Talk to yourself as how you would talk to your best friend or the love of your life. If your best friend would come to you would you speak the same language? How would you talk to them? You love them unconditionally regardless if they have something that you don’t like about them as the good things make up for one small thing that keeps it interesting.
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 Sandra Ammerlaan.
Sandra is an International Multi Award Winning entrepreneur, Worldwide bestselling co-author, NLP Master Practitioner, Mentor and Comedian. As the founder of Laugh at Shit she guides women how to make the shit from the past, the fertilizer of the future.
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 Maarssen, a village in the middle of Holland, in an entrepreneurial family. My parents started with nothing and had to work day and night to provide for us. Some days it must have been so hard, My mum remade a coat from my dad into a coat for my brother, she always had to be very thrifty. But we never lacked on anything.
Even though they had no idea what they were getting into when they started no education or experience, with their hard work and effort they were able to grow their party center into one of the biggest of the region it could accommodate 2500 people. Obvious that we helped worked and grew up there along with them. I was taught that no one ever dies from working hard.
There was always something going on. One day I could be doing the dishes, the other day I was organizing the biggest theme party, doing sales, artist guidance, no day was ever the same, even though it was hard work looking back now puts a smile on my face I gained more experience and learned more in practice than most kids my age did and I have countless memories.
While my parents were building up their business when I was still very young they were always busy and there was also a lot of stress and worries. As a young child I interpreted this as that it would be best not to bother them, or ask for too much attention, it would not be important enough as they had so much going on, While I thought I was helping my parents that way I was actually excluding them, though as a kid I was not aware of that. I thought if I would be invisible it would serve everyone best. I was bullied at school so if I was invisible there maybe they would not bully me. And if I was invisible at home my parents at least did not have to worry about me. I developed a pattern that gave me a survival strategy, but actually never made me come alive.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.
Since most family members were or are entrepreneurs, I guess entrepreneurship is in my genes. As a child I was very creative making jewelry and sold those at events. Starting a business back in the day you needed to have a certification. Though I was told by teachers I wasn’t smart enough. I studied as hard as I could but they made me relocate to a different study. I was not willing to give up. While working in my parents business as sales manager I was called by a school who provided us interns. They suggested I took their education. At that point I was working over 60 hours a week and had to go to school one morning a week. Even though most nights I would not get to bed before 2 am, I turned up at school at 9 am. I took all exams at once while for 2 subjects I did not get any education yet but it was all catering related. A close family member needed someone with a diploma, so if I would pass it his problem would be solved as well. I passed all exams except business plan I failed the exam 3 times on only one mistake too many. The day I received my diploma was ironically also the day that the government abolished the whole need to have a diploma.
As a hobby I picked up making jewelry again and in 2003 registered with the chamber of commerce. I always kept a job on the side, but I went to events and fairs. I designed, also for brides and artists. I did parties and classes to teach other people. In 2008 I opened my own studio, I traveled to bead shows in Canada and even got selected to teach a class at the biggest consumer beading show in the world in Milwaukee (USA). Though after a good start financially it wasn’t going up. In 2013 with pain in my heart I closed the studio, it felt like I failed, though subconsciously I knew that there was something else, something better in store for me, no clue what it would be.
Little did I know that it would take a lot of adversity, heartache and a severe depression to put me on my purpose and find out what I want to do for the rest of my life.
I want to be the person I needed when I was going through the hardest times of my life.
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?
I have made so many mistakes that some you might better call traditions.
Though we only grow and learn through mistakes. An expert is only just a beginner that tried more different ways that didn’t work.
When becoming NLP practitioner we had to go through each technique as a observer, a subject and a practitioner, so that we would experience what the technique would do for people, to clean and clear our own internal mess first, but also how to best do it. When we got to the hypnosis part I said: “oh I cannot be hypnotized! I am not that easy to hypnotize, good luck with that!” Full in resistance with matching body language and a facial expression that said it all.
So they made me be the subject first. As they were counting down and said feel your head getting heavier and by one it will just fall down…. I was out. Wow that was awesome stuff!
