Start somewhere. I’ve seen lots of startups push their launch dates back again and again, waiting until everything is absolutely perfect before they push the button. Some of those schools never get started, as the fear over any potential issues builds up into the death-by-a-thousand-cuts of their confidence.

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 Wilim Abrook, Head of Education & Community at LearnCube.

LearnCube is an online teaching platform. To date, they’ve helped thousands of teachers and hundreds of schools to deliver over half a billion minutes of live online classes through their award-winning Virtual Classroom and all-in-one Online School. Wilim is himself an experienced ESL teacher, having delivered thousands of online English classes.

In his role at LearnCube, Wilim works closely with teachers and school administrators, often advising on school management and marketing techniques, as well as providing training on on the Virtual Classroom itself.

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?

Wow, that’s going back quite a bit!

I’m Irish, although I was born in England. My mother is extremely Irish and my father is extremely English. They’re a really funny couple; it’s like something out of a 90s sitcom. I studied fine art in Dublin, in the National College of Art & Design, where I met my wife, who’s Polish. We moved to Portugal a while back, when Ireland became insufferably expensive for our generation, and now we split our time between Porto and Gdańsk. It’s all very pan-European!

I’ve been working online for the best part of a decade now, long enough to remember when the idea of “making $$$ working from home” was only something you’d see in spam emails. I guess they were more prophetic than we all realised!

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

I got into education quite unexpectedly, truth be told!

I had worked in the music industry since my teens, mostly in promotion and management. I saw early on that if you want to work in event production effectively, it’s important to understand each cog in the machine. I firmly believe that a manager or a leader should have a breadth of practical experience, so that they understand what they’re asking of their team.

When I moved to Portugal some years back, I was ready for a little break, so my plan was to just get any day job to pay the bills while I settled in and made the contacts I’d need to break into the music scene over there. As it turned out, the “day job” was something I absolutely fell in love with.

I was very lucky to find a job teaching English online with a school called Iboux, with whom I’m still working. After building up some confidence and experience as a regular teacher, I decided I wanted a career in this field, and their management was extremely nurturing and supportive in that. I approached it with the same attitude as I had in music, trying to expand my knowledge into lots of different areas. I was a trial class coordinator, teacher trainer, curriculum designer, student success coordinator, and academic advisor, as well as being a language student myself. Getting that big picture view of the whole teaching/learning experience only increased my passion for online education.

A couple of years later, LearnCube, the online teaching platform that Iboux used (and still use today), were looking for some experienced teachers to help with sales and onboarding. In all my different roles, I’d gained a fairly intensive understanding of the platform, so it seemed like a perfect fit. I was only in the role a few months when the pandemic came along and the demand for live online teaching skyrocketed. The company grew, and my role expanded with it. And here we are; my current role as Head of Education has me working 100% remotely, providing academic insights into the future development of the platform, meeting fascinating teachers and school coordinators from all over the world, and helping them to get the most out of live online education.

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?

My first week teaching English online, I was pretty nervous, so I made sure to plan everything out meticulously. I’d read every page of the coursework I was going to use with my students, and I’d scripted the classes down to the minute. The first class went pretty well, but my second ever class was a different story. After some quick introductions, I said “Okay, let’s start with unit one, page one,” to which my student, Oscar, replied “No. What is the difference between to sit, and to sit down?”

Panic briefly set in, as I ruffled through my pages of notes.

“Well.. they’re the same,” I said.

“No. Why are there two different phrases if the meanings are the same?”

I was really put on the spot, but managed to rebound quite nicely;

“I’m not sure. Let’s google it together.”

As it turns out, there is a difference between to sit and to sit down, albeit subtle to the point of irrelevance, and Oscar became one of my favourite students. I had classes with him three or four times a week for years, and he remained, throughout, a font of difficult questions that made me a much better teacher.

The lesson?

While prep is of course important, you need to be prepared to go off-script. That means building some flexibility into your lesson plans. I’d spent almost an hour working out exactly what I was going to say in that class. Time wasted, that could have been better spent preparing a very loose plan for all of my classes for the rest of the week!

It also means being comfortable with not knowing the answer.

As a teacher, there’s still an expectation that you should know everything about your subject. What you really need expertise in is guiding your student through the process of learning itself. If you have confidence in that ability, you can teach anyone anything.

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

At the moment, there’s a lot of buzz around AI. It’s something we’ve been considering at LearnCube for a while, but ChatGPT has really pushed it to the front of public consciousness. There are a lot of really interesting ways in which it can be used for education; some are gimmicky, but some have the potential to be real game changers.

