Gia Storms: How I Was Able To Succeed Despite First Experiencing Impostor Syndrome

Almost everyone will experience the impostor syndrome at some point. When I lead workshops on it, the simple act of sharing about these feeling creates vulnerability, connection and they become a universally shared experience. When we remember that these feelings are universal we can start to connect to others and ourselves with compassion, remembering that at any moment someone else in the room has at one point felt like a fraud.

As a part of our series about how very accomplished leaders were able to succeed despite experiencing Impostor Syndrome, I had the pleasure of interviewing Gia Storms, PCC, Executive Coach.

Gia Storms is a professional coach and leadership expert specializing in developing employees and catalyzing change. She brings to her work more than 15 years of strategic communications and marketing in the corporate and non-profit worlds, inspiring teams and individuals to overcome their fears and step forth with courage. Gia previously served as the Chief Communications Officer at the Hammer Museum at UCLA, one of Los Angeles’ leading contemporary art Museums and cultural centers. She led the museum in understanding communications styles and facilitated trainings across the museum to help improve outcomes in internal communications, employee engagement and departmental collaboration.

As coach and leadership facilitator, Gia brings strategic communication and storytelling to all her clients working to develop their organizations and futures. Presenting in front of groups and one-on-one, she helps individuals to realize their future path and pave the way for transformation in business and careers, with particular focus on mindfulness and co-active coaching.

A native of Seattle, Gia is a graduate of Barnard College, Columbia University, with a bachelor’s degree in Women’s Studies. She graduated from the Coaching Training Institute, one of the world’s oldest coaching universities, with a certification in professional coaching, and has been trained with Coro’s Leadership New York, and certified in Interpersonal Leadership Styles, leading workshops with teams across dozens of organizations. She currently lives in Los Angeles where she runs coaching workshops and is a graduate of the University of Santa Monica’s Spiritual Psychology Program.

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’?

Nine years ago, when I was first introduced to coaching, I was rocked by a deep and instant calling to help individuals and teams connect to a new form of leadership. After spending a more than a decade and a half working in strategic and crisis communications in New York City and Los Angeles’ most competitive environments, I was ready to help leaders and teams find a new way to inspire, engage and achieve better workplace outcomes. Today, I support my executive coaching clients by helping them to make strategic shifts towards their best professional life. I work with leaders and organizations facilitating workshops that bring clarity, connection and improved communication to the workplace. I love living in Los Angeles, where I’m surrounded by dreamers, and regularly scheme new ways to push myself out of my own comfort zone (this year: travel to Algeria, motorcycle school, book in progress). My dream is for every person in the world to have a coach who helps hold space for deep connection, self-awareness and lasting personal and professional transformation.

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?

I have recently come to understand that my life purpose is to walk the invisible bridge to make it safe for others to follow. To walk the invisible bridge means to go forward, even if you would rather hang back and blend into the crowd. To walk into the unknown, trusting that the net will appear; to speak out and step forth, even when the path looks uncertain and the territory hostile.

This has not always been my story. My own journey into courageously stepping forth was marked by small, early acts of resistance: Shaving my head in college to better understand gender norms, initiating private, courageous conversations in and out of the workplace when I saw bad behavior from coworkers, and finally leaving the full-time job and pension behind to enter the vast unknown of solo-preneurship.

Now that I have been on the invisible bridge of this new path — examining and embracing it from all sides — I have been able to call back over my shoulder in a clear, strong voice: “You guys! It’s real! It’ll hold! Come on out!” Today, I call clients forth with the certainty of one who has walked this path.

In careers today, most people I talk to wrestle with this feeling of disempowerment; shackled by the external circumstances — underpaying jobs, tyrannical bosses, financial burdens of dependents — that keep them from pursuing the scary dream or taking full charge of the journey.

Others I speak with cannot imagine what might lie beyond the ridge of the known, and so the safer choice becomes to stay on solid footing, inching our way forward and crossing our fingers that we will one day be rescued, recognized and rewarded.

But the cost of waiting is too high. As the stakes get higher in an increasingly complex world, as old institutions and old ways of being crumble, as more and more of us begin to answer a deeper call, it gets harder to ignore the thing inside of you that is yearning for freedom.

A new era of courage is dawning.

