Imposter Syndrome and what to do about it

Start your own business and escape the 9 to 5 - imposter syndrome

So you don’t know what you’re doing, and everyone is going to find out about it and point at you knowingly – welcome to Imposter Syndrome. This syndrome is very real for most of us – no matter how many accolades or how much success you achieve, you still don’t think you deserve the success that comes with it. You feel like a fraud, any success you have is linked to just good timing or a stroke of luck, or that you have blagged and conned your way into making everyone around you believe that you are better than you actually are.

Imposter Syndrome is an inability to internalise success. Up to 70% of women harbour self doubt and self esteem issues including the imposter syndrome, feeling they don’t deserve the praise or recommendations that are given to them, that they must be just winging it and that it will all come crashing down around them some day in the office, or in their business.  And it could be the case when starting your side business too – who am I to start my own business, what am I an expert on? It’s OK to be a beginner, everyone has to start somewhere, so why do you think you need to be an expert when you are starting out?  If Sheryl Sandberg (the Chief operating Officer of Facebook) and Pulizer Prize Nominee Maya Angelou can feel imposter syndrome, then you’re in good company!

So how do you deal with Imposter Syndrome?

1.       Don’t suffer in silence: Talk to friends, family, mentors, coaches - people who will help you make sense of your inner critic and rationalise your fears of inadequacy, don’t isolate yourself or the syndrome will get worse.

2.       Listen to your internal dialogue:  What’s the voice saying – is it saying that it was luck or good timing? Identify that this is the Imposter Syndrome in your head, or Top Dog, or Resistance. Acknowledge it and move on knowing this is just a natural human reaction to your situation

3.       Success Reminders: E-mails, feedback, taking to friends who will be supportive etc, remind yourself that you deserve your success and all your hard work has paid off, and will continue to pay off as you build your business

4.       Be terrible at something: Just get that blog out there even if you think its crap! The world won’t end and you won’t be pointed at in the street for being a big fraud. Just get less terrible at your next blog, and then OK, and then better, and keep at it! Sometimes it’s good to have a laugh at yourself, don’t take it all so seriously. I still think my blogs are rubbish, but I keep writing them to get better at them!

5.       Focus on providing value: If you are feeling like a fraud, you are thinking too much about yourself and your own needs – just focus on providing value to your clients and know that they are your priority, it is your duty and privilege to serve them in whatever way you can

6.       Gratitude Journal: Gratitude activates the reward centres of our brain – so what are you grateful for? Friends, family, house, husband, kids , a business you are building and you love – keep that list going!

7.        Remember everyone is winging it! Don't forget that you are not the only person feeling like this!! Everyone suffers from imposter syndrome and everyone feels vulnerable at some stage - remember it has happened to people like Oprah and Madonna (whether they would admit it or not!). You are in good company! Just recognise that it is Imposter Syndrome and move on, you are not a fraud, you deserve to be where you are, you have worked hard for it!

8.      Stop with the Comparisonitis! When I first thought of my business idea, I checked out who else was doing similar. Cue the Comparisonitis Syndrome on top of the Imposter Syndrome! I looked at all my business heroes gorgeous, informative, savvy websites with tons of information and value and shiny things and thought 'How will I ever get there?'. But I have to remember that I'm tackling new things every day, I'm learning my trade and getting more confident. I'm not a fraud, I'm learning on the job. 

9.    Treat all of it like an experiment: A good way to stop Imposter Syndrome is to stop taking it all so seriously and try things out instead. Treat any business ideas like a laboratory experiment, if it doesn't work it's not the end of the world, just move on to the next experiment and use your talents elsewhere. You are not a fraud for trying things out - if they don't work, you have learned from the experience.

10. Credentials aren't the be all and end all: You can only be an expert in your own life, not in all the things you want to learn. Ever. I have a PhD in Science, and I'm not an expert in anything. And I never pretend to be. Embrace the fact that you are an eternal student, and tell people what you know to the best of your ability. Even the self proclaimed 'experts' don't know it all! 

It is a sad state of affairs that most women (and a lot of men too) can't own their wins, can't take the compliment on a job well done, can't believe that their hard work and commitment has gained them some accolade or promotion that they rightfully deserve. A lot of this syndrome comes from our school days when we were told to only put our hand up if we knew the answer, that we should work together as a team and not brag about our wins, that we shouldn't too different or too clever or too pushy. Have the confidence to push yourself forward, to stick your head above the parapet, to get involved in something outside your comfort zone and not feel that you are a fraud. you never know, you might actually enjoy the challenge!

So when does your Imposter Syndrome come out to play? Why do you think you feel like this? Pop your answers in the Comments Box below! :)