Create Your Community. As humans, we are designed to survive through our relationship with others. Without connectedness, we run the risk of being part of the epidemic of loneliness and stagnating our own growth. When you start taking those baby steps towards incremental change, you need people in your corner to encourage you. You need someone to listen and support your elevation without getting in the way of your progress. Be thoughtful and intentional about who you let in your circle. The community you create will be your external reminder that you can reach your goals.
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 Rebecca Guillory.
Born in Houston, TX, Rebecca Guillory has played many roles in the education system over the last 15 years, starting as a reading and writing teacher and more recently coaching school and district leaders across the nation. But there was always something pulling her in a different direction. Unable to ignore the desire to live life on her own terms, Rebecca decided to take the leap and focus on making her dream life a reality. She started an adventurous journey of taking what she’s labeled her adult gap year to move abroad and learn a new language, start a business, and lean into her spiritual growth which is all captured on her website at www.believebeyondyou.com.
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 a miracle baby. It’s true. My parents tried to have children for ten years and couldn’t because, according to my mom’s doctor, she had something called the “working woman’s disease,” which we now know today as endometriosis. My father lost his parents at a very young age, so when my mom and dad finally had their first child, they were ecstatic. And their joy increased when my siblings came along. One of my favorite childhood memories is of me at 9 or 10 years old. My brothers were 3 and 4 and I decided we would be a family band. I grabbed the broom for a guitar, a bucket for drums, and the mop was my microphone. I was the lead singer in this imaginary group. When I close my eyes, I can still see my flower-printed overalls, my hair barely kept together by a big barrette, and my mouth wide open as I sang like my life depended on it. But it wasn’t just in the fun moments where I stepped up. At a young age, I embraced my role as oldest sibling and internalized the responsibilities, including believing I needed to take care of everybody else. My parents worked very hard to make sure all our needs were met, and even some of our wants. That sometimes meant long hours away from home where I’d get to play the role of cook (I made the best grilled cheese sandwiches) and caregiver. In many ways I think the role I took on at home crossed over into how I showed up in other spaces. I was a helper in grade school and chose a career path that put me in a position to take care of others. This for me has always been my sweet spot. I feel most energized when I’m part of a community and connecting deeply with people.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.
I value community, and that’s been the foundation for every role I’ve chosen in my career. I always saw myself as someone connected to others and who made a difference in the world. I’ve always been a dreamer in that way. When I was at freshman orientation in college, I was given a form to confirm if I wanted to stay in the engineering program or switch my plan. That was the first time I remember connecting to my gut feeling and making a decision that was solely my own. I looked around the auditorium then down at the piece of paper. I changed my major to psychology because it felt more aligned with my desire to help people. In college I always had one, sometimes two jobs while carrying a full class load. One of those jobs was a work study tutoring program. I walked to the nearby elementary school three times per week and was a reading buddy to students who needed some additional support. Watching students grow, progress, smile, and explore their world made my heart full. It reminded me of how blessed I was to have teachers, coaches, and mentors who guided me along my journey, and it was through this experience I decided I wanted to be an educator. During my 15 years in the K-12 education system, I expanded my reach from working directly with students to coaching school and district leaders across multiple states. Although I have many takeaways from every role I’ve held, it wasn’t until last year I learned a significant lesson that shifted my life journey entirely.
Somewhere between being a classroom reading and writing teacher to becoming an assistant principal to elevating to a leadership coach, I lost the parts of me that used to dream big. The parts of me that wanted to be a writer. The parts of me that wanted to build a business of my own. I was spending my time inspiring children and adults, but not believing in myself.
So, I made a shift. I chose to leave my hometown, move abroad to Mexico, and after being laid off unexpectedly, embrace what I call my adult gap year. This shift gives me time to truly live out this idea of taking a leap and believing in myself.
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?
