Taking the Leap: Alicia Johnson On How To Learn To Believe In Yourself

An Interview With Savio P. Clemente

Savio P. Clemente
Authority Magazine

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Start small. If we have a big goal and that is all we are focused on, it may take a while to feel proud and motivated to keep going. If we break it down into small goals or steps we feel like we are making a lot more progress. It build the momentum and silences the critic that says we can’t do it. For me, I love working on creative projects. They take a lot of time and work though. If my headspace is only focused on the end goal- I will feel intimated by the project and feel like I can’t do it. I break it up into small steps, sometimes really small steps, so that I can feel like I can tackle aspects of those projects. It helps me feel confident I can handle the project and it often makes me feel good that I am working on something.

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 Alicia Johnson.

Alicia Johnson is a licensed therapist and coach who helps women find meaningful balance in their lives and at work. She has a successful online business where she helps other women and entrepreneurs tackle imposter syndrome and feel confident in the work they do.

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?

Of course! I grew up very achievement oriented where I got a lot of my identity from getting good grades in school and having big academic goals. I took advanced classes and was always thinking about what career I would want when I grow up. I explored a lot of my hobbies and interests to see what I could be successful in. My family was always supportive of whatever adventure I was interested in and just wanted me to be happy. Our brains can do silly things at times so even though my family was unconditionally supportive, I put this pressure on myself to be perfect and successful.

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

It was a combination of people in my family and amazing professors. Many people in my family are in the helping field to some degree. A lot of people studied psychology or worked in the medical field and I looked up to those people. I saw that they could make a positive impact to the world and were successful in my eyes. Then in college, I got to explore a few different classes in the helping fields and fell in love with psychology and the idea of therapy. Hearing how there are people who can make such a difference in people’s lives when they have no hope or the cards stacked against them seemed like my calling. I have always loved empowering people and social justice so therapy seemed like a way I could do this and make a difference.

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 don’t know if I have any funny mistakes! But what stands out is how much I cared about other people’s opinion early in my career. I was still in that achievement and perfectionism mindset early on so I was very in my head about a lot of things. I would worry about saying the wrong thing or being judged by other people in my classes. By doing so, I wasn’t being authentic and was actually not being the best I could be. Ironic. Throughout my career, I have since become more confident in my own abilities which quiets my mind of trying to please a million people and the best part is- because my mind isn’t all over the place, I am able to be present and authentic with my clients and I am doing the best therapy I have done.

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

I have recently gotten into courses and workshops that are aimed at other therapist entrepreneurs. We are seeing this shift of therapists doing more than just seeing clients and using some of their other creative skills to add additional income streams to their business and it is so fun to be in their corner! Therapists used to be taught that it is selfish if we try to make money or that we have to be martyrs and sacrifice all of ourselves to be a good therapist. And that just isn’t true. We can help people in therapy AND make money. We can be a great therapist AND want to have a lighter caseload. We can love our job AND want to do other things with our time.

I really think this shift is going to help therapists not burnout as much. We have a huge turnover rate in our field and we are often overworked and underpaid. We are often unappreciated in our agency jobs and meant to be workhorses to bill and bring in money. That isn’t why we got into this field. We want to help people but we can’t do that from an empty cup. I have worked with several therapist entrepreneurs and it is so fun seeing them change their mindsets and get in this creativity roll where they are finally unleashing these cool, unique ideas now that they have time and energy to do them.

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. I believe it is crucial to believe in ourselves because the language we use impacts our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. If I think I can’t do something, then it will likely be a self-fulfilling prophecy and I will probably not do great. I will be scanning for evidence that the second I fail or don’t do something that I was right all along and I can’t do those things. However, if I believe in myself, I am going to have hope and motivation to keep going even if there are set backs along the way. Instead of immediately saying, “well I guess I am not meant for this”, I think “hmm, this is hard and I need to change something because I know I can do this!”

