Taking the Leap: Dr Juanita P Guerra On How To Learn To Believe In Yourself

An Interview With Savio P. Clemente

Savio P. Clemente
Authority Magazine
16 min readMar 27, 2023


Have an attitude of gratitude and focus on your strengths. This sets a good foundation that you can build on.

How you experience life is all about your perspective. I choose to be positive and believe that everything happens for a reason. So even when things go wrong, I look for the good in the situation. Maybe it’s a lesson to be learned or an awareness to gained. No matter what happens I try to focus on the good that can come out of that situation and I turn it into a win. This helps me to feel like I’m in control and when I’m in control I have all the power. The ability to do this, is perhaps one of my best strengths.

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 Dr. Juanita P. Guerra.

Dr. Guerra is a licensed clinical psychologist in NY with over 20 years of experience. She specializes in trauma and has worked for many years with social service departments and the NY Courts to champion the needs of children and their families. She is the author of “Mind Your Business: 6 Key Strategies Guaranteed to Help You Speak and Live Your Truth,” a transformational memoir where she shares her personal and clinical experience to show others how to be more self-aware and authentic and live a more empowered life. To learn more about Dr. Guerra please go to her website @drg.world.

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 born and raised in The Bronx, an impoverished, drug and gang infested borough in NYC unlike any other. The Bronx is a rough setting for anyone to grow up in, but I am grateful to have been reared there as it truly contributed some spice and edginess to my personality. I was also raised with three older brothers, which was rough as well, so I had to learn early on to find my voice and speak my truth. In my youth I had to learn to believe in myself and see my own worth as no one around me seemed to see it. Sounds sad, but it’s not. You see, I am a firm believer that God gives you what you need, not what you want. Apparently, I needed significant hardship early on in life so that I could learn the importance of being brave, speaking my truth, and believing in myself.

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

No specific person inspired me to be a psychologist. Two things inspired me. First, in high school my honors class was given a psychology elective course. Believe it or not, I had never heard of psychology or therapy prior to this class. As I learned about the human psyche and how it evolves and operates, I was fascinated. For the first time things began to make sense to me. Prior to this class, I was really confused by people. I didn’t understand why they behaved as they did. By the end of this class I came to the conclusion that everyone was crazy and that we were all driving ourselves insane trying to be or present as “normal.” This takeaway made me realize how ingenuine we all can be in our efforts to fit-in and be accepted by everyone and the unnecessary suffering that this can create.

The second thing that happened, occurred first. A few years prior to this I had seen the movie Scarface with Al Pacino. There is a scene towards the end of the movie where the character that Al Pacino plays becomes enraged while having dinner in a restaurant. As his character unravels, he creates an uncomfortable scene where everyone in the restaurant is watching him. He goes on to accuse everyone of being fake and living a lie just to look good in the eyes of others. This scene had a huge impact on me because the message resonated with my core beliefs. When I took the psychology class in high school it reaffirmed my belief that we struggle with wanting to belong and fit-in and that the price we pay for being accepted and/or validated by others, is a disconnect from our true selves and unnecessary emotional and psychological suffering.

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 think the biggest mistake I made when I first started was believing that I could heal everyone. I had strong rescue fantasies when I first started my career. Unfortunately, my mistakes were not humorous. In fact, they probably led to some very vulnerable people not receiving the actual help they needed because my ego was too big and I was unwilling to ask for help or refer them to more experienced providers and clinicians. I eventually became aware that I could not help or save everyone, and this was very humbling. My early failures as a clinician taught me two important things. First, I learned that I am not a good match or a good fit for every person seeking mental health support services. Second, I learned that people are in control of their own rescuing and must help/save themselves; all I can do is provide guidance and help to facilitate this process.

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

I recently published my first book, Mind Your Business: 6 Key Strategies Guaranteed to Help You Speak and Live Your Truth and I launched my social media platform primarily on Instagram to promote the message of the importance of living in one’s authenticity and doing the necessary self-growth work to be the best possible version of ourselves. For me the message in the book and the social media platform is really an initiative. My goal is to help as many people as I can live in as genuine a manner as possible and do the necessary work to access their divine gifts and live in their purpose.

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?

When we believe in ourselves, we exude confidence. It completely alters the way we carry and present ourselves. When we are confident, we speak with authority and conviction and people notice this. People get intrigued by our confidence and it makes them gravitate towards us. When you are confident people also tend to trust you more and this can create opportunities for growth and development.

