Imposter Syndrome

How I Overcame Imposter Syndrome and Became the Leader I Was Meant to Be

I kept following my dad's advice to 'fail forward.'
How I Overcame Imposter Syndrome and Became the Leader I Was Meant to Be
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Guest Writer
Founder and CEO of Mogul
4 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Before starting Mogul, and before going to Harvard Business School, I made a vow that has driven my actions since childhood: that I would dedicate my life to providing women with opportunity and education globally. No matter how hard, no matter how challenging.

Related: 'Keep Moving Forward' Urges ClassPass Founder Payal Kadakia, Who Means It Both Figuratively and Literally

When I was younger, my father used to tell us to "fail forward" constantly. He instilled in us that if we were going to learn a lesson, we had better get over the fear of failure and learn quickly -- because that's how real change happens. So what did I do? I tried everything, from tae kwon do and varsity lacrosse to violin and piano. Trying, and trying again. Practicing every day, so I could get better at the things I was passionate about and learn from the things I rapidly failed at.

Later, when I didn't have the money to attend college, I tried anyway. In my college essays, I explained at great length how this education would pay off in the long run: I was going to help women gain access to education, do everything in my power to give them the opportunities they so greatly deserved. I waited nervously for the envelopes to arrive.

My family rejoiced with tears the day I was admitted to Yale on scholarship. With all the sacrifices my parents had made, I wanted to make them proud.

I arrived to campus full of hope, but reality set in. I was shy. I wasn't outgoing. I barely left my dorm room. And by the end of my first year, I had barely made an impact for my family, for the school or for women globally.

Related: How I Turned a Crisis Into a Brand-Defining Moment

There were moments of opportunity asking for my voice or my contribution -- and I knew if I didn't speak up or take action, I would look back and wonder, "what if?"

So, I pushed myself to be exposed to new experiences and new challenges, and get used to feeling uncomfortable. I became the publisher of our school newspaper and took on other leadership roles. A few years later, I found myself onstage at graduation, speaking in front of 10,000, my parents' faces shining with pride from the audience.

As the years continued, I found myself one of the youngest in class at Harvard Business School, the youngest executive at a major media corporation and a contributor to UN gender policy. I had many moments where I experienced imposter syndrome, asking myself, Is my point of view really as important as theirs? because I looked or felt so different. Again, I found myself retreating back to the quiet, shy girl -- in class and meetings, I could barely raise my hand. But, my father's words began to ring in my ears, and I couldn't live with the regret. I started telling myself that my experience is just as valid as everyone else's in this room, I have important ideas to bring to the table, I deserved to be here.

Related: I Never Let 'No' Stop Me

I realized that when I pushed myself to have courage and overcome self-doubt, I was truly pushing myself to become the person I was meant to be.

Today, Mogul reaches millions of women across 196 countries and 34,470 cities worldwide. Our platform provides access to information, job opportunities and education. By partnering with international organizations such as the UN, we're able to turn every dollar we earn into educational resources, providing to ultimately 62 million women in need. We're launching Mogul's app in June 2018, further fostering connections and conversations to create a supportive network of women. We're growing rapidly, and there's so much more we can do.

In life, nothing will ever be perfect; you just need to get started. Only then can you iterate on your ideas, continue to receive feedback and improve. Perfection is acting on and adjusting to the lessons and feedback you learn through your work -- no one is perfect when they start out.

You just have to fail to get there.

Tiffany Pham is a past speaker at Ellevate Network's Mobilizing the Power of Women Summit. This year's event will take place in New York City and streamed online this June.

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