Mistakes really are our greatest teachers, and usually the mistakes we make aren’t funny when we go through them but later, we can look back and laugh. That was true for me when I began my adult gap year journey. I’ve always been a stickler for details, so I thought I’d planned my move and accommodations thoroughly. I knew when I wanted to leave Texas and found what I thought was a nice rental in my new country. The listing seemed to have everything I needed at a price point that would allow me to save money, which was one of my long term goals. When I arrived at the rental property, my eyes almost fell out of their sockets. The place had a lingering stench and the only “window” wasn’t a window at all; it was a peel-off sticker of an image of where I wish I lived. I only lasted one night in that rental, but I learned a valuable lesson. When starting an expedition in a place you’ve never been, it’s important to secure help from a local to guide you in understanding the neighborhoods and support you in asking the right questions before confirming anything. What I thought would be the place I’d live for three months turned into a one-night stay that could have been avoided if I hadn’t tried to do everything on my own.
And even though that’s a specific example about my moving abroad journey, the idea of trying to play a superhero can be applied to any aspect of life. We all need help sometimes, and it’s ok and wise to ask for it.
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 really pumped about my new blog that launched earlier this year called Believe Beyond You. As a former writing teacher, it’s not only my outlet for creative expression but the open door into my journey of leaving everything I know and love to actively push past fear, step out on faith and live life on purpose. I go beyond sharing the technical steps for how to move abroad and am vulnerable about my process for learning to live authentically.
For me this is more than a project. It’s part of my legacy. And it’s also the foundation for my transition to expanding from only helping educators to helping all women, who like me, have struggled to define for themselves what it means to live their dream life.
Too often people only share their life highlight reel. We see their greatest moments and start to think our life is dull in comparison. This mindset directly impacts our ability to be fully present in our own life. After all, comparison is the thief of joy. I value transparency and telling people the whole story. I believe my writing helps others recognize life is about every small step, every decision, and every experience that comes together to put us in a position to have those highlight reel moments in the first place. I want to encourage people and remind them life is about the journey, not the destination.
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?
To answer the question of why it’s so important to believe in yourself, we must first wrestle with why so many people don’t believe in themselves. I think it’s because of the false idea that there’s a normal set of achievements we all must reach before our life is considered worthy of accomplishment. Too many people are striving to be someone they are not and therefore forcing themselves to believe in a persona that doesn’t exist. This causes frustration and constant internal turmoil.
To break from this cycle, you first must be very grounded in who you are. You must know your worthiness is not attached to what you do or produce. This is challenging inner work, but it must be done in order to stand firm in what you believe instead of what others or society tells you to believe. It’s important to believe in yourself because that’s the space where you begin to thrive in life and start to feel and see evidence that you’re finally living out your purpose and passions. Your life begins to have clearer meaning and you no longer tolerate people, places or things that hinder you from being the best version of yourself.
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?
To believe in yourself means to know who you are at your core. This is important because true belief in yourself requires authenticity. According to Dr. Gabor Maté in his book The Myth of Normal: Trauma, Illness and Healing in a Toxic Culture, authenticity is, “the quality of being true to oneself, and the capacity to shape one’s own life from a deep knowledge of that self.” As I shared earlier, many people are striving to fit a persona, an image of someone they’re not. And we do this often subconsciously and for various reasons. We want to fit in with a particular group, increase our power or prestige in our profession, or we think if we’re different we’ll feel better about ourselves. With this mindset we make errors like creating unrealistic goals for our life. It’s not that the goal itself is unattainable. The problem is the goal doesn’t align with our authentic self. So, using your example, when I know who I am at my core and am living a wholly authentic life true to my being, I won’t try to get a gold medal at the Olympics because I know I’m not athletic nor do I want to be athletic. When you know who you are, you aren’t lying to yourself about who you want to be in this world.
Was there a time when you did not believe in yourself? How did this impact your choices?
Honestly, every day I wake up I must navigate a vast terrain of scary thoughts. There just isn’t a quick fix, one time solution to prevent negative ideas from entering the mind. And why is this? According to Omar Villalobos in his TedTalk Es posible lo imposible (The Impossible Is Possible), our brains don’t distinguish real from fantasy. Because of this, whatever we think feels real to us.