I may well be eating my words in the near future, but I think that live teaching is one area that won’t be replaced by AI, as much as enhanced. There are two reasons for this:

Firstly, while apps like ChatGPT are great at producing content and quickly making corrections, they’re not great at pedagogy. Ask them for lesson plans and they’ll either produce vapid study tips, or generic exercise instructions. To be able to tailor lessons to the needs of an individual student, you’d essentially need general AI, and while it may no longer be 30 years away, we’re still not there yet.

The second reason is that people want that personal connection from their teachers. Again, I’m opening myself up to potential ridicule down the road here, but based on what I can see at the moment, I predict that we’ll need to be some years past the singularity before there’s widespread acceptance of fully machine intelligence teachers replacing humans in live classes.

The enhancements, and reduction of workload that AI can offer us though is truly terrific (in both senses of the word!) Using it in my own classes, I can already see a huge reduction in prep time, and it’s allowing me to focus more on my students’ learning path than on coming up with examples and scanning for mistakes.

We’re hoping to incorporate an AI teacher’s assistant into LearnCube in the near term. It will probably be quite simple at first, but once we have our proof of concept out the door, I can see great things down the road.

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?

A friend of mine back in Dublin was a fire performer and choreographer. He was fantastic, and was getting some momentum for his company, putting together shows for small festivals. Practically out of the blue, he was offered a big gig for a private client down the country. He knew that they had a large budget, but because he didn’t believe he was up to their standard, he lowballed them, thinking they would only be approaching him because he was cheaper. As it turned out, they had asked for quotes from a couple of different companies, and ended up giving the contract to someone who was less experienced, less talented, and put on a less impressive show, all because they charged top dollar. If my friend had believed in himself and valued himself more highly, he would have gotten the gig.

If you project self-worth, other people will take their lead from you. Confidence is so important, because without that first shot, you don’t have a chance to back it up.

With language schools, I often see people trying to compete with the lowest price, rather than pitching themselves as a premium service. If you value yourself, and project confidence in your area of expertise, clients will see your value.

There’s another important thing to consider here too — confidence is contagious. If you are confident as a teacher, your students will feel more confident as learners. That positive outlook is really important to keep students motivated and engaged. Ultimately, it will give them a far better learning experience, and far superior learning outcomes.

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 Olympian even if I’m not athletic? Can you please explain what you mean?

No, of course not. A big part of believing in yourself is to do so without delusion.

Constructive confidence isn’t just about thinking you can do anything; it’s about knowing what you’re capable of, and being happy with that.

This is something I’ve struggled with in my music. For years I would beat myself up after every performance, and genuinely feel bad about everything I wrote. I knew I was a very good musician, and I was writing music that was better than what most people could do. But I was holding myself up to the standard of Jimmy Page and Jimmy Hendrix. There’s nothing to bring you down like staring straight up.

Luckily, you don’t need to be the best in the world to have value, pride, and worth.

If we look at teaching and language learning, there are some really takeaways here, which can have an everyday impact. For teachers, it’s back to that point I made earlier — you don’t need to know everything. Your job is to be a guide, and help your students along their own path. As long as you can do that with positivity, you can imbue them with the confidence to learn and grow.

For language learners, don’t hold yourself up to the standard of total fluency. Just focus on communication. Your first objective should be getting a simple point across, and even achieving that puts you bounds ahead of most people. Everyone learns at their own pace, so don’t be disheartened if someone else learns faster than you — be happy that you’re both on the same road together!

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

Sure, plenty of times. While confidence and self-believe is truly important, I don’t think it’s possible to get there without some dips and stumbles along the way. If you’ve never doubted yourself, then something’s not right!

A perfect example of this is when I first arrived in Portugal and was looking for a job. I didn’t immediately apply to be a teacher. I was very self-conscious about my language skills. At the time, I spoke very rudimentary Portuguese. So rather than being pro-active and looking for a job that played to my strengths, I applied for the most menial, basic jobs around. I spent one night leading a pub crawl of drunken tourists from bar to bar for less than minimum wage, and realised that I’d worked too hard in my career to start at the bottom of the ladder again. I started applying for jobs that were more technical and for which I was more experienced than most. One of those happened to be teaching English as a native speaker, and I’ve never looked back since.

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?

As I mentioned, I’ve had plenty of dips in my confidence over the years, and each time I’ve come away stronger and more secure in myself. There was one time in particular though, where I set out from the start to take the bull by the horns.

