Watch what you say to yourself. Our brain is a magnificent organ that keeps us alive, but it also has some challenges. It’s very naïve and believes what you think about yourself. I heard Oprah Winfrey say “Whatever follows I am, follows you.” I think that’s a powerful statement about how our self-talk becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
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, and 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 Sandy Stricker.
Sandy Stricker is the CEO of Emerging Confidence, empowering women to listen to their inner voices to live authentically by recognizing their value and leveraging their unique talents to improve their own lives and the lives of those around them. Through coaching and training programs, she teaches her clients to live in confidence while achieving their personal and professional goals. Her mission is to teach women to learn to believe in themselves so they can create a career they love and get the salary they deserve. With more than 30 years of experience coaching high-performing women, her clients have gone on to senior-level roles, become CEOs, start their own businesses, and live happier, more fulfilling lives.
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?
It surprises so many people to learn I wasn’t a confident woman until my 30s. I was bullied in grade school and didn’t have many friends — I certainly wasn’t part of the “popular kids.” I went straight from high school to the workforce and didn’t have much confidence when I started my career. I had a customer service job as my first full-time career, and for years I was terrified that people would discover I had no idea what I was doing, which of course, was a story I was telling myself.
It’s important to understand that I had won client retention and client satisfaction awards, so there was proof that I was good at my job. But I continued to doubt my ability and didn’t believe in myself. Even when I was promoted to a senior role and later to a corporate trainer, I thought I was lucking into the roles. That changed the day I had a mentor who helped me see my value and abilities. I reported to a gentleman who called me into his office to tell me he was moving to a different department and needed to name his successor. I assumed he wanted my opinion of who he should promote, and while I was flattered, I couldn’t imagine why he cared what I thought. But I was wrong; he was promoting me to be the Head of the Midwest Division. Now, most people would have said “thank you,” but not me. I said, “Why me?”. Thus began a long mentoring relationship where he taught me how to recognize my abilities and talents and to start trusting myself.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.
My clients are my inspiration. I lost my job in 2020, as so many people did. I began looking for other opportunities, but my heart wasn’t in it. I started doing some consulting while I “figured it all out” and took a workshop to help new entrepreneurs build a business. But a funny thing happened on the way to that goal. I sat in workshop after workshop, listening to incredibly talented women, who had brilliant ideas for their businesses but continued to downplay their accomplishments, doubt their abilities, and wonder if they had what it took to be successful. One woman wanted to start a business where she’d consult with companies to help them create a creative sustainability program to be more positively impactful and meaningful, yet she minimized her success and the potential her idea had.
In conversation after conversation, I heard women explicitly saying they weren’t smart enough, good enough, technical enough, and every other “enough” they felt was needed to be successful. It just broke my heart to hear this. They were saying what I had been saying 30 years ago.
Part of what I’d done during my corporate life was coaching and working with women in diversity programs, so I knew I had the background and skills to help them. I told some friends what I wanted to do, and their response was a resounding “YES.” There have been times when business has been slow, or I’m working a lot of hours and wonder if what I’m doing is impactful enough. Then, I’ll get an email or phone call from a client sharing the impact a course or their coaching had, and I know it’s all worth it.
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?
The biggest lesson I learned was the difference between being confident and being cocky. I was just stepping into my confidence and was learning to set boundaries and speak up for myself. I was teaching a class one day, and a gentleman that I did not recognize walked into the room and just stood there watching me facilitate my workshop. This was before we had the security measures that we have in place now, so I didn’t know if he worked for the company, if he was a customer, or who he was. I waited a moment and finally asked if I could help him. He responded by saying, “No, I’m just observing”.
I’d been working on my assertiveness skills, so I boldly said, “While I can appreciate that, I’m in the middle of teaching a class, and you’re disrupting our progress, so I need to ask you to leave.”. He chuckled, turned around, and walked out. The class erupted in laughter, and I realized at that point that I must’ve done something wrong. I did! The gentleman I threw out of my training class was our CEO who I didn’t recognize.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
Right now, I’m focusing my work on helping women who are in the job market. So many layoffs are happening right now, and my clients are feeling the pain of rejection. Here’s the thing about rejection. Often when someone has experienced rejection — whether it be career-related or a relationship — they say, “it’s painful.” And there’s more truth to that than you may realize.
