During a recent Office Hours session for Elpha, someone asked about my recent take on imposter syndrome. My little soliloquy made it seem like the unwelcome feeling vanished overnight, but that’s far from the case. Upon further reflection, it was actually little to do with external factors like positive performance reviews, but rather a shift in my own mindset. When I joined Strava in 2017, I met a community of coworkers who strived, both in and out of the office. These brilliant people I worked with could also run sub-5 minute miles and some ran marathons…before work.

A smaller group of us new to Strava were by no means fast runners, but we were determined to participate in this buzz of energy. We established a weekly routine of meeting at 5:40am on Tuesdays in the Marin Headlands to get in a 2-hour, very hilly trail run before our 9am (in person!) meetings. These mornings were painful: feeling nauseous if we didn’t sleep well, enduring freezing temperatures in the winter, lungs and legs burning because we were literally running up a mountain. But we kept showing up week after week for each other, building grit together and proving to ourselves we could do it. In the office, this same group attacked work with the same determination that got us out of bed at 5am – leading large projects, presenting in front of the company and taking on more and more responsibility.

Prior to this, I used to fear trying my hardest or setting goals because I irrationally believed that failing would destroy me. I was really making my life even harder by adding self-doubt to already challenging situations. But with this support system, I started experimenting with this alien notion of trying even though it felt really uncomfortable.

I started saying yes to things that were way beyond my perceived limits. I never fathomed I would summit Mt. Shasta on skis (it took me 13.5 hours). Just two weeks later, I dragged myself through a 120mi ride through the Rockies, at one point sitting on the ground 80 miles in, desperately wanting to give up … but I got back up and finished it.

We faced plenty of failures together: bombing presentations, missing promotions, DNFing races; I even watched my friend throw up (twice) but still finish a gnarly trail race. Every time, the projected feeling of failure that was so scary and intolerable was actually a lot less painful with the safety net of our little community.

Over time, I started to believe in myself a little bit more every time. And that pesky little voice that used to constantly tell me I was a fraud, that I couldn’t code, that I couldn’t lead? It got overpowered with the effort to try, the encouraging confidence of women around me and the knowledge that few things in life are more painful than running a marathon.