View from Venus

#5 - Dealing with Imposter Syndrome with Mikaela Kiner

Episode Summary

In this week's episode, guest expert Mikaela Kiner, author of Female Firebrands: Stories and Techniques to Ignite Change, Take Control, and Succeed in the Workplace, joins us to talk about imposter syndrome, mentoring, and amplifying the work of other women. We wrap up with our best tips and advice for dealing with imposter syndrome in higher ed and in life and at the end we'll have an assignment for our listeners- when you find yourself feeling a bit of imposter syndrome sneaking up on you, try out one of our suggestions and let us know how it goes and share your story on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook and tag us @university_of_venus on IG and @UVenus on Twitter or post it on our Facebook page at and we will share, retweet, and amplify! Find University of Venus on Instagram @university_of_venus , Twitter @UVenus , and Facebook

Episode Notes


Topics Discussed in this Episode:

Resources Discussed in this Episode:

Music Credits: Magic by Six Umbrellas


Episode Transcription

View from Venus Episode 5

Mary Churchill: [00:00:00] Hello everyone, and welcome to this week's episode of the View from Venus. I'm Mary Churchill, and today I'm joined by Meg Palladino and Leanne Doherty, and today's guest expert is Mikaela Kiner. In today's episode, we'll be talking with Mikaela about imposter syndrome, mentoring and amplifying the work of other women.

[00:00:25] You will walk away with our best tips and advice for dealing with imposter syndrome in higher ed and in life. And at the end we'll have an assignment for you. Mikaela Kiner is the founder of Reverb, which helps companies create a healthy, inclusive culture that engages and inspires employees. She is also the author of Female Firebrands.

[00:00:45] Female Firebrands is an honest, modern and solutions oriented guide for dealing with situations women know all too well: sexual harassment, not being taken seriously, and being talked over, passed over, underpaid and underappreciated. Earlier this fall, Mikaela wrote a piece on imposter syndrome and we asked her to join us on View from Venus because we wanted to get her advice and how those of us in higher ed can do a better job of dealing with imposter syndrome.

[00:01:12] Meg Palladino: [00:01:12] Mikaela, welcome to View from Venus and thank you for joining us.

[00:01:17] We like to start each episode with a lighthearted pop question to get us laughing. And so today I would like to know, if you could have one superpower, what would it be?

[00:01:26] Mikaela Kiner: [00:01:26] I'm so bad on the superpowers. I've seen this question before.

[00:01:31] You know, I think today mine would be invisibility. I know that is not super unique, but a lot of the things that I've seen and experienced at work, I just wish I could be that fly on the wall. Like I want to know what's really going on in some of these rooms behind the scenes and what the heck people are saying and what kind of decisions they're making.

[00:01:53] Mary Churchill: [00:01:53] Excellent. I would like to have the power to sleep on demand.

[00:01:59] Leanne Doherty Mason: [00:01:59] That's called narcolepsy. That's not a super power. So could we maybe reframe that?

[00:02:10] Mary Churchill: [00:02:10] And maybe help other people sleep on demand? There we go.

[00:02:17] Meg Palladino: [00:02:17] Maybe the power of healing.

[00:02:19] Mary Churchill: [00:02:19] Oh, the power of healing, the power of healing insomnia. I've just, I suffer tremendously from insomnia. As of right now, I'm working on five hours sleep, so I would love to snap my fingers and just have eight hours sleep and just keep going, right? Cause then I wouldn't have to sleep. That's it. A superpower of not having sleep. That's all.

[00:02:39] Leanne Doherty Mason: [00:02:39] There you go. Okay, there. There you go. I like that framing. I think for me, I'd like to be like elastic girl and be able to stretch everywhere. My body is shutting down on me and I want to be as flexible as I was when I was a big jock at 21 you know what I mean?

[00:02:56] So now I got up in class the other day and you could hear my knees pop across the room. And I got a great group of students and thank God they laugh at me because they should, you know, they absolutely should laugh at me, but so yeah, I want, I want to be elastic girl and be able to stretch it and then still sit on the couch and like reach into the fridge and grab food or something like that. That seems really helpful.

[00:03:18] Meg Palladino: [00:03:18] It's a good one. I think I would like the power of teleportation. I often want to be in like lots of places at the same time. And I am very impatient with any kind of commute, so if I could just kind of zap around and be wherever I want at any moment. That would be the best.

