Identify your core values. Do a deep dive into different situations that you’ve found yourself in throughout your life and think about how, in a perfect world, you would have reacted or responded to those situations. As you think of that response, think of how it would fit into different values. Would you hold courage as a value? Open-mindedness? What about trust, or respect?
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 Sarah Bowser.
Sarah Bowser is that weird, nerdy mom; the one who always struggled with belonging and finding her place in the world. After struggling with anxiety, an autoimmune diagnosis, and suicidal ideation, she found her way back to solid ground, putting together her own system for finding her true self, cultivating self-love and self-belonging. She now helps other weird, nerdy women do the same for their own 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?
Thanks so much for this opportunity! Absolutely. I was the “typical” shy, quiet kid growing up. While I had good friends throughout my school years, there was always a feeling in my gut and in my mind that I didn’t truly fit in with my friends. I always had slightly different interests — different music, different television shows, different books. I would try to share my interests, sometimes shyly, sometimes enthusiastically, but would often get weird looks, be ignored, or those around me would make fun of me.
I found solace in my creative writing class and my accounting class — very different classes, but they helped feed my dual loves of analyzing things while still being creative. My love of writing and accounting continued through my college years, connecting me with other women who shared my interests and loves. Even so, I struggled with embracing my creative side — I focused on my accounting career, ignoring my creativity and desire to write, until recently.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.
There were a couple of people who inspired me to pursue my careers. My uncle was a huge inspiration and influence for me to pursue a career in accounting and auditing, and was incredibly supportive throughout that journey. One of my business professors also provided incredible support, helping me make the connections that brought me to my current career, where I can combine auditing, accounting, and writing.
As I grew in my analytical auditing career, I realized how much I missed writing and being creative. I found friends and mentors in online communities that helped me understand the depths of my love and desire to be creative, and I began taking courses to help me reignite that passion. I’m now a published author through a book collaboration project, and I’m working on writing more books on my own, both fiction and nonfiction.
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?
Oh man, mistakes are definitely great teachers.
I’ve made my fair share of mistakes in my journey through life so far. I’m not sure what my funniest mistake would be; the one that stands out to me the most might be considered more ironic than anything else. And, looking back on it, you may not even think of it as a mistake. I’m not sure I fully see it as a mistake, because I do believe everything happens the way it’s meant to in the end. But, in a way, it was a mistake.
Ignoring my creativity for nearly 10 years — allowing myself to believe my ideas and dreams for writing books and novels were childhood fantasies that would not serve me as an adult — was a mistake that I began to correct not long after the height of the pandemic. I began to realize that writing and being creative was an integral part of my identity, and the work that I began to do to learn how to believe in myself helped me gain the confidence to be able to start writing again.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
I’m currently working on a couple of books, one nonfiction that will be published this spring, and then a three-book fiction series. The nonfiction book focuses on how we can cultivate self-love and self-belonging, enabling us to be able to identify who we are at the core of our being and become confident in who we are so that we can stop morphing ourselves to fit and belong with those around us.
I’m also developing a couple of digital courses and coaching programs focused on becoming confident in ourselves, embracing who we truly are, and creating our own belonging.
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?
Believing in ourselves is at the core of living as our true, authentic selves. Without belief in ourselves, we will struggle to have the confidence to show up in the world authentically. We’ll feel as though we are not worthy of being granted belonging, because we don’t believe that anyone will want to befriend or be around someone as weird and awkward as us.
When we don’t believe in ourselves, we tend to shrink back to the shadows; we try to hide ourselves, sticking to the outskirts of the group. We don’t volunteer for or go after the opportunities that we would love to jump at, that we would be thrilled to participate in, because we’re afraid that we’ll be shut down, denied the opportunity, cast aside.
For most of my college career, I stuck to a seat in the back of each classroom, not believing that I had what it took to be successful, despite high grades and excellent course work. I believed that I wasn’t capable, and that lack of belief in myself permeated to other areas of my life, as well. I felt as though I wouldn’t be successful in my college job, where I would have had the opportunity to progress in a career. As a result, I allowed myself to stay small in my position, not asking for the pay that I deserved, to go for promotional opportunities.
It wasn’t until my last semester of college that I began to have some faith in myself, graduating with high honors and landing what, at the time, was my dream job.
That all came down to belief in myself, in some form.
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 means that you’re in touch with your core values, the beacon that keeps you on the path towards reclaiming your true identity. When you know your values, you can begin to shift your mindset, reframing your thoughts and emotions to focus on a more positive way of thinking.
That gives you the foundation to being able to clear away the dirt and see who you are at your core, the true self at the heart of your being. As you form that foundation, you form the foundation for the ability to believe in yourself in your true form, whether that’s an artist, a writer, a businessperson, an athlete, or something else.
You need to get down deep into your values, take the time to create your foundation, so that you have solid footing as your belief in yourself grows.
Was there a time when you did not believe in yourself? How did this impact your choices?
There have been many times where I didn’t believe in myself. Whether it was during grade school, college, at work, in my marriage, when I had kids, with my friends — more often than not in my life, I did not believe in myself. It wasn’t until relatively recently that I truly began to grow and hold belief in myself, in my thoughts, in my values, in my truth. And it took a lot of work to get to this point.
And when I didn’t believe in myself, the choices I made were very often made from a place of doing whatever it was that I thought I needed to do to please those around me. What major in school would most please my family, make me acceptable to society? If taking on more and more at work, no matter how overwhelmed or burnt out I was, would impress my boss and make them happy, then I would keep on piling anything and everything onto my plate.
