Find the problem only you can solve. Dabble in it daily.

My business started because I was looking for a female mentor. That need led to finding my tribe, and eventually, a model and solution for us all. Today, when I meet a young woman looking for mentorship, it reminds me where I started and ignites the passion needed to keep going.


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 Stacy Cassio.

Stacy Cassio is the Founder & CEO of the Pink Mentor Network. Stacy understands the importance of mentorship because her own career & business have been built on the opportunities introduced to her by mentors. Today, she works with leaders to solve complex talent development challenges through innovative mentorship, internal mobility, and employee support strategies & programs.


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 timid child, the oldest of four in a rural midwestern family. In elementary school, I was picked on for being overweight. Then, as I reached adolescence, I shot up like a Kansas wheat stalk and grew into my weight. (I weighed the same 107 pounds from 4th grade to high school but added almost two feet vertically.) Like my height, my confidence and self-belief shot up as I entered high school.

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

Mentors! Lots and lots of mentors!!! Six years ago, I was the head of engineering at a manufacturing company and was in desperate need of a female mentor. It was not available inside the organization so I started mentorship dinners, which led to a loyal mentorship community, and eventually, a new model & framework to capture, leverage, and scale female mentorship.

When I started the community, I used to wear a shirt with the tagline “Never Met a Woman I Couldn’t Learn From.” Most people thought of it as an empowering mantra. But for me, it was a reminder that mentorship is all around. Keep asking for it.

Scarcity mindset tricks us into thinking there is one perfect mentor who will hold all the answers. When in reality, we should approach mentorship with an abundance mindset of the more we ask, the more we receive. For example, ask a handful of effective leaders about the experiences that shaped them and you will receive a vast array of career experiences. Your path is probably borrowing tools, tricks, and resources from each mentor and utilizing them at different moments in your unique leadership journey.

Throughout my career, I have borrowed from a lot of great mentors–-many, who believed in me and my abilities way before I ever saw them in myself. Mentorship has been pivotal in my life and career. It is why I am dedicating my life to ensuring it is available to anyone in need.

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 started my career as a receptionist at an insurance investigation firm. Shortly after being hired, I was promoted into an office manager role with people leadership responsibilities. In my early 20’s, I could barely lead myself out of my apartment building, so coordinating and managing a group of older, more experienced women was a stretch I was totally unequipped to handle.

My first challenge was I had been promoted to manage all my work friends. I went from getting cocktails after work to vent about our manager to becoming the boss that caused my friends to drink! I had taken my childhood experiences of bossy older sister & neighborhood babysitter and turned them into a team micromanager.

After a couple of weeks into my management tenure, a dear friend and colleague said she was taking her lunch break. She left her keys on the desk and never came back.

I learned that day the difference between management and leadership…and most importantly, which I wanted to be!

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

I believe there is a lot of truth to that statement that there are two pivotal days in your life–the day you are born and the day you learn why. I think that the latter is usually tied to becoming a mentor.

From my early days at Pink Mentor Network, I have been struck by how much the mentor gets from the experience. It was usually marked with a concluding gratitude statement like “Wow. Thank you, I had no idea I had so much to share.” Today, I see it in the projects where a trailblazing leader or industry pioneer shares her experiences in a powerful mentor’s narrative. It is such an empowering moment for all in the room.

Traditional mentorship programs do a poor job of acknowledging career milestones because we siloing them into an one-on-one pairing. My mentorship framework removes the silos and gives everyone access to the mentorship by eliminating the experience v. inexperience power dynamic. Instead, we build a community of mentorship around the shared pain points of the group.

As talent development leaders, we can identify the underrepresented populations within an organization, build the connective tissue between the individuals and allies, and showcase & leverage the great mentors in a more scalable, transparent, and measurable manner.

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?

Of course. Well, I started out this interview by sharing my childhood relationship with self-belief, but there was a whole lot more to that self-belief story as I entered adulthood. Upon entering college, I got a little lost. I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up.

That young adulthood identity crisis led me to my college advisor’s office in a rural midwestern state college. He was running late that day but next to his office was a poster “New York Nannies Wanted” with a number to call if interested. I jotted down that number, dashed back to the dorm, and called it immediately. Two weeks later, I was nannying two kids in Westchester County, NY and having an afterhours love affair with the hustle and vibrancy of New York City.

Wow, wow, wow. Talk about a cultural education & grand awakening! It was a life-changing, spur-of-the-moment decision fueled by wide-eyed naivete and unabashed self-belief. In fact, all my best decisions and greatest leaps have been made by listening & believing in my most confident self and her abilities.

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?

Believe it ’til you receive it!

Everyone was once an amateur. Mastery requires a persistent tenacity and commitment to greatness. We must not compare our first chapter to someone else’s final act. But instead, have the self-belief that our story will unfold with dedication to the craft and desire to develop.

Natural abilities may get us to the starting line, self-belief runs the marathon.

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

Doubt is the enemy of belief. Both feed off the company we keep.