Rejection can be physically painful because it activates the same brain areas that process physical pain. Research has shown that the same brain regions that are activated when we experience physical pain are also activated when we experience social rejection or emotional pain.
Much of my focus is on coaching and facilitating workshops to help women regain their career confidence. The workshops focus on identifying where you are in your career, where you want to go, and how to get there.
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?
How can you expect anyone else to believe in you if you don’t believe in yourself? Believing in yourself is crucial to building your confidence. We exude confidence when we believe in ourselves, our abilities, and our potential. And when others see us as confident, more opportunities arise. Also, by believing in ourselves, we inspire others and encourage them to pursue their goals and dreams.
A prime example that most people will be familiar with is the story of JK Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series. She faced multiple rejections before finally finding a publisher for her book. But she always retained faith in her ability to write a great story; her belief in herself and her work. That belief ultimately led to the creation of the most beloved book series in history and birthed a marketing sensation.
Personally, I wouldn’t be writing this article if I hadn’t believed in myself. When I first started my business, I had people say to me things such as, “What do you know about running a business?” or “Aren’t you a little old for this?” (I was 60 when I started my company), or “How are you going to get clients?”. If I had listened to them and hadn’t believed in myself, I would have given up, and there would be so many women that I would not have been able to help reach their goals.
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?
There’s a difference between believing in yourself and knowing your talents and capabilities. Believing in yourself means having confidence in your abilities, skills, and potential, despite any doubts or obstacles that may arise. It’s about having an optimistic mindset that enables you to pursue your goals and dreams with determination and resilience.
But it’s essential that you don’t ignore your weaknesses or limitations. It means acknowledging them, but not letting them define you or limit your potential. It’s about focusing on your strengths, developing your skills, and working hard towards achieving your goals.
To become a great artist, you may need to study other artists’ techniques, styles, and methods; practice regularly, and receive feedback from others to improve your skills. Similarly, to become an Olympic athlete, you may need to train rigorously, follow a healthy diet, and work with coaches and trainers to improve your performance.
Believing in yourself means having faith in your ability to overcome challenges and succeed, even if it requires hard work and persistence. It means having a growth mindset and embracing the journey of learning and growth that comes with pursuing your goals.
Was there a time when you did not believe in yourself? How did this impact your choices?
Absolutely! As I mentioned in my introduction, I struggled to believe in myself for a very long time. I doubted my abilities and potential, and it impacted the choices I made. By not believing in myself, I missed opportunities. There were relationships I didn’t pursue, job opportunities I didn’t apply for, and projects that I didn’t volunteer for because I just didn’t believe I could be successful. Once I started to believe in myself, I was not only promoted to a senior director role but traveled the world and trained classes in Spain, the UK, and Amsterdam.
I wouldn’t have had those opportunities if I had not finally learned to believe in myself.
At what point did you realize that to get to the next level, it would be necessary to build up your belief in yourself? Can you share the story with us?
It’s not just one story, it’s the combination of hundreds of little stories. Learning to believe in yourself and growing your confidence is not something that happens overnight. It’s something that you work on every single day. I coach hundreds of women every year on building self-esteem and finding the courage and clarity to identify and go after their goals. Yet there are still times throughout the week when I doubt myself and my abilities. The difference now is that I have the skills to reverse the negative self-talk that can be so pervasive. For example, if I see an opportunity and that voice in my head, that inner critic, says don’t go after that because you’re never going to succeed, I know to how to stop that voice. I know to say there’s no data or proof we won’t succeed because I have all the skills and qualifications to be successful in this opportunity.
What are your top 5 strategies that will help someone learn to believe in themselves? Please share a story or example for each.
1. Watch what you say to yourself. Our brain is a magnificent organ that keeps us alive, but it also has some challenges. It’s very naïve and believes what you think about yourself. I heard Oprah Winfrey say “Whatever follows I am, follows you.” I think that’s a powerful statement about how our self-talk becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
For the longest time, I said I was bad with technology. I would go to other people and ask for help because I just didn’t think I could figure out tech. Then, a woman I reported to put me in charge of a technology team. Her rationale was that I didn’t need to be good at technology; I needed to be good at leading people. But guess what? I learned that I really wasn’t bad with technology, and in fact, I enjoyed it.
Next time you say “I am…” followed by a negative word or statement, think about how your brain will react to that and how you could reword it.
