Don’t wait for confidence; earn it. Waiting for confidence before you take a step or risk is like waiting to become flexible before you start doing yoga. Not how it works. Confidence, like flexibility, increases the more you practice. It doesn’t happen overnight. It must be earned incrementally. That’s what makes it so valuable and why true confidence is so unmistakable. If it weren’t worth earning, it wouldn’t be worth much.

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 Terri Trespicio.

Terri Trespicio is a writer, speaker, consultant, and author of Unfollow Your Passion: How to Create a Life that Matters to You (Atria/Simon & Schuster 2021). Her popular TEDx talk, “Stop Searching for Your Passion,” has been viewed nearly 8 million times. She helps leaders, professionals, entrepreneurs, and thought leaders unlock their creative genius and articulate their standout ideas, and is the creator of the Speaker Intensive, where speakers create their signature talks in 6 weeks flat. An award-winning writer and keynote speaker, she’s a former magazine editor at Martha Stewart, and her writing has been featured in Marie Claire, Jezebel, Business Insider, Oprah magazine, and more, and she has performed standup comedy all over New York City. She lives in Manhattan. Access her free program, “The Passion Trap: 5 half-truths keeping you from living a full life” at

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 grew up in suburban N.J., oldest of three girls, born to a mother from Pennsylvania and a father from the Philippines. I had the privilege of attending great private schools — including an all-girls catholic high school, where I essentially wore the same outfit for four years straight. I was an anxious kid who really didn’t like doing kid things, in fact, I still don’t. Anytime I attempt a ride or water sport, I live to regret it. I started to dance in high school, considered late in the dance game, but worked hard to keep up, and eventually became the director of the Boston College Dance Ensemble. I graduated from B.C. with honors and then wandered around in a haze for a good chunk of my 20s because I couldn’t imagine anyone would ever hire me when I had no experience in anything. Let’s say I was a bit of a late start to my own career.

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

Oh, I didn’t pursue anything — I had no idea what to pursue! I was afraid of everything. I was hardly shot out of a cannon; more like I tiptoed around the edges of my own life for a while — temping, working as a book publicity intern, then got a job as an executive assistant at a think tank in Cambridge. I went running back to school because that’s what I knew what to do. Earned my MFA in Creative Writing and then got a job as a creative copywriter at a — wait for it — wig and hair piece company. Great job to talk about at parties! Though I learned an incredible amount: How to write sales copy, catalog copy, headlines, how to connect with a customer on the page. How to work with design, production, merchandising, and marketing. It was a crash course. And then I got bored and realized I wasn’t going to stay there forever. I was invited to apply for an associate editor position at a magazine (Body+Soul magazine), and somehow I landed that gig. Six months later, it was purchased by Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, and my stock rose fast. Now I was attached to a much larger corporation, a major brand, and I spent the better part of a decade there, learning the ropes in magazine publishing, including doing news segments on local and national media, like the Today show and GMA. Martha had a channel at Sirius XM at the time, and I got to host a daily show, which was an incredible learning experience, to be live on air for an hour a day.

Then? I suffered the fate that many mag editors have before and since: I got laid off. That’s when I realized I was at a major turning point: I could go interview at other magazines and do it all over again, or I could do something different. So back in 2012, long before anyone was on Zoom, I was working from home, building my consulting and freelance business, learning to juggle multiple clients. I found success helping people articulate, write, and share their messages and content across platforms.

In 2015, I landed my first (of two) TEDx talks, “Stop Searching for Your Passion.” I had no idea what that talk would do. I had no idea anyone would even watch it! Today, that talk has almost 8 million views. I was able to grow my speaking career pretty quickly thanks to that opportunity. My book, Unfollow Your Passion, inspired by the talk, just came out from Atria/Simon & Schuster in 2021. So there was no straight line here — it was all twists and turns! And while I never knew what might happen or what I might do, I always have made sure I was doing something I was good at, that felt good to do. And I still am.

Today, I offer a range of courses, programs, and events for people looking to create lives of meaning through their creative work, and I even coach other speakers to help them shape their TED-worthy talks.

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?

When I was starting out as an associate editor, part of my job was wading through the piles of book galleys that came in, and to choose which to cover in the magazine. We got hundreds, and only ever featured a handful in each issue. One came in about a dog, and I shrugged and said, “Meh,” and passed on it. That book was Marley & Me, which of course was a runaway hit and made into a movie with Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson. Whoops. The lesson is: Don’t be too quick to dismiss, or you may miss something.

