If anyone’s qualified to talk about making your dreams come true, it’s three women who have refused to take no for an answer. Mindy Kaling, Hoda Kotb, and Savannah Guthrie all just happened to do so on TV—Kaling in her revolutionary series The Mindy Project, and Kotb and Guthrie co-hosting Today on NBC. But even as Kaling’s built a reputation for asking “why not me?” and encouraging women to go for everything they want, it’s easier said than done. That’s where determination comes in—something the three can all speak to, especially when it comes to the long hours and hard work involved.
At Glamour‘s 2018 Women of the Year Summit on Sunday, November 11, the three gathered for panel called Closing the Dream Gap: Showing Girls (and Ourselves) What’s Next. Their biggest advice for women looking to build their confidence and make their dreams come true is to put in the hard work. From that, they say, comes the confidence and the courage to think you can achieve anything.
“I always just did the leg work, and it meant I never came to anything unprepared,” Kaling said. “The only reason I was able to be confident was because I literally couldn’t not be confident with the amount of research and preparation I did.”
Guthrie echoed a similar sentiment. “The work is the confidence,” she said. “Confidence isn’t some slogan. Confidence is earned.”
Kaling noted that self-love is also a really big part of success. The actress and comedian says that when she Googles herself, she notices how people say she’s really “into” herself. “It’s not that I’m into myself,” Kaling said. “It’s that I don’t hate myself. In my career, a lot of people have a problem with being around women who don’t hate themselves. Never hate yourself.”
Kotb, Guthrie, and Kaling also discussed a conundrum many women face: the balance between being assertive and coming across as “likable.” Kaling told a self-deprecating anecdote about how never being perceived as conventionally attractive by men actually made asking for things easier. “When you are ignored in that way, things like confidence and asking for things in your professional career become a little easier,” she said.
Guthrie added, “Growing up, I was not an attractive child. Boys didn’t like me. Physical appeal was never what I had, so it helped me to come up with a personality and lean on other things. What gives you success in the longterm comes from the inside.”
Kotb shared a story about how her friend Maria Shriver’s 22-year-old son was the one who complained about the less-than-appetizing food at a luncheon filled with extremely powerful women. She said that many of the women there, despite being so successful, were afraid to voice their dissatisfaction for some reason.
The trio hopes this thinking changes for other women, but on their own terms. “I want [my daughter] to be confident and humble,” Guthrie said. “I want her to be gentle and bold.” Kotb added, “You can change and evolve by watching other women.”
At the end of the day, all three of these women say dreams come true when you figure out how to swallow your fear—even temporarily. Fake it until you make it. “I was fearful and insecure, and I just did it anyway,” Guthrie said. “It took me a long time to feel solid and secure. Maybe just yesterday.”
Kaling spent years being frustrated with the lack of diversity in Hollywood. That’s what motivated her to go after her acting and writing dreams. “I’ve always just had a chip on my shoulder,” Kaling said. “When you’re raised without seeing representation and you’re forced to relate to Jennifer Aniston on Friends, you’re just starved for it for so long.”
Representation is what helped Guthrie realize she could be lead anchor of a news show. “I felt like I connected with [Katie Couric], ” she said. “She made sense to me. And I was like, ‘Maybe I could do that.'”
Overcoming adversity and fear—specifically breast cancer and a divorce—is what helped Kotb see things more clearly. “You start to think to yourself, ‘Well, now what am I afraid of? What am I afraid of?” she said. “I remember I woke up one morning and I got four words: You can’t scare me. All of a sudden I became empowered.”
A similar phenomenon happened to Kaling, too. After she broke a gender and race boundary in Hollywood and found herself working on The Office, she asked herself what else was possible. That’s what she, Guthrie, and Kotb want to happen for all women.
“Why not you?” Guthrie said. “Whatever your dream is, you don’t have to shout it to the world—but in your own mind think big.”
Find out more about Glamour‘s 2018 Women of the Year here.