When we changed roles I was the observer next. As an observer you only have one task, to see and watch what is happening so you can give feedback and learn. As 2 people were counting down saying the exact same thing when they got to one not only the subject, but also I was out again! Of course both practitioners saw it happening, it was so funny they had to keep going without laughing.
Saying I can’t be hypnotized was resistance and assuming without even knowing. Besides Hypnosis is much different than what we think, see or hear about it.
Our mind is like a parachute, it only works when it’s open.
While when I went through the technique it not only freed me from that what was not serving me, but also I learned a wonderful technique I now use very often.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
I guide and mentor women how to make the shit from the past the fertilizer of the future. To reconnect with their inner hero, and reignite the fire in their soul, so they become who they choose to be.
I do this on and offline, and I am working on putting an online program together that people can follow in their own pace and time.
I am also doing stand-up Comedy mostly in Holland at the moment. Laughter is the best therapy, and at the same time it heals. This teaches me to become more open and vulnerable and by practicing what I preach I believe this will not only make people laugh but also gives them a different perspective and inspire them.
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?
I believe self-confidence goes together with self-love.
Self-confidence determines our mindset. If we lack on self-love and confidence we will have a limited mindset, keep ourselves small and we will miss out on all the opportunities that makes live worth living.
That way we will never be able to reach our full potential, and while we think it might be a form of being humble or maybe believe we hold out bad things in our lives we are holding back all the good things in life.
It costs more negative energy not to believe in yourself, as you will feel small and drained. It might lead to fatigue, burnout or depression. But believing in yourself will give you positive energy that motivates you to go and grow through life while enjoying the journey.
Believing in yourself will make you feel good and happy. There is only one person needed to make you happy, YOU! No one else can do that for you happiness is an inside job.
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 for me means to live a life of fulfillment and being able to make a difference. You are the creator of your life so it’s all up to you what you want to believe.
Our mindset is a very powerful tool. Whether we believe we can or we can’t we are always right. Success comes in can’s. My grandfather used to say can’t do is at the graveyard and don’t want to is next to it. If we don’t believe it will never happen.
Believing in yourself in combination with taking action, being persistent, resilient, coachable, eager to learn and allowing yourself to grow you are more likely to succeed or become a great artist, than if you only have the talent. No one is ever born being perfect at something, We grow into it. You may be born and blessed with the voice of an Angel but if you don’t know and learn how to use it, or don’t believe in yourself that you can sing as an angel you will never become a great artist.
Believing in yourself also means embracing your flaws. Being aware of your flaws and not letting them stop you, is a form of confidence, and one of the biggest gifts you can give yourself.
It’s never the prettiest or the smartest people that succeed in life but always the bravest.
Was there a time when you did not believe in yourself? How did this impact your choices?
Most of my life I guess I didn’t believe in myself. As said earlier on I was bullied at school. At a young age you are receptive and open to take in what you are told. It will develop a limiting mindset and what we believe we will attract over and over in various situations but with the same experience until we become aware and break the cycle.
I attracted a relationship with a narcissist and suffered mental abuse over 10 years. Being belittled, humiliated, scolded daily became normal for me, walking on eggshells, loosing my identity. I believed what I was told, that I was not worth it, I didn’t deserve better.
The impact was that I did everything to not be seen. I was so filled with shame guilt and anxiety. I couldn’t tell anyone, I believed what I was told that everyone would see me that same way. Maybe I was not even meant to be in this world.
I tried to make up for it by doing what I was expected to do, or what I thought people were expecting from me, I put myself under so much stress, having unrealistic high expectations from myself, having to be perfect, which is impossible, I always felt I was disappointing others and more important myself it was never good enough. While I was dying inside everyone saw the smile and mask I put on, and I was very good in putting the interest on other people so conversations didn’t really have to be about me.
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?
In 2015 I hit rock bottom, I got diagnosed with a severe depression. I was suicidal for months. I had already written a farewell letter, only thing holding me back was that I didn’t have the guts to take my own life, though I went through every option possible.
As the days were passing and I was struggling to get through another hour, another day, I was constantly fighting, with how things were, with life and with myself, until I had no energy left to fight.