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 launching a series of new programs and courses I’m really excited about, which help people go from drained, stuck, and confused to feeling empowered and excited to make work that matters to them. It’s so fun because it allows me to draw on my experience as a brand and messaging consultant, my love of speaking and teaching, and the pure joy of helping people crack the code on their own ideas. Whether you want to launch a podcast or a business, write a book, you name it, and you’re struggling to get clear on what it is and how to make it happen, I can help. I’m trained in a special approach to creative work called the Gateless Method which helps people access creativity and insight without criticism or judgment. It was life changing for me, as it has been for others.

I also run a program called the Speaker Intensive, in which I work with a small group of people to help discover, draft, and deliver their signature talks in six weeks flat, using a process I have developed to help them identify their key idea and craft a talk around it (

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?

Hmmm…I think you’re leading the witness! I have a bit of a counter take.

I will say this: Yes, we should believe in ourselves. But believing in yourself is not a yes or no question, nor is it a shortcut to success; it means you’re willing to know yourself, and trust your own ability to grow, evolve, and improve. I think it’s important to build a relationship with yourself as you would anyone — and you wouldn’t do that by trash talking them or assuming the worst. So you can’t do that with yourself, either. Believing in yourself is a lifelong game, and even the word belief is tricky. I like the idea I read about in Atomic Habits by James Clear, in which he says every habit is a vote for who you want to be. That’s how I see believing in myself: Continuing to advocate for myself and take actions that “vote” for the person I want to and know I can become.

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?

Most people think of confidence the way they think about sunscreen — you put it on before you head out so that you’re protected from harmful radiation.

But that isn’t how confidence works — mainly because you can’t get it before you do the thing you want confidence doing. Waiting for confidence before you take a step or risk of any kind is like waiting to become flexible before you start doing yoga.

A better analogy, and one I use a lot in my work with thought leaders, business owners, and executives, is that confidence is cash; you don’t need it all up front to do something; you draw on courage, which functions like credit: You use it when you don’t have enough cash on hand. You get paid after you do the work.

In other words, confidence is a side-effect of effort and skill, not a prerequisite. If we wanted until we had the confidence to do anything, we’d do…nothing. I don’t know if either of us could have ever been Olympic skiers–but you’d have to have been exposed to it or wanted to at some point. Did you? Me neither.

When you watch someone confidently execute a thing — give a speech, cook a meal, dive gracefully from a great height — you’re seeing the effect of effort and practice. The courage you need to do these things does not require that you be fearless; in fact, it requires that you take action in spite of that fear. If there were no fear, courage wouldn’t be as admirable a trait, or as rare.

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

I landed a client in the early years of my business who ended up paying me just enough to keep me from looking for other clients. I also didn’t have much time to look for other clients. Either way, I did that thing where you get both dependent and lazy, and start to over identify with one client or project. After a few years, I knew I had to leave because I realized it was an untenable and emotionally unhealthy situation to be in. But. I was getting paid and I was afraid to leave that gig. Remember, I wasn’t even employed by them! It was a consulting gig. And still: I got too attached. I believed that I couldn’t do it on my own, that maybe I was nothing without them. This is very dangerous thinking. Because I wasn’t sure I could do it on my own, and I wasn’t sure I had value on my own, I stayed — longer than I should have. And so this lack of belief caused me to stay in a not-good situation with people who made me feel pretty bad about myself. It limited my options, my opportunities, and my income. And what’s worse is I kept defending them, which is interesting — I had in fact so overidentified with my role with them that I thought believing in them WAS believing in myself. It was messed up.

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?

One day, that one client insulted me in front of the rest of the team. And I hit my limit. I had to leave. It wasn’t a conversion moment wherein I went from not believing in myself to believing in myself. It’s more like, I couldn’t believe I’d been tolerating this kind of behavior. What really pushed me over the edge was that I told friends about what was really happening at work, and in fact they were more like, “I CANNOT believe you. You cannot stay there.” They were right.

Everything felt very dramatic. And then a cool-headed colleague of mine set me straight. She said, “You just need to replace that client.” How? I said. I can’t just replace them! “Yes, you can,” she said. “And you will.”

She was right. I left and didn’t look back. Not because of what I believed, but what I no longer believed — namely, that I couldn’t do it on my own. Which was patently untrue. And with more space and time in my schedule, I was able to pursue work that was far more aligned with me and far more profitable. That year I doubled my income.

Have I had scary moments since then? Sure. What business owner hasn’t? But one thing I learned is that if anyone, colleague or coworker or client or partner, wants you to believe you can’t stand on your own? Run.

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

1 . Forget “faking it.” In an age and culture that prizes authenticity (or at least says it does), I find it interesting that this advice persists. Pretending you feel a certain way, and suppressing who you are or how you feel doesn’t usually go so well. Part of believing in yourself is being ok with where you are right now. If you’re great one on one but are nervous in front of a crowd, on what planet will it work to “pretend” you’re cool with stepping onto a stage? Believing in yourself requires honesty and vulnerability, and people appreciate it in others, and there’s nothing wrong with being new to a thing. If you struggle with impostor syndrome, you already think people think you’re faking it. Why would you embrace this idea? You can believe in yourself without believing you’re the best at something, nor that you have to be. The more honest you are with yourself and others, the more open you’ll be to learning so that you actually can build more confidence.

