How to Get Free Stuff from Strangers and Build Confidence

Rachel Lee
9 min readSep 5, 2023


I was nominated by my family during our most recent camping trip to find BBQ sauce and ketchup.

Barbeque sauce for the grilled veggies and ketchup for our potato mash. Our dinner would be pretty bland if I didn’t succeed, so the stakes were high.

I left our tent and started walking down the dirt road of the campground.

I spotted my first target: a group of people sitting around a roaring campfire drinking beer. I walked slowly towards them and said hello. The chatter of talking and laughing came to a sudden stop and all eyeballs turned to stare at me. I explained how we just got in, and since it was so late, no stores were open, and did they have some ketchup and barbeque sauce I could use.

The 9 people sitting around the campfire looked around at each other and each shook their heads. Nobody had ketchup or BBQ sauce.

Time to find target number two. I walked further down the dirt road as dusk began to engulf the forest around me. I had reached another campsite, and walked up to the couple roasting marshmallows.

I didn’t notice that there was a dog sitting at the woman’s feet. A big dog with sharp teeth. The dog jumped up and started barking wildly at me. It jumped closer to me barking louder and louder. The woman shouted above the barking “don’t worry, he’s friendly!”. I laughed in my head, friendly. right. I can see his canine teeth hanging out of his mouth and saliva pouring down his lip.

As much as I needed ketchup and barbeque sauce, I value keeping my fingers intact during the process, so I thanked the couple and quickly walked back to the dirt road (the barking dog escorted me the entire way as I sped off their campsite faster than my last-200m-of-a-marathon-sprint).

The saying ‘third time’s a charm’ held true. The barking dog finally stopped biting at my ankles and ran back to his owners. I continued further down the dirt road. Maybe 300m further along, I saw a woman sitting on a lawn chair braiding her daughter’s hair.

Following my now well-oiled routine, I carefully approached and said my spiel. Long story short, the woman was incredibly friendly, we talked for 10 minutes about her love for camping, and she gave me a brand new barbeque bottle and a large container of ketchup.

Mission accomplished.

After my eventful evening of making friends with strangers and almost getting my ankles bitten off by an overly-territorial dog, I thought of how far little Rachel has come in the past few years. I was the one chosen by my family to find ketchup and BBQ sauce because I’m the most “confident”.

But I wasn’t always like this.

A few years ago, I would have gotten nervous about asking strangers for food (and a little embarrassed as well). But now, I don’t give it a second thought. I find it fun.

Actually the most fun I’ve had all year is walking up to random people (CEOs, policy makers, scientists, billionaires) at conferences around the world. I know I’m a weird teenager since having dinner with a scientist I just met talking about the transfection of lipid nanoparticles into maize seeds is my idea of fun. I digress…

How talking to strangers became my favorite thing to do

Whether I’m meeting cool people at a conference, talking with the employee scanning my items at the grocery store or asking strangers in a campground for ketchup and BBQ sauce, I am not lying when I say this is one of my favorite things to do. I like talking with people.

Now for all those people that would rather eat unseasoned veggies and bland potatoes than ask strangers for barbeque sauce and ketchup, you are probably wondering how?
Well you:

  • Walk up to someone
  • Say hello + be friendly + kind
  • Explain your situation and ask for ketchup and BBQ sauce

Okay that was tongue and cheek.

The “real answer” is actually really simple: I don’t care what other people think.

I couldn’t care less if I walked up to a stranger and they laughed when I asked them for ketchup or stared at me like I had a third eyeball.

How I stopped caring what other people think

There is no step-by-step secret formula that exists to stop caring about what people think. It is a long process. But in my experience, it comes down to three things:

  1. Loving yourself unconditionally
  2. Having the confidence in yourself to stay true to who you are. Basically refining your values.
  3. Finding validation within yourself instead of outsourcing your validation to others

1. Unconditional self love

Self love is such a buzzword nowadays I almost hate to use it. We think that self love is having bubble baths and painting your nails. But it is so much more than that.

To me, self love is being able to look at yourself in the mirror and say “damn this person is amazing.”

If you can’t do this, you don’t love yourself unconditionally.

It took me a long time (years) to get to the place I am now with my self love.

Now, I can confidently look at myself in the mirror and say that the person I see is freaking amazing.

I am definitely not an expert on learning to love yourself, but here are some things that helped me:

  • Running!!! It’s my therapy + meditation time. When I run, I feel so powerful and love everything about myself. I challenge you to find something that makes you feel like a confident and powerful bad bitch. Do that thing often.
  • Spend time every single day by yourself. We live in a world with so much stimulus and things/people telling us how to live. Unplug yourself from the noise of the world every day. I spend at least 1 hour every day in silence, alone with my thoughts (no music, podcasts, etc.) I challenge you to sit outside or go on a walk/run for 1 hour a day with no external stimulus. Learn to be by yourself. Learn to listen to your thoughts. Learn to not feel uncomfortable by silence, but love the meditation and thinking that comes in it.
  • Do things that scare you often. An absence of self love stems from fear of incompetence. E.g. “I dislike myself because I am a bad public speaker. I will love myself when I’m good at public speaking.” Identify the fears and insecurities that are holding you back, and do these things often. Remember, you are :sparkles: resilient :sparkles:
  • Find your tribe, and surround yourself with people who lift you up and challenge you to be better.