It is important to believe in yourself so that you set the example for others to believe in you as well. Believing in yourself is an important leadership characteristic. If you don’t believe in you, no one else will. You need confidence to achieve the things you want and live the life you desire.

As a clinician I often use self-disclosure in the therapeutic arena. This is often frowned upon by my peers. However, I find that if often serves to even the playing field, so to speak, with clients and creates a more intimate therapeutic bond. When I self-disclose it is often about things that I did wrong or am currently grappling with. I use my personal experiences to show clients that I too struggle and have conflicts. However, no matter what challenges I encounter I maintain my confidence in myself and my ability to figure things out and overcome whatever hurdle I am facing. Using self-disclosure helps the people I work with see the importance of being candid regarding our experiences and it demonstrates my position that no matter what happens we always win when we meet our challenges head on with full faith that we will overcome.

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?

When it comes to believing in yourself the most important thing to do is to be honest with ourselves. You can’t believe or wish yourself into having a skill or a talent that you don’t possess. Believing in yourself has nothing to do with your skills set. It’s about self-acceptance. It’s about having faith in whatever skills or talent you bring to the table and acknowledging your areas of weakness. When you believe in yourself you are comfortable and confident with the totality of that which is you. You know what you stand for, what you believe in, what you can do and what you cannot do. There’s no shame, simply acceptance.

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

When I was young, I didn’t believe in myself. Adults are often dismissive and/or mean towards children. I never felt like the adults around me took my comments or thoughts seriously. I never felt validated or empowered by adults.

While this was hard for me as a child, it really pushed me towards learning to validate myself and not depending on others to do this for me. It also made me lean into my inner knowing and helped me to develop and trust my instincts.

It also taught me to not be dismissive towards children and to empower them and help them find their voice and speak their truth. I believe this to be a big aspect of my parenting style which is why I have confident children that are comfortable speaking and living their truth.

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?

Several years ago, my marriage imploded. The relationship had been riddled with strife and was over long before it actually ended. In processing the loss of my marriage one of the saddest things I realized was that in my efforts to salvage my marriage I had compromised myself; I had stopped living my truth and I had become some watered down version of the real me. Gaining this awareness was embarrassing and shaming. I felt like I had compromised my integrity to myself so that I could remain in an intact family and not be another statistic; in other words, so I could look good to others.

Facing the reality that I was far removed from my true self pushed me to reconnect to my core self and I began working on believing in myself again. I had to confront the reality that I had stopped living in an authentic manner and that my unhappiness was the result of my making poor choices for me. This awareness pushed me to reconnect with and redefine myself. I remembered that the only person that truly needs to validate me is ME. So I began working on increasing my love for myself and I honored my right to live my life my way. Eventually, I received the message that I needed to write my story and show others through lived experience how we can at times lose ourselves but can always find our way back to our true selves. This prompted the writing of Mind Your Business and the initiative to help others live their truth.

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

1 . Have an attitude of gratitude and focus on your strengths. This sets a good foundation that you can build on.

How you experience life is all about your perspective. I choose to be positive and believe that everything happens for a reason. So even when things go wrong, I look for the good in the situation. Maybe it’s a lesson to be learned or an awareness to gained. No matter what happens I try to focus on the good that can come out of that situation and I turn it into a win. This helps me to feel like I’m in control and when I’m in control I have all the power. The ability to do this, is perhaps one of my best strengths.

2 . Build yourself up. Don’t wait for someone else to validate you. Engage in positive self-talk.

We all want to feel good but often want to receive this validation from others. We should not depend on others to tell us how great we are. We need to do this ourselves and it’s easier to do this when we know that no matter what we are doing, we are putting in our best effort and doing the best that we can. When you live life from this frame, genuinely trying to do your best, you should commend yourself often. Be your greatest fan yet stay humble. Find a balance between acknowledging your greatness and remaining grounded. Love yourself in this way and watch how others will love you too.

3 . Confront your fears and areas of weakness. Work to improve these areas of challenge so that they don’t interfere with your confidence.

Fear is toxic and it can cripple you. Don’t be afraid to confront things that scare you or challenge you. Throughout my life I have had to face all types of bullies. What I have learned is that a bully preys on one’s fear and weakness. Once you confront them and set your boundary, they lose all their power in your life. Remember that everything is much scarier in our minds than in reality. Confront your fears and challenges directly so that they don’t usurp all your power and confidence.