My choices were solely based on what I perceived others wanted from me. And this pattern led to me being extremely fatigued, overstimulated, overwhelmed, lost, and absolutely hateful of myself.
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?
During the pandemic, when I had given up so much of myself to other people and their beliefs, to what I perceived they wanted and expected of me, I realized, through the breaking up of a close friendship, that I had lost any sense of believing in myself.
I began to understand why I felt as though I was living outside of my body for so long. I began to put together the pieces to see that, for the prior three or four years, I had been morphing myself to be someone I wasn’t, in order to be granted belonging to a group of people I thought were forever friends. As the key friendship broke apart with that group, it was as though a switch flipped and I was suddenly back in my body, back in my mind. I began to realize that I had abandoned myself, buried my true identity so far beneath the surface in my attempt to fit in.
As I grieved the friendships I had lost, I was able to take a closer look at my life as a whole. As I wondered and worried that I had done something wrong, done something to offend the group, I began to see how I had pushed my values and beliefs to the side so that I fit the mold I was supposed to fit into.
I began to truly dig deep and figure out what exactly my values were and why I had let myself disregard them so easily. And as the pieces came together, as my values came to light, I began the long journey towards regaining my belief in myself. It didn’t happen overnight, but I took the time and the steps to be able to be confident in myself, to believe in myself again.
What are your top 5 strategies that will help someone learn to believe in themselves? Please share a story or example for each.
1. Identify your core values. Do a deep dive into different situations that you’ve found yourself in throughout your life and think about how, in a perfect world, you would have reacted or responded to those situations. As you think of that response, think of how it would fit into different values. Would you hold courage as a value? Open-mindedness? What about trust, or respect?
2. Learn to reframe what loneliness and rejection mean to you. Often, when we feel lonely or rejected, it’s because we’re believing in ourselves. We’re showing up in the world as our true self, but those around us, who may be used to us conforming to their ideas of what we should be, may not like that we’re no longer morphing. As we embrace who we really are, we feel as though we’re being rejected, leading us to feel lonely.
The key is reframing these feelings to realize that, yes, maybe I’m feeling lonely — but I’m showing up as me. I’m not bowing to peer pressure. It may feel like the other person is rejecting you, but in reality, you are rejected the false you that you were presenting to the world when you didn’t believe in yourself.
3. Start to shift your mindset. When you start to feel your belief in yourself starting to slip away again, take the thought that you are having that is acting as the driving force, pushing your belief away, and put the brakes on. Shift the thought — turn it into an affirmation, change the feeling behind the thought to one of gratitude — and begin to go from a limiting mindset to a growth mindset.
4. Find healthy ways to express your emotions. Whether mental or physical practices, we need to find healthy ways to process and express how we are feeling. Healthy mental expressions could include visualizations or guided meditations. Gentle movement or eating foods that are supportive of our individual body are healthy ways to physically express and process our emotions.
5. Learn how to experiment. Whether with books, music, recipes, hobbies, non-judgmental forms of spirituality — experiment with different things to discover what it is you truly enjoy, what lights you up and fills your soul. Finding and experimenting with these different things will help you gain confidence in yourself, which will in turn help you believe in yourself again.
Conversely, how can one stop the negative stream of self-criticism that often accompanies us as we try to grow?
Affirmations have been a big help for me when it comes to quieting the negative self-talk and self-criticism that I found myself ruminating in on a daily basis. Typically, affirmations are “I AM” statements, such as “I AM strong” or “I AM courageous.” And I struggled with these affirmations for a long time. But a mentor of mine taught me that we don’t have to jump directly to “I AM” at first. We can start by giving ourselves permission. For example, “I give myself permission to believe I am strong.” This has helped me gradually work my way up to “I AM” and to better be able to have the confidence and belief in myself to quiet that critical self-talk.
Are there any misconceptions about self-confidence and believing in oneself that you would like to dispel?
Being self-confident and believing in yourself does not make you vain, and it does not make you toxic. Believing in yourself shows that you are living in the truest form of yourself, you are embracing who you are at the core of your soul. And when you believe in yourself, when you embody your true self, you will draw those near to you who you are meant to belong with. You will create your own community of belonging, where you can be brave and courageous and thrive in your belief.
What advice would you give to someone who is struggling with imposter syndrome?
Just give yourself permission to recognize your achievements, your skills, your talents. Being proud of myself and believing that I am indeed smart and talented has been a hard journey for me — I have historically been very hard on myself, putting myself down most of the time. Giving myself permission to recognize what I have succeeded at, or to recognize when I am feeling proud of myself, has helped me to second guess myself less, slowly quieting that imposter syndrome in the back of my head.
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 would love to inspire people to be more open and less judgmental when it comes to spirituality and religion. There is so much animosity and anger and force when it comes to trying to make people believe in what someone else may believe. We are all human; we are all embodiments of love. I would love for the world, the US, to be more open to different ways of being spiritual, to different thought practices and belief systems. The ultimate goal is the same — to love, to be happy, to be fulfilled. Let’s just be open to talking with and trying to understand one another, without trying to control one another.
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 absolutely love to be able to sit and talk with Jenny Lawson, The Bloggess, although I’m sure both of our social anxiety would get the better of us 😊 Her books and her blog have inspired me and provided so much healing to me, that I would be honored to be able to have a conversation with her about life, anxiety, and humor.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
You can follow me on Instagram, @that_weirdnerdymom, or check out my website, thatweirdnerdymom.com.
Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.
Thank you so much!