A story that comes to mind is actually my own journey of being a therapist. I was burned out and it was impacting my belief in myself and the work I do. I thought I wasn’t doing good therapy, making a difference, and that I was not cut out for this field. I actually signed up to take classes in another field as a backup career because I was convinced I was not good enough. If I had good sessions, then it was a fluke. When I had a tough session, I blamed myself.

Then, during the pandemic, we moved to online therapy and the whole dynamic changed. I was taking better care of myself and was noticing better therapy sessions. I was making a difference even though there was so much uncertainty in the world and these big changes with online therapy. I started to see the bigger picture and not blame myself. I fell in love with counseling again. I started to believe in myself and my future in this career. Heck, I even started my own business during the pandemic and now it is my full time job. Now, when I have a hard day, I don’t blame myself unnecessarily. I don’t think that I am not cut out for this field. I have made mistakes and had some failures at times but I never let it bring me down, instead I learn from them. Because I believe in myself and my business, I keep going despite any barriers that come my way.

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?

That’s a great question. I think believing in yourself means you have potential to act on your intentions you have for yourself. I also think it is about looking at the big picture. Can you enjoy being creative and doing art even if all you can do is stick figures? Heck yes! Can you enjoy sports and moving your body and doing a hobby even if you aren’t going to go pro. Yes! We don’t have to tie our worth or career in things that we do. If I value being successful in my career, sometimes that means a career change. If we want to be happy and not feel guilty- maybe we start small! Think of the big picture and don’t get so focused on the end goal, but rather the process and values we can act on along the way.

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

There was a time I thought I didn’t believe in myself but looking back, I was falling into the similar trap as the above examples. I thought in order to be successful I had to stick it out as a counselor in community mental health and if I couldn’t do that, then I was not cut out to be a therapist. I was too narrow in my thinking and being out of that headspace, I now see that I did believe I was a hard worker, worthy, motivated, determined person. At that time, I thought my only choice was to leave the field. I wasn’t looking at all the options. Until I saw the big picture of other ways I could be happy as a therapist, I really felt like I had one option. Now I see that I have a ton of options to be happy and successful as a therapist. Burnout really impacts our ability to see all the choices.

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?

Probably the first few months into my practice. I took the leap into private practice and started my own business, without any formal business training. I was on my own and I had to believe in myself and my business to keep going even during the hard times.

In the beginning stages, I was still worried about achieving for others. I was worried what old colleagues would think of my practice decisions. I was overthinking marketing decisions. I was trying to fit in to other people’s mold of what a practice owner and therapist looks like. That wasn’t brining me joy or success in my business. It wasn’t until I stopped caring about other’s opinions that I was able to shine. I tapped into my creative side and added things to the business that I enjoyed, even if other’s wouldn’t agree. I was authentic and showing that true self in my business. And the best part was- it was working. I was not only happy but that is when my business took off. I got to connect with great clients. I build collaborations with other like-minded therapists. I was using all my skills and really loving my job.

What are your top 5 strategies that will help someone learn to believe in themselves?

1 . Self-Compassion! To start with self-compassion, think of what you would tell a friend going through a similar story. We are often hardest on ourselves so by thinking of what we would tell our loved ones, it eventually clicks that we also deserve that! For me- I was always telling people to be their authentic self and that if other’s didn’t like it, then those aren’t the people that matter. But it was hard to turn that inwards. Eventually, after enough practice, it clicked for me. And it has been a game changer since.

2 . Daily Intentions. Set an intention for the day. Something small but powerful such as “I will laugh today” or “move my body”. An intention is not as narrow or strict as a goal yet provides hope and momentum to be able to reach it. When I get into my perfectionism ruts and can’t seem to slow down or enjoy self-care, I set intentions for joy. Each day I tell myself that I will do something for the sole reason that it makes me happy. By going into the day with that intention, even if it is something small, I know that my happiness matters and I will do something to make that happen.

