Ten years ago, I wasn’t in a good place. If you met me, you wouldn’t have known: you would have seen a director of a unicorn startup, a positive advocate for women, and a public speaker. On the outside, I looked happy. On the inside, I felt like an impostor — and ashamed for feeling that way.
A life-changing question
At one of the first conferences I ever spoke at, I met Joanna Wiebe, a successful entrepreneur and keynote speaker of the event. I wanted to be like her with every fiber of my being, and when she joined me at the table I was sitting at, I was terrified. She introduced herself and after some small talk, I worked up the nerve to ask her a question that would change my life immeasurably.
“Do you ever feel like a fraud?” I asked, voice shaking.
“Yes,” she admitted. “All the time.”
I was stunned. The woman I aspired to be felt the same way I did, and for the first time in a long time, I didn’t feel so alone. At the conference, Joanna and I, along with other women, shared our experiences and our belief in the “shine theory,” a term coined by Ann Friedman and Aminatou Sow that describes their commitment to collaboration over competition. Simply put, the shine theory states, “If you don’t shine, I don’t shine.”
Time to shine
When the conference ended, the conversation didn’t stop. It changed us. We continued that conversation by creating an online chat group called the Shine Crew. We helped guide each other through interviews, pricing negotiations, and major life decisions. For the last seven years, the women in the Shine Crew have helped me leave my full-time job and eventually even build my own e-commerce company.
“When you meet a woman who is intimidatingly witty, stylish, beautiful, and professionally accomplished, befriend her,” wrote Friedman. “Surrounding yourself with the best people doesn’t make you look worse by comparison. It makes you better.”
Find your crew
So, ladies, here is my call to action to you: find the women you want to emulate, the ones who scare you, the ones who make you feel like a superstar just by knowing them. Take a deep breath, be brave, and ask them to join your Shine Crew. Help each other grow. Keep each other in check. Celebrate your wins. Life is made better when you know you have your crew by your side.