I had applied for a job managing a market research centre. I had no direct experience in this field, but I knew from the job description that I had all the skills I’d need for the role. It would take some convincing though. Before the interview, I went through all the points they were looking for, and wrote down all the ways in which I knew I would be great for the job. The interview started with the manager looking at my CV and suggesting that I’d made a mistake, and ended with me listing off ideas about how they could improve their website. I not only got the job, but excelled at it, which gave me even more self belief later on in my career.

Think about that next time you’re going for a job or trying something new. Write down all the reasons you’re likely to succeed. Even if you’re already feeling confident, it can give you that extra boost.

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

1 . Start somewhere.

I’ve seen lots of startups push their launch dates back again and again, waiting until everything is absolutely perfect before they push the button. Some of those schools never get started, as the fear over any potential issues builds up into the death-by-a-thousand-cuts of their confidence.

While prep and planning is of course very important, you’ll find that many of the things you were worried about simply get swept away once you’ve taken your first step. Whether you’re starting a totally new business, or switching some major tool or platform, I always recommend a limited “soft” launch. This will help you to identify any real problem areas, and get some wind in your sails for the full launch later on.

2 . Fish for compliments.

This one applies especially to edupreneurs and school coordinators. Unfortunately, the unhappy minority is always the loudest. When running an education business, you’re much more likely to be confronted with negative feedback than positive. It can be really draining, and gives you the feeling that things are going badly. The truth is that students who are happy may let you know in passing, but they’re less likely to go out of their way to provide more formal feedback. When you do get some positive feedback, it can really brighten your day, and remind you that your school, your classes, actually make an impact, and are highly valued by your students.

So how do we encourage students to let us know when they’re happy? — Well, encourage them!

Whenever you have a great class, or a student you know is really hitting their learning goals, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask them to leave you a review on tripadvisor or provide a testimonial. That student-teacher bond is really strong, so most students will be happy to do something to help you out.

When you’ve got a review, testimonial, or even just a nice comment, don’t keep it to yourself. It’s obviously really powerful marketing material, but it’s also motivational gold. Share that positivity with your team, and bring a ray of sunshine into their day. It’s fantastic to be reminded why we’re in this game!

3 . Get out more.

This one might sound a little left field, but it can be vital to our positivity and motivation. As online teachers, we’re often sitting inside for hours on end, staring at our computer screens. There’s also the need to constantly perform. Especially for younger students, teachers need to exude positivity, and that can be emotionally exhausting. At the end of a long day, you may find yourself totally drained. The impact on your mental health isn’t something to be underestimated and, of course, that ultimately affects your ability to feel confident in what you do.

I have three tips here, to tackle different levels of getting away from your computer:

The first is 20–20–20. Staring at a screen all day can really damage your eyes. Doctors recommend that every 20 minutes, you focus your eyes for 20 seconds, on something that’s 20 feet away. Not always possible for teachers doing longer classes, but just looking out of the window for a few seconds every half hour can seriously reduce eye strain, so you’re less tired at the end of the day.

The second is to take a break and leave the house. Even a walk up and down your street will give you a chance to shake out, get some air into your lungs, and relax. You’ll come back after your break a better teacher.

Finally, make space in your calendar for socialising! Working remotely can leave you feeling a little isolated. You might be feeling this without even realising it. In a physical school, you’re always interacting with people in the staff room or on your commute; when working online, it’s important to proactively plan your social calendar, to fight off the blues, and make sure you’re reducing stress.

4 . The right tools for the job.

The barriers to working online have never been lower. In theory, all you need is a laptop and an internet connection. However, there are some important tools that you shouldn’t overlook. If you believe in your business, and you believe in your abilities to succeed, then it’s worth making a small investment of time and money at the outset.

The absolute basics you’ll need are headphones, a good chair, and your teaching software.

Headphones shouldn’t break the bank, there’s no need for recording studio quality gear here, but they should be hard-wearing, comfortable, and have a noise-cancelling mic. You’re going to be wearing these for hours every day, so it’s worth the extra ten or twenty euro to get a better model.

A chair is something that people often overlook. After all, it’s just a chair right? Well, it’s a chair you’ll be sitting in for hours, and take it from me as someone who used a bad office chair for two years, it will ruin your back!

Finally, the software you’re using. Of course, I’m going to tell you that LearnCube is the best, and if you’re teaching 1:1 classes or small groups, particularly languages, then yeah that’s true. However, it’s still important to shop around. Most platforms will offer some kind of free trial or money-back guarantee, so make sure that you’ve chosen the right option for your particular needs. The ideal teaching platform will be intuitive to use, so it feels right for you, and will be able to do many different things. There’s nothing worse than relying on a mess of different apps and windows just to teach an online class.

But wait, I hear you say, what does this have to do with confidence and self-belief?

