The Wethos Collective -- Blog

How To Recognize & Overcome Imposter Syndrome

Posted by Sarah Obenauer on Dec 4, 2018 8:00:00 AM

This blog post was written & originally posted on Medium by Founder / Director of Make A Mark, Sarah Obenauer. She's the creator of 12-hour make-a-thons around the world, responsible for gathering the best creatives & developers together and connecting them with their impactful nonprofit community to provide innovative design resources. Check out Make A Mark 

Imposter Syndrome Kicked In Quick

In 2017, after over two years of spending nights, weekends, and even lunch breaks on my side gig, I finally went full time. But it didn’t talk long for me to feel the self-doubt associated with impostor syndrome kick in. The Harvard Business Review defines imposter syndrome “as a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success. “Imposters” suffer from “chronic self-doubt and a sense of intellectual fraudulence that override any feelings of success or external proof of their competence.”

Now let’s take a step back. In 2014, I sat down with my husband and a graphic designer friend to talk about an idea that I had. I had been working at a nonprofit and during this time I seen the struggle in the humanitarian sector of finding the time, talent, and money to resource projects involving design and marketing. When we were able to find the resources, we saw its power — more engagement, more grant funding, and more lives saved.

This was how Make a Mark was born. Make a Mark is a 12-hour design and development marathon benefiting local nonprofit organizations. Back in 2014, I never would have imagined that we’d now be in eight cities across the globe: New York City, San Francisco, Baltimore, Chattanooga, Charlotte, Asheville, Roanoke — Blacksburg, and Brussels.

What is Imposter Syndrome Anxiety?

Spreading these events to other communities is always something that I wanted to do. I wanted to share this opportunity for collaboration and community with other passionate people. But I had questions in the back of my mind: Am I really capable of doing this? Am I really able to lead these people all over the world? Will I let down our nonprofits and makers?

All of these harmful, negative thoughts caused me to reflect on why I was questioning my abilities.

When I was in school, I made straight A’s, was involved in extracurricular activities, served as an officer in clubs and had healthy relationships with friends. I succeeded because I worked hard and was given instant feedback in the form of grades and affirmations. We get used to this during our school years. If we do well according to the education system we live in today, we’ll get promoted to the next grade, make the honor roll, get into college, etc.

In our professional life, it is the same story. We have regular performance reviews and if we do well, we receive affirmations, promotions and raises, if not, we’re given tips for improvement or we’re fired.

What Are The Signs of Imposter Syndrome?

When Make a Mark became my full time job, I gained freedom and passion, but I lost access to constant feedback. That feedback is something that I took for granted and without even realizing, self-doubt and anxiety started to slip into my thoughts. I noticed that I became more reserved about publishing content, hesitant to bring on new locations and less confident when talking to others. I was nervous to take chances that would further the mission because I didn’t want to let down any nonprofits or makers. I didn’t want to fail. And I certainly didn’t want to fail at something that I had invested my whole heart in for the past several years.

How To Overcome Imposter Syndrome

It was during this time that I voiced these concerns to my husband. He started a company back in 2012 and had been through the same wave of emotions. Through talking with him, I realized something very important. As humans, we are never finished growing and learning. We’re constantly trying out new ideas and experiences to see what works and what doesn’t. Sometimes we fail and feel embarrassed, and sometimes we succeed and feel like impostors. Understanding and taking control of those feelings is what helps us to grow.

Over the past year, I’ve tried a few things that have helped me to understand myself better.

  1. Take quiet time. Everyone gets caught up in the details of their work, particularly those of us who work from home and struggle with work-life boundaries (that’s a topic that we’ll save that for another time). Taking time in your day to let your thoughts, fears and excitement bubble to the surface can provide focus and inspiration. My husband and I take walks in the morning away from our computers and phones (Well we have them with us, but they are tucked away. Safety first right?) and let our thoughts flow openly. Sometimes this is done in silence, and sometimes we spend the entire walk brainstorming.
  2. Confide in others whom you trust. Reflecting internally is critical, but sometimes those thoughts can get jumbled. I’ve found that talking to my peers who are also running their own small businesses or organizations keeps me from feeling isolated. It helps to know that I am not alone on this journey.
  3. Be willing to look at your work critically. During our early years, people tell us if we’re good enough according to their standards, but we’re uncomfortable telling ourselves that we’re good enough. To thrive, we have to be willing to take a step back, look at our own work and accomplishments and determine whether or not it is up to our standard. And if it isn’t, it is up to us to improve it.
  4. Keep your purpose in your heart and mind. I feel so fortunate to have this opportunity to focus on executing on my purpose of helping meaningful organizations thrive through design, creativity, and technology. By acting with purpose, I know that Make a Mark will continue to serve nonprofits and makers alike.