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

My coaching inspires clients to imagine their best lives and courageously take the action needed to make it happen. For example, when a client comes to me stuck, or paralyzed by procrastination, or longing for more meaning and purpose in their life, I push them to shorten the distance between dreaming and doing, and arm them with the tools and techniques to create meaningful, swift change in all areas of their lives.

In general, my clients are leaders craving balance and meaning, creatives looking to take their careers to the next level, managers seeking tools to overcome resistance and make change happen now. Together, we dare to dream up the fullest expression of that best life — then take solid, direct steps to make it a reality.

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?

I had early champions who saw my full potential and relentlessly advocated for journey as a coach — my parents, as well as some of my first teachers and bosses were all my main cheerleaders. When I was first introduced to coaching, I found a dear mentor and friend who had built her own vibrant coaching practice that was transforming the lives of leaders. Christie Mann became an inspiring friend and role model on this path, pointing me to a way of walking forward with courage and vulnerability to effecting tremendous change.

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 Impostor Syndrome feel?

Impostor syndrome is a reoccurring sense of inadequacy or self-doubt that negatively impacts the way we show up to perform. Impostor syndrome typically shows up as a doubt that you will be found unworthy or exposed as a fraud, that you don’t belong, despite external evidence like credentials, experience and personal or professional qualifications. When I think of this syndrome, I visualize it as an inner critic that constantly tells us we are faking it, and making us feel like pretenders at whatever task we are attempting.

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

Impostor syndrome is not always a bad thing. It typically shows up when we are attempting to change, or moving out of our comfort zone, which can signal you’re on the right track. According to some leadership experts, if you are not experiencing the impostor syndrome regularly, you are not taking big enough risks in your life. However, it needs to be managed correctly when it does show up. When it is not dealt with consciously, it can sabotage our ability to create the impact we want at work and in our personal lives.

Generally, when the impostor syndrome shows up, our thoughts of “I don’t belong here” quickly transform into physical fear, anxiety, and self-doubt and move us into a parasympathetic response of fight, flight or freeze. When we’re in this kind of response, our ability to respond creatively and impactfully to a situation decreases. If we are interested in making powerful and impactful choices, we need to begin to recognize how this process works inside of us and find new patterns of behavior to interrupt these thought patterns and move into action.

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

When we are in the grips of the inner critic, we are focused on ourselves, paralyzed by fear and inclined to either shut down to self-protect or overextend ourselves by boasting and getting defensive. Typically this kind of response produces disastrous results in the workplace.

Almost everyone will experience the impostor syndrome at some point. When I lead workshops on it, the simple act of sharing about these feeling creates vulnerability, connection and they become a universally shared experience. When we remember that these feelings are universal we can start to connect to others and ourselves with compassion, remembering that at any moment someone else in the room has at one point felt like a fraud.

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

Starting my own business was nothing if not an exercise in overcoming impostor syndrome. For months at a time in the early days of venturing out, I I could hear my inner critic on repeat, complaining: Who do you think you are, you don’t belong here, this will never work.

In reality, of course, not only was the business thriving, but I was doing exactly what I was supposed to be doing, and could point to half a dozen well-earned credentials that would serve as measures of my expertise in the field. So why wouldn’t the voice let me off the hook?

At different points, all of the leaders I work with must identify and move past their own feelings of impostor syndrome. It may show up as a nagging feeling of inadequacy, or a persistent fear that you will be discovered as a fraud or a failure. For most of us, the impostor syndrome shows up as a vicious inner critic that keeps us from truly owning our power and our weaknesses, from taking up space and from doing the brave thing in the face of old patterns that would have us seek safety over risk, familiarity over discomfort.

I have been a hyper-achiever my whole life. Let me re-frame: I have had a hyper-achieving inner critic my whole life. This particularly insidious, relentless critic in my head has claimed energy and space in my life for as long as I can remember. The activity, achievement, success, accolades or action I have done in given period of time is never. ever. enough.

Inner critics at their most basic are coping mechanisms, developed when we were young to ensure we survived childhood and adolescence, assisting us in critical moments to attract the right kind of attention or navigate potential threats to keep us safe. However, at a certain point, we outgrow our need for these basic protection mechanisms and are able to navigate our complex and largely non-threatening adult lives with some degree of psychological maturity.