2. Don’t wait for confidence; earn it. Waiting for confidence before you take a step or risk is like waiting to become flexible before you start doing yoga. Not how it works. Confidence, like flexibility, increases the more you practice. It doesn’t happen overnight. It must be earned incrementally. That’s what makes it so valuable and why true confidence is so unmistakable. If it weren’t worth earning, it wouldn’t be worth much.

If you want another analogy, think of confidence as cash; you don’t need it all up front to do something; you draw on courage, which functions like credit: You use it when you don’t have enough cash on hand.

I say this because people ask me all the time how I became so confident. And I have to laugh! Confidence isn’t a mood. It’s the side effect of actions you take over and over again. It’s also not an on/off switch. It’s not like one day you wake up fully confident so you can do anything. Confidence is specific and applies to some situations more than others. I’m great on stage with a microphone, but put me in a drawing class I took a few years back? I was paralyzed because I had no idea what I was doing.

Think about what you want to be confident in. If you want to be confident doing a thing more than you actually want to DO the thing, well, then it’s worth asking why. Confidence isn’t about being cool or coming off a certain way. It’s hard work, so if you’re going to earn it, it should be for a good reason.

3 . Look for evidence. If you want to make a case for believing in yourself, you need evidence. And you have plenty. I show people how to mine their memories, their stories, their lives, for evidence of all the times they were able to achieve things, measure improvement, feel capable and engaged. What we look for, we find. Are you looking for the right things? Or are you focused on flaws?

We don’t base your self confidence only on what happened today, for instance. You’ve been living a whole life, and had countless things happen, met lots of people, had good and bad experiences. As they say, what you focus on flourishes. So begin to train your attention on all the things, opportunities, relationships that have resulted from your effort, skill, curiosity, and openness. There’s so much you can be proud of and sure of. You may have forgotten about it. It’s well worth remembering.

Try this: Write for 10 mins, without stopping, to this prompt: A time when you nailed it. Literally sit down, set a timer, and start writing about a specific scene, moment; allow yourself to relive it, to remember what it was to feel that way. You felt it once, you can feel it again. You may even discover new insights in the process. Plenty do.

4 . Use trust as a shortcut. I have been doing this for years and didn’t realize I was doing it, and then it occurred to me: THIS is why people think I’m confident, or why I might come off that way. It’s not because I think I’m super special; it’s because I trust first. That’s one of the definitions of confidence, actually: “Firm trust.” And when you decide to trust someone else first, the effect is “confidence.”

I find this risk well worth taking, especially when it comes to meeting new people or speaking in front of people. I decide that I can trust them, with no evidence to the contrary, and I treat them as if they are trusted. And the minute I think I cannot, well, then I can revoke that trust very quickly. It’s a short cut because it actually speeds up connection and allows you to get a sense of someone right away. It’s not a gimmick; I am not pretending to trust someone. I’m doing it. And it benefits us both. Try it. I’m telling you. Go in trusting and you get to connection quicker, and bring out the best in someone else.

5 . Make it less about you. I’ll admit, I roll my eyes a bit at the word “confidence” and even the idea of “believing in yourself” as requisite for achieving things. Because where we go wrong is getting all tied up in ourselves, and how other people might think of us.

One of the most freeing parts of being an adult is realizing most people are not focused on you. At all. I don’t say this to be insulting, but really, I mean it: No one thinks about you nearly as much as you do! Trying to focus more on ourselves trying to coax this confidence out of hiding, or to hopefully decide we’re worth trusting, liking, loving, is to lose sight of why we want that self confidence in the first place: So we can do things. Connect with people and projects. Make things matter. Live lives of purpose and meaning.

Waiting until you’re confident to do that is like waiting for the right outfit so you can walk out into your life. OMG no one cares what you’re wearing, seriously. If we get caught up in how we feel about ourselves every second, we risk missing amazing opportunities right in front of us, checking the mirror to see if we’re worth it. Stop looking! Turn that attention outward and away from that rabbit warren of self loathing and self doubt. There is no “one day” where you’ll feel perfectly ready and prepared. And if you wait for that one day, you could be missing all the many, amazing days passing you by.

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

You won’t “stop” self criticism because the critic is in your mind, a function of your and my conditioning. But we can decide to dismiss most of what it says. The critic may think it’s “protecting” us, but it’s really operating out of fear, and gets very loud when you’re on the verge of breakthrough. It wants to keep you small, safe, and away from risk. Not a great way to do exciting new things.

