Helen Tran wrote an awesome article for fem-designers-in-tech:
Self-doubt is healthy in doses but be careful what story you are telling yourself. Self-doubt is a mechanism to help you gauge what’s real not to over-exaggerate anxieties. Self-doubt is, “Hmm, I should think about this a little.” not, “I am terrible at this.” This is many steps too far in the wrong direction.
Her advice struck a cord with me, so I wrote her an email:
Loved this article! I’m not a female, but I find this article to be excellent advice. I’m a Latino, and I started in this industry really young. I was 15 when I got my first job. I turn 25 this year. I struggle with every point you talk about here.
I honestly believe this is why I didn’t get the job at Shopify. I didn’t sell myself in the interviews and instead I came off as inexperienced and unsure about learning new things. I constantly sell myself short. My lack of belief in myself leads to lack of belief from others. I’m determined to change that this year. I’ve seen people with much less experience advance way quicker than I have.
Anyway, all this just to say thank you. This article may not be written for me, but it sure does help.
In case you didn’t know, I interviewed with Shopify in January. They flew Kelly and I out to Toronto for an awesome 4 days. All my friends said a variation of the same thing:
If they’re flying you out, they must really want to hire you!
I doubted. Something told me that I’d screw this up and they wouldn’t end up hiring me. Still, we had a great trip. Kelly and I looked at apartments, ate amazing food, and fell in love with the city. We began to imagine what our lives would be like in Toronto, and it was pretty exciting.
We flew back to Minnesota, and all my friends and family were eager to know how it had gone. I thought the interviews had gone pretty well and I’d foolishly gotten my hopes up. A couple days later, I received the call.
We’re moving forward with other candidates.
In film you’ve seen this moment. The character hears the important line and the rest just becomes muffled. That’s kind of how this moment felt. It might just be that I’m a very emotional person, but I don’t remember the rest of the conversation. I was too busy dealing with the increasingly large knot in my throat. I do remember saying thank you, then hanging up.
I was devastated. I cried. I really wanted the job. I wanted the change of scenery. Deep down, I wanted the validation of a company like Shopify being interested in me and my skill set. I spent a few weeks moping and being sad.
Once the emotion cleared and I could actually think about it, I realized it was partly my fault. I’m sure there were many factors involved but one of the biggest is that I sell my own self short.
If I don’t believe in myself and my skills, how is anyone else supposed to? I do this constantly. I undersell my expertise, and what I can bring to a team.
I often still feel like that fifteen year-old that’s just getting started. So many moments where I feel like a fraud about to be discovered. I’ve gone to extreme lengths to prevent people from knowing how old I am. I always feel them finding out will invalidate anything I’ve said or made. The ageism I’ve experienced along my career has only served to reinforce that feeling.
Like I said in my email to Helen, this is the year I decided to change this. I’ll be speaking at a local conference here in the Twin Cities and have started to send proposals to many others around the globe. I’m also writing a lot more about development and design here on this site.
I’m done letting these insecurities win. I’m done trying to get validation that I shouldn’t need. I’m me and I’m awesome. If you’ve felt like this, I hope you join me and follow Helen’s advice.