And yet, the voices persist long past their usefulness — getting in the way of our effectiveness as leaders in our professional and personal lives. As adults, the inner critics are persistent, annoying, and sneaky and they rob us consistently of the joy of being in the moment. What’s more is they can rob us of taking needed, essential action steps to move into change.

Inner critics are fear personified. They can be harbingers of the exciting and constructive change that is on the horizon; a sign that you are moving out of your comfort zone. Yet, the fear-based thinking only ever serves to keep us in paralysis and negativity.

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

If you are up to big change — if you have just accepted a promotion, or are managing a team for the first time, or are about to stand on stage to give a speech — it is time to get familiar with how your impostor syndrome operates and reduce the amount of time you spend listening to your inner critic.

At the end of the day, the inner critic driving the impostor syndrome cannot prevent us from making change if we learn to identify it and work with it, instead of against it. We are moving forward, and we get to decide who we want to listen to and put in the drivers seat. Over time, we will find ourselves increasingly free from self-doubt, leading from a place of confidence and courage, acknowledging the voices that pop up with patience and curiosity.

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.

1. Start by identifying your inner critic. This process begins by identifying when you are in fear, and getting clear about the critical part of yourself operating in those moments. When you get a good picture of your inner critic, start to approach them with curiosity: What’s the 2% of the information coming forward that’s actually useful? Is there a new way the fear can be instructive? If you can be gentle but firm with this part of yourself, it will ultimately dissipate the energy and allow you to get back to the important work of making change happen, with the critical rap on low volume.

2. Get creative about managing your fear. After you’ve identified the core critic and the way that it operates, you can playfully and creatively approach different ways to shift away from it. I’ve had clients imagine muting the volume of their inner critic, putting them on an imaginary bench, shrinking them down to three inches high, writing out a dialogue with them, or drawing an exaggerated cartoon sketch to add humor and definition to the irrational, insatiable energy and learn to laugh at it when it appears.

3. Call forth your confident inner leader. It is important that you work to identify your confident inner leader — the part of you that emerges when you are at your most confident, powerful and impactful. Create a clear vision of your confident inner leader and think about how they would react to any given situation. For example, if Michelle Obama is your confident inner leader, how would she handle a challenging work conflict? How would she stand? What would she say to prepare?

4. Take one small step of action. When the inner critic pops up — and they will until the end of time, if we are living into our full potential — you can use it as a moment to propel one step of action that would help you feel more solid inside yourself. Is there more education, experience or practice needed? For example, you might enroll in a course, recruit a friend to practice with you, or make a plan to get more experience to inspire more graceful confidence.

5. Tell on yourself to others. There is no tonic to bust the impostor syndrome wide open like telling on yourself. Have the courage to confide in someone you admire or trust. Share what is going on with you and you likely will find that they not only reassure you of your own abilities but that they will share with you their own similar experience. Dare to share and you will find that it gives you the ability to own your areas for growth as well as your strengths with confidence and wisdom.

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. 🙂

My vision is for every person in the world to have the inner tools they need to make confident, compassionate, courageous choices in the face of fear and the great unknown. When we can connect with our full potential even at challenging moments we can effect radical transformation of our external world.

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 🙂

My heroes are creating radical transformation in the world working from the inside out: Byron Katie, Martha Beck, Robert Holden, Ekart Tole, Oprah, Michelle Obama, adrienne marie brown, Brene Brown, Elizabeth Gilbert. They exhibit courage, vulnerability, integrity, and messy, loving commitment to change in our world.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can find Gia Storms on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, & Twitter!

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

Thank you!

Gia Storms: How I Was Able To Succeed Despite First Experiencing Impostor Syndrome was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Margie Traxler of Grain Free Mama’s: They Told Me It Was Impossible But I Did It Anyway

Pursue your dream with no plan of retreat. Building in a ‘back door’ or ‘what if’ plan is just giving yourself permission to quit. Taking actions that ultimately don’t work out quite the way you wanted them to may be seen as failure by others, but getting back up and tweaking your approach will one day get you there.

As a part of our series about “dreamers who ignored the naysayers and did what others said was impossible”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Margie Traxler.

