Nathalie Molina Niño jokes that she started her first company at just 20 years old quite by accident. Back in 1996, the South American's only form of transportation as a student at the University of Colorado Boulder was a motorcycle. When winter ushered in the cold temperatures and snow, Nathalie decided there was no riding a motorcycle in the Rockies in January, and so she went to a local car dealership to make a trade. This everyday moment launched her entrepreneurial career.
Nathalie offered to pay for a car half in cash, and trade the other half by creating a website for the car dealership--her student job at the university's computer labs had enabled her to learn how to code. To her surprise, the car dealer accepted. He was happy with her work and told friends, who told others. Before she knew it, she was building sites for big companies such as Colorado Lottery, and had more work than she ever thought possible.
The young entrepreneur ended up loving the process, and Nathalie's been starting companies in the tech space ever since. Her most recent project is launching BRAVA Investments to fund companies that directly impact the economic lives of women. But even after all of her past success, Nathalie still found herself getting stuck in impostor syndrome, a prevalent phenomenon amongst high-achieving women. Simply put, impostor syndrome is that nagging feeling that whatever success you've experienced can be chalked up only to luck--rather than to your own talent. Women who struggle with impostor syndrome can't see their own brilliance, and often worry that they might be "found out" at any time. Skirting the Rules caught up with Nathalie to chat about how she learned cope with--and overcome--self doubt.
1. Lean on others. Contrary to popular belief, you don't have to do everything all by yourself. "I used to think power was about outcomes and getting shit done, but I don't think that is the case anymore," Nathalie explains. "Power comes from allowing yourself to be supported." Allowing yourself to accept--and to ask for--help enables you to feel less stressed, and therefore more confident, about what you're trying to do. Besides, as Nathalie says, "Of course you can go it alone, but that's not really the question. The question should be, what's more fun?"
2. Create real connections. Practicing empathy can help you develop more intimate relationships with the people around you. Joan Fallon, the founder of Curemark, once gave a private talk to Nathalie and her colleagues. "She was so polished," Nathalie recalls. "I thought, 'She's going to have her entire life turned around, she could be a billionaire within a year, and the eyes of the entire world are going to be on this woman who has zero tolerance for BS.'" As the talk was ending, Nathalie asked her, "How are you going to manage your life, your relationships and friendships, because everything is about to change for you?" It turns out that no one had ever asked Joan that question before. "It cultivated a really deep friendship," Nathalie says. Creating these real connections helped Nathalie to grow a strong support network, which can remind you of your own value and worth.
3. Learn to live with your fear. We've all heard the famous saying: "Fake it 'til you make it." According to Nathalie, it's pretty good advice. "We all have fear," she says. "It's never going away, so you have to find a way to cohabitate with it, and I think faking it 'til you make it is the key because it becomes muscle memory and eventually it becomes who you are." Often, women are asked to be and do many different things at once, and that can become overwhelming. So channel some strength from someone who inspires you. Tap into some of her inner greatness, because chances are it's going to become some of your own.
4. Don't let your doubts define you. Nathalie confesses that even though starting new things is her gift, imposter syndrome often used to keep her from taking the plunge. It caused her to doubt herself, and the thing that she did best became the thing that she was most afraid of. But overcoming her fears wasn't about learning not to be afraid, but instead about learning how to accept that fear and move past it. "It never goes away," Nathalie admits, "but it's a lot less powerful these days."
5. Acknowledge your accomplishments. To combat her negative inner monologue, Nathalie repeats her own personal mantra, inspired by her friend and mentor, Awilda Verdejo: "Whatever you did came from you. You are the source of your own supply." This simple reminder helps her focus on her own strength to get back on track.
***Additional reporting by Jessica Demarest