“The exaggerated esteem in which my life work is held makes me very ill at ease. I feel compelled to think of myself as an involuntary swindler.” – Albert Einstein
Do you suffer from feelings of inadequacy and feel like a giant fraud who’s going to be found out any time soon? It’s natural to feel like this at times, but you could be suffering from imposter syndrome.
As you venture into the world of entrepreneurship, you are not alone in your dreams and aspirations. Many others share this path, and with it comes a common challenge: imposter syndrome. This nagging feeling of inadequacy and self-doubt can hinder your progress, but fear not, for in this article, we will explore how to conquer imposter syndrome and embrace your entrepreneurial journey with confidence.
Even Albert Einstein suffered from imposter syndrome, so coaches, consultants, and aspiring entrepreneurs, take heart and let’s embark on this transformation together.
What Is Imposter Syndrome?
Imposter syndrome is the internal belief or feeling that you might not be as competent or as successful as others believe you are. It might appear when people give you praise or positive feedback, when you start a new job, work with clients, or when you have to speak in front of an audience of experts. You might feel undeserving of praise and recognition, even though all the evidence suggests you’re highly skilled and experienced. At its worst, imposter syndrome can make you feel like a fraud or that you’re about to be found out.
First developed in the 1970s by psychologists, the concept was used to describe an experience often felt by successful sports and business people. They discovered that even the most recognised individuals often needed help understanding the value of their abilities and expertise.
Imposter syndrome can cause significant damage to your work, career, and personal life, so it’s crucial to spot the signs early and take action to stop it before it becomes an issue.
Recognising Imposter Syndrome in Yourself
To defeat imposter syndrome, one must first identify its signs. Common symptoms include feeling like a fraud, doubting your accomplishments, and fearing that you’ll be exposed.
I have written eleven books, but each time I think, “Uh-oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.” – Maya Angelou.
Understand that imposter syndrome can manifest in various ways, such as feeling undeserving of success or attributing achievements to external factors rather than acknowledging your hard work and capabilities. By recognising these emotions, you can address them head-on, laying the foundation for personal growth and business success.
Why Imposter Syndrome Is Common Among Coaches, Consultants and Entrepreneurs
Imposter syndrome thrives in entrepreneurship due to high expectations, relentless perfectionism, and the ever-present fear of failure. As an entrepreneur, you must embrace the uncertainties of this journey while acknowledging that setbacks are stepping stones to growth. Studies have shown that entrepreneurs often experience higher levels of imposter feelings due to the inherent risk-taking nature of their endeavours and the pressure to achieve significant milestones.
The Negative Effects of Imposter Syndrome on Business Growth
Imposter syndrome can hamper decision-making, stifle innovation, and hinder collaboration. Recognise that overcoming imposter syndrome is not just about personal well-being but also crucial for fostering a thriving and dynamic business environment. Research has indicated that individuals struggling with imposter syndrome are less likely to take risks, limiting their potential for growth and expansion.
6 Signs of Imposter Syndrome
1. Minimizing Your Achievements
People with imposter syndrome truly believe their achievements are not significant. When someone praises them, they’ll instinctually play it down and truly don’t believe they deserve praise. They may automatically point out the contributions of others to minimise their contribution.
2. Thinking It’s Just Luck
People suffering from imposter syndrome tend to attribute their accomplishments to luck. Believing it was a lucky break, chance, or just being in the right place at the right time. They tend to overstate the role chance plays in their lives and downplay the skill and hard work that really made it all happen.
3. Set Impossibly High Standards
You may set impossibly high standards for yourself and then feel that you don’t deserve to achieve them. If this is an issue for you, you may feel fear or anxiety when you think about the goals you want to reach. This is a symptom of the perfectionism element often presenting in imposter syndrome.
4. Fear You’re Not Good Enough
People with imposter syndrome often secretly fear they don’t measure up to other’s expectations. These could be your boss’s expectations at work, your family members, or even friends and business partners. No matter how often they confirm that you’re doing a great job, you feel it’s never enough.
5. On the ‘Imposter Loop’
The imposter loop is a cycle driven by the fear of not doing an impending task well, where you go through a frantic process of preparing. It starts with anxiety, leading to intense over-preparation and planning. This can also be accompanied by procrastination, where you put off the job until the last minute. When the project is accomplished, you feel momentarily satisfied until you think of the next step.
6. Undervaluing Yourself and Your Work
When you never feel good enough, you don’t know your true worth, and therefore, you don’t ask for the true value of your work. This includes the pay you should be receiving or the pricing of your services. This feeling of low self-worth will prevent you from asking for a pay rise, quoting the true value of your services, or making any other kind of big ask. This is one of the major aspects of imposter syndrome that affects coaches, consultants and entrepreneurs and stops them from growing their business.
