Home » How to Build Self Confidence: CeCe Olisa (Transcript)

How to Build Self Confidence: CeCe Olisa (Transcript)

Full text of lifestyle blogger CeCe Olisa’s talk: How to Build Self Confidence at TEDx Fresno State conference.

Listen to the MP3 Audio here:


CeCe Olisa – Co-Founder of the CURVYcon

Each morning, I look in the mirror and I tell myself one thing to boost my confidence:

“Don’t wait on your weight to live the life you want.”

My name is CeCe Olisa, I co-founded the CURVYcon, a plus-size fashion convention during New York fashion week. I’m also a lifestyle influencer, which basically means I share my life with thousands of people on the internet.

Growing up, I always wanted to be on stage – dance, theaters, singing… I loved it all. It takes confidence to go out on stage and perform, but luckily for me, there was no shortage of love and validation in my family.

I like to think of confidence as a big red balloon that can either soar or deplete. My parents had the challenge of raising three daughters and making sure that each of our competence balloons with sky high and full. they did a great job. 

Baby CeCe had a soaring competence balloon until around elementary school. I was the only Nigerian girl in my class, but that wasn’t a problem. I was significantly taller than the other girls. And instead of long, straight hair, I had big kinky natural hair, but those things weren’t a problem either. The problem was my body.

According to the national report on self-esteem 98% of girls feel that there is an immense pressure from external sources to look a certain way. In elementary school, a teacher pulled my mom aside to let her know that while I was a good dancer, I would not be allowed in our school’s elite dance group because I didn’t have a dancer’s body. For the first time my confidence balloon lost a little bit of air.

I went to a performing arts high school with famous alumni, like six times Tony award winner, Audra McDonald. My junior year, a teacher told me privately that while I had a great audition for the school musical, he just couldn’t give me the part I wanted. Why? 

Well, he said there would be that scene where you’d have to admit that you made love in the back of a car. And it’s simply unrealistic that someone of your size would fit in the back of a car. As I listened to a teacher that I respected tell me that my body was the reason he was choosing to ignore my talent my face got hot with embarrassment I’ve not formed in the pit of my stomach. I thanked him for his feedback and I rushed out of his classroom just as tears began to fall down my face.

I wanted to quit, but there’s an expression amongst us Nigerians – Niger know they carry lasts, which in my family meant – “If you have a goal, you don’t quit.” You keep working until you achieve it.

My senior year, my classmates voted me most talented. My teachers couldn’t see past my body, but my classmates could. And that gave me the tiny burst of air that my competence balloon needed to move forward.

So after high school, I moved to New York city. I graduated with a degree in theater and I became a working actor doing shows around the country. Then I decided that I wanted to land a role on Broadway. And my weight became an issue once again. In final audition; after final audition, I would have casting directors say, “CeCe, gosh, we love your talent, but your weight!” Did I die? [ph] I’m sure I could get smaller, but I could never get skinny.

By the end of an entire year of rejection by casting directors, my confidence balloon was lying, dead and lifeless on the floor. When I confided in the people I love most that I thought that I would never have the career I wanted… the relationship I wanted… the life I wanted… unless I was skinny. Their response was to hug me and tell me that I was beautiful, but that did nothing to revive my confidence. 

My parents couldn’t revive my confidence for me and neither could my friends. This time I’d have to do it myself. So when faced with the challenge of boosting my own competence that I could do what I loved on stage, I just quit.

I stopped auditioning. I got a corporate job to pay the bills. I developed an eating disorder. I was miserable. And in an effort to stay creative and feel less alone, I got on the internet and started sharing my stories of what it was like to be an awkward plus-size girl in New York city. 

Forbes.com said that “confidence is the outcome of the thoughts that we think and the actions we take”

As my Instagram and YouTube audience gained a following. I went through a process that overhauled and rebuilt my self-confidence through that process. I learned four key steps to building self-confidence. I’d like to share those with you today:

Step 1: Identify your perceived obstacle.

Step 2: Imagine what your life would look like if your obstacle disappeared

Step 3: Address your perceived obstacle.

Step 4: Choose to live the life you imagine today.

That was a lot to take in. All right, let’s break it down:

Step 1: Identify your perceived obstacle.

So for me, I thought that my confidence would greatly improve if I lost a bunch of weight. That may not be the thing for you and that is okay. In order to identify what your perceived obstacle, I invite you to finish this sentence: 

My life would be perfect if ______________

So, what is it? What is that thing that you are using as an excuse to opt out of the life that you really want?

Now comes the fun part

Steps 2: Imagine what your life would look like if that obstacle disappeared.

According to a Harvard psychology study, the brain actually can’t differentiate between a real memory and an imagined one. This is why visualization is so important.

I’ll give you an example. While you think about what your life would look like if you’re obstacle was gone. So I used to fantasize about myself as a skinny person. I’ve never been skinny in my life, but I was obsessed with skinny CeCe and the life that she would live in my head –

Skinny CeCe would travel the world. Skinny CeCe would wear what she wanted, not what would cover her up the most. She’d get up in the morning and dressed without shame. Skinny CeCe would do what I consider the most valuable vulnerable ac I could think of. Skinny CeCe would put a full body photo on her dating profile app.

Now it’s your turn. What is your life look like without your perceived obstacle?

Are you sitting in a big corner office after a promotion? Are you boarding the planes, your dream vacation. While you think about that, let’s move on to step three.

Step 3: Address your perceived obstacle.

Now I’m a firm believer in hiring therapists and coaches when it’s time to level up. So when it was my turn to level up, I hired my first ever therapist. And I immersed myself into the world of online and body positivity.

I decided in order to address my perceived obstacle, I needed to remove skinny as a goal altogether. Now, before you say that I’m promoting obesity, I need you to hear me out for just a second. I was a 10 pound baby. So maybe just, maybe I came into this world as a big girl. And it just is what it is.

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