No self love is a zero sum multiplier. If you don’t have it, it cancels out all the work you are putting in to try to be confident or relinquish the power of other people’s thoughts over you.

Once you love yourself, you will be confident in who you are. Confident enough to walk up to any random stranger and ask for ketchup and barbeque sauce:))

2. Staying true to your values

Once you have self love, confidence naturally comes. But having the confidence to stay true to your values is an added layer of this not-caring-what-other-people-think onion.

It involves:

  • Being completely okay with being the outsider in a group. You don’t feel the need to fit into a group.
  • Not turning on/off different parts of your personality when around different people. You are 100% authentic all the time, no matter who you’re with or what the situation is.
  • Staying true to your values even around people you admire who have drastically different values.
  • Saying no to people, things and opportunities if they don’t align with your values and who you are.

Part of this will come as you learn to love yourself and your confidence grows. Other aspects of being true to your values you can foster.

I have always been a bit of an odd duck out — I never wear brand name clothes (almost every article of clothing I own is thrifted!), I never felt the pull to fit into a group or a clique, I have taken an unconventional path (running ultramarathons at 15, skipping school to speak at conferences, working on projects and talking with professionals in my “free time”) and I’m obnoxiously energetic and excited, contrary to the majority of society.

Building confidence in yourself comes down to refining your values. What do you care about?

For example, my top value is health, both mental and physical. So I will drop whatever I am doing, no matter how pressing, to go on a run or cook a nourishing meal. To me, this is my non-negotiable. I consciously make time every day to become a healthier (and with it happier) human.

What is your non-negotiable? Is your top value your relationships? If so, assess how you are living your life. Do you drop whatever you’re doing to help a friend when they ask or go the extra mile to nurture strong relationships? If the answer is no, you are not living a life aligned to your values.

So “step one” is defining your values and non-negotiables. “Step two” is assessing your current life. See if you are living a life in accordance with those values. Then “step three” is change.

Most people live a vastly different lifestyle from what they say their values are. If you fall into this category, you need to change your life so you are making time for your values and living a life that aligns with them.

3. Finding validation within yourself

Most people outsource their decisions and actions to others for validation.

Majority of people:

  • Blindly follow the latest trends (in fashion, music, etc.)
  • Only wear clothing if it’s brand name
  • Seek approval of friends/family before making a decision

They outsource their decision making to others, and with this, those people gain more and more power over your life. By validating your own decisions, you relinquish the power that others hold over you.

You become completely in charge of your life and the opinion of others begins to matter less and less.

Some people feel intimidated by me. I could never figure out why.

When I was little, I thought it was because I was “different” or “weird”. But now, I think it’s because of the aura of confidence I have.

I’ve realized that people are intimidated by confident people (especially confident women). People aren’t used to interacting with someone who is totally confident in who they are.

Some people call confident people bossy (I’ve been called it many times). I have been criticized for the opinions I hold, how I carry myself and the views I have about my life and the world. I’ve come to the conclusion that “fake it till you make it” with confidence does not work. It must come within. It starts with self love, and *orates* outwards.

I believe that it is my confidence that has led to any “successes” I have had. I put myself into new and scary situations often because I don’t care about what other people might think or say. I’m not special, I work hard. I’m not egotistical, I know who I am and respect myself.

I’ve been reflecting recently on how I built confidence. It comes down to this three layer onion of:

  1. Unconditional self love
  2. Standing firm in your values
  3. Sourcing validation from within

And just like an onion, the order of the layers is important. You can’t jump to layer three without first having layer one.

In summary:

  • Anyone can get free stuff from strangers. It comes down to confidence.
  • “Fake it till you make it” with confidence doesn’t work. It has to come authentically from within. Building confidence takes work. There is no magic button or quick fix to be confident. But this three layer onion model is what helped me:)
  • Self love is the base of everything, including confidence.
  • Identifying your values and creating a life in line with your values is a prerequisite to not caring what other people think. Standing firm in your values is a prerequisite for confidence.
  • Finding validation from within instead of outsourcing your validation to others is the last layer of this onion.
  • Confidence is a superpower! It is so worth the time and effort it takes to build it.

Thanks for reading! I’m Rachel, a 17 year old with a strong passion for food insecurity. I like to run long distances (ultra marathons!) and frequently embark in backcountry adventures in the wildnerness of Canada. My email is always open at:, and you can check out my LinkedIn, website and Instagram.



Rachel Lee

Building the skills to one day build solutions to some of the biggest problems in the world |