Coping Strategies for Dealing with Imposter Syndrome
1. Cultivate Self-Compassion and Mindfulness
Practice self-compassion by acknowledging that everyone makes mistakes and faces challenges. Embrace mindfulness to stay grounded in the present, focusing on your progress rather than getting bogged down by self-doubt. Numerous studies have highlighted the benefits of self-compassion in reducing imposter feelings and enhancing overall well-being.
2. Recognise Your Achievements
Create a success journal to remind yourself of your accomplishments, no matter how small. Celebrate every milestone, and let these victories serve as stepping stones for future growth. The power of positive reinforcement and self-celebration cannot be overstated, as it boosts confidence and empowers you to tackle new challenges.
3. Embrace Failure as a Learning Opportunity
Don’t fear failure; instead, learn from it. Every obstacle encountered is an opportunity to gather valuable lessons, making you wiser and more resilient on your entrepreneurial journey. Reframe your perspective on failure, viewing it not as a setback but as a crucial part of the learning process. Many successful entrepreneurs attribute their achievements to embracing failure and using it as a stepping stone towards success.
4. Build a Support System
Surrounding yourself with positive influences – friends, family, and like-minded individuals can help you feel more supported. Seek mentors, guides and role models who can offer guidance and encouragement, as they have likely faced imposter syndrome themselves at some point. A strong support system can provide the reassurance and motivation needed to overcome imposter feelings.
5. Welcome Feedback and Constructive Criticism
Be open to feedback and constructive criticism, viewing them as valuable insights to improve your skills and offerings. Embrace a growth mindset, always striving to enhance your abilities as a coach, consultant, or entrepreneur. Studies have shown that individuals who welcome feedback and see it as an opportunity for growth experience reduced imposter syndrome feelings.
6. Set Realistic Goals and Expectations
Break down overwhelming tasks into smaller, achievable goals. By taking one step at a time, you’ll not only maintain focus but also build a sense of accomplishment that counters imposter syndrome’s grip. Setting realistic expectations for yourself and your business journey can help alleviate the pressure to be perfect and allow room for growth and development.
7. Celebrate Your Successes
Challenge the notion of being “found out” and recognise your unique talents and contributions. Embrace positive affirmations daily, reinforcing your confidence and belief in your abilities. Celebrating your successes is vital for combating imposter syndrome, as it helps reshape negative thought patterns and fosters self-assurance.
10 Tips to Overcoming Imposter Syndrome
- Know the Signs. We’ve covered most of the signs here. Recognise the signs and pay attention to the words you’re using and the corresponding actions and feelings that occur. Think about where they may be coming from and what has triggered them?
- Focus on the Facts. The negative imposter syndrome feelings you have aren’t based on reality. So, looking at the facts can dissolve them. Great a success board and gather all the evidence that shows you how much you’ve achieved. Surround yourself with your evidence of success whenever you need a reminder to battle those imposter syndrome feelings.
- Dissolve Your Feelings Through Sharing. You’re not alone in feeling this way. Did you know that famous high-achievers such as Michelle Obama and Maya Angelou have also expressed feeling like an imposter? Reach out to others who think the same way and share your feelings. Connecting with other people will help you put this into perspective.
- Learn Not To Compare. Feelings of imposter syndrome often arise from comparing ourselves to others. Remember, we are different, and we all have our own paths. Avoid comparing yourself to others – you only see their highlight reel, and you don’t actually know the truth of their journey.
- Celebrate Your Successes. When suffering from imposter syndrome, you focus on your failures and shortcomings instead of your successes. Remind yourself of all the exceptional things you’ve achieved in your life, and celebrate these instead. Focus on the positives and minimise the negatives.
- List Your Strengths. List your skills, qualifications, experience, and strengths. Post the list where you can see it whenever you need a confidence boost – on the wall behind your computer screen, in a Word file, or in your journal.
- Switch Negatives to Positives. Feelings of insecurity are often caused by negative self-talk, that little saboteur in your head telling you that you can’t do it or you’re no good. Recognise when this is happening, acknowledge it, and replace it with positive self-talk.
- Reframe Failure. Reframe what failure means to you. Edison, for example, had 10,000 ways something did not work before he found the electric light bulb. These weren’t failures in his mind, just attempts that didn’t work. Reframe your thoughts so that something is not bad but a valuable learning experience instead.
