on iTunes, Spotify and YouTube!

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.