Breakthrough: Don’t let Imposter Syndrome stop business growth
How to overcome Imposter Syndrome
The niggly, worrying feeling that someone is going to call you out as a fake, because you feel like you’re making stuff up as you go along, winging it because you have NO IDEA what you’re talking about?
That 👆 Is Imposter Syndrome.
You’re not alone. 84% of small business owners admit to experiencing Imposter Syndrome and a 1978 study by Clance found that 70% of people will experience Imposter Syndrome at some point in their lives.
Business coach, Lucy Cox, says,
Imposter Syndrome (or phenomenon as it is known in psychology circles) is an area that is still being widely explored as so little is really known about it. We know that it hugely affects high-achieving people, which is why so many entrepreneurs experience it, but on the whole it doesn’t seem to discriminate.
The feelings you may experience range from mild doubt, through to complete freeze and physical anxiety. What is really cruel about imposter syndrome however, due to its close links with shame, is that we are reluctant to share how we feel for fear of judgement. Ironically talking about it and sharing our experiences can be helpful, especially when we hear stories from people we respect and admire.
Imposter Syndrome will make you question your ability and puts a stop on you achieving what you want to achieve. It is now so commonly recognised that intelligent, successful women such as Jacinda Arden and Michelle Obama have talked openly about feeling self-doubt and Albert Einstein is reported saying to a friend, as an elderly man, that ‘the exaggerated esteem in which my lifework is held makes me very ill at ease. I feel compelled to think of myself as an involuntary swindler’.
Since the study was released in the 70’s, research has advanced and understanding evolved. Once linked primarily with women, now, Imposter Syndrome has been shown to have an impact on men and marginalised groups.
Furthermore, social media, ever present in our lives (2020 research said we spend an average of 2hrs and 24minutes a day on social media) is typically heavily curated, showcasing a picture-perfect personal life or high-achieving business brand. Individuals who have low self-esteem or who are liable to imposter syndrome may feel inadequate, making unrealistic comparisons with their own lives – ‘Why can’t I be like that? /I wish I could do that’.
Signs of imposter syndrome for start-up business owners
– Feeling like nothing you do is quite good enough
– Not wanting to take a risk in case of failure
– Working beyond expectation, extreme perfectionism
– Feeling like you’ve achieved something purely out of luck
– High achieving but unable to internalise that success or publicise it for fear of being branded arrogant
– Procrastinating tasks for fear that you won’t be able to do it or that it won’t be good enough
– Not asking for help in case you are thought of as incapable
What can start-up business owners do to overcome imposter syndrome?
Ask for help.
Build a trusted network of people around you where you can share your worries and offload any anxieties you have. Don’t make it a solo journey. Breakthrough’s team of coaches or Business Development Managers, guide start-up business owners through any concerns they have and help them revel in success. If you don’t have a business coach to turn to, speak to your friends and family – great realisations and empathy can be happened upon when you turn to someone you trust for advice, or just to offload.
Talk to other start-up business owners.
Never underestimate the power of peer support – a trusted community of like-minded business owners, who will, more often than not, feel just like you and have some hidden gems of their own for overcoming Imposter Syndrome. Breakthrough’s wonderful alumnus of over 500 business owners have connected, asked questions, shared tips and advice on our private dedicated Facebook group – it’s a brilliant resource to support your business growth.
Understand what success looks like to you.
Success isn’t all about money. ‘Success’ is a big word – break that down – it could be the launch of a new website, steady business growth, your 100th sale, even your 1st sale or recruiting a new team member. Often what we define as success can be reframed as business goals and these can be achieved tomorrow or mapped out longer–term. Think about success in terms of bite sized goals. What is a barrier to success? Not working out what success looks like in the first place!
Take a social media break and don’t compare yourselves to others.
Behind each social media account there will be the raw reality of something that didn’t quite go to plan; celebrating achievements comes hand in hand with making a million mistakes. If you are finding yourself consumed with social media so much so that it is negatively impacting your confidence and ability to make decisions, take a break, set boundaries as to how and when you use social media and be strict with yourself.
Lucy’s top tip.
Grab a pen and paper and write down your ‘imposter’ thoughts, then come back and re-read them when you are in a better head space. You will start to see that (in the moment) we can be very cruel to ourselves, and it really wasn’t worth the worry!
Reward your own hard work.
Don’t just reward the successes, recognise and reward how hard you have worked to get to that point. Congratulating yourself is allowed! Go easy on yourself and be kind if you make small mistakes – it’s all part of the journey.
Breakthrough aims to inspire and transform young businesses. Whether you’re a start-up or in the early stages of running your business, get in touch by telling us about your business to find out how we can support you on your business growth journey, Breakthrough is ERDF funded for businesses in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.