Everything we are fighting with we can’t connect with.
Since it was not my time to die maybe there was something else I needed to change so that my life would not be a total waste. There must me more in life than what I got out of it so far. All I wanted was to be happy again!
When and whatever you decide the Universe will back you up, guide and deliver what you ask for even if it’s in a different form than expected.
With a psychologist things were not really moving forward or at least not fast enough for me. When I decide I have a drive and want to go, and as fast as I can. I came across a year program on self-development, it was a huge investment in myself, not knowing where it would lead me, but when the familiar hurts enough you want to move despite fear.
What are your top 5 strategies that will help someone learn to believe in themselves? Please share a story or example for each.
1 . Talk to yourself as how you would talk to your best friend or the love of your life.
If your best friend would come to you would you speak the same language? How would you talk to them? You love them unconditionally regardless if they have something that you don’t like about them as the good things make up for one small thing that keeps it interesting.
I am always very supportive, uplifting and caring for other people. I love to see other people happy and win. But I was so hard on myself, I was beating myself up for the smallest things I could not accept a mistake or saying something wrong. You are going to be with yourself the rest of your life, so you better embrace yourself. If we can accept other people the way they are, why not accept ourself the way we are?
Let’s be honest it would get really boring if we wouldn’t have any flaws, as there would be nothing left to learn and grow. It would take the excitement out of life.
2 . Heal and forgive
If you don’t heal what cut you, you will bleed on people that didn’t hurt you.
If anyone else hurt you, try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes, see from their perspective. Every “bad behavior” has a good intention, and it might not have been intentionally to hurt you. For some people this might be tricky as you are in pain, I understand. Forgiving is not for the other person, forgiving is for you. As long as you hold a grudge towards anyone you are letting people that are no longer or should not play a role in your life anymore control you and you let them live rent free in your head and heart. Take back control by forgiving. Forgive every person in the situation, including yourself. As much as I hate to bring it but we always play a part in every situation of our own lives. Forgiving doesn’t mean that whatever happened is okay, it means I let this not make me bitter, I let this make me better.
We experience thoughts and feelings, but we are not our thoughts and feelings. A thought or feeling is only a way for us to give meaning to a situation. So we have a choice.
3 . Change your mindset, break the cycle
Throughout life we go through experiences, that will be stored in our “ego” that determines how we feel and think about things, and we build up limiting beliefs that lead to new experiences and more limiting beliefs until we become aware and break the cycle. Once we become aware we can break the cycle in various different ways to create a supporting belief system for ourselves.
4 . Get out of your comfort zone, feel the fear and do it anyway.
A comfort zone is a safe place, but nothing grows there. All the magic happens outside our comfort zone. Being comfortable is the biggest obstacle for having a magical life. Do you want familiar pain or unknown happiness? You can start small, you don’t have to see the whole staircase to take a first step. I imagine it as a dancefloor like in Saturday Night Fever. Once you took the first step the next will light up and so on. From my experience every time you are able to do something out of your comfort zone no matter how small or big, you will feel like you come alive a little more every single time.
Research showed the only fear we are born with is the fear of falling and the fear of loud noises, all other fears we learn throughout our lives.
Most of our fears are an illusion and will never happen.
We tell ourselves we might fail, but who really knows that? We have just as much chance to succeed! Maybe we are even more afraid to succeed than we are afraid to fail.
What if fear is only there to guide us? And what if there is no failing, there is only feedback?
5 . Invest in yourself, you are worth it.
You don’t have to do it alone.
I could have never done this all on my own. The best investment you can ever make is the investment in yourself, believe me you are worth it.
Get mentored by people that have firsthand experience, who know what you are going through. They can ask the right questions, they listen and understand They can tell you where to look, but not what you see so you can see for yourself. They know which tools will work, as they’ve tried them all themself. They will hold your hand going through the process, and show and celebrate your even smallest success.
Conversely, how can one stop the negative stream of self-criticism that often accompanies us as we try to grow?
