Owning the ‘E’ Word by @nskbelanger

by Nicole Belanger | Featured Contributor

It all started with a tweet. This tweet, to be precise:

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“What a fabulous opportunity!”, I thought to myself.

Here I was, ramping up my writing work and getting ready to launch my new blog (coming February 2014!) and looking for new ways to reach ambitious women with my message about re-defining success and living an intentional career. I was over-the-moon-excited about this opportunity to join a community of strong, independent women entrepreneurs from around the world.

I eagerly clicked through to the application page, all set to submit my candidacy. But my enthusiasm came crashing down around me when I came across the ‘E’ word.


Six little letters that form one little intimidating word.

And who do you think you are?

I froze. I thought to myself, “well this is clearly not an opportunity for me, I’m hardly an expert“.

So the tab sat open in my browser for nearly two weeks. It teased and taunted me. I returned to the form several times, but was overcome by a nagging sense of self-doubt every time I reached this question:

Why do you feel you are an expert in this industry?

While it may seem like a simple and straight-forward question, it brought up many of my deepest fears and doubts:

  • Am I old enough to be an expert?
  • Will people think I’m arrogant or full of myself if I call myself an expert?
  • Will people believe me as an expert?
  • My expertise mostly comes from lived experience, not from formal education…is my knowledge ‘good enough’?

These questions rolled around and around in my head until one day shortly before Christmas. I was cleaning out my inbox and my browser tabs before I took off on holidays and I came across the application form once again.

As I sat there staring at the screen I had a moment of clarity as to why this simple question was causing so much inner turmoil:

The reason I was so afraid to put myself out there and claim my truth publicly as an expert is that it was an exercise in vulnerability — which could lead to rejection.

You see, I’ve known for some time now that I am an expert in my field. I know deep in my soul that this work is me living out my truth. But there is always a chance (pretty likely, in fact) that some won’t see me and my work in that way. That they will disagree. That they won’t truly see me.

And that’s a scary thought.

Claim What Is Yours

But what is even scarier is the thought that I was giving away my power to others by shying away from giving myself the title of ‘expert’. I was allowing my fear of other people’s possible perceptions to keep me from proudly and publicly owning my truth.

I was originally planning to wait around for someone to gift me with that title, hoping that somehow knowing that it was given to me by someone else would magically make me immune to the the impostor syndrome. But I came to realize that I didn’t want to wait another day for someone to come and bestow the title of ‘expert’ upon me — I wanted to live my truth now.

That required me to examine my fears and stare down my limiting beliefs and ask myself, ‘what’s the worst that could happen?’

In time, I came to the conclusion was that the worst possible outcome wasn’t that someone would laugh at me, or judge me harshly…it was that I wouldn’t be living up to what I knew was my full potential.

And there is no way I’m going to let the ‘E’ word stand in the way of that!


Nicole Belanger – Women’s Leadership Advocate – Ottawa, Canada

Nicole Nicole Belanger is on a mission to help you live a full and intentional life. The opportunity to connect someone to their highest potential is what gets her out of bed (early) in the morning!

She is an Ottawa, Canada-based writer, blogger, entrepreneur, and community organizer. A passionate advocate for women’s leadership, Nicole’s life revolves around finding new ways to support emerging women leaders in her community.

Nicole is the founder of the Ottawa Chapter of Ladies Learning Code, a women-run non-profit offering beginner-friendly technology education, as well as the National Sponsorships and Partnerships Manager for the organization.

She is also actively involved in the startup community, and is a former organizer of Startup Weekend Ottawa.

Nicole’s writings on personal development, leadership, and entrepreneurship have been published in Levo League, Business Insider, Intern Queen, and Urban Native Magazine, among others.

In her spare time, you can find Nicole reading, making gratitude lists, enjoying a glass of cab sauv, meditating, going on roadtrips, and learning to golf!

Nicole loves nothing more than hearing from amazing women doing amazing things…so please say hello!

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