[#46] An Interview with Clinical Psychologist Dr. Melissa Gressner: self confidence, assertiveness, being a “fit mom”, personal success and using a coach to reach your goals


Dr. Melissa Gressner received her doctorate in Clinical Psychology from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology. She has experience working at university counseling centers, veterans affairs, and the community private practice setting. She is passionate about helping others grow and realize the changes that are possible in all of our lives. 
You can connect with her on:

Coming at you with installment #4 of the “Women Crushin’ It” Wednesdays series, I sat down to interview clinical psychologist Dr. Melissa Gressner to discuss the mentality and mindset one must adopt to gain self-confidence and ultimately, make positive change in their lives.

Without further ado:

1. First, can you describe your background a little bit. What are your areas of expertise?

Melissa began by explaining that she received training as a clinical psychologist, working in different areas including depression, anxiety, trauma and PTSD. She has worked with both men and women, and has experience working with college students and their mental health.

I was most interested in interviewing Melissa when I found out that she is an expert in both self-confidence and assertiveness. As confidence usually serves as the launching point for great accomplishment, I felt that she would be a great candidate for an interview.

We both agreed that self-confidence typically has a large factor in determining an individual’s success in life, and alternatively can expose symptoms related to depression and anxiety.

It’s all about the things we tell ourselves, folks.


2. What does it take to gain confidence in one’s self?

I felt like this was the “money maker” question. I know so many people in this world would be able to obtain their goals if they would just believe in themselves. Often times, they know this too. Habits can take years to break down and change, and negative self-talk is no different.

Melissa began by making a HUGE distinction.

“There is a myth out there where people say, “I’m confident”, or that they feel confident 100% of the time. 100% confidence, in a way, is a myth. We are always working towards confidence, but it’s not possible to be confident in every situation.”

We all get nervous about big tasks. I’ve long said that being vulnerable is nothing more than an indicator that you’re on the path towards something great.

She recommended two things to build confidence:

  1. Set goals.
  2. Be mindful.


Staying present and knowing your outcome are two huge pieces to the puzzle. We need goals to show us where we’re going, but we don’t want to get so caught up in where we’re going that we forget where we’re at.

Melissa closed this question with an awesome point, but first, let me first ask you a question:

How often in your life have you equated your self-esteem, self-worth, or self-confidence to an external identity?

Think job promotions. Think being able to lose weight. Think winning some competition. Have you ever decided that you were “good” or not because of your performance (or lack thereof) in any of these type of things? Most of us have, and it’s affecting us all. Self confidence has to start internally in order to manifest itself into the external world.

3. Are there any social trends that you’ve noticed that contribute to one’s success in an area of life such as eating well and exercising?

Now I know that Melissa has made exercise into a lifelong habit, as she regularly attends the gym that I work at. I wanted to see if she had noticed anything, either in her professional practice OR in the gym setting, that might help someone be successful.

It’s true that going to the gym, in and of itself, is a process. There’s no such thing as working out in a vacuum. What I mean is that we have to do a lot to go the gym- drive there, warm up, interact with people, pay the gym bill, shower, change clothes, leave for work- it’s a lot to deal with. These are things we call “parameters of goal achievement“. We have to first identify what might knock us off our path before we are to be successful at that thing on a regular basis. One of those things, and possibly the most important, is how we’re going to feel when we strive towards our goals in the presence of others.

Melissa brought up a subcategory of this idea that I personally have zero experience with: HAVING CHILDREN.

Mom Stroller Kids
Can’t say I’ll ever know what this is like

“After having a baby, I felt like people didn’t know my past self”.

Melissa is a former triathlon runner. It was a tough pill for her to swallow when she felt out of shape at a gym surrounded by other fit people. She felt both motivated and overwhelmed to get back into her “former self’s” shape, but knew that the process was long. Fortunately for her, she has been able to stick it out- but that doesn’t always happen for everyone.

What have you been putting off doing now as a result of previous experiences?

She has noticed in her practice that some moms make it back to the gym, while others don’t. Equating your gym time to a higher meaning, as she did, sometimes makes the difference.

What does this mean?

When you think of going to the gym as a chore, you are less likely to go. When you correlate previous poor experiences with working out, it’s a mental workout just to get in the car. But what happens when you equate going to the gym as a meditative, soul-feeding practice? What happens when the gym becomes your “ME” time?

We can relate this back to becoming confident quite easily. If I’m out shape, and the gym becomes my “ME” time (a favorable, pleasure-invoking mindset), I’m going to start being more confident day in and day out, but now, for two reasons:

  1. I’m constantly achieving my small daily goal of getting to the gym.
  2. I’m losing weight and actually starting to look better!

5. I know that you’re currently receiving coaching from another person. The belief of FunctionAllies is that the right coach can almost be like hacking the system when it comes to goal achievement. Describe your experience in serving as a client to someone else. What differences exist in your mindset now that you use a coach?

Coaches are like hacking the system, my friend. When you find someone who can blueprint the correct path for you, you no longer have to worry about anything other than “doing“. Even a clinical psychologist can shed insight into WHY the right coach might make all the different.
“At this point in my career, having done this for 10 years, I feel confident in my skills. But by working with a coach, I’m now working with more purpose and intentionality.”

Though Dr. Gressner has far more experience as the “coach”, not the client, she has found the value that another person’s perspective can bring to one’s life:

“The most successful people in life are the one’s who are most aware and insightful.”

When we bring our struggles out in the open, we liberate ourselves from the power they hold over us. We can gain insight and awareness on even our most minuscule flaws by bringing another person on board to help us. Dr. Gressner feels as though she’s been pushed and forced to grow in ways that she has always aspired to, but didn’t necessarily feel like she could do on her own.

“It’s those who seek out others for help that grow and become better.”

Thank you Dr. Gressner for sharing insight with the audience!

As always, I hope you found value in the words we’ve spoken.

Yours In Interviews,

Coach K

I’m currently running a discounted rate on the “Function Ally” coaching services for fall 2015. If you are interested, email me to schedule your FREE consultation at ben@functionallies.com.

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