[00:03:35] Leanne Doherty Mason: [00:03:35] Well, Mikaela, earlier this fall, you wrote a piece on imposter syndrome, and I know this is going to be shocking to our listeners, but yes, I experience imposter syndrome, whether it's classist or education, or being in academia or of being a first generation person in this world, whatever it is, I can find the reason why I shouldn't be here, and I really want to say, first off, thank you for writing about this, especially in higher ed it's something that we all navigate, if we're honest with each other. And so in this piece, you shared some strategies for talking yourself down from feeling this way, or even to make it sound more positive, elevate yourself above this space. So can you just share some of those thoughts with us now?

[00:04:13] Mikaela Kiner: [00:04:13] Yeah, I'd love to. And you know that that piece was actually inspired by a young woman entrepreneur who had called me for some advice and was talking about her own imposter syndrome, and I just thought like, like you just did. It's so important to share that many of us experience this and it doesn't matter where we are in our career or what those past achievements are, and that just really prompted me to want to say, Hey, I experienced this too.

[00:04:41] Nobody is alone out there. You know, in the last couple of years I have heard people, including Michelle Obama, admit that they have imposter syndrome. And I think, well, if Michelle Obama has it, no wonder the rest of us have it too. One thing that is really helpful for me is understanding we may not be able to prevent those thoughts from coming to our mind. It's not that I'm trying to get to a place where I never think or feel, Oh, I'm not good enough, or, Oh, I don't belong. But it's actually being cognizant of that thought when it gets to your brain and deciding what to do with it and how to act on it.

[00:05:19] So first is recognizing, Oh, I'm thinking this. We can now label that. Oh, this is imposter syndrome. I'm remembering that it's a normal feeling and emotion, but that that does not make it true. And that doesn't make it a fact. So one of the things I love to do is then say, well, what's the data?

[00:05:40] You know, if I walk into a room or I'm at an event and I start thinking, well, I don't belong here. I'm not good enough to be here. Well, actually, what's the data that suggests that I absolutely belong here in this room at this table? I'm here for a reason. I was invited for a reason and then, you know, just reminding ourselves. I love, so Brene Brown, if people are familiar with her work, she has, a lot of her work is rooted in this notion that I am enough. And even Michelle Obama, if you read or listen to her audio book kind of had the same refrain. Hers was, I'm good enough. And what I love about both of those is neither one are saying that they are perfect.

[00:06:25] And I think so often perfectionism is tied in with imposter syndrome. And so if we can recognize our feeling, talk ourselves down, use some data, and then really remind ourselves, this is about, I'm enough, I'm good enough. It doesn't mean I'm perfect. It doesn't mean I've never made a mistake or I've never had a failure.

[00:06:47] And there's also a strategy I heard on a podcast I love, it's a local podcast called Battle Tactics for Your Sexist Workplace, which is a must listen. But they had a guest who talked about you know, it's not that you won't have butterflies, but how can you get your butterflies flying in formation?

[00:07:06] And so I love that reframing as well.

[00:07:09] Mary Churchill: [00:07:09] I love that.

[00:07:10] Meg Palladino: [00:07:10] So you have a new book coming out this January, Female Firebrands: Stories and Techniques to Ignite Change, Take Control, and Succeed in the Workplace. Can you tell us what inspired you to write this book?

[00:07:21] Mikaela Kiner: [00:07:21] Yes. I'm very, very excited about the book and the title is a mouthful so great job. I was actually at a, I was at a ladies in tech event at a client site in Seattle on International Women's Day, and the way the event was organized was that there were five of us. We were asked to give a brief lightning talk about what is the career advice that you never got. And given that it was a diversity of women, you know, there were different personalities and therefore different advice that we had or hadn't received, and it might've ranged from, you're too quiet, you should speak up more, you're too loud, you should speak up last, you should be, you know, be a bigger presence, be a smaller presence and all of this conflicting feedback that we'd gotten early in our careers. And I think the general wish was like, we wish people had been better at sort of helping us embrace ourselves and helping us embrace these things as strengths as opposed to do this, don't do that. But what really grabbed me was that the end of the talk was the women in the audience, you know, sort of gravitated to different presenters. It felt like they really came over to the woman who resonated most with them and their story and whose advice they wanted. And so when I saw that happening, it was this moment for me of what if I could tell different women's stories and so that could have a positive impact on many different women, regardless of what challenges they're facing or where they are in their careers. And I spent 15 years in corporate America and human resources so I definitely have my own share of stories of being, you know, silenced or excluded or talked over in the room.

