A couple of weeks ago I was invited back to my university to speak to a group of college women about my story. Their conference’s theme was called Write Your Story so I shared mine along with talking about the Imposter Syndrome and how I’ve dealt with it in my professional career in Los Angeles. While writing out this speech, it really made me realize that every experience in life shapes you and leads you to the next chapter. Sometimes it takes a while before you understand the values & lessons, but eventually, they will be there and you will experience full-circle moments where it all makes sense. I know I’ve shared bits and pieces of my journey in LA and paving my own path, but I wanted to share the entirety of it in one space. What better day to do that than on International Women’s Day. Hope you enjoy <3
“When I was in college, I used to sit at the corner of this coffee shop with one too many books and to-do lists, stressed and anxious, as I tried to map out my future. My senior year, I felt this immense pressure to have it all figured out by May. What I’ve realized years later is that, you will always find yourself sitting in a coffee shop mapping out the next steps…because you will always be “figuring it out.” But what I wish someone would have told me, is to worry a lot less and to live in the moment, because in the end, everything works out the way it’s supposed to.
When I was asked to speak on the Imposter Syndrome, I found it quite ironic because it’s something I truly experience on a daily basis. There’s this idea that we’re never at the level we need to be and we’re always behind. Even being asked to speak at a business conference, where I was not a business student, made me feel a bit like an imposter.
You know those moments in life where you wanted something so badly, but then later down the road, you realized that the way life played out was probably better than if it had gone your way? Well, when I look back on my story, that truly is the main theme of my life. Most of the time, I haven’t gotten what I wanted, but the alternative was better for my life.
When I was in your shoes, I was so overwhelmed with the idea of picking one job after college. I was that girl in school that changed her major an average of five times because I loved too many things and the idea of picking one path and one career felt very daunting. I had many different passions and I wanted to pursue them all. I loved fashion, writing, psychology, storytelling, dance & the arts. Even though I was ready to be done with school and graduate, I wasn’t ready to experience the reality of “adult life.”
Growing up I was focused on two things: school and dance (and socializing but that’s beside the point). In reality, when I wasn’t in school I was probably at dance-team practice, dance class, or in the studio creating my own pieces. When I got to college, I no longer had a team that I was a part of, so if I wanted to keep that creative outlet in my life it was up to me. One of my mentors suggested I get involved with the Miss America Pageant because of their talent section of the competition. I was hesitant because the idea of a pageant sounded pretty uncomfortable, but when I learned more about what I would be doing it became more and more appealing. There were two aspects that I liked: the talent portion would allow me to continue creating & performing and the philanthropy aspect would allow me to pick a platform that was important to me. Of course, I picked the darkest platform an 18-year-old could think of: mental health & dealing with depression/anxiety. It was a topic I believed needed to be talked about more, and it allowed me to be vulnerable and share some of my own experiences.
After several trips to Miss Indiana and being a runner up, my senior year of college I convinced myself that being Miss Indiana was my ultimate post-grad goal. That was going to be my job, Miss Indiana and potentially Miss America. I found purpose in it because I was going to get to mentor younger girls, speak about things I was passionate about, and it’d keep me dancing.
When I say I laser focused on this goal, I mean it. All of my time and energy went to prepare. I put so much pressure on myself that I literally wouldn’t allow myself to spend time on much of anything else. I was always rehearsing, studying current events because unfortunately #worldpeace was just in the movies and I actually needed to know what was going on in the world. I also had a strict workout and dance practice schedule. The stress, workout schedule, and strict clean eating brought me down to the thinnest I had ever been in my life. I remember looking at myself a month before the pageant and my normal clothes would hang off of me. I was still “healthy” but waking and going to bed with that pressure pretty much made me miserable. My parents were not the biggest fan of this post-graduate plan because it was one that relied on subjective opinion. So in my mind, I had a lot to prove.
I lost my confidence that year. Actually, I lost myself. There were so many other opinions in my mind and I was trying to keep everyone happy, so I started to forget my own voice. If someone would ask me why I wanted this to be my next step, I would freeze. I think it is because deep down, I didn’t truly want it. I just felt like I needed to want it because of the time, effort & heart I had put into it for years. I didn’t have a plan B, but I would often joke to people that I would pick up and move to California if it didn’t work out. I lived in LA for a summer when I was 19. It brought out the best side of me, and I would often think back to that feeling and wonder: “What would life be like if I moved there for good?”