2. Embrace Rejection. Rejection is a part of life. We will always be rejected from jobs, relationships, and friendships. The list goes on and on. Once we learn and recognize that it’s a part of life, we can see rejection as a learning opportunity. Think about where the job market is right now. Every day, more and more layoffs are being announced. So many people are going through this right now, and I realize it’s very difficult.
The important thing is to stop and take a step back, take a breath, and think about what you may be able to learn from this. If your company is doing a massive layoff and you’re one of 10,000 people laid off, there’s probably not much you could have done to prevent it, but are there things you learned about being prepared for it?
Rejection is evidence that you’re pushing the limits. If you are rejected from a job you applied for, it’s evidence that you’re pushing yourself to apply for jobs. Treat yourself with compassion and see what you can learn from it. Had I not been laid off in 2020, I would never have started my business.
3. Celebrate every achievement: One way to start believing in yourself is to focus on past successes, regardless of their size. By acknowledging what you’ve achieved in the past, you can recognize your strengths and skills. For example, I struggled with public speaking early in my career. I worked as a corporate trainer but became physically ill when I had to teach my first class. The thought of standing in front of 20 people and talking was terrifying. But I did it, and I celebrated it. And each time I taught and had more confidence in my abilities, I celebrated that victory. My latest celebration was speaking to an audience of over one-thousand people — and YES, I celebrated.
It’s important to celebrate the big wins and the small ones. Did you get a new client? Congratulations! Celebrate it. Did you interview for a job and feel you answered the questions well? Celebrate! And as someone who’s struggled with anxiety and depression my entire life, if all you did was get out of bed and get dressed, celebrate that — BIG TIME.
4. Journal events, thoughts, and feelings. Journaling can be a powerful tool for learning to believe in yourself. First, it helps you identify your thoughts and feelings. Sometimes we feel our confidence lagging but are unable to identify why or what’s causing it. Writing down your thoughts and feelings can help you become more aware. When you’re more aware of your thoughts and feelings, you can begin to challenge any negative or limiting beliefs holding you back from feeling confident. Journaling also allows you to track your and gives you an opportunity to celebrate your successes, which can boost your confidence and motivation. It also provides a safe space to be honest with yourself without fear of judgment or criticism. This can be especially helpful when working through difficult emotions or experiences affecting your confidence.
Clients always say to me that they’re concerned they may not do it right. There’s no right or wrong in journaling. This is for you and is not to be shared with anyone. Don’t worry about looks. Don’t worry about your penmanship. Don’t worry about grammar. Just write. And if you run out of things to write, just keep your pen moving. The thoughts will come to you.
The other concern clients have is that someone will read what they’re writing. One client decided to journal by recording her thoughts into a voice recorder — an app on her phone. You could type it on a computer, or you can write it on a piece of paper just to get the thoughts out so you can recognize what’s in your head and then throw it away. The important thing is just to journal.
5. Surround yourself with positive people: Author and motivational speaker Jim Rohn says that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. This suggests that the people we spend the most time with significantly influence our thoughts, behavior, and personality. Essentially, we tend to adopt the habits, beliefs, and attitudes of those closest to us.
For example, if we surround ourselves with positive, successful, and motivated people, we are more likely to be positive, successful, and motivated. Conversely, if we spend most of our time with negative, unmotivated, or unambitious people, we are also likely to adopt those traits.
Rohr’s point is that our environment and social circle are crucial in shaping who we are and the kind of person we become. Therefore, it’s essential to choose our circle carefully and spend time with people who inspire and uplift us.
I’m very blessed to have an amazing circle of friends who cheer me on and believe in and encourage me. They often cheer me on, even when I’m not cheering for myself.
When you have a circle that believes in you, you’re more likely to believe in yourself.
Conversely, how can one stop the negative stream of self-criticism accompanying us as we try to grow?
Self-compassion is key. Learning to believe in yourself means learning new behaviors and skills, and new talents. Those things don’t happen overnight. Self-compassion is critical because it allows us to be kind, understanding, and supportive of ourselves, especially during difficulty, failure, or suffering. Self-compassion involves treating ourselves with the same kindness, concern, and care we would offer a good friend.
Are there any misconceptions about self-confidence and believing in oneself that you want to dispel?
The biggest misconception I would love to dispel is that if you don’t believe in yourself, lack confidence, or have imposter syndrome, there’s nothing you can do.