Margie Traxler is the Founder and President of Grain Free Mama’s, a food manufacturing company dedicated to the production of Gluten Free, Grain Free and Grasses-Genus Free baking mixes and baked goods. The passion that she has to help people to improve and maintain great health through healthy eating is enormous. As she says, “All foods can either help us or hurt us. So eat well, and live life to the fullest.”

She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Portland State University in 1987. Additionally, she has 22 years of ownership experience in the Restaurant/Lounge Industry. She currently lives and operates her business in Henderson, Nevada.

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

In 2004, my then 6 year old daughter bent over one evening screaming and clutching her stomach. I rushed her to the Emergency Room at the nearest hospital, convinced that her appendix had burst. Hours later, after all the tests came back negative, the doctor’s offered to ‘remove’ her appendix anyway. I absolutely refused, and we went home with no answers.

My sister, who was studying to become a Natural Nutritionist, told me she thought it could be food. I had no idea where to start with that, so I searched for the best Natural and Conventional doctor in the United States…and we headed off to Florida (we live in Las Vegas, Nevada) for a visit.

Sitting in the doctor’s office with my daughter, we received the following news … “When Anna Mae eats wheat and sugar, it makes a toxic little punch in her that is burning little holes in her intestines.” THAT certainly explained the screaming!

That single sentence birthed a passion in me that changed my life. We went to the local health food store after our appointment to get something to eat, and as we walked down the aisles and looked at foods, all I could think was ‘Can’t eat that, can’t eat that.’ The grocery store had suddenly changed from a fun, warm environment to a potentially dangerous place. Wow!

After purchasing our gluten free items, we headed outside to give them a taste. One bite and the food literally exploded like sawdust in our mouths! I looked over at Anna Mae and I could see her eyes watering and her little chin quivering…it woke up something really big in me and I said, “Mommy is a scientist, Anna Mae. I can fix this. Pinky promise — one day we will offer the products and resources that we wish would have been available for us today.”

I got online and discovered that doctor’s just accept that people who have digestive problems will develop 2–5 autoimmune disorders during the course of their lifetimes. This was totally unacceptable to me and so I made two very important decisions;

  1. I refused to accept that we had to just get sicker until we died. (We had found out that we carry both the genes for celiac and gluten sensitivity in our family, so myself and all of my children carry at least one, if not both, of these genes.)
  2. I refused to accept that my children, and myself, had to go through life envying everyone else’s food. Peer pressure works both ways — I decided that everyone else was going to envy our food!

Educated as a Biologist, with a specialization in microbiology, I began the process of training myself to become what I now call a Natural Food Scientist, to be able to not only create foods with innovative natural ingredients, but also create the formulas for these foods. My kitchen became my laboratory. I began to study different foods, cultures from around the world, and incidence of diseases in those cultures. I began cooking with many different flours and ingredients.

Within a relatively short period of time, Anna Mae began asking for more and more food in her school lunch. One day I asked if she was really that hungry and her response made my day; “No Mommy. My friends all want to eat my food because it makes them feel better.”

I knew I was on to something. We started out just gluten free, and that helped but we were just better than before, not totally healthy. My middle son started to get really bad acne, and I challenged him to try gluten free (no wheat, no rye and no barley) for 3 weeks after the school year ended. Within a week, the acne disappeared, and he became a believer as well. Then my oldest son thought he had developed an ulcer, so off we went again to the doctor in Florida. The conclusion; the combination of corn and sugar was causing his biggest problems.

Next step, we decided to go grain free. This means eating none of the following: wheat, rye, barley, oat, spelt, millet, sorghum, teff, corn and rice. We were a bit better than before, but, again, not totally healthy. The last, and most important shift we made was to become grain and sugarcane free. Bingo! All the bloating, etc. stopped. Our mind fog cleared and we naturally began to shed the puffiness associated with the inflammation! Our seasonal allergies decreased exponentially…so I started to think about that.

My ‘aha’ moment came when I realized that the grasses-genus includes all the grains, and sugarcane. We originally moved to Las Vegas because of our allergies to mold, weeds, trees and grasses. If we couldn’t breathe them, we couldn’t eat them either! Today we are healthy, happy and have not developed any autoimmune disease. Having the genetic disposition does not mean you are destined to develop that particular disease.

