Eleanor Roosevelt gave the following advice on overcoming insecurity. She discusses her “ugly duckling” appearance, low self-esteem, and overcoming it all by living a life in service of others. She gained her strength by helping others. This inspiring lesson can be found along with other great quotes in Dale Carnegie’s Scrapbook: A Treasury of the Wisdom of the Ages.

Eleanor Roosevelt on overcoming fear


“I CRAVED ATTENTION all through my childhood, because I was made to feel so conscious of the fact that nothing about me would ever attract attention or bring me admiration. I was told that I would never have the beau that the rest of the girls in the family had had because I was the ugly duckling….

I was ashamed because I had to wear made-over dresses from clothes that my aunts had worn… ashamed because I couldn’t dance and skate perfectly as others did… ashamed because I was different from other girls… ashamed because I was a wallflower. I still remember how thankful I was because a certain boy once asked me for a dance at one of those Christmas parties. His name was Franklin D. Roosevelt.

For over twenty years I was devastated by self-consciousness and fear. My mother, grandmother and aunts had been famous beauties in New York society, and I was ashamed to be the first girl in our family who was not a belle. My mother would sometimes say to visitors, “Eleanor is such a funny child; so old-fashioned that we call her ‘Granny.'” The big thing that eventually gave me courage was helping people who were worse off than myself.

For example, in 1910, my husband was a member of the New York State Senate, and he and eighteen other Assemblymen were waging a war against Tammany Hall. These Assemblymen spent much of their time holding conferences in our home in Albany both day and night. So I visited the wives of these men. I was shocked to find that many of them were spending their days and nights in lonely hotel rooms. They knew no one in Albany except their husbands.

I found that by trying to cheer them up and by trying to give them courage, I developed my own courage and self-confidence.

Fear is the most devastating emotion on earth. I fought it and conquered it by helping people who were worse off than I was. I believe that anyone can conquer fear by doing the things he fears to do, provided he keeps doing them until he gets a record of successful experiences behind him.” – Eleanor Roosevelt on fear and courage

Source: Dale Carnegie’s Scrapbook: A Treasury Of The Wisdom Of The Ages
Cover image: Kheel Center (CC BY 2.0)