I’ve worked with women who have said that they have always struggled with their confidence and self-esteem and don’t know they’ll ever overcome that. Some of our lack of confidence and impostor syndrome comes from our upbringing and childhood experiences. But just because we were dealt a particular hand of cards doesn’t mean we need to play them. For example, if you were raised in a family where everything had to be perfect and getting an A wasn’t good enough, it had to be an A+, you more than likely struggle with perfectionism. You might think you can’t change that because it’s so deeply ingrained in your identity…in who you are.
I don’t like to say that somebody’s a perfectionist because I don’t want to put a label on somebody as an identity. It’s a lot easier to change your behavior than it is to change your identity. I would say if you have perfectionistic tendencies, there are several tools and tips you can use to overcome them. You can learn to overcome some of the characteristics through education and practice.
What advice would you give to someone who is struggling with imposter syndrome?
Imposter syndrome is a pattern where we have a persistent fear of being exposed as a fraud, regardless of our accomplishments. Our imposter syndrome and lack of confidence come from stories we tell ourselves about who we are or were meant to be. The most important piece of advice is to focus on facts! It is the one thing I coach my clients on more than anything else, and here’s why.
Imagine you find a job posting, and it sounds like the perfect job. You would LOVE to land this position. Our inner critic, that voice in our head that tells us what we can’t do, starts to speak up and says things like, “Why would you apply for that job? You don’t have 100% of the qualifications, and you’ll never get called in for an interview.” Ask yourself where the evidence is, and separate fact from fiction. How do you know you’ll never get called in for an interview? You don’t. You have no facts to substantiate that belief. And you’ll know the inner critic is speaking because it uses absolute phrases like never and always, and evaluative words like can’t, shouldn’t, and won’t.
I coach my clients to write down their thoughts and highlight the differences between fact and fiction. In the example I gave, it may be a fact that you don’t have all the qualifications, but it’s fiction that they’ll never call you — there’s no way you know what someone will or won’t do.
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.
We have to stop comparing ourselves to other people. The reason this is so difficult is that it’s human nature to reflect and self-assess. We have a fundamental need to evaluate ourselves, and the only way to do that is to compare ourselves to someone else. We’ve done it our entire life. When we’re in school and we finish a test, we ask our fellow students how they did so that we can compare ourselves to see if we are on par with them. If we do a presentation at work, we ask others how they did to assess how we compare. If you’re a parent, you want to know how your child stacks up against others.
The challenge comes because we compare ourselves — our appearance, ability, and skills — who we don’t really know. Think about social media. We don’t know what’s happening on the other side of that camera, yet we still compare ourselves nonetheless. You see the Instagram reel of the woman walking happily down Main Street at the Magic Kingdom, holding the hands of two adorable and well-behaved children. But what you didn’t see was the complete meltdown those children had 20 minutes ago. You didn’t see the mom crying on a park bench, begging her children to eat something. We compare our blooper reels to somebody else’s highlight reels.
When I started my business, I was following an incredibly successful woman. She had a thriving business and a fabulous social media account. She was doing a podcast. Everything about her was inspiring and amazing, and I would look at what she had achieved and think, “How come I’m not like that? How come I’m not that successful?”. Well, she’d been in business for years, and I was just starting. I was comparing apples to cucumbers.
It’s fine to compare ourselves to others to assess where we are and evaluate what we can do to improve. But when we compare ourselves to others and then engage in negative self-talk; beat ourselves up because we’re not good enough, we’re not like them, we don’t look like them; it causes us to not believe in ourselves even further. It’s one of the main causes of imposter syndrome.
We are 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 the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂
I’m going all in and saying Oprah Winfrey. I love how she’s able to connect with her audience and isn’t afraid to discuss topics that were often considered taboo, such as domestic violence, sexual abuse, and mental health. She’s used her platform to promote various causes and initiatives, including education, literacy, and social justice. She’s a champion for woman’s rights, a philanthropist, and leads by example. So Oprah if you read this, I’ll make even make your blueberry pancakes!
How can our readers further follow your work online?
The best way is through my website, www.emergingconfidence.com. That’s where you’ll find links to all my socials, a calendar link to schedule a complimentary coaching call, and free resources to help you build your confidence, including a link to sign up for my weekly newsletter and blog. One of my favorite free resources is related to the inner critic I mentioned earlier, and you can find it at www.emergingconfidence.com/makefriends.
Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.
Thank you for the opportunity to share what I do and how I can help other women believe in themselves.