Most entrepreneurs and business owners work to project an image of great self-confidence. But behind what we see at team meetings, on social media, and in press interviews, everyone experiences self-doubt. Some feel it more regularly than others.
If you’re dealing with imposter syndrome, you’re not alone. I’ve got some tips on how to overcome it.
What Is Imposter Syndrome?
Let’s start with a definition of the term. Psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes first identified the phenomenon in 1978. At the time, they noted that it was a problem that frequently plagued women, but men can experience it, too.
Imposter syndrome is the feeling that you’re a fraud: Yes, you’re successful and you run a business, but you’ve tricked your way to the top, and it’s only a matter of time before people realize you don’t belong here.
This feeling can occur in anyone. Scholars with multiple PhDs, executives running huge corporates, A-list Hollywood actors–it’s a common phenomenon amongst even the most successful people. In fact, it’s estimated that 70% of people will feel this way at some point in their lives.
If you’ve experienced these feelings in the past or are going through them now, you know that it can affect your life in serious ways. It makes you more hesitant to take risks and can make the work you love feel like a chore. So what can you do to reverse it?
Find Where the Feelings Originate
The first step is acknowledging that you’re feeling this way. Once you’ve admitted that you feel like an imposter, you can begin to take steps to turn that feeling around.
Next, think about why you’re having these feelings. Psychologists have identified five general types of people who experience imposter syndrome.
Perfectionists: These people aim for a perfect score on every assignment. Even if they get nine out of 10 things correct, they take that one mistake as a sign that they don’t deserve any of their success.
Superman or -woman: This type is a workaholic. They think that by staying later and working harder than others in the office, they’ll be able to hide the fact that they’re really a fraud.
Natural genius: This is the person who got straight As in school without even breaking a sweat. If they encounter any friction when trying something new, they assume it’s because they’re a failure.
Soloist: This person is independent to a fault. They see asking for help as a sign of weakness and failure, so they’d rather struggle alone and fail than seek assistance and succeed.
Expert: This type of imposter thinks that knowledge is king. If they don’t know everything about a given topic, they consider themselves a fraud.
Understand That You’re Not Alone
Once you’ve acknowledged your feelings, share them with a friend or loved one. This is a very common phenomenon, so there’s a high likelihood that the person you speak to has experienced this, too!
Part of feeling like an imposter is the overwhelming sense that you don’t belong (in your industry, in your career, in your job). When you confide in someone else, they can help you feel less alone.
Perhaps they’ve experienced imposter syndrome, too, and have some tips to help you through! Even if they aren’t personally familiar with the phenomenon, they can offer support and help you remember all of your many incredible strengths.
People in the throes of imposter syndrome lose sight of the great things they’ve accomplished. To take stock of what is going on in your life, create a list of things you’ve accomplished and things you’re still working towards. Chances are that when you think about all you’ve already achieved, you’ll be surprised by how long this list is.
And it’s alright to have a long list of things you’re still working towards! If you had already completed everything you wanted to do, then what would you work on for the rest of your life?
As you think about the goals you still hope to reach, make two other lists: things you’re good at and things that don’t come so easily. Take a look at these lists, and identify which of your strengths can help you to achieve each of your dreams. Realize that you have plenty of strengths inside you to do everything you want to do, so don’t feel ashamed to ask for help in the areas that might not come naturally.
Imposter syndrome can be crippling. When you feel like a fraud, you don’t feel free to continue striving for even more in your life. In reality, however, lots of people feel this way at one time or another.
Take an objective look at all you’ve already done and how your skills can help you achieve your future goals. With time, you’ll realize that you do belong in the life that you’ve created for yourself.