Ditch Limiting Beliefs for Your Best Life

Lindsey Novak on

Q: I never finished my college degree, but I did exceptionally well in everything I studied, enough to get high-paying jobs without it. I am in my late 40s; I've considered going back for my bachelor's degree, but I don't know if it will help. Not having a degree affects my confidence; I accept unacceptable behavior in the way people treat me, personally and professionally, but I don't know how to change it.

A: First, here is a brief list of people who have achieved millionaire to billionaire status without having degrees: Tony Robbins, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, Mark Zuckerberg, Grant Cardone, Zhou Qunfei, Michael Dell, Evan Williams, Ted Turner, Jay-Z, Simon Cowell, John Mackey, Anna Wintour, David Murdock and Rachael Ray. Ask yourself if any of these individuals regret not having college degrees.

Degrees, whether from a top university or a bottom-rung college, do not guarantee success in the world of work. All of these people created wealth in different ways, with some starting at the bottom and working their way up in a particular industry or hitting on a business idea and carrying it through to fruition. That doesn't mean attaining a degree is worthless, but it should not automatically connect to a person's level of confidence. There are many unknown graduates who have not reached millionaire or billionaire status, and there are those who have but remain unknown in the public's eye.

Confidence, according to, is "1. full trust; belief in the powers, trustworthiness, or reliability of a person or thing, and 2. belief in oneself and one's powers or abilities, and 3. certitude, assurance." The lack of confidence or low self-esteem can often be traced to an unhappy childhood where parents or significant others, including childhood peers, were extremely critical in their treatment of the child.

Once you stop blaming your lack of confidence on not having a degree, reflect on why your ability to forge ahead and become successful in business has not given you the confidence you need. Many people with and without college degrees would not have made it as far as you have, to maintain a high-paying job in an area where you are self-taught.


It takes bravery to dig into one's childhood, especially a painful one, to recount experiences that might contribute to the tearing down of your confidence. As talk therapy relies on one's trust and ability to talk about and relive the past, it's important to connect with a therapist you feel most comfortable with who also has insight and experience working with clients with similar problems.

One drawback in the therapeutic process is when you rely on a therapist who no longer helps you reach your goals for your visits. Make sure you are moving forward in your goals, which you can decide weekly as you see changes in your confidence levels. If the process turns into a habit without progress, it may be time for an evaluation break. Patients can develop a sense of loyalty and fear changing therapists, so it is important to stay in touch with your reason for being there -- you are there for you, not for the therapist.


Email with all workplace experiences and questions. For more information, visit and for past columns, see



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