What began as this mama’s fight for my children’s life and health has grown into the founding of Grain Free Mama’s in 2018. It was time. I was becoming inundated with people who desperately needed help, just like we did all those years ago. Our company vision statement is ‘Inspiring health and quality of life by connecting real people with real foods that are easily digested by the human body.’

Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Yes, this year we are expecting our baking mix products (Crepe Mixes, Pizza Crust Mix, Cookie Mixes and Muffin Mixes) to hit the shelves in retail stores. The Crepe and Pizza Crust Mixes are currently available through our website, Amazon and Walmart e-commerce. We are so excited about this as they are naturally low carb, low calorie, tree nut free, dairy free and soy free as well. They are safe for people who are diabetic, as well as consumers who are struggling with weight or autoimmune disease.

We are also going to be launching our Food Breakthrough (Book and Cookbook) Education resources this year. The slogan is ‘Change Your Diet…Change Your Life.’ These resources are consumer-friendly materials designed to educate people so that they can confidently take back control of their diets and their health. I believe in the saying ‘Feed a person and they are good for a day, but teach a person how to feed themself and they are good for a lifetime.’

In your opinion, what do you think makes your company or organization stand out from the crowd?

We are a people-first company. We believe in providing excellent, quick and easy to make products because the customer’s time is valuable. We believe that easy to understand and implement educational resources should be available for everyone. But most importantly, we believe that life is a gift to be lived to the fullest…for everyone. Our mission to connect people with the resources to make this possible is what separates us from the crowd.

Our products are Certified Gluten Free, OK Kosher, and all but the Muffin Mixes are 100% USDA Organic. (The Muffin Mixes will be 100% Organic as soon as we are able to source a quality Organic Plantain Flour Grower or Supplier. Contact me if you know of one please.). There are simply not enough clean-label, excellent tasting and textured grain free and sugar free baking products available on the market. Organic matters, because the standards for farming are much higher and clean. When you read our ingredients list, you will see no artificial preservatives, colors, or flavors. Just real food ingredients for real people.

Ok, thank you for that. I’d like to jump to the main focus of this interview. Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?

Yes. One particular story from my youth stands out the clearest to me right now, as it did a lot to shape the person I am today.

What was your idea? What was the reaction of the naysayers? And how did you overcome that?

I told my dad, and others, that I wanted to grow up and get a full-ride scholarship to college to play basketball. His response was to tell me that they didn’t give scholarships to play basketball to girls. (It was 1967 and I was 4 years old.). My response …. “Well then I’ll get the first one!” My dad nodded and gave me a pat on the head.

I remembered snickers, and someone saying how ‘cute’ that was, and it only made me more determined as I grew older. Time and time again, people would tell me I couldn’t do it, but I listened to only one voice…mine.

In the end, how were all the naysayers proven wrong? 🙂

I signed my letter of intent spring of my senior year, after being courted by quite a few Division 1 Universities. I wasn’t the first girl to receive a scholarship by a long shot, but I did achieve what I set out to achieve long, long before when I was just a young child.

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 about that?

So many people, for sure. My high school basketball coach, Brad Smith, absolutely stands out in my mind. He became the coach the year I went to high school. The two years previous the team has won a mere one game. Brad changed all that. We worked so hard, year round, to create a winning atmosphere and winning mindset. I greatly benefitted from being a part of that.

Additionally, he would play me one-on-one, any time I wanted to. He didn’t take it easy on me, beating me continually, and it took me three years to beat him. The day I won was the last time we ever played one-on-one, but I will never forget knowing that I was finally good enough to get a full-ride scholarship in that moment. And I did.

It must not have been easy to ignore all the naysayers. Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share the story with us?

Growing up is tough, because there will always be naysayers for those who dare to be different or who dare to do what others deem impossible. Another very impactful experience for me, also a sports related story, occurred at the summer basketball camp that I attended and then worked at for 15 years, Northwest Basketball Camps. The camp was set up with 4 Master Teachers who led the various ‘leagues’ of campers, who were separated by age and ability. The year I graduated from High School, Fred Crowell, the owner and leader of the camp made me one of the Master Teachers. Well, this didn’t sit well with the other coaches, or with the boys who were almost my age (I didn’t say my age to anyone.).