All self-criticism comes from our ego. Our Ego is where our limited beliefs and our past experiences are stored. As soon as we step out of our Comfort zone this voice becomes louder because it only wants to keep us safe and protect us. I believe we cannot completely stop this, and that is a good thing too as it keeps us sharp.
What we can do is becoming aware, and though it might sound weird but what worked very well for me, first I gave the voice a funny name (in my case Fuck Up Fred). Then you can give it a funny voice (a cartoon or someone that makes you laugh). That way when the stream starts it will sound a lot less negative and it might even make you laugh.
What also works for me is when the negative self-talk comes up I try to reflect on what is it trying to tell me, where it comes from and why I think that way, asking myself is this really true? (the answer always is no) Who am I when I believe this? And who would I be if I didn’t believe this thought about myself? Then I can make the choice on what I want to believe.
Or as soon as a stream starts and I know this is my ego, I just say thank you, I know you have kept me safe and try to protect me, but I can now do it myself.
When first starting with this it might take some time to practice as it is form of reprogramming your brain that has been used to repeating the same thing over and over for years or decades that it will take some time to break the cycle. Though if you do this consistently you will soon see and feel results. New habits take at least 90 days to get integrated in your system.
Are there any misconceptions about self-confidence and believing in oneself that you would like to dispel?
People can still confuse self-confidence with arrogance. Though this is not the same thing. Self-confidence means that you are aware of your talents and qualities, but also of your flaws.
Self-confidence has nothing to do with arrogance, you can be confident and still be humble.
What advice would you give to someone who is struggling with imposter syndrome?
Going through this myself I was crawling back over and over again on standing up and becoming visible. Then one of my mentors said to me: “Stop being the best kept secret in the world. Stop making excuses, being selfish and making it about you. It’s about the people that you will serve, there are people out there waiting for you just like you were waiting for someone like you before!” He was actually even more firm, but I need firm, and I needed that kick in my butt, cause it made me realize that my why is bigger than my fear.
Know that you are doing the best you can, with the knowledge that you have right now. Get a circle around you with people that understand you, believe in you. Those will inspire, motivate and uplift you. Like minded people that are also honest with you, help you grow and can keep you accountable. If you are the smartest person in the room, you are probably in the wrong room.
Trust the process, the Universe has your back and by taking action one step at a time it will reveal itself at its most brilliant.
Every new level has a new devil. So when we start something new most likely we go through the same process and might feel the imposter syndrome again. And for each time you will get better in overcoming it and goes faster as well.
I never imagined that by building my self-confidence one step at a time I can now say that I am an International multi award winning entrepreneur and Worldwide bestselling co-author. I shared the stage with some of my mentors in London, I have played my own comedy show without any experience or knowledge in a sold out room with 300 people, how awesome is this!
Can you imagine if I got this far in just a few years, how excited I am now to see what’s next?!
Every new level has a new devil. So when we start something new most likely we go through the same process and might feel the imposter syndrome again.
There is nothing special about me, I am not that special. However there is something special about the way I did it. If I can do it, you can do it too. And if you don’t believe this yet, then borrow my belief in you as long as you need until you are confident enough yourself.
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 want to inspire and guide people worldwide on how to laugh at sh*t. We all go through hardships in our lives. Often we forget that life is happening for us, not against us. We don’t get punished, we get blessed. Some of life’s greatest gifts are wrapped in sandpaper. If we learn to look at adversities or obstacles in a different way by seeing that in everything is something to learn, something to be grateful for and something to laugh about, we will get more understanding. Understanding for situations but also for people. More understanding will lead to more connection. Laughter is the best therapy and love is the best medicine. If it doesn’t work? Just increase the dosage.
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 🙂
I would love to have lunch with Tina Turner. Overcoming so much adversity and heartache experiencing so many highs and lows, her persistence, resilience, endless hard work, and effort to become so successful is so inspirational. Though nothing is ever as what we see from the surface so I would love to pick her brain, hear how she looks at the world and get some life lessons from her to learn and grow.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
You can follow me on Instagram or Facebook: sandraammerlaanoffical
Or check out my website: www.laughatshit.com where you can download my free visualization on selflove.
Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.