[00:09:12] You know, all of these things that we experience, and I know a lot of mid-career professional women are still experiencing that and often they still think they're alone or they're internalizing the feedback and thinking that something is wrong with them. So what I really wanted women like me to know is, you're not alone.

[00:09:30] This is not all in your head. These things are really happening. I wanted to validate that for them and give them a place for some safe conversations. And then my other hope is that younger women, which in the book I call the next generation, but that younger women can read and hear these stories and maybe save themselves 10 or 15 years of heartache and frustration by learning, you know, some of the techniques and things that these women have actually done to overcome those obstacles.

[00:09:59] Meg Palladino: [00:09:59] Very cool.

[00:10:00] Mary Churchill: [00:10:00] So much of your career has focused on mentoring through human resources, coaching, and now in your book. How can mentoring help us to counter these feelings of self-doubt?

[00:10:11] Mikaela Kiner: [00:10:11] Yeah. Yeah. You know, one thing that's really special about mentoring, coaching for some people, it's, you know, even in therapy, is that it creates a safe space to talk about these things with someone who's not judging you. And I think actually if we look at our lives that's rare and maybe not even judging, but someone who likely doesn't have a stake in the choice that you make other than wanting to help and support you in figuring out what's best for you.

[00:10:42] So creating a time and space and conversations, having a sounding board, you know, again, I think women so often look at themselves first. What did I do wrong? Or, I received this piece of feedback. You know, I must be off track. I didn't get a promotion. You know, why am I failing to meet other people's expectations?

[00:11:03] And it's good. I'm, I'm all about self-awareness and self-reflection. I just think as women, we dwell there and we need to move more quickly past that and start looking outside at what is the context, what's the environment that I'm in? Who is making decisions that may be more about them than they are about me and a coach or mentor can really help you do that and validate and be a sounding board to say, yeah, like maybe you're in a bad situation. Maybe you're in a place where your skills and talents aren't being recognized, and how do you either address that or move on and do what's good and healthy for you? And. I talked to so many people when they're in that, should I say, or should I go place, you know, in their job, in their current company.

[00:11:52] And I tell them, it always comes down to their own sanity. You know, I'm never going to tell someone you should stay or you should go, but let's talk about what is the impact that this place is having on you, on your confidence, on your self-esteem at times, on your actual physical and mental health and try to guide people in making an appropriate decision. So I encourage people, have a mentor. You know, there's a, there's that language around, have a board of directors. You might have many mentors who can help you in different ways with different struggles or challenges. But I am all for it and it might just be a really great trusted friend who's a confidant and who has your self-interest at heart too.

[00:12:37] Mary Churchill: [00:12:37] Yeah, no, and I think that the work in, especially for faculty members in higher ed and then in the leadership teams in higher ed, the higher up you go, both of those are very, very isolating types of roles. So as a faculty member, you are often, you know, like a teacher, you have your classes of students, you see your students, you occasionally see your colleagues at meetings or in the hallways, but you have a single office. You're working in on your own projects all by yourself or you're working with colleagues at other institutions. And so you can get very isolated within your department and college.

[00:13:18] Leanne Doherty Mason: [00:13:18] And I think it's wild for me who has been an athlete my entire life in playing team sports. Then to be in a work environment where it's so hyper competitive over a very small bit of power. Right? And that, that creates these weird tensions. And when I, when I find myself in leadership positions, right, you know, building coalitions is the first thing I want to do and some people see that as well. That's. Too political, right? Or that's really what we're talking about when we talk about collaboration, right?

[00:13:47] What are some of the best practices you've seen in nonprofit or corporate settings in HR to talk about, you know, helping folks navigate these very real feelings? Right.

[00:13:58] Mikaela Kiner: [00:13:58] I think one of the things that you described that notion of feeling in competition with your peers is one of the most frustrating to me because we can gain so much from our peers.

[00:14:11] I mean, they are the people who are going through the most similar challenges and experiences that we are and it is in any type of organization, it is where you see the most competition. And yet I love when people can find ways to overcome that. And as you said, it may be finding a peer group that's beyond your immediate circle.

[00:14:34] So I think coming from a place of abundance and helping people see there's really enough, whatever it is, you know, work opportunity, credit, there's enough out there for all of us. But I think the first thing we have to do is to acknowledge it. So talking about it, you know, being open, having these kinds of conversations, and then really creating spaces for people to come together and have these discussions.