One of the best and most outspoken high school boy players the first week said to me, ‘I don’t have to do what you say.” I then challenged him to a game of one-on-one in front of the other campers. If he won, he didn’t have to listen to me. If I won, he not only had to respect and listen to me, but to work hard to do all that I instructed him to do. Well, I won that game, 7–5. It instilled in me the resiliency to believe in myself in the face of challenges.

Based on your experience, can you share 5 strategies that people can use to harness the sense of tenacity and do what naysayers think is impossible? (Please share a story or an example for each)

  1. Check yourself. Make sure that you truly believe that your impossible dream is achievable. You cannot out-perform your subconscious belief system. Before I could take the steps to form my company and develop the products from the baked goods I made at home to monetizable formulas, I had to be able to see and believe it as a profitable company that I was going to create. The beginning of tenacity is your absolute passion and determination to seeing your dream become reality that everyone can see.
  2. Write it down. A dream not written down is merely a wish for a better life. You have to plan it in writing to get your dream out of your mind and into reality. Writing it down is a way to speak it into existence and hold yourself accountable. I have personally had quite a few great ideas that came to nothing because I wasn’t actually passionate enough to speak them out and write a plan to succeed. It wasn’t ever that way with Grain Free Mama’s, instead I have had a burning passion to share these great products and resources with all the people who will benefit from them just like I have from the very beginning.
  3. Pursue your dream with no plan of retreat. Building in a ‘back door’ or ‘what if’ plan is just giving yourself permission to quit. Taking actions that ultimately don’t work out quite the way you wanted them to may be seen as failure by others, but getting back up and tweaking your approach will one day get you there. When we were just getting started in 2018 we thought we would be starting as a Farmer’s Market Stand. We bought our trailer, got a trailer hitch put on my car, purchased our tables, portable sink, branded pop-up tent, our health license, etc., etc. — basically we put a lot of time and money into getting ready. Well, what we soon realized was that people in Las Vegas want already prepared products to buy at the Farmer’s Market, and the heat is ferocious. Consumers want to buy baking mixes in the store or online. Separately from the Farmer’s Markets, we were also contacted by two very large Retail Grocery Stores who were interested in our products and we were not ready to produce the amount they would need. Fail? Maybe, if you see fail as standing for First Attempt In Learning. We chose to adjust the plan and keep progressing.
  4. When opportunity knocks, open the door. I have had a plan all along. During the course of building and growing our company (which we are still very much doing) I have put a lot of effort out there and then kept my eyes open for the opportunities that open up. Sometimes they have come in totally different ways than I planned for, like the example in #3, but as I have remained flexible I am able to use what others may call impossible or failure as opportunities to move closer to my dream.
  5. Lastly, and most importantly, human nature is to root for the underdog. When I was first beginning to build my company, I had many cheerleaders applauding my ‘cute little idea’. As we have made progress, the naysaying has begun more in earnest. This is music to my ears! Do you know why? Because human nature is to root for the underdog…hence, when you are moving from underdog to achiever, you will experience the cheering turn to criticism. More than anything else, THESE STATEMENTS STOKE MY FIRES OF PASSION. Use the naysayers as evidence that you are making it, because you are!

What is your favorite quote or personal philosophy that relates to the concept of resilience?

“Only he(she) who sees the invisible can do the impossible.” (Frank L Gaines)

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

I would love to revolutionize the way we look at baked goods and baking products. I absolutely know and believe that our health in this world and the way we think is firstly affected by our eating choices. Toxic guts produce toxic minds. Healthy guts produce quality of life. In order to speak life, we have to be full of life. My Revolution: Change Your Diet…Change Your Life! And in so doing make a healthy contribution to this fabulous world we live in.

Can our readers follow you on social media?

Yes, absolutely. Here they are…

Facebook — @gfmamas1

Twitter — @gfmamas

Instagram — gfmamas

LinkedIn — gfmamas

YouTube — gfmama’s

Thank you for these great stories. We wish you only continued success!

Margie Traxler of Grain Free Mama’s: They Told Me It Was Impossible But I Did It Anyway was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Future Of Beauty: “Shop For Beauty Products Based On Your Values” With Sonya Denton of weDstll

Social media can be an uplifting part of a person’s life. However, it has a dark side in the form of online bullying, especially when it comes to beauty. If we focus on our commonalities instead of our differences, it could lead to developing a more positive outlook and an appreciation for one other. It might even give us the courage to step in and help those who are being attacked online, and send the message that bullying is not acceptable.