4 . Be open to learning from your mistakes. No one is perfect. A confident person learns from their errors and turns weaknesses into strengths.

We are all afraid to make mistakes. No one wants to be embarrassed or make an error that results in something terrible happening or in someone getting hurt. But mistakes are a part of life and help you learn what works and what does not. If you make a mistake, own it immediately. Be accountable for your actions and do whatever you can to correct it. People will respect this much more than if you’re someone who tries to make up excuses or denies any wrongdoing. Be open to learning from your mistakes and let the experience make you a better person.

5 . Learn to control your thoughts. Develop the necessary self-control to focus on that which you want and that which makes you feel good.

This is perhaps the hardest thing to do. If everyone could control their thoughts the world would be a much better place and people would be happier. It’s important to learn to control your thoughts and to not give into what I like to call stinkin’ thinkin’. Negative thoughts rob you of your power. When negative thoughts surface make a conscious effort to replace them with thoughts that make you feel good. Focus on that which you want, and that which makes you feel good. This small act will help avoid a downward spiraling towards fear-based thinking that is disempowering.

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

That’s the fifth strategy above. Learning to control our thoughts is probably one of the hardest things to do. I have OCD tendencies so I’m speaking from direct experience. When my negative thoughts surface, I can easily become fearful and overwhelmed. I learned a long time ago that what you focus your attention on becomes magnified. So when I find myself entertaining fear based thoughts I make a deliberate effort to ‘change the channel’. I acknowledge the negative thoughts and then I intentionally shift my focus onto something that makes me feel better, like seeing my kids’ faces or thinking of a song or movie I love. It really doesn’t matter what you choose to focus on. The act of purposely shifting your thoughts from something negative to something positive helps you gain control of your thinking. As we are growing and becoming better versions of ourselves, the self-doubt and criticism will always try to seep in. Stop it as soon as you become aware of it by using this simple technique.

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

You don’t need the world to validate you for you to matter. Always maintain your integrity to yourself. Be your own biggest critic and use that to improve your areas of weakness. Then work hard to be your absolute best and see how your confidence will build regardless of what others say or think or do. When you put in the necessary work to build yourself up in a manner that is in alignment with what you love and appreciate, you become your biggest fan.

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

Impostor syndrome is all about self-doubt. It’s important that we tune out all that static noise that interferes with us believing in ourselves. If you know that you have put in the necessary time and effort to develop your skills and that you have worked hard to be where you’re at, then own your accomplishments. Walk in your truth and in your power.

Note that if you have any type of doubt perhaps you know deep down that there is some area that you have not developed sufficiently. If this is the case, go back and develop that area further. You see we cannot lie to ourselves. We know deep down in our psyche when we have put our best foot forward and when we have not. If you know that you have applied yourself to the best of your ability there is no reason to self-doubt. Tune out that external noise and chatter that makes you doubt yourself. Remember what other people think about you is none of your business. Only what you think matters!

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.

Many years ago, I saw a movie called “Pay It Forward.” It’s about a kid who is inspired by his teacher to come up with a project to change the world, to make the world a better place. He comes up with the idea that he’s going to do something big and challenging and kind for three people and then these three people in turn each must do something big and hard and kind for three more people and so on. The number of people that are doing extraordinary things for others grows rapidly; it kind of spreads like wildfire. If I could help three people in an extraordinary manner for the sheer sake of being a good human and they could each help three more people and so on, I envision a beautiful wave of love and kindness spreading throughout the world, impacting people everywhere. The thought of this makes my heart smile.

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 :-)

At this point in time, I would love to sit and have lunch with Chris Rock, the comedian. I find him to be very entertaining. About a year ago he was assaulted by Will Smith on TV during the Academy Awards. I admired him taking the high road and not reacting in any way to the assault. That took a lot of self-control. Recently, in his Netflix special, he responded in a very justified manner through his comedy. I appreciated his approach and the candor with which he spoke/joked. I gained even more respect for him, and I remembered what I like most about his humor. Chris Rock speaks his truth always and uses his comedic platform to point out truths that most of us avoid talking about or outright lie about. While some may not like his humor or find him offensive, I appreciate his genuineness and willingness to label and talk about things most of us think are taboo or are too afraid to voice out of fear of being judged or ridiculed. Go Chris!!!

How can our readers further follow your work online?

I have a website, @drg.world, Instagram, @mindyourbusiness_dr.g, and Facebook, @Dr.G.

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.



Savio P. Clemente
Authority Magazine

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