[00:15:00] And it might just be an event or a happy hour where we say, Hey, like this is what we're going to talk about. Maybe frame up some kind of vulnerable but fun questions around it that people can answer and share stories or bring in outside experts. So I think just creating time and space for some of these difficult conversations and you know, really bringing those peers together and. Hopefully helping people see that there is a greater good and getting together and supporting one another as opposed to competing.

[00:15:34] Mary Churchill: [00:15:34] Wow. That's fantastic. So we are coming up. I'm looking at the time and we are running out of time, so I do want to wrap up. Thank you so much for being here with us.

[00:15:45] We like to end with like a round robin, a quick lightning round of top tips for mentoring and dealing with imposter syndrome and Leanne is going to start us off.

[00:15:58] Leanne Doherty Mason: [00:15:58] So for me, I remind myself that this is not the only thing I do. Right. I find I am pretty valuable in other spheres and I think remembering that makes me feel reminded of myself that I'm pretty valuable in my, in my job as well.

[00:16:14] I think. If you find that space and just one more thing surrounding yourself with people outside of the academy is also really a great check, you know, for these types of spaces because everyone is doing, trying to do their best work. And so when you share it with friends outside of this world, gosh, the glory and praise and the generous abundance, I liked your language of abundance, really just comes to play.

[00:16:39] Right? And I think that's, those are two valuable things.

[00:16:42] So when I'm coaching my son's basketball team, I feel a lot more confident after that to come in and be participatory.

[00:16:49] Mikaela Kiner: [00:16:49] That's great. I love that you coach your son's basketball team.

[00:16:52] Leanne Doherty Mason: [00:16:52] We could have another podcast about that.

[00:16:54] Mikaela Kiner: [00:16:54] Great.

[00:16:54] Leanne Doherty Mason: [00:16:54] So, Meg, what do you think?

[00:17:01] Meg Palladino: [00:17:01] Well, in terms of imposter syndrome, I think. For me, I kind of get very emotional and so I try really hard to separate my emotions from what's actually going on and then kind of like separate the feelings and the facts a little bit and then try to shove the feelings to the side and look at the facts and then talk to people and ask for help if I need it.

[00:17:20] Also, if I get a compliment, I try hard to just accept it for what it is and not trying to second guess it all the time and kind of use the compliment to give me, you know, some strength or some courage to move forward.

[00:17:31] Mary Churchill: [00:17:31] Mikaela, any final tips?

[00:17:34] Mikaela Kiner: [00:17:34] You know one I would add the, that you two just reminded me of, but. It is perspective taking and yeah, thinking about, you know, what is this moment or this role or, you know, this thing that I'm doing in the larger scheme of my life, and I love this tip. I can't remember who this comes from. It's not mine, but. You know, will this matter in 10 minutes, 10 weeks, 10 months, 10 years?

[00:17:58] Right. I think that helps me gain a lot of perspective on hard moments, mistakes or failures. And I think, you know, tomorrow morning at breakfast, I'm not even going to remember what that thing was. So it makes it easier to move on.

[00:18:10] Mary Churchill: [00:18:10] That's partly mine too, right? Even if this goes really, really poorly, that's not the worst thing that could happen. Right? And the first time you do something, you're often not doing it so well. Right. But I think another for me is really reminding myself that everyone's human. And that we're, you know, we're all, people say, you know, everybody puts their pants on the same way or whatever, you know, but at the end of the day, we're all human and we all have that in common and I try to think if I'm intimidated by people in the room or I'm psyching myself out too much, that everyone has strengths and weaknesses and at the end of the day, we're all human.

[00:18:52] Well, thank you so much. This was awesome. And I know our listeners are going to think, wow, you all suffer from imposter syndrome? Yes we do.

[00:19:01] Mikaela Kiner: [00:19:01] Well, thank you so much for having me and you are all brave, vulnerable, and resilient group of women. So it's just wonderful to meet you.

[00:19:13] Mary Churchill: [00:19:13] Okay. Listeners, here's this week's assignment. When you find yourself feeling a bit of impostor syndrome sneaking up on you, try out one of our suggestions and let us know how it goes.

[00:19:22] Share your story on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook, and tag us at @UVenus and we'll retweet, share in our story and post on Facebook. As always, thanks for joining us and since next Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, we'll be taking a short break and we'll be back on December 5th. See you then.