Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon, impostorism, fraud syndrome, or the impostor experience ) is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubt their skills, talents, or achievements and has a persistent inbuilt fear of being exposed as a “fraud.”
Did you catch the irony? It’s those who are capable and qualified (evidenced by their previous high achievement) who doubt themselves to an enervating degree.
Despite external evidence of their competence, those experiencing this phenomenon remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve all they have achieved. Individuals with impostorism incorrectly attribute their success to luck or interpret it as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent than they perceive themselves to be.
As a business owner, you have and will encounter different battles you have to overcome. But the greatest battle you face is yourself and your internal monologue.
I can’t do this.
I am such a fraud.
People think I’m qualified, but if they only knew…
Thoughts like these usually pop up when you start putting yourself out there as an authority in your field or when you say you can do something that you haven’t done enough of to feel super confident about it. They cripple you and keep you from being bold in your personal and professional lives, robbing you of growth, success, and even happiness. They keep you from being the best business owner you can be.
You hesitate to take your business in a new direction because you are the one who must lead it there. At networking events, you keep to yourself because you do not think you can offer anything of value to potential connections. Your lack of confidence can rub off on your employees, making it that much difficult for them to be bold and daring.
When you buy into lies about your capability, your business suffers. And more importantly, your mental and emotional well-being suffers. Impostor syndrome has no place in your life! It is a terrible thing to experience, but it can be conquered.
Here are some tips for taking on the impostor syndrome and conquering it.
Taking on Impostor Syndrome
1. Know the signs.
Recognizing the signs of impostorism in our daily lives is the first step toward overcoming it. You might suffer from impostor syndrome if:
- You feel like you “got lucky” when you actually worked hard and prepared well.
- You find it difficult to accept praise.
- You apologize for yourself when you did not do wrong.
- You hold yourself to ridiculously high standards.
- You are paralyzed by the fear of failure.
Pay attention to your language choices and thoughts; if you find your success or the praise others give you uncomfortable, check yourself and seriously ponder what it means for your professional life.
2. Know that you are not alone.
Knowing that many highly successful people have built wonderful careers and have achieved the very best in their business fields while coping with impostorism is a huge source of comfort and encouragement.
“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.'” – Author, Poet & Civil Rights Activist Maya Angelou:
‘I really started to feel like an impostor as my job grew at Facebook…” – Mike Hondorp (CMO of Whalar)
“All I can see is everything I’m doing wrong that is a sham and a fraud.” Actor Don Cheadle
3. Celebrate your averages.
Celebrate your averages and your little wins. When you “own your average,” you will stop only saying yes to the things you think you will immediately excel in. When you own your average, you start to realize that no one is thinking about you quite as much as you think they are. You begin to understand that success requires lots of work and that it is not a byproduct of being born awesome.
4. Let go of your inner perfectionist.
Temper your expectations of yourself. Do not minimize or underrate your achievements because they do not hit the perfect scale, a 10 out of 10.
Perfectionism is a major roadblock in overcoming impostor syndrome. It feeds your impostor syndrome. When you feel like a fraud, it is usually because you are comparing yourself to a “perfect” outcome that is either impossible or unrealistic.
At some point, you will need to take a step back and evaluate yourself: When is good enough?
5. Be kind to yourself.
“Being kind to yourself” means changing the way you talk to yourself in your head by practicing positive self-talk. Whenever you catch yourself having negative thoughts, turn around and challenge your claim.
For example, if you find yourself thinking, “I just got lucky,” challenge that by thinking, “What steps did I take and what work did I put in to get to this point?”. Then, you can answer your question using affirmations, “I worked hard – and I always work hard.”
6. Track and measure your successes.
One of the hardest things to grasp when you have impostor syndrome is how big a role you play in your successes. You might attribute them to luck or the hard work of others, when in fact, your work, knowledge, and preparation had a lot to do with it.
To help show yourself that you are doing well, write down your successes, wins, and strengths in a private folder And look at it often to remind yourself that you deserve the success you worked for.
7. Build a support network of like-minds.
No one should suffer in silence. Sharing your thoughts and experiences with someone else will make you better equipped to deal with your impostor syndrome. Invest in relationships. Find a mentor and someone to mentor. The best mentors are forthcoming about the struggles they’ve gone through and the mistakes they have made in their careers, and you may find that they have some helpful stories or advice for how to deal with what you are feeling.
Build a community or network of like-minds who understand what impostor syndrome feels like. Be each other’s support system.
8. Say “yes” to new opportunities.
It is common for people who have impostor syndrome to turn down career-making opportunities because they don’t feel like they will do a good job.
Don’t let your inner impostor turn down these game-changing opportunities. Know that there is nothing wrong with taking on challenging opportunities and learning new things along the way.
Don’t say “no” to yourself; let other people do that for you. More often than not, their answer is yes.
9. Think like a journalist – Choose curiosity over criticism.
Curiosity is very important in ensuring long-term success. No good journalist goes into a story assuming he/she had it all figured out. It is an asset and the ultimate defense against the impostor syndrome. It will de-shame not knowing everything because the more curious you are, the more tolerant you are to ambiguity, complexity, and stress. And the more open you are to being surprised by what you uncover. You do not feel like a fraud or an impostor because you pretend to be a journalist – an impostor – in your own life.
It is terrible to feel impostor syndrome, but it can and will get better! Remember, you ARE capable, smart, talented, and you absolutely can do this.
About the Author: Linda Orjiakor is the former digital manager for Gii tech codes; she is a serial entrepreneur and blogger with years of blogging experience. She’s passionate about helping business owners make the most out of their businesses, leveraging their online space, and getting the best out of their online platforms; she also helps bloggers scale their blogs into a real business on her new blog www.lindaorjiakor.com.