Conquering Imposter Syndrome and Self-doubt, with Nicole Mahoney

Episode 141

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With a talent for creating special events that blossomed while working for her dad’s car stereo shop, I got my start in marketing at Frontier Field in Rochester. I also began serving as the executive director of the internationally known Lilac Festival. Later on, I headed the Canandaigua, New York Business Improvement District while also performing projects for the tourism promotion agency Visit Rochester. In 2009, I founded Break the Ice Media, with more than 20 years of experience in tourism marketing. I now host “Destination on the Left”, a highly successful tourism marketing podcast. As a business owner, I know what it takes to be successful. I founded BTI to help businesses tell their brand story through public relations, digital and traditional channels. I have the ability to uncover unique marketing opportunities and develop marketing and public relations initiatives that help clients build long-term success. On this episode of Destination on the Left, I share a personal family story that has inspired me to never give up even when the going gets tough. I explain why using this advice is important to all professionals and how applying it can make you a better tourism marketing specialist.

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • Why you should always go for it – just like Nicole’s daughter
  • Changing the “soundtrack” in your head to conquer self-doubt
  • How to avoid “imposter syndrome” in your quest to pursue your dreams
  • How to own your experiences as a unique individual
  • The power of stories and their impact on our successes

Believing in Yourself

What inspires you to keep moving forward, no matter the obstacle? For me, it’s the story of my daughter, Maeve’s perseverance and strength in the face of self-doubt. With the goal of being selected as the commencement speaker at her high school graduation, Maeve saw the competition and was filled with self-doubt. Stricken with “imposter syndrome”, Maeve believed she was not good enough and that there would always be somebody better for the job. I quickly reminded her: “The only way to know for sure you won’t get picked is to not even try.” Realizing she should aim for what she wanted, no matter the odds, Maeve took the leap and went for it. The result? She was selected as one of the two speakers at her commencement. From her success, tourism marketing professionals should always be reminded to aim high, go for it and never give up. You never know if you don’t try.

The Power of Stories

Maeve was inspired after being moved by the commencement speaker at her sister’s graduation. I continue to be inspired by what Maeve shared in her speech: a personal story about great adversity. Maeve suffers from chronic lung disease, a condition that put her in the emergency room for eight weeks in 2002. Despite a seemingly impossible uphill climb, me, my husband and Maeve persisted, and Maeve was off of oxygen and medication without a transplant when she was five years old. Although she doesn’t remember much of it, Maeve was able to teach everyone the power of her own story and remind her parents of the power of theirs. Stories like Maeve’s remind us of how different we are and how stories reach us differently. The one constant is this: we all have the power to see the good in stories, change the soundtrack in our heads and go for it. I hope that this episode and Maeve’s story will resonate with tourism marketing professionals just as much as they did for her.


Nicole Mahoney: 00:20 Hello and welcome to another solo cast. So destination on the left where there are no guests. It’s just me talking to you. As I was thinking about the topic for today’s episode and debating which topic would be the most relevant for you, what could I share that will provide you with insight, inspiration, and motivation to be a better professional in the world of travel and tourism? I decided to take inspiration from my daughter May of who is 18 years old, recently graduated from high school and is preparing to go to college, aspiring to enter the medical profession. You see, may just the second one in our family to graduate high school and three years ago when she attended her older sister’s graduation, she was inspired by the student commencement speaker and told me that she wanted to be the speaker at her graduation ceremony. Well, anyone who was a parent knows that sometimes kids change their minds, but may have did not.

Nicole Mahoney: 01:12 When the auditions came up this past spring to try out for commencement speaker may have started to think that she wasn’t good enough and that maybe she shouldn’t audition because there were so many kids that were better speakers, students, you name it better than her. I quickly told her there was one way to be sure she wouldn’t get picked. Don’t even try. That must have sunk in because Mae did try out to be a student speaker at her commencement and she was one of two that were selected to give commencement addresses. That story in and of itself is inspiring and teaches us the lesson to go for it. You will not get what you do not aim for. It also reminds us about the dangers of the imposter syndrome. That feeling that we all get inside ourselves. I’m not good enough. There are others who are better than me.

Nicole Mahoney: 01:58 That internal soundtrack that keeps us from going for it. This is a good reminder to keep that soundtrack and check. Don’t let the imposter syndrome stop you from trying. The new thing you have always wanted to do from going for that next promotion from starting that side hustle you have dreamed about. I’m running that marathon. Whatever it is for you, go for it. Go for it. That was the first lesson that made reminded me of through her experience with going for student commencement speaker. The next lesson came from what she shared in her speech. Yes, I am one very proud mom and you may be able to hear it in my voice or through this story, but she really did inspire me in so many ways. Mavis struggled with a chronic lung disease for her entire life. She was first diagnosed when she experienced failure to thrive at her nine month old well-child visit.

Nicole Mahoney: 02:48 Imagine the surprise that my husband and I felt when we left that doctor visit without a full visit, rushed to the er, then taken by ambulance to the nearest children’s hospital where we for eight weeks. That was 2002 a long time before this commencement address. I can tell you in detail what we went through as naves parents. The lessons we learned as young parents, the process for getting on a lung transplant list, the journey through the medical system and our happy ending. When Dave came off oxygen and all meds by the time she was five years old without needing the transplant that we were waiting for, that is my story or my husbands story to tell Mave barely remembers any of those first five years except for what people tell her or photos that she sees or by reading the medical records or reading the countless letters and prayers that were sent our way.

Nicole Mahoney: 03:39 What was amazing about made speech, she told her story. Her perception of how her lung disease impacted her life. It wasn’t our story, it wasn’t my story. It was made. Lesson number two. We share experiences with each other at home, at work, with family, with friends, with community members, but each of us owns our experience, impacts each of us differently and it is up to each one of us to take those experiences and process them for ourselves. We are walking together in this life, but the experience is individual. Every experience is individual. That was the second lesson that may remind me of she prepared to be commencement speaker. The next lesson, it came from her speech itself. She used her story to connect with her listeners and to relate it to a bigger picture. Her speech was inspirational. It was funny. She brought in her community, her fellow seniors and high school faculty.

Nicole Mahoney: 04:38 She talked about perseverance and how you always have a strong foundation to lean on referring back to the school and community that they were raised in. I was amazed at her ability to easily tell her story in a relatable way, in a way that didn’t make sense. People feel sorry for her in a way that gave her listeners hope and a feeling of connection. She told about her lung disease, which she admitted many people didn’t know about because she didn’t want to be treated differently. She talked about fighting with her lungs ever since she was young. She talked about pushing herself and you specific examples swimming across an Olympic size pool for the first time in order to advance to another level in swim class or about running hurdles and track and knocking three over during her first race, but still finishing the race. She talked about focusing on the accomplishments and not how she got there.Nicole Mahoney: 05:28 It didn’t matter if someone was better, faster or smarter. She was accomplishing these goals. This was of miracle. She had persevered. She accomplished what she set out to do, and she was the commencement speaker at her graduation. The next lesson that I learned from Mave was how important our own stories are for our understanding of who we are and how that understanding it helps us to be successful in whatever way we deemed successful to be. Stories are powerful. So maze is my inspiration for today’s solo cast episode. In each of May’s lessons are powerful reminders for us as tourism marketing professionals to take those risks, go for it. Remember that every experience is individual and remember that stories are powerful. How can you use these lessons to make you a better professional? And the travel and tourism industry. I’d love to hear from you. Feel free to email or reach out to me through Linkedin, Facebook, or Twitter, whichever channel works best for you. Thanks for listening and I’ll be back next week with another episode.

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