The people we keep in our lives either hold us back or challenge us to be a better version of ourselves. There have been times when work environments or personal relationships threatened my self-belief. In those moments, I had to quiet the voices and thoughts that fed self-doubt. Many times, it meant shedding those relationships I outgrew.

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?

I once resigned from a job that was quite enjoyable but no longer challenging. At the time, I remember wondering if I was doing the right thing because I loved the company and my colleagues–especially, my boss who had been a tremendous mentor.

At my going away party, a dear peer offered well wishes with tears in his eyes. He said, “Even a beautiful flowering plant has to be repotted to continue to grow.” Those words have always stuck with me. Truth is, I never really found another work environment as healthy as that one. In fact, after leaving that role, I experienced many toxic work environments filled with insecure leaders and selfish teammates. Most of my growth has happened in the painful moments of my career.

We learn from good and bad examples. Although it can be painful, exposure to both helps us understand what works for us and who we want to be.

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

1 . Find the problem only you can solve. Dabble in it daily.

My business started because I was looking for a female mentor. That need led to finding my tribe, and eventually, a model and solution for us all. Today, when I meet a young woman looking for mentorship, it reminds me where I started and ignites the passion needed to keep going.

2 . Find the people & things that bring out your most confident self. Make them part of your routine.

As the CEO of Pink Mentor Network, my closet is filled with the color — from pale shades to the hottest of the fluorescent pink! Not because it’s my favorite color, but because it is a reminder of who I am, what I stand for, and where I am going. My tribe knows that when I go for the bright, neon pink that I am feeling my most confident. (Look out world, here I come!!) But when I go for a lighter shade, I am not at my best and need extra support. (Hugs welcome, please!)

3 . Create success reminders. Reflect on them as needed.

I keep a legacy folder on my phone. It’s filled with screenshots of my best work, pivotal moments, and most impactful testimonials. I look at it anytime I need to be reminded of past success to find the self-belief to charge forward. (I look at it a lot!)

4 . Borrow self-belief from the great mentors.

A dear mentor, now in her early 80’s, once told me, “I can no longer physically carry this torch forward but I can fan your flame anytime you need me.” Mentorship is learning from someone else’s experience. We can borrow and carry forward the confidence of those who came before us.

5 . Think in “experiments”. Apply today’s learnings to tomorrow’s to-do.

When I started my business, I removed the word “failure” from my vocabulary. The only failure was making the same mistake twice, everything else was learning. That mindset has helped me grow as an entrepreneur and consultant. It’s also left a tremendous amount of mentorship to share with those coming up behind me!

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

Remove “self” from the conversation.

We are often our own worst critics. Most of us would never utter publicly the whirlwind of spiraling thoughts and negative self-doubt we carry with us. Therefore, remove yourself from the conversation. Think of yourself as your best friend. What would you tell someone you loved if they were crippled with doubt? Echo those kind words and sincere compassion inward in the third person like “Stacy, stop it. We have been through situations like this before, you can do it again and will be stronger for it.”

(However, you may want to keep the internal conversation at a soft whisper. We don’t want to alarm others!) 🙂

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

All of us are born with confidence. (Have you ever seen a toddler look into the mirror?) But over time, many of us will allow others to steal our self-belief through mental comparison, social conditioning, and unhealthy relationships.

Self-belief is a muscle we must work out regularly to get stronger.

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

Imposter syndrome is a label that holds us back. The emotions you are feeling is part of the growth process. You are not an imposter, you are learning. Refuse the label that introduces self-doubt.

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.

Everyone should have access to female mentorship. These days when I am in an executive room, I always ask, “How many of you have had a female mentor?” and then, “How would business decisions in this room change if you received counsel representative of everyone you lead?”

Light bulb moment every time!

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 🙂

Lilly Ledbetter

I studied her life and absorbed her mentorship as a woman trying to find her voice in a male-dominated industry. There’s an interview she did with an outstanding podcast, “70 Over 70” that I have listened to on dozens of commutes when I am trying to muster enough self-belief to walk through a new door. Every time I listen to it, it moves me to tears. I want to meet Ms. Ledbetter because I have borrowed her self-belief to get through many hard decisions and conversations. I owe her tremendous gratitude and want to know how to carry her torch forward.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

www.pinkmentornetwork.com

https://www.linkedin.com/in/stacycassio/

Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.

Author(s)

  • Savio Clemente

    Board Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), Media Journalist, #1 Best-selling Author, Podcaster, and Stage 3 Cancer Survivor

    The Human Resolve LLC

    Savio P. Clemente is a Board Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), media journalist, #1 best-selling author, podcaster, stage 3 cancer survivor, and founder of The Human Resolve LLCHe coaches cancer survivors and ambitious industry leaders to amplify their impact, attract media attention, and make their voice heard. He inspires them to get busy living in mind, body, and spirit and to cultivate resilience in their mindset.

    Savio has interviewed notable celebrities and TV personalities and has been invited to cover numerous industry events throughout the U.S. and abroad.  His mission is to provide clients, listeners, and viewers alike with tangible takeaways on how to lead a truly healthy, wealthy, and wise lifestyle.