It’s a strange thing when you’re preparing for something. Whether it’s your wedding, or an event, or a pageant- you build up what it’s supposed to look like and then it comes and goes… and then what? When I didn’t win, I originally felt heartbreak but it was quickly overcome with the feeling of relief. I felt like someone quite literally took 50 pounds off my shoulders. I could wake up the next morning and just be. And that’s what I did.. for the rest of the summer, I went back to my college town and I really tried to meditate and figure out what I wanted and who I was. I had to take a hard look at myself and try to block out what I thought would be the logical next step. I grew up around the sciences- literally, every single person in my family and even my closest friends were pursuing a life in the sciences. I knew pretty early on that my strengths were in other things, and so did my parents. They pushed law school- it was the second best, right? When I rejected that idea, I felt a lot of guilt and carried that with me. I felt like I was letting them down because I was not pursuing the professions that were deemed successful in my world. The things I excelled in were things like the arts, creating my own work, and communicating with people. I loved finding solutions to problems and I got inspired by creativity, storytelling and people. That’s where I found myself the happiest.
I kept coming back to Los Angeles and the feeling I had when I was there. Your gut knows what it needs to do, but your mind tries to silence it out of fear.
Sometimes, we don’t get what we wanted, instead, we get what we needed all along. And then we figure out the thing we wanted wasn’t actually us at all. Deep down, I always wanted to be in the entertainment industry, but I didn’t know how. It was the path that was more uncertain and filled with unknowns. Where do you even start? Is something I kept asking myself. Finally, in July, I booked the one-way ticket and set the date. I was so adamant on it being August 10th. I don’t know why but that date felt so significant to me. Sometimes you have to just start because if we wait until we’re ready we’ll be waiting forever. August 10th was my start.
I walked away from Indiana knowing I was walking away from comfort and a life that would have been set up for me.
My life in Indiana would have been a lot simpler. But I would have always questioned what else was out there. I would have always wondered what life would have been like if I took the risk. If I made the move. If I jumped on the plane that day. This was something I knew I had to do. And if it ever became to the point where it wasn’t fun anymore, and I didn’t feel connected and passionate about it, I knew home would be there.
You have to take risks in life. There is no wrong in taking a chance on the path that’s more uncomfortable because it will always be more rewarding. You’re going to have to take risks when you leave your comfort zone. Whether it’s moving to a new city, starting a new job, starting or ending a relationship. Every chapter you begin or end is a risk. When I moved to LA I meditated on these words everyday “life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” This was truly the first time I was out of mine, and I owed it to myself to see what I was truly capable of.
Most of the time we know what we need to do because our gut tells us. It’s our mind and our thoughts that can get in the way. It’s self-doubt. It’s the imposter syndrome. It’s those moments where we tell ourselves “I’m actually am NOT good enough.”
Trust me when I say, those moments have been the only thing to get in my way. And it’s when I tackle those moments head on and overcome them with the truth that I am enough, that’s when I see true growth in my career and my daily happiness.
So…I moved to Los Angeles without a job, something that people gasped at when I told them back home. “WHAT? You don’t have a plan?” Even if they didn’t say it in their words, their eyes said it all. I’d tell myself that I did have a plan. My plan was to get on the plane on August 10th…the rest I’d figure out. The reason we don’t ever start is that we’re waiting for the perfect plan. I’ll let you in on a secret, there never is one. If I had done that, I would never have moved.
So there I was, buying a one-way ticket and trying to fit my life in two suitcases. That is very hard for anyone who’s tried it. Especially me, I love clothes.
The first 3 weeks were filled with me trying to meet every single person that was remotely connected to a mutual friend, my college, and church Mosaic. When I was 19, I drove myself to the nearest church and it happened to be right on Hollywood Blvd- I was pinching myself. At 22, one of the first places I went back to when arriving in LA was that church. It was the only thing giving me comfort in this new uncomfortable life. I would literally fill my time meeting with strangers who would block out portions of their busy schedules (which doesn’t happen often in LA) to meet with me and welcome me. I’ve never experienced such grace as I did when I first moved to LA. The people who made this new place feel like home. Within a couple of weeks, a girl I met from church told me to apply to the CBS page program. I was in the process of interviewing for NBC’s program. I passed the second round of interviews and was sent to the third round, but it fell through so I went with CBS.
