You’ve probably heard the term imposter syndrome before. It’s one of the most common issues entrepreneurs deal with and have to overcome in order to succeed in their business. You might be feeling the effects of this phenomenon even if you don’t know about it. If you feel doubtful about your abilities and always feel like you don’t deserve the success you have, you might have imposter syndrome.
Today we’re going to discuss everything there is to know about this psychological phenomenon and how to overcome imposter syndrome and be a confident entrepreneur.
What is imposter syndrome?
The term imposter syndrome was first developed back in 1978 by psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes. Their research studied high-achieving women and how they felt in the workplace. The term they used initially was “imposter phenomenon.”
Since the beginning of this phenomenon, though, it came to be regarded as something that not only high-achieving women suffer from but all high-achieving individuals. However, studies published in later years argue that women still report it more than men.
Some of the most common signs of imposter syndrome are:
- Attributing your success to external factors, such as luck or divine power
- Fear of not living up to other people’s expectations
- Fear of being found out as a fraud
- Sabotaging your own success
People who deal with imposter syndrome usually tend to overwork themselves and always be over-prepared. This is caused by the anxiety of performing poorly or not being good enough in the workspace.
It’s a serious issue many successful and ambitious people suffer with, and it might be hard to deal with on your own. But before we look into how to overcome imposter syndrome, we have to understand why do entrepreneurs suffer from it in the first place.
Why do entrepreneurs suffer from it?
There are various different reasons why entrepreneurs might suffer from imposter syndrome. For women, people of color, and other minorities, imposter syndrome can manifest due to the workspace and society as a whole constructed to exclude people like them.
The latest statistics show that women entrepreneurs own only 36% of small businesses worldwide. Furthermore, the same statistics explain that there is a difference in what average business loan can women and men get—women usually get $5,000 less when borrowing to start a business.
Such numbers reveal that it’s harder for women entrepreneurs to start a business. It could prompt the feeling of “I’m not supposed to be here,” which is one of the signs of an imposter syndrome.
Entrepreneurs can also suffer from imposter syndrome if they have grown up in a family that values only accomplishments. Or a family that doesn’t offer stable support for a child variating between harsh criticism and praise.
It’s important to note that everyone can suffer from imposter syndrome at some point. Starting a new job, university, or business—it all feels foreign and unknown. So, it’s normal to feel as if you don’t belong. The good news is that there are ways to overcome imposter syndrome as an entrepreneur and push away the negative feelings of not feeling worthy or good enough.
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How to overcome imposter syndrome
Step 1: Recognize that you’re not alone suffering from it
The first step in overcoming the imposter syndrome as an entrepreneur is realizing that you’re not the only one suffering from it. It might seem as if you’re alone and isolated with your negative feelings, but it’s not the truth.
In fact, besides other small online entrepreneurs and content creators, even the most successful high-achieving people in the world suffer from this phenomenon.
Here are some key names of people we all know who admitted to struggling with feeling as if they don’t belong or are not good enough:
- Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO
- Howard Schultz, Starbucks CEO
- Michael O’Brien, Peloton Executive Coaching
- Arianna Huffington, Founder of HuffPost and ThriveGlobal
It might be weird to hear of highly successful entrepreneurs like the ones above deal with imposter syndrome. But, this just proves that you’re not alone as a small entrepreneur and that it’s normal to feel this way. It doesn’t mean that those negative feelings are true, and you should give up on your business.
Step 2: Write down your best traits and abilities
One of the signs of imposter syndrome is the belief that you’re not good enough for something. This comes from thinking your abilities are not as good as someone else or you don’t feel like you can do something.
The best way to overcome imposter syndrome as an entrepreneur if you’re struggling with such thoughts is to make a list of your best traits and abilities. Don’t just think about your skills. Truly make a physical or digital list and have it on hand at all times.
It’s very easy to forget how good you’re at something when you’re going about your day and dealing with problems in your business. Having this list on hand whenever you feel imposter syndrome is going to help you remember that you’re capable.
No, you’re not a super-entrepreneur who only has strengths and positive traits. But that’s okay, as long as you know your strong side and where you might be falling short.
Step 3: Adopt the habit of journaling
Many entrepreneurs, like Tim Ferris or Amy Landino, swear by journaling for business success. In fact, there are multiple benefits to journaling, even outside of business:
- It helps manage anxiety and stress
- Helps prioritize problems and concerns
- It helps alleviate fears and figure out triggers that lead to negative throughs
Being an entrepreneur comes with a ton of stress. And studies show that journaling is one of the best ways to actually cool down when you’re feeling stressed.
One of the ways that imposter syndrome manifests itself is anxiety and performance stress. Journaling can help you overcome your imposter syndrome because as you’re writing down the things that cause stress to you, you’re helping your brain process it and manage the feelings and situations better.
Step 4: Make notes of your accomplishments and wins
Entrepreneurs tend to always be looking forward to their next big thing, the next project, and launch. And while it’s crucial to always be looking to grow your business and improve, it’s also as crucial to slow down and remember your wins and accomplishments.
In fact, keeping track of those accomplishments and wins, no matter how small or big they are, is one of the best ways to help you overcome imposter syndrome. It makes you feel as if you’re not capable of achieving something, and your past wins and accomplishments prove that you can, in fact, accomplish something because you’ve already done it in the past.
Celebrating your business and its growth is not self-indulgent, and it won’t make you shallow or vain. It will only build your confidence in yourself and remind you that you’re more capable than you think.
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Step 5: Stop comparing yourself to others
Social media has made it very easy for entrepreneurs to see how other entrepreneurs are doing and compare themselves. It’s a natural urge we have, and there is not a single person who hasn’t at least once compared themselves to other people.
In fact, psychologist Leon Festinger developed a theory of why people compare each other all the way back in 1954, claiming that we do it because we determine our own social and personal worth against how we stack compared to others.
As a business owner, you spend a huge amount of your time looking at other people in your industry. You have to be on top of the news, trends, and what people are interested in as well as what your competitors are doing. So, it’s very easy to fall into the destructive comparison trap.
Understanding that your worth and success don’t depend on how well other people are doing is crucial for overcoming imposter syndrome. Journaling and being honest about your strengths should help you start training your brain to catch yourself when you fall into the comparison trap.
Step 6: Get help
Seeking professional help and talking with a therapist can also be an effective way to overcome imposter syndrome, and it shouldn’t be pushed aside. If you have a strong support group in your personal circle, you can also turn to them and ask for help or simply share your struggles.
While the chances are that your friends or a therapist won’t be able to advise on business strategy, they at least can offer you an outside perspective on your own abilities. And sometimes, hearing someone from the outside say that we’re capable means more than when we say it ourselves.
Entrepreneurship doesn’t have to be lonely. And if you’re struggling with imposter syndrome, don’t be afraid to seek out help and talk with people about your negative feelings.