We’ll it’s about taking that step, and making a good investment with your own comfort and convenience in mind*. You should feel like you are worth it!

*Let’s just take a moment to talk privilege here. One of the most wonderful things about working online is its accessibility. When I talk about making a good investment here, it doesn’t mean you need to spend loads of money. I just mean that you should be willing to push your budget just a little bit more, or put just a little bit more effort into your search, so that you feel that self-worth and self-belief.

5 . Embrace your limits.

You asked earlier about whether confidence will make an olympian out of just anyone. As I said, that’s a recipe for disappointment. Going beyond that though, you can make your limitations into a real force for positivity.

First of all, by accepting the limits of your expertise, you will be more comfortable and stop comparing yourself to standards that are (currently) out of your reach.

Secondly, once you’ve accepted where your limits are, you can push them!

A good teacher should always be learning. There are lots of great courses you can do for free or for cheap, which will help you to learn more about your subject, or keep up to date with modern didactic methodologies.

Finally, once you’re comfortable with not knowing everything, you’ll be more comfortable exploring the subject with your student. In the age of constructivism, and increasingly connectivism, we teachers are no longer expected to be the “source” of knowledge. We are guides, helping the student on their journey. If you don’t know an answer, google it together, bring in outside resources.
I’ve taught English to a lot of engineers, lawyers, and medical professionals in my time. While I might not know a lot about those fields, I was always able to help them to communicate their knowledge to me. That’s what language teaching is all about. Don’t be afraid to open up a YouTube video on the student’s profession, and get them to explain it to you. Don’t be afraid to take a pause to double check something. Above all, don’t be afraid to be wrong, and come back to correct yourself next class.

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

I have some friends who’ve suffered from bouts of deep depression. As an outsider wanting to help, it can be really frustrating, because you know they’re good at things, they’re able for things, but when they’re in that mind space it can feel impossible to believe in yourself. The self doubt is crippling, and they might even struggle to get out of bed.

One technique I’ve seen working really well is achievement lists. It’s just a list of basic tasks. Unlike a to-do list though, the objective isn’t to get everything done, it’s to celebrate anything done as a minor victory. Supporting a friend with an achievement list can really help to snap them out of that mindset and start slowly believing in themselves again.

We can all learn from this technique, whatever our mental health. When you take on something challenging, like learning a new language, it’s easy to focus on a seemingly unreachable goal and loose track of how far you’ve come. Try writing an achievement list of all the things you’ve done that move you towards your goal, no matter how small. Looking at all of these little things in a positive light will help you to feel better about your learning journey overall, so you can move forwards with renewed motivation and confidence.

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

In Ireland, there’s a big cultural taboo around coming across as pretentious or “full of yourself”.

I find that people can be too apologetic. Of course there’s a balance; it’s no fun to be around someone who’s always tooting their own horn, but the opposite is true too. It’s not wrong or vain to be confident and happy in your abilities.

Most times, if you stand tall and proud, people will feel like you have something to offer, not something to prove.

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

This is something that teachers often struggle with –

“Who am I to be teaching this person?”

“I’m not enough of an expert for this!”

I’ll go back to a point I’ve made before here — a good teacher doesn’t need to know everything. You’re there to guide your students on their own learning journey. You might even be right there with them, but the point is to guide and support them.

It’s very like therapy. The therapist doesn’t know you better than you do. Their role is to help you to discover yourself, and guide you to the best conclusions to help you grow. That’s why a trusted teacher can be so nurturing; They’re there to help you get the best out of your own abilities.

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 learn a second language. Taking an interest in different languages inherently requires an interest in different cultures. It’s a fantastic way to break down barriers and feel connected with people all over the world.

As an online teacher, I’ve been really lucky to share a virtual classroom with amazing people from around the globe, from different walks of life, and it’s been a pleasure to learn all about their culture while trying to share something about my own.

At the very least, it can hammer one point home (and I’ve come across plenty of people who need that hammering!) — If someone doesn’t speak your language very well, and you don’t speak their language at all, you’re not the one with the intellectual high ground. We all sound a bit silly when we’re not speaking in our mother tongues, but that demands more respect, not less!

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 mean, not really…

I’m sure there are policy-makers I could talk the ear off, but the person I think it would be the most valuable for me to sit down with right now would be the language teacher who’s struggling to adapt to teaching online. That’s where I have the most to offer.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

If you’re interested in live online teaching, particularly language teaching, you can take a look at our blog over on

We’ve also got plenty of videos and support articles to help you get the most out of your virtual classroom, and adapt it to your particular needs.

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

Cheers. 😉


  • 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.