This column originally appeared in The Cohort, Poynter’s newsletter by and for women in media. Subscribe here to join this community of trailblazers.
Joining the Poynter Institute at the beginning of a global pandemic was … interesting. And challenging. And rewarding.
It’s been three months. I know because I just had my three-month review with boss lady Doris Truong. And good news: I’m passing! Today, because many of you Cohort newsletter readers don’t know me, I thought I’d focus on the rewarding part because, well, I’m just a good news kinda woman. Plus, I think it can help.
First, a side note. Every year, my husband and I make each other valentines. A few years ago, I made him an “open this letter when” package that held a dozen handwritten letters. The envelopes had CTAs on them (shoutout to all my CTA peeps) — things like “open this when we’ve had a huge fight” or “open this when you wonder why I love you.”
Fast forward to today, several years after that package and three months into my new job at Poynter and a few more months away from my first Women’s Leadership Academy as co-lead, and I find myself wanting to give you a similar gift.
Because things are tough right now. We’re tired. Our teams are tired. Our kids need places to go besides our kitchens or yards. Shoot, we need places to go! But more than that, I have found we, digital women leaders across the world, need reminders.
Yes, going back to “normal” may be nice, but we’re well aware that looking backward can slow our momentum forward, and so, we look forward. I know this because the reward in this job is being able to speak with so many of you, to be your sounding board, your coach, your cheerleader — whatever it is that you need the moment you add yourself to my Calendly (or any of our Calendlys).
So, for those of you I haven’t spoken with yet, I have two reminders for you. They’re inspired by the countless conversations I’ve had over the past three months, and I love writing them because they allow me to live in my giftedness, which is simply reminding you of yours.
If you’re reading this while feeling like a fraud:
Listen, sis: Imposter Syndrome is real. This much is true. But from my experience, it’s also a liar. I know it may not come easy but now’s the time to know who you are. You’re a woman who deserves to be here, a woman who has been tried and proven, tried and proven. So now’s not the time to question or get fragile. It’s certainly not the time to attribute your success to luck.
Now is the time to know your strengths, call them by name and walk in them as you’ve walked so many days before. Make a list. Don’t brag a little — brag a lot. Keep it for yourself, share it with your world. Your choice. Just write it. See, I don’t even know you but I know you’re the one: the one who disrupts and unsettles, who sees her team and really sees them, the one who amplifies other’s ideas, who’s resilient as hell and wakes up every morning a little more tired than the day before but who still believes her work is good and necessary. If I know you’re the one, please, like Neo in the Matrix, come out from under that imposter syndrome and know that you’re the one too.
If you’re reading this while feeling overwhelmed:
Give yourself permission to feel this, but also give yourself a deadline. We are news people, after all. I know you’re slower to bounce back than usual. I know you probably still think about life “before the pandemic.” I also know that you, my friend, were never meant to park in your pain. You’re a woman with vision and not just vision but you’re a woman with the capacity to fulfill that vision. So be overwhelmed. Acknowledge you’re tired. But don’t stay there.
Move through this as you’ve moved through it so many times before. Come out on the other side, take note of the valley you just emerged from, be grateful, share the good news and then ask: What’s next? Because yeah, you’re more ready than you think you are.
Listen, ladies… Whatever question you have, issue you’re troubleshooting, there are other women who can and who want to help. Sometimes, the best thing we can do is talk to a stranger. How nice, though, the added layer of knowing the stranger can speak our language as a fellow digital woman leader.
So please, from one open book to — hopefully — another, don’t keep you to yourself. There are too many lessons within the pages of our lives that go unshared as it is, so when it comes to this work at this moment for this industry, let’s remember: We were born for such a time as this. It won’t always be easy but the trek will be worth it, the impact will be lasting and we are only as alone as we allow ourselves to be.
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