- Visualise Success. Visualise what success would look like for you. Imagine what it means to you and visualise yourself being wildly successful. See everything working out the way you want it to.
- Let Go of Perfectionism. Focus on your progress and growth instead of trying to do everything perfectly. Envoke the 80/20 rule and recognise that 80 per cent is usually “good enough”.
‘Done is better than perfect. I have tried to embrace this motto and let go of unattainable standards. Aiming for perfection causes frustration at best and paralysis at worst.’
– Sheryl Sandberg
Seek Professional Help if Necessary
Remember, it’s okay to seek help. Consider professional support if imposter syndrome affects your well-being and business growth. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), hypnotherapy and other techniques can provide profound insights into conquering imposter syndrome.
Consulting with a mental health professional or coach can equip you with personalised strategies to address specific challenges and develop a resilient mindset.
Dear coaches, consultants, and aspiring entrepreneurs, your journey is exciting and challenging, and imposter syndrome may be an unwelcome companion. But remember, you have the power to overcome it.
Embrace your uniqueness, celebrate your accomplishments, and continue to grow personally and professionally. The world needs your vision, skills, and passion.
Step confidently into your entrepreneurial path, knowing that you are not an imposter but a force to be reckoned with. Embrace your journey with unwavering belief, and watch your business soar to new heights. You’ve got this!
Remember, understanding imposter syndrome and learning how to cope with it is an ongoing process. Exploring various resources and perspectives can offer a comprehensive understanding and provide valuable tools to conquer imposter feelings as you progress on your entrepreneurial journey. Happy learning!
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is imposter syndrome common among coaches, consultants and entrepreneurs?
– Yes, imposter syndrome is common among coaches, consultants and entrepreneurs due to the nature of risk-taking and the pressure to achieve success in their ventures.
How does imposter syndrome impact business growth?
– Imposter syndrome can hinder decision-making, stifle innovation, and limit risk-taking, potentially impeding business growth and expansion.
What are some practical techniques to combat imposter syndrome?
– Practical techniques include cultivating self-compassion, recognizing and celebrating achievements, embracing failure as a learning opportunity, and seeking a strong support system.
Can imposter syndrome be overcome?
– Yes, imposter syndrome can be overcome with self-awareness, positive mindset shifts, and implementing coping strategies that align with your unique strengths and challenges.
– Clance, P. R., & Imes, S. A. (1978). The imposter phenomenon in high achieving women: Dynamics and therapeutic intervention. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research & Practice, 15(3), 241-247. https://www.paulineroseclance.com/pdf/ip_high_achieving_women.pdf
– Neff, K. D. (2003). Self-compassion: An alternative conceptualization of a healthy attitude toward oneself. Self and Identity, 2(2), 85-101. https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2003-03727-001
– Grant, A. M., & Dweck, C. S. (2003). Clarifying achievement goals and their impact. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 85(3), 541-553. https://psycnet.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037%2F0022-35126.96.36.1991
- Book: “The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer from the Impostor Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It” by Valerie Young – This book explores the imposter phenomenon and offers practical strategies to overcome it. The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer from the Impostor Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It
- Book: “Mindset: Changing the way you think to fulfil your potential” by Dr Carol S. Dweck. This book is a modern classic that will help you develop a growth mindset and overcome the challenging aspects of imposter syndrome. Mindset. Changing the way you think to fulfil your potential
- Article: “Feeling Like a Fraud” by The New York Times – This article delves into imposter syndrome and features personal stories and expert perspectives on how to cope with it.
- Article: “The Five Types of Impostor Syndrome and How to Beat Them” by Fast Company – This article discusses different subtypes of imposter syndrome and offers tips for tackling each type effectively.
- TEDx Talk: “The Surprising Solution to the Imposter Syndrome” by Lou Solomon – In this insightful TEDx Talk, Lou Solomon shares her personal journey with imposter syndrome and offers an unconventional solution for overcoming it.
- Video: “The Impostor Syndrome” by The School of Life – This animated video explains imposter syndrome and suggests practical steps to overcome it.
- TEDx Talk: “Do You Have Impostor Syndrome …too?” Phil McKinney, retired Chief Technology Officer for Hewlett-Packard. This is the talk that helped me overcome my imposter syndrome.
- Podcast: “The Tim Ferriss Show” – Episode: “Overcoming, Managing, and Using Fear” – In this episode, Tim Ferriss discusses fear and imposter syndrome with a guest and explores strategies to manage these emotions effectively.
- Podcast: “The Mindful Kind” – Episode 308: “Is Imposter Syndrome Holding You Back?” – This episode explores how mindfulness can help navigate imposter syndrome and build self-confidence.
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