Let’s use this interview as an example. I have always loved writing. I used to be a writing teacher. I also have experience coaching educators in how to teach writing. The act of writing is not difficult for me. And even still, imposter syndrome creeps in and I become crippled when I sit in front of my laptop to write. My brain holds on to negative thoughts others have told me or that I’ve manufactured myself and the unfortunate impact is if I allow those thoughts to run the show, I’ll never get to the desired outcomes I’ve always dreamed about.
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?
For as long as I can remember, I’ve said to family and friends, “One day I’m going to be a millionaire!” I didn’t know what I would do with all that money. I just knew I wanted something different than what I currently had, and it wasn’t until my coach gave me a homework assignment that I realized the next level I was trying to get to wasn’t my own. My coach had me write down everything I wanted for myself and my immediate family. Once I completed the task, I added up the numbers and all I needed was a fourth of what I’d thought I wanted.
The prerequisite for building up my belief in myself was getting real about defining my next level and not basing it on things outside of me. Everything I need is already within me. Once I got honest about how I wanted to spend my life, I started to experience a calmness and a flow where everything just started to sync. I no longer felt like I was forcing a next level but instead I was consistently working on my craft and stayed open to accepting opportunities to elevate. The best way I can describe it is the difference between searching for something you’re not sure exists versus walking through a door that’s already been opened for you.
What are your top 5 strategies that will help someone learn to believe in themselves? Please share a story or example for each.
1 . Know Thyself. This is where the heart work begins. Belief in yourself is less about your intellect or professional abilities and more about who you feel you are when you’re not performing for others. And to discover that depth of yourself, you have to explore your entire life journey to uncover your pain, triumphs and childhood experiences that shaped how you show up in the world today. You have to get back to the place in your body where you trust your gut, deeply feel your instinct, and listen to your own voice instead of that of society, your caregivers, your boss or your friends.
2 . Understand Worthiness. You are enough. There’s nothing you can do or not do to change that. If you never get the raise; if you never buy the fancy house; if you never meet your soulmate, you are still worthy. Worthy of love. Worthy of acceptance. Worthy of living a joy-filled life. Many people never hear someone tell them they’re worthy, so they spend much of their life searching for a thing to do to make them feel worthy. But worthiness doesn’t come from external praise or power. For me, my faith helps me understand my worthiness. For someone else, it may look different. Nevertheless, worthiness is within.
3 . Consistent Self-reflection. Now that you’re starting to trust your own voice more and you know your worth, you’ll need to assess the mental roadblocks that prevent you from showing up for yourself. For example, when I decided to stop looking for jobs and take an adult gap year to focus on building my dream life, to repurpose my talents for what I really want to do, almost immediately the negative thoughts started to surface. Thoughts like, “Who do you think you are?” or, “But you need a real job to pay your bills!” or my favorite, “No one is going to like that idea.” If I let these thoughts linger, they’ll stop me from working on what matters to me the most. I have to allow myself to have the thought then release it. You will need to do the same. Create space to self-reflect and be fully aware of your own thoughts so you can distinguish between ones that serve you and ones that hinder you.
4 . Take Baby Steps. When change is abrupt it can feel uncomfortable and difficult to sustain. That’s why it’s important to focus on the one step in front of you instead of the entire staircase. When you take the leap to make an incredible shift in your life, it can be exciting and easy to want to dream big. I know it. I’ve done it. Honestly, I still do it because there’s nothing wrong with having big dreams. Remember there’s only 24 hours in each day, and you can’t be consumed with what you didn’t accomplish. Use your energy to stay excited about every little step you take.
5 . Create Your Community. As humans, we are designed to survive through our relationship with others. Without connectedness, we run the risk of being part of the epidemic of loneliness and stagnating our own growth. When you start taking those baby steps towards incremental change, you need people in your corner to encourage you. You need someone to listen and support your elevation without getting in the way of your progress. Be thoughtful and intentional about who you let in your circle. The community you create will be your external reminder that you can reach your goals.