Understanding my feelings and knowing my purpose in life helps me push aside the impostor syndrome. That doesn’t mean I won’t stumble and fall sometimes, but I will get back up with more vigor than before.

Read More

Topics: Design, Impact, Entrepreneurship, Purpose

How To Self-Reflect For Successful Self-Employment

Posted by Vivian Nunez on Oct 18, 2018 4:51:52 PM

Whether you’re debating switching from 9-to-5 to full-time, being-your-own-boss kind of work, or graduating from college and knowing that traditional isn’t for you — that first gut feeling should only be considered the beginning of the conversation you should be having with yourself.

Read More

Topics: Get Started, Freelance, Freelancing, Tips/Tricks

Meet Phil Dearing, Co-Founder of Second Day: "Don't Choose Between Accelerating Your Career And Making Social Impact"

Posted by Alexis Nunez on Oct 11, 2018 12:54:29 PM

For some of us, it’s hard. It’s hard to make the connection between what we’re good at, what excites us, what makes us money, what connects us with other people, what will make us grow/learn, and what a business or our world at large could truly benefit from that only we can contribute to.

Read More

Topics: Wethos x Second Day, Freelancing, Freelance, Professional Development, Impact

Swiping vs. Clicking: Why Won't our Website Visitors Respond to our Calls to Action?

Posted by Janice Chan on Oct 10, 2018 2:59:20 PM

Trying to figure out why people do something is typically easier than figuring out why they’re not doing something.  Still, it doesn’t mean it can’t be done – it will simply require a bit more work.

Read More

Topics: Technology, Tips/Tricks, Web Development

Designing With Purpose: Takeaways From Freelance Designer Raul Flores

Posted by Jay Li on Oct 5, 2018 3:20:56 PM

Jay Li from SecondDay sat down with Raul Flores, a freelance designer at Wethos teams interested in web design, photography, UI/UX, and digital media. They discuss how to break into the social impact/non-profit space as a “creative”, what it means to be a designer in today’s day and age, and how to move forward in our professional and creative development.

Read More

Topics: Creativity, Freelancing, Freelance, Design, Wethos x Second Day

3 Strategies To Leverage Technology Creatively In Raising Money

Posted by Janice Chan on Sep 26, 2018 3:07:41 PM

When you don’t have the resources of a large organization behind you, being creative and adapting quickly is even more critical to making the most of what you have.  

Read More

Topics: Fundraising, Tips/Tricks, Technology, Creativity, The Modern Nonprofit

Amp Up Your Giving Season Results

Posted by Amber Smith on Sep 25, 2018 7:00:00 AM
“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” ― Maya Angelou

The best fundraisers are authentic friends. They genuinely care about the wellbeing of their donors, understand their needs and what drives them and, when it’s time to “make the ask”, aren’t trying to pitch or sell. Rather, they are giving their donors a gift -- the gift of an opportunity to find meaning, purpose, and connection.

Read More

Topics: Get Started, Tips/Tricks, Freelance projects, wethos teams, Insider, Freelance, Freelancing

Being Self-Employed Doesn't Mean You Can't Have A Co-Worker Support Group

Posted by Vivian Nunez on Sep 23, 2018 9:00:00 AM

How To Use Your Friend Group As Your Personal Board of Advisors

One of the biggest gaps of being self-employed is that you're siloed out from coworkers and touch points that help you see where you're going. I've tapped into my friends often to run ideas by them and get feedback. There are certain ways to do this so that you're not overextending your friendship.

Read More

Topics: Tips/Tricks, Freelancing, Collaboration, Freelance

How To Revamp Visitor Engagement On Your Website - Tips & Ideas For Nonprofits

Posted by Allie Murphy on Sep 14, 2018 3:06:30 PM

With an ever growing focus on technology, today’s businesses can’t afford to have a mediocre website. A nonprofits online presence is not only vital for success but necessary for survival. Fortunately, the benefits of having a highly functional, professional, and innovative website are in reach, which means so is online success for your nonprofit.

Read More

Topics: Tips/Tricks, Get Started

3 Low Cost Strategies For Capturing Compelling Stories

Posted by Janice Chan on Aug 28, 2018 6:00:44 PM

Whether you are a fundraiser, social media manager, or freelance writer or graphic designer on a communications team, if you're sharing or creating content for a nonprofit organization, you're always looking for the next great story to share. Yet it often seems to be a struggle in many organizations to get great stories (and images!) to share with your supporters.

Read More

Topics: Tips/Tricks, Collaboration, Nonprofit Storytelling


Wethos is the first platform connecting highly skilled professionals with more meaningful and paid work in an industry that is often understaffed with resources.  Join the collective of thousands of nonprofits and freelancers aiming to make a bigger impact, together.

Subscribe Here!

Recent Posts