3 . Gratitude. Gratitude is when we practice being thankful or appreciative of something or someone. This helps us believe in ourselves because it stops the negative spiral going on in our head. It helps slow down our thoughts and helps us focus on good things rather than being blinded by negative things. I practice gratitude at night because sometimes my perfectionism likes to point out all the things I didn’t do that day. A negative spiral can start when then I feel bad and like I am not doing enough. Instead, I practice gratitude where I reflect on what I was able to accomplish. Maybe I didn’t complete my to-do list but maybe I did have more fun with my friends that day. I can focus on that and it makes me realize the to-do list isn’t everything.

4 . Fake it till you make it. As silly as it sounds, it can work. The language we use with ourselves matters. If we tell ourselves we are capable of something, even if we don’t fully believe it, we can still have momentum and drive to do something. If we tell ourselves we can’t do something, then we can have a harder time making that happen. Whenever I am about to give a big presentation and I notice some imposter syndrome kick in, I tell myself how confident and knowledgeable I am. I tell myself how fun it is and how I am going to rock it. That hypes me up more than if I focus on how anxious I am.

5 . Start small. If we have a big goal and that is all we are focused on, it may take a while to feel proud and motivated to keep going. If we break it down into small goals or steps we feel like we are making a lot more progress. It build the momentum and silences the critic that says we can’t do it. For me, I love working on creative projects. They take a lot of time and work though. If my headspace is only focused on the end goal- I will feel intimated by the project and feel like I can’t do it. I break it up into small steps, sometimes really small steps, so that I can feel like I can tackle aspects of those projects. It helps me feel confident I can handle the project and it often makes me feel good that I am working on something.

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

Practice giving yourself grace. Change is not easy, even good change. We are unlearning our old habits and patterns so it is normal to have some setbacks along the way. Be kind to yourself. Don’t shame yourself or give up. Understand that this is part of the process and keep trying and learning.

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

Yes! It doesn’t mean you are cocky or full of yourself if you have confidence or believe in yourself. It also doesn’t mean that you think you are better than others just because you believe in yourself. I think especially for women we are told we are selfish, cocky, full of our self, etc. That is b.s.

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

You’re not alone. When we are in the imposter syndrome spiral we feel like we are alone and that we are the worst. The truth is, everyone feels these thoughts at some point. You are not weak or bad or stupid for having these thoughts. It is a part of the human experience and it doesn’t have to last forever. You can get out of it!

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.

Better access to mental health resources! There are so many systemic issues in the mental health field from insurance hassles, access to services, therapist pay, and so on. These have a ripple effect and result in therapist burn out which then leads to poorer services for people. This has to stop! People deserve great quality therapy services AND therapists deserve to be paid a good wage. We can do better as a society.

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 :-)

Reese Witherspoon! She is an incredible business woman and has done a lot for equality in her field! I would love to chat with her about ways to improve mental health resources and improve women’s self-esteem!

How can our readers further follow your work online?

My main website is www.aliciajohnsononlinetherapy.com as well as www.aliciarjohnson.com I am active on instagram and threads, my username is @aliciajohnsonlmft

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

About The Interviewer: Savio P. Clemente coaches cancer survivors to overcome the confusion and gain the clarity needed to get busy living in mind, body, and spirit. He inspires health and wellness seekers to find meaning in the “why” and cultivate resilience in their mindset. Savio is a Board Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), #1 best-selling author, syndicated columnist, podcaster, stage 3 cancer survivor, and founder of The Human Resolve LLC. He has interviewed notable celebrities and TV personalities and has been featured on Fox News, The Wrap, and has worked with Authority Magazine, Thrive Global, BuzzFeed, Food Network, WW and Bloomberg. Savio 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. Savio pens a weekly newsletter in which he delves into secrets to living smarter by feeding your “three brains” — head

, heart

, and gut

— in the hope of connecting the dots to those sticky parts of our nature that matter to living our best life.

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Savio P. Clemente
Authority Magazine

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