“Prepare as best you can.” With Melissa Morris

The best thing you can do when you feel Imposter Syndrome coming on is to plan and prepare as best you can. For example, when I am speaking in front of a large group, I practice my talk a few times and make sure I have good notes. I also try to anticipate any tough […]

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The best thing you can do when you feel Imposter Syndrome coming on is to plan and prepare as best you can. For example, when I am speaking in front of a large group, I practice my talk a few times and make sure I have good notes. I also try to anticipate any tough questions the audience may have.

As a part of our series about how very accomplished leaders were able to succeed despite experiencing Imposter Syndrome, I had the pleasure of interviewing Melissa Morris.

Melissa Morris is a professor at the University of Tampa and a part-time writer for LifeInsuranceTypes.com. Melissa teaches nutrition and applied kinesiology at the university level and has worked in community health education, fitness, and nutrition for 15 years. In her spare time, she enjoys working out at OrangeTheory Fitness and runs 5ks, 10ks, and half marathons.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’?

Ialways knew that I wanted to work in the health field but it wasn’t until college when I realized how interesting and exciting the human body can be and how there are so many cool things happening when we exercise. Then in graduate school I got more interested in nutrition, which connects so well to physical activity.

I taught college-level courses as a graduate teaching assistant and as an adjunct and loved those experiences, which drove me back to pursue a doctorate. I didn’t take the traditional path to working in higher education, I actually worked as a community health educator full-time while pursuing my doctorate. I also didn’t get as many research experiences as I would have liked, the research that I have done has much more of a practical application.

Currently I have the best of both worlds. I get to teach students, but I also get to write in my spare time. I have supportive workplaces and lots of opportunities to be creative. I’m very fortunate and thankful for both opportunities as a professor and as a writer.

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

After I finished graduate school, I was a substitute teacher for about six months while I was looking for full-time employment. I already had experience teaching college students as a graduate teaching assistant, but had no experience with high school and middle school students. Most of the kids were really sweet but there were a few behavioral issues which I had no experience in dealing with in those students. I had to dig deep to find the patience in some of the classrooms. Once I had to call the assistant principal because I had a student run out of the classroom. That was a new experience for me!

All I have to say is my hat goes off to all teachers because they work so hard, yet still manage to inspire so many students. I never realized this when I was in elementary, middle, and high school. College students are so much easier than K — 12 students.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

At the University of Tampa, the focus is on teaching and on the students, which is awesome. I learn my students’ names as quickly as possible and I have many of them in multiple classes. I love getting to know them and seeing them grow. I had students who I have noticed an awesome amount of growth and maturity in just one or two years.

At 360 Quote LLC, the company who manages LifeInsuranceTypes.com, everyone works remotely, but the atmosphere is very supportive and flexible. Everyone there is working hard to get information on our websites that is informative to so many people.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

My grandma was always very supportive of my education and career. She was always asking about my coursework and teaching experiences. I actually lived with her while I was substitute teaching so she got to hear all my stories. She also helped financially when I went back to school to pursue my doctorate.

I wish I could pick up the phone and call her, but I know she would be proud of how far I’ve come. Grandparents are very special and I sure do miss mine.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the experience of Impostor Syndrome. How would you define Impostor Syndrome? What do people with Imposter Syndrome feel?

Imposter Syndrome is that feeling we all have sometimes that makes us question our experiences, knowledge, or education. It might happen because we are stepping out of our comfort zone, working on something difficult, or trying something new.

For me, it’s thoughts like “What in the world am I doing here?” or “Do I belong here” or “Do I even know what I’m talking about?” or “Can I do this?”

What are the downsides of Impostor Syndrome? How can it limit people?

If you are scared of having these thoughts or feelings, you might limit yourself to staying within your comfort zone and not trying new challenges. Often times the best experiences come from those experiences when we did feel nervous, unprepared, or unqualified. Usually those thoughts are just in our own head and not actually the truth.

How can the experience of Impostor Syndrome impact how one treats others?

I think we all need to recognize that most people are dealing with some degree of Imposter Syndrome in various areas of their life. It could be related to their job, but it could also be related to hobbies, relationships, families, or just life in general. We should just try to be supportive and understanding to those that we care about and try to build them up instead of knock them down.

You never know how people are feeling deep down. They may seem conceited or overconfident, but they are probably just masking their own Imposter Syndrome thoughts and feelings too.

We would love to hear your story about your experience with Impostor Syndrome. Would you be able to share that with us?

I am surrounded by highly educated, successful, and hard-working colleagues. They are passionate about what they do and have awesome research experiences. I came in to my position with only part-time teaching experience and little research experience so I had to find my niche, my place, and become the professor and writer that I wanted to be.

It took trial and error, observation of my colleagues, and time to get there. There were days when I fought Imposter Syndrome and had to “fake it until I make it.” I didn’t feel like an expert, but that’s just the negative self-talk creeping in.

Did you ever shake the feeling off? If yes, what have you done to mitigate it or eliminate it?

It definitely affects me much less now, but I don’t know that I will ever eliminate the feeling of Imposter Syndrome. The reasons why I experience it less frequently are because now I have more experience under my belt, support from my colleagues, and I always work on building my own confidence.

In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone who is experiencing Impostor Syndrome can take to move forward despite feeling like an “Impostor”? Please share a story or an example for each.

Step #1

Plan and Prepare

The best thing you can do when you feel Imposter Syndrome coming on is to plan and prepare as best you can. For example, when I am speaking in front of a large group, I practice my talk a few times and make sure I have good notes. I also try to anticipate any tough questions the audience may have.

Step #2

Crush Your Inner Negative Self-Talk

I really hate those little thoughts that creep in your mind making you feel dumb, or silly, or not worthy. I use guided imagery to imagine myself kicking or punching those thoughts away.

Step #3

Build Your Confidence

Focus on the positive or write down the things you are good at. For me, exercise and running are great ways to boost my confidence and keep my stress level manageable. I just ran my first half-marathon and met my goal time, so that was a huge confidence booster.

Step #4

Find Great Support

I am lucky because I have a great support system with family and friends and with both of my workplaces. In fact, I have two female colleague friends that I have lunch with once a week and we are all so supportive of each other (shout-out to Claudia and Tracy!).

Step #5

Learn and Grow

Sometimes we learn best from the difficult situations or mistakes we’ve made. We can all take time to recognize the areas where we can improve. I like to take some time to reflect after a difficult situation and figure out areas where I can grow and improve for next time.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I wish we could all recognize that everyone is fighting some type of battle(s). If we could all just have some empathy and kindness toward strangers, and treat others how we want to be treated, the world would be a better place for all of us.

We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂

I am a big fan of Michelle Obama. I would love to sit down with her and just chat about anything and everything.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Azdmelissa on Instagram.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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