Let me start off by saying, in no way was this a glamorous job AT ALL. When they handed me my CBS uniform, I got a little queasy. It was an oversized jacket that was 100% made for men. It was bright red and they told me to get black pants with it. I went to J Crew because I was in desperate need for style. Then they handed me an oversized men’s white button up shirt that was an actual dress on me, so J crew saved the day again and I got my own. Basically, I looked like a little gnome walking around CBS studios and carrying around a walky-talky and headset. On the weekends I was pursuing being a fashion blogger and TV Host and during the week, my life was the opposite of fashion forward. Talk about the Imposter Syndrome- I experienced it daily.
Nonetheless, I was so grateful for that job. So. Grateful. Not only did it completely humble me, but it taught me the behind-the-scenes of what it takes to make a big production. Every day, I was on set for shows like The Price is Right, The Late Late Show with James Corden, The Talk & Dancing with the Stars. I left work with tears in my eyes often because of how aggressive people could be, whether it was audience members or producers and I learned very quickly that the entertainment industry was a marathon, not a sprint. “We’re not in Indiana anymore” is a phrase I’d often jokingly tell myself. But seriously, LA was no joke and I learned that if I wanted to make it in this business, I needed thicker skin. Even though I felt pretty ridiculous in my uniform, I’d put on my bold lipstick, favorite perfume & earrings every morning and pushed through for a year.
I had many moments where I was questioning what I was doing. Here I was with a dream, wanting to work as a TV Host and be in the blogging space, but instead, I was grabbing people water and throwing away their trash. I was walking the elderly audience members to the restroom and having conversations with tourists who would come from Idaho to be on The Price is Right. Every day I had to humble myself.
Actually, the first “full circle moment” I had was my very first shift at CBS. I was assigned to work The Late Late Show with James Corden and I was so nervous. My first time being around celebrities. Eeeeek. Meg Ryan was the guest that night and I stared at her perfectly styled hair and wondered what her skin-care regime was. This was my prior knowledge of what botox and fillers were, haha! 3..2..1..James started his monologue and the first joke he made was…
“Last night The Miss America pageant crowned it’s 94th winner ”
My heart literally dropped and I felt like someone smacked me in my big red uniform. Holy crap. I was supposed to be at the Miss America pageant competing if it had all gone my way. He continued… “there was lots of excitement, plenty of surprises, the biggest surprise for me was finding out the fact that you guys still do this.”
The room was filled with laughter and I found myself slowly and hesitantly joining, then laughing at the irony of it all. Full-circle moment. I realized the path that I thought I wanted was one that I actually didn’t want at all. In that moment, I would have rather have been the girl with the CBS uniform in Los Angeles working the James Corden show, than the girl in the evening gown. And that was the first time I knew that where I was was exactly where I was supposed to be.
My day to day schedule for the first year of my life in LA was working at CBS, taking hosting and commercial classes in the evenings, submitting myself to casting projects on my own, last minute finding people to cover my shifts if I was ever booked for a gig or had an audition, and working on my blog at night and over the weekend. Entertainment Tonight’s studio was on the CBS lot and on my off days or after my shifts I would sneak over to their studio and hand the main correspondents their scripts. It’s kind of cute to look back and think of it now. And crazy to think that it was only 2 years ago.
Finally, when I felt like I was no longer growing in that position, I decided to put all of my energy towards my career as a blogger and host. Even though the job I had was not one that I wanted, I hid behind the security of knowing I worked for a big company like CBS. Anytime I’d get comfortable, I knew it was time for a shift & change. So I quit and put all of my energy towards what I came there for. I started to work a part-time marketing job that would allow the flexibility of pursuing TV Hosting & Blogging full time. It was a great temporary job that allowed me to work on the days I was available and I was with companies like Snapchat, Netflix and Converse as an independent contractor & ambassador.
