How to Believe in Yourself

Hanoi, 2017 #cindyproject

Dear friend,

All of us lack confidence in ourselves— how can we learn to have more confidence, and belief in ourselves?

1. Don’t fear ridicule

The first tip I would give to believe in yourself is to not fear ridicule.

We are all slaves to fears of worrying about what others may think of us.

Instead, welcome ridicule. The more ridicule you get, the more it means that the idea you are expressing or sharing with others is interesting, worthwhile, or slightly controversial.

Many of us don’t believe in ourselves because we are fearful of negative feedback. But if we actively seek negative feedback, we will have nothing to fear.

2. You have something valuable to contribute

As human beings, we are all like bees— part of a bee hive. We live, work, and co-exist for the sake of one another. We were born for a greater purpose than our tiny bodies. We were born to share our experiences, insights, and ideas with others. Otherwise, humanity couldn’t prosper as a whole.

Know that you have a duty, and something valuable to contribute to society. This should be a spur to motivate you to put forth your ideas.

I know for myself, I know I have a greater destiny than just serving myself. My destiny and duty is to serve others. By knowing that my duty lies in helping others, I don’t lack confidence. I often lack confidence when I’m trying to impress others, or trying to build up my own image. But when the purpose is to serve others, I have no fear.

3. Share works-in-progress

I know many of us are perfectionists. We don’t like to share half-baked ideas, half-baked concepts, or things which we feel isn’t perfect.

But in reality, everything in life is a work in progress. If you wait for something to be ‘perfect’ before sharing it with others, you will never do anything in life.

My suggestion: overcome procrastination, hesitation, and fear by purposefully sharing things that are in-progress. You can even say that it is a ‘work in progress’ — because everything in life is a work in progress.

If you look at a tree— it grows slowly, steadily, over decades, hundreds of years, and sometimes even thousands of years. A tree will never reach ‘perfection’ — it will slowly grow over time, and one day grow to reach great heights, reaching towards the heavens.

Know that you are constantly growing, and who you are today is totally different than who you were a year or decade ago.

Appreciate the present, and look forward to the future. And have the courage to publish what you feel might not be quite ready. Because even your works in progress will have value to at least 1 other human being in the world.

4. Sharing takes courage

Also realize— sharing yourself, your ideas, and your love takes courage. You are open to ridicule, criticism, and controversy.

If you really care about something, share it. Because if you keep it to yourself; it will die in your mind.

I know for myself, whenever I write something, and I’m about to publish it, I feel a pang of fear. The same happens when I want to take a photo of a stranger. The fear is a sign that we are doing something right.

If we didn’t feel any fear in life, we wouldn’t be doing anything risky or potentially noble.

The more risks we take, the more likely we are to succeed.

So give yourself credit for sharing, putting yourself out there. It takes courage. Give yourself a pat on the back.

5. Start before you’re ready

Often we have ideas for creative projects, business ventures, and other personal projects. Yet we delay — because we never feel like we’re ready. We feel like we don’t have enough experience, money, resources, or opportunities.

Start now. This is the cure to any hesitation. Fortune favors the brave. Start before you’re ready.

We will never be 100% ready for anything— for having kids, for quitting our jobs, or pursuing what we are passionate about.

I know that when I started in street photography, I knew nothing. Yet Cindy encouraged me to share my experiences on my blog, even before I knew anything. This was a great learning experience for me, because I learned not only for my own sake, but for the sake of sharing my experiences with others.

Even now I am constantly learning. And I know that by sharing what I’ve learned along the way, I am better letting these ideas soak into my own brain, while also helping a few others.

So if you have any project idea, start now. The smallest little thing possible, even before you’re ready.

If you’re facing writer’s block, just write a short blog post. If you’re a photographer, just take a few photos on your smartphone. If you want to start a business, register a website (I recommend, build it through, and put up your email saying that you’re open for business.

6. Surround yourself with inspirational idols

Only surround yourself with doers, risk-takers, and people who uplift and motivate you. Avoid the ‘nay-sayers’ — people who always give you reasons why you cannot do something.

As for me, I surround myself with my biggest inspirational business idols — Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, and Kanye West. Regardless of their philosophies, they say what they do, and they do what they say.

With personal courage, I surround myself with my favorite Stoic philosophers — Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus — these guys who spur me to have faith in myself, encouraging me to turn my words into deeds, and for me to build a thick skin.

In photography, I am inspired by the work ethic of Richard Avedon, the bare-bones minimalist approach of Josef Koudelka, and I’m still inspired by the Zen philosophy of Henri Cartier-Bresson.

I only surround myself with the best teachers and role-models. I avoid negative people like the plague.

7. Become physically strong

I know that when I’m physically strong, I’m mentally strong, and I have more faith in myself.

The biggest self-esteem booster I’ve given myself is to start powerlifting. I started off as a scrawny Asian kid, to deadlifting over 400 pounds.

For me, powerlifting is less about competing with others. This is why I will never enter a powerlifting competition. Rather, powerlifting is about competing with myself— by breaking through my self-imposed boundaries, and my own limits.

I once never thought I could deadlift more than 200 pounds. Then I did it. I then wondered, “I wonder if I can deadlift 300 pounds?” Then I did it. I was pretty confused at this point, and I wondered— “I wonder if I can deadlift 4 plates— 405 pounds?” I then one day, miraculously did it. I then realized, all my boundaries were self-imposed. Even now, I’m starting to wonder whether one day I could deadlift 500 pounds.

I feel that mental strength is also derived from physical strength. If you want more confidence in yourself, and to doubt yourself less— get rid of excess body fat (abstain from sugars and simple carbs), and start building physical strength (either bodyweight exercises, or weights at the gym). The more you sculpt your body, the more personal confidence you will have in yourself, and the more you can build your mental confidence too.

8. Listen to empowering music

I have personally listened to a lot of hip hop music growing up. It empowered me. It told me that with enough hustle and hard work, I could achieve anything I wanted in life.

Listen to music which empowers you — which pumps you up, and gets you going. Music which tells you that you can do whatever you put your mind to. Don’t listen to depressing music.

9. Don’t fear death

I feel that all of us ultimately fear death and pain.

If we don’t fear death (or pain), we have nothing to fear.

I think we don’t believe in ourselves, because we are afraid of offending others. And if we offend others, we will lose our jobs, our families, our loved ones, our partners, and then become homeless, and perhaps starve to death. And feel a lot of emotional and physical pain along the way.

But in reality, this is a dumb fear. You won’t die of starvation.

As a practice, I’ve tried to learn how to confront my personal fear of death, almost on a daily basis. This prevents me from being afraid of caring what others think about me.

I also practice dealing with pain. I try to regularly fast, and deal with hunger pains. This has actually made me more mentally strong. Not only that, but I regularly take icy-cold showers, and have become more resistant to pain over time.

If you don’t fear death, you will never be afraid of taking risks.

10. Drink more coffee

Coffee is probably the best drug ever discovered. I know for me, when I’m nicely caffeinated, I feel more endorphins, feel more joy, feel more excited, and want to do more shit.

There is nothing better for me to become pepped up to believe in myself, than a lovely double-espresso.


Don’t lack confidence in yourself. Believe in yourself, your ideals, your dreams, and your passions in life.

You only have one life to live. Why follow the sheep and the herd? You were born to stand out, to stand up for your own ideas— and to share them.

Don’t fear criticism, pain, or death. Consider each day like your last, and you will always employ the fullest of each day to pursue your passion, and you will never lack confidence in yourself.