If you want to shift from constant doubt to believing in yourself, these steps will help. This is usually the road less traveled, but when you take this route, the world opens up in the most beautiful way. Because something amazing happens when you’re standing on the edge of fear and make a conscious decision to take one more step forward. And once you move forward and believe in yourself, you’ll never want to turn back.
Conversely, how can one stop the negative stream of self-criticism that often accompanies us as we try to grow?
This probably isn’t what you want to hear, but there is no way to stop self-criticism. Spending time trying to stop it only takes up more of your mental capacity that could be redirected. More critical than figuring out how to stop the negative stream is to be so grounded that you can allow the thoughts but not become the thoughts.
Are there any misconceptions about self-confidence and believing in oneself that you would like to dispel?
I love this question because so many people confuse believing in yourself with fake self-confidence and narcissism. Belief in yourself does not equal power and position. The whole point is to bring you peace, not to elevate your social standing. If you’re believing in yourself only to reach an external goal, you’re missing out on a beautiful journey that leads to joy.
Another misconception is if you believe in yourself, you are always right. That just is not true. Critiques and suggestions are still necessary and should be welcomed. I’ll go back to my earlier example about myself and writing. I know I can write. This interview is evidence of that. My blog is evidence of that. That does not mean I can’t get better as a writer. I need to always stay open to feedback and opportunities to enhance my craft. And so should you.
What advice would you give to someone who is struggling with imposter syndrome?
I’ve struggled with this more times than I can count, and what’s helped me is asking myself the following questions:
- Who are you comparing yourself to?
- Does someone make you feel that way or is this the negative self-talk taking over?
- Why do you think you don’t deserve to have a seat at this table?
- Who told you that you don’t belong here and why is their voice more important than your own?
Pushing past imposter syndrome requires you to play back the narrative in your mind. What is the story you’re telling yourself about yourself? That internal narrative will determine whether you move past imposter syndrome or sink more into it.
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 question makes me think about the movie Pay It Forward. It was about a little boy who ignited kindness among strangers with this plan to do something kind for someone and in return only ask they “pay it forward” by doing something kind for someone else. The beauty of that is he didn’t realize how far his idea stretched. That’s how I’d like to think about this question. Maybe something inspires a movement, but for me just knowing I was able to help one person brings me joy.
In my own life there’s been a lot of frustration, pain, doubting myself and pushing through to believe in myself again; if I can help another person on their journey towards living their dream that’s an accomplishment. If I can share my story with someone and it gives them the energy to push through another day, my heart is full. The word that keeps coming to my mind is healing. We need a place where we can do the healing work to get to know ourselves better to then open ourselves up to dream again. Imagine if that turned into a community of people who are living life full of joy and peace.
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 🙂
There are so many people who’ve helped me develop into the person I am today. In addition to life lessons learned from family, friends, pastors, colleagues, and authors like Dr. Gabor Maté, Jen Sincero, and Oliver Burkeman, there is one person who has been instrumental in my ability to dig deep and understand what was previously inhibiting me from believing in myself. That person is Samuel Allen of the Equity Meets Design group.
Every coach needs a coach, and last year Samuel Allen was my coach. The first time we met virtually I was convinced I knew how I needed to be supported, but it didn’t take long for me to realize I was saying I wanted to change but my actions told a different story. Samuel, through his extraordinary ability to listen and craft meaningful questions, helped guide me out of a mind fog I didn’t know had consumed me.
But guess what? I’ve never met him in person. Post-pandemic world means many meetings are held online. It’s convenient for sure, but it would be nice to one day actually meet face to face with someone who’s had a lasting impact on my life.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
I would love to connect with more people. You can find me sharing regularly on Instagram @believebeyondyou and on my website at www.believebeyondyou.com.
Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.