As a part of our series about how technology will be changing the beauty industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sonya Denton.

Sonya Denton is a communications and media professional who works to give people the information they deserve to know so that they can make informed decisions in their lives. In 2019, she co-founded weDstll (we-distill), the mobile platform will connect values-based shoppers with like-minded people and natural beauty brands so that they can help each other achieve their goals. After spending a decade as a reporter and news anchor for two major Canadian broadcasters, Sonya knows what drives people to emotionally connect and support each other. She believes that it is the context of people’s life experiences that resonates, surprises, and highlights what we share in common. Sonya loves using the power of media, tech, and design to create emotional experiences that transcend cultures. During her time as a journalist, Sonya covered multiple stories in the areas of politics, crime, health, entertainment and business. One of her most notable stories was covering the Duke and Duchess’s of Cambridge first visit to the Calgary Stampede as a royal couple. She has also media-trained people on how to speak in front of the camera, and consulted in the area of marketing strategy.

Sonya holds a BA in Television and Radio Broadcasting from Ryerson University and an MBA from the Schulich School of Business in Toronto.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I lived in Germany for two years. While I was there, I studied the language at the University of Cologne as in a German class for foreigners or “Deutsch für Ausländer.” I was among many people from different parts of the world who all had amazing stories. From a Rwandan man, who fled his homeland during the genocide, to a teacher from Mexico who wanted to learn the language and study at the university. All these stories changed the way I saw people. We came from different countries but all of us were there for the same reasons: to learn the language, acquire a German language certificate, and attend the university. Growing up in Canada, we learn about different human experiences from TV, radio or online but it’s rare to meet people who’ve actually lived the harrowing experiences we see on the news. I learned through my time there that the difference between people is where we are born and the opportunities we are given. This was a life-changing experience, one I was compelled to share. I discovered I could do this through telling stories as a journalist.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I had always felt the need to prove why I deserve anything — a career position, an opportunity that would advance me, any form of success. I was a shy child battling a severe speech impediment; it took three years of speech therapy to resolve my stutter. Even though I was an introvert, I felt a self-imposed pressure to do more to stand out. I hadn’t realized how that experience had impacted my life until the day I was asked to model for a group of accomplished artists. I felt anxious thinking about having to sit for six hours while they sketched my likeness. When my wireless headphones failed to connect, I was left with only my thoughts and powers of observation. As I watched these artists do their work, I listened to the sound of their charcoal on paper and watched their faces as they studied me. After they were finished, I was overcome with emotion. I realized that I didn’t have to do anything to gain their approval, all I had to be was me. This moment was more liberating than I could have imagined.

Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from that?

Like many journalists, I started out working in smaller cities to cut my teeth and gain experience before moving on to larger markets. I had been working in Sault Ste. Marie for a year and a half and wanted to advance my career. I applied for jobs all over the country, but wasn’t able to land one. I knew that meeting news directors in person was a key step, so I contacted news directors in the cities I thought would be a good fit. I cultivated relationships with them by requesting feedback on my demo reels. I soon booked a trip to Winnipeg, Edmonton and Calgary where I spent two days meeting with the news directors I had previously contacted. Over the next year and a half, I was promoted to the main station in Sudbury where I both anchored and reported. Not long after, I applied for a position in Calgary and the news director I had met earlier offered me the job. This taught me the importance of building relationships and taking the time to meet people in person. I also learned to not let circumstances dictate the outcome. We can be assertive and have a positive impact on our situation no matter what position one holds.

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

That question is difficult to say without bruising a few egos, so I’ll consolidate my answer and say my family. They’ve been extremely supportive throughout my career, and although they might not have agreed with every decision I’ve made, they’ve always had my back. I’m blessed and I recognize that not everyone has that support. In the aforementioned story about me applying for jobs out of Sault Ste Marie, my Dad was instrumental in my meeting with the news directors face to face. I remember being so upset and he asked me “what needs to be done?”, I told him “I need to get in front of these people.” He agreed, and we made a plan which involved months of cultivating relationships. My weekend fell on a Tuesday and Wednesday, I flew in and out of Winnipeg on Tuesday and out of Calgary on Wednesday night. I was back at work on Thursday morning.

Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. The beauty industry today has access to technology that was inconceivable only a short time ago. Can you tell us about the “cutting edge” (pardon the pun) technologies that you are working with or introducing? How do you think that will help people?

More people are shopping based on their values. It’s difficult for values-based shoppers to determine whether a brand matches their beliefs because of a lack of transparency around how a product is made and sourced. weDstll is a mobile platform that matches not only like-minded shoppers with each other but also with green beauty brands, based on their values, so they can work together to achieve their goals. As we iterate, machine learning will be added.

Keeping “Black Mirror” and the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

We’ve seen how social networks can, in part, have a negative impact on our self-esteem. Researchers have found that users have a tendency to compare their lives to the lives of other people. This is the phenomenon of social comparison, and it is something that precedes our current technology. We can say that social media networks have exacerbated and driven the natural tendency to compare what we have with others to an extreme. This is a concern because weDstll is a social network, and I believe human emotions are difficult to predict, despite our best efforts. One of our advisors is a psychological researcher whose focus is on social interactions in digital environments and how we can possibly mitigate certain factors in order to create healthy online experiences. Technology has been instrumental in connecting the world and sharing a variety of experiences, and our advisor has been instrumental in helping account for how our users might interact with our platform.

Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the “beauty-tech” industry?

Three things that excite me about the beauty-tech industry are:

  1. Intelligent devices that can create personalized skincare routines on demand.
  2. Smart mirrors that analyze your skin and advise you on treatment methods.
  3. Trying on makeup virtually.

Can you share 3 things that most concern you about the industry? If you had the ability to implement 3 ways to reform or improve the industry, what would you suggest?

The three things that concern me most about the industry are:

  1. Lack of Transparency — There have been many studies showing that people want to know more about how their products are sourced and where they come from. This could be solved by increasing the levels of transparency so that consumers can trust that the products they buy meet their expectations.
  2. Mental Health — Social media can be an uplifting part of a person’s life. However, it has a dark side in the form of online bullying, especially when it comes to beauty. If we focus on our commonalities instead of our differences, it could lead to developing a more positive outlook and an appreciation for one other. It might even give us the courage to step in and help those who are being attacked online, and send the message that bullying is not acceptable.
  3. Creating a standardized definition of “Clean Beauty.” We need to address misleading information about what is and isn’t natural, especially as the Clean Beauty movement continues to grow.

You are an expert about beauty. Can you share 5 ideas that anyone can use “to feel beautiful”? (Please share a story or example for each.)

My five ideas that anyone can use “to feel beautiful” are:

  1. Beauty trends are always evolving, so what’s here today could be gone in a few years. I remember when I was younger, people teasing me that my lips were too full. Need I say more.
  2. I don’t think many of us take enough time to celebrate the things we love about ourselves. Be okay with saying: “I love my cheekbones” or “I’ve got dimples that you could drop a marble in.”
  3. Choose a digital photo of yourself that you love and make a physical print of it. Hang it where you’ll see it every day or simply use it as the wallpaper on your smartphone. Remind yourself how great you are.
  4. Do something special that is only for you and if you can, turn off your phone so you can fully enjoy it. I love salt baths. I light candles, listen to music, pour in lavender essential oils and just rest.
  5. When someone pays you a compliment, thank them. This can be difficult for some as politeness dictates that returning the compliment is required. But it’s ok to take the compliment and savor it, as it was meant for you in the first place.

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

Consumers are becoming increasingly aware that every time they make a purchase, they leave an impact. More consumers are opting to leave a positive one. I believe that as beauty companies become more transparent and people clamour for more knowledge about what they’re buying, there’s an opportunity for a win/win situation where both sides can benefit.

Can you please give us your favourite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My favourite “Life Lesson Quote” is by Mark Twain: “The two most important days in your life are: the day you are born and the day you figure out why.”

I’ve done a great deal of soul-searching over the years in my quest to truly discover myself. My love of “The Story” has been with me since I was young. When I learned the importance of that, it drove me to become a journalist. And now, it continues to guide me in the realm of technology.

How can our readers follow you online?

You can reach out to us through our website at or follow us on Instagram @weDstll and Facebook at:

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

The Future Of Beauty: “Shop For Beauty Products Based On Your Values” With Sonya Denton of weDstll was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.