One of the biggest challenges often faced by new business owners is the threat of succumbing to Impostor Syndrome. You’ve probably heard about this phenomenon, as it’s been the focus of many articles and studies in recent years, but in case you haven’t, here’s a quick summary: Impostor Syndrome occurs when successful, skilled individuals fall prey to a psychological phenomenon that leads them to believe they’re inadequate, incompetent, or simply pretending to be as confident or successful as they actually are. They worry others will \"see through them\" and judge them to fall short.
Many people naturally overcome this challenge with time, confidence, and a well-placed trust in their capabilities. Others struggle to claim their role, feeling that they don’t measure up, that their counterparts are actually performing better than they are, or that the fact they have to work hard to achieve tasks must mean that they aren’t actually good at the work.
The good thing about Impostor Syndrome is that there are some concrete steps you can take to overcome this debilitating perspective, and to start infusing confidence into your actions and business mentality. Here’s a few ways you can begin:
Figure Out What’s Changed -- Why Is This Happening Now?
Maybe you’re a brand new business owner. In this case, uncertainty is totally normal -- after all, many beginners are naturally prone to insecurity and fear. You're doing something you haven't done before, so it's difficult to feel confident at all times. Be sure you’ve got a coach and some close friends who can reassure you and keep your process on track -- and give yourself some time. If you set a deadline of 6, 9, or 12 months from now, and check back in with your progress at that point, you’ll have a more realistic foundation from which to assess your business and see how much you’ve advanced so far. Remind yourself, everyone has to start somewhere.
What about if you’ve been successful and you find yourself now leading a team of other business owners? Remind yourself that your efforts got you to this point. You know how to build a business, and you have valuable experience and insight to share with your team. Don’t discount this experience!
Make A List --Or Actually, Three
Think about a few people you admire, your role models in personal or professional life, and identify a characteristic that you share with each of them. Is your role model an incredible public speaker? Maybe you’ve been able to give some inspiring speeches at your local Chamber of Commerce events, or with other networking groups. Or perhaps your role model has overcome a difficult history, and you’ve also built your business from scratch and paid off all of your debt along the way. Whatever the scenario, we’re confident you can find an area of overlap between you and each of these inspiring people.
Now, think back and make a list of everything you’ve accomplished in the last two years that you’re proud of. This doesn’t have to be just business - maybe you achieved a 5k PR, or you finally enrolled in an art class and entered a painting into the final show. As humans, we tend to look forward at new tasks and see their difficulties, but look back on things we’ve accomplished and minimize the efforts that got us there. But at one time, that 5k PR felt as hard to achieve as your business goal may today. When you take a close look at what you have actually accomplished, you’ll start to see a pattern of successful achievement across your history.
Finally, make a list of three business goals that you have. Maybe they are big, scary goals that you’re afraid to tell anyone, and barely even whisper to yourself. Beneath each goal, write down one of the positive characteristics you identified that’s shared between yourself and a role model, ideally a trait or skill that will help you reach that goal. Then, reference your second list - your list of accomplishments - and pick something that felt similarly intimidating when you began. Jot this down in the same column or box.
This is your inspiration sheet. Whenever you feel nervous about your goal, or want to tell yourself that someone like me couldn’t do it, you’ll be able to remind yourself that actually, you’re great at one of the related skills, and you’ve overcome similar obstacles before. Having this sheet handy will give you a boost of motivation and encouragement when you need it most.
Engage Your Team
After you’ve taken some of these steps, if you’re still plagued by Impostor Syndrome in your work life, the next best thing is to engage your mentor, an adviser, a close friend, or even a counselor. Sometimes you just need an external voice to support your personal efforts and reinforce the new messages you’re trying to tell yourself. Don’t hesitate to bring in someone you trust. After all, they likely dealt with this themselves at some point. According to Fast Company, studies suggest 70% of people experience impostor syndrome at some point in their career. If they’ve been in your shoes, they’ll be able to help you get back on track and regain your sense of ownership and achievement.
How have you overcome Impostor Syndrome in your own life? Share tips and tricks with your fellow #TRAKstars!