Here’s one way to begin to dismantle the critic, or at least keep it from stepping all over you. It’s a rule I adhere to in all of my programs and workshops: Do not disclaim. Do not make excuses for yourself, do not apologize before you start talking. Do not broadcast a million reasons why you’re not worth listening to before you get to your point. Make it a practice to just…say what you want to say, make your point, share your idea — without qualifying it, excusing it, or apologizing for it. You’ll be surprised at how you are listened to and received. And you’ll never go back to it. Warning: You will start to notice how many times people do this and it gets very annoying.

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

I really don’t love all the attention we pay to this. Imposter syndrome is not a syndrome, it’s not a sickness, it’s not an incurable disease you’re stuck with. It doesn’t come through on a blood test. It’s worth checking out that feature in The New Yorker on the topic (“Why Everyone Feels Like They’re Faking It”), which shined a light on the fact that if we spend so much energy pathologizing ourselves, then we’re doing little to address the systems and institutions that make us feel we don’t belong there to begin with.

I know we all suffer bouts of crushing anxiety and sheer terror that we’ll fail or be found out, but what I do now is question the source. Why do I think that? Chances are, everyone else feels the same way I do, because I can’t imagine I’m that special. OK, so what if we are imposters? What if we are always figuring things out? So what? I love Seth Godin’s take on impostor syndrome: He says that he wakes up feeling like an imposter every day, and it’s a good thing because then he knows he’s trying something new. A great way to not feel like an imposter? Do the same thing forever. Yeah, I’m not signing up for that either.

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’d love to inspire a movement: To ignore 90% of what other people think about you or what you’re doing. To live your life on purpose, and not to accommodate, please, or suit other people. Sounds like a good idea, but it’s tough because we’ve been conditioned from a very young age to believe certain things about ourselves and others, that this makes you good or successful, and this will make you bad or unhappy. Do you know how many people warned me I’d be unhappy or unfulfilled if I didn’t get married and have kids? I did neither of those things and am incredibly happy with the life I’ve created. Like a lot of kids I strived hard in school, earned straight As, yearned and worked and achieved accolades, awards. That’s great and all, but what I also spent a lot of time doing was ensuring that other people and institutions approved of me. Not a great way to inspire independence. When you’re taught first and foremost to get things “right” and not make mistakes, it’s hard to get a real sense of yourself and what you want, and you end up wanting or needing other people to tell you who you are or what you should do, or want.

I want people to access their creative power, their voices, and use them to create lives of independence so that we are well positioned to help one another, to build strong communities, rather than cults of jealousy, envy, and hate. In particular, I want women to recognize that there is no one way to live a life, that you need not marry, have kids, or frankly, do anything people expect you to do in order to have a fulfilling and fabulous life. We have far more power than we think, and the biggest lie we’re ever told is that it’s wrong, unsafe, or unwise to use it.

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’ll be honest, I loathe this question. Only because I don’t see the point of just meeting someone once, to what, say you met them? I’ll tell you what I think would be fun: Having Tina Fey text me on a Friday to come meet her and Amy Poehler for margaritas. And for that to be a totally normal thing. I never met Tina Fey, but I did see her in the bulk aisle at Fairway once on the Upper West Side. We locked eyes for a second; I made no sudden moves, as if I’d just crossed paths with a snow leopard. I said nothing, of course.

I’m also a Peloton fan, and would love to go shopping with Cody Rigsby or dancing with Robin Arzon. I mean, how fun would both of those things be.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

If you loved the TEDx talk, “Stop Searching for Your Passion” (nearly 8M views!), download a free chapter of my book, Unfollow Your Passion at And if you want to learn about the five half-truths that are keeping you from living a full life (and yes, confidence is one of them), download my free course, The Passion Trap at

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


  • Savio P. Clemente

    TEDx Speaker, Media Journalist, Board Certified Wellness Coach, Best-Selling Author & Cancer Survivor

    Savio P. Clemente, TEDx speaker and Stage 3 cancer survivor, infuses transformative insights into every article. His journey battling cancer fuels a mission to empower survivors and industry leaders towards living a truly healthy, wealthy, and wise lifestyle. As a Board-Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), Savio guides readers to embrace self-discovery and rewrite narratives by loving their inner stranger, as outlined in his acclaimed TEDx talk: "7 Minutes to Wellness: How to Love Your Inner Stranger." Through his best-selling book and impactful work as a media journalist — covering inspirational stories of resilience and exploring wellness trends — Savio has collaborated with notable celebrities and TV personalities, bringing his insights to diverse audiences and touching countless lives. His philosophy, "to know thyself is to heal thyself," resonates in every piece.