My first hosting job was for my favorite dance show- one I dreamed of auditioning for when I took dance seriously: So You Think You Can Dance. I’d be interviewing the judges & dancers each week after the live shows. It’s a FOX show but guess where they film? CBS studios. A couple of months later, I walked through the security gate not as a page, but as a host. Soon after that, I landed my dream hosting gig, a beauty host for a big-time hair company. It was the perfect bridge of hosting & blogging and my work was to create content with one of my closest friends in LA. We were on cloud 9, until just a few months later that fell through, too.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve experienced rejection in this city. How many times I’ve gotten excited over something just to have the door quickly shut in my face. How many conversations I’ve had to have with my mom trying to comfort her worries of this unknown industry. It’s a tough thing to be your own cheerleader while also experiencing rejection on an almost daily basis. As the next year went by, I had some wins, but experienced way more losses. I started to see why people in Los Angeles became jaded and didn’t trust others. I vowed to not let myself get to that place, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have weeks or months where I felt very bitter and had to struggle to readjust my mindset and attitude.
I started to put more of my time into my blog. It felt more manageable in terms of having a grip on my success. The more time I put into it, the more it grew. I’d go to an audition, then spend time at a coffee shop emailing brands, PR agencies and building my website. I began to grow the list of companies I was partnering with, and my friends and I would shoot each other’s content.
Now, two and a half years later I can read you off a list of accomplishments. A list, where if you would have told me I’d do these things back before I moved I probably wouldn’t have believed you. But yet the list still doesn’t satisfy me. I find myself always searching for more and looking at how far I have left to go. In any industry you are in, it’s very easy to get sucked into always wanting more and never being satisfied. Don’t get me wrong, the hustle is good and achieving goals is amazing. But life is about so much more than accomplishing tasks off a list. We have to make sure that we have a purpose at the center of it all, and that our purpose will fulfill our life instead of drain it.
I used to have a very tough time with telling people that I was a TV Host. When people would ask me what I did, the whole first year I would say “I work at CBS” meanwhile I would watch peers say “I’m an actress” or “I’m a host” even if they were still at the beginning of their journey like I was. I felt like an imposter saying “I’m a host” and I still do sometimes even though I’ve done countless red carpets and covered my dream TV shows. I still struggle with the Imposter Syndrome, whether it’s because my hosting work isn’t full-time, or whether it’s because I haven’t fully allowed myself to embrace my accomplishments and feel proud of them. The same with blogging, I still struggle saying I’m a blogger because I look at the success of other bloggers and easily don’t feel up-to-par with their numbers or brand deals. Yet, I still have brand deals that come in monthly and have worked with some of my dream brands.
I’m the first one to tell you, the imposter syndrome has been a constant in my life, and it is a weakness I’m always fighting to beat.
I’m in an industry where comparing yourself to other people is the easiest thing to do. It’s public information based on numbers. My industry is literally measured by numbers. Your success has a number on it. The number of likes. The number of followers. Even your pay is often determined by those numbers. It’s easy to put your identity in it. It’s easy to compare your worth with someone else’s number.
Getting the hosting job is determined by factors like who you know or your social media following. It can be incredibly tempting and daunting to fall into the trap of comparison when the measure of where you stand on the success train is literally on your cell phone. And trust me, I’ve fallen into it. I’ve spent way too much time on social media platforms comparing my success to other people’s numbers. It’s a suffocating feeling. Los Angeles gave me a new meaning to the saying, comparison is the thief of joy. There were periods of time where I allowed it to steal my joy.
All of that to say, when you find yourself falling into comparison, pull yourself out of it. Instead, focus on gratitude. Focus on how far you’ve come. Focus on everything you’ve accomplished and everything you have right now and the truths about yourself.
What I realized is that to some capacity we will always feel like we’re not doing enough. We will struggle to see what we’ve already accomplished, so when you get in that space bring yourself back to reality and find your center. Take a step back if you have to, and remind yourself of your worth. We each have such incredible qualities about ourselves. Qualities that only you have. Yet, we then get in the workplace and we feel like we’re not enough. We experience the imposter syndrome because we look at the highlight reel of the host who works for E! Entertainment or Access Hollywood and we feel like we need to be them. It’s so easy to feel the pressure of wanting or needing to blend in, but know that what will move you forward in life is your individuality.
We’re going to keep experiencing the lows and highs of life. It’s part of it. Just know that no matter what you’re experiencing now- in the midst of the confusion, heartbreak, and uncertainty, you will look back and it will all make sense. It always does. ”
Thank you for reading my story. I look forward to writing the coming chapters <3