What is imposter syndrome and how to beat it

Over the past 12 months, I’ve seen and heard more and more about imposter syndrome. I have experienced it myself – I think we all have – but I didn’t know there was an actual name for it! Once I knew that this was an actual ‘thing,’ I was able to look at it and put it into some sort of perspective.

If you suffer with imposter syndrome, I hope that this blog post helps you.

What is imposter syndrome?

According to Wikipedia, the definition of imposter syndrome is…

“A psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their skills, talents, or accomplishments and has a persistent internalised fear of being exposed as a ‘fraud.’ Despite external evidence of their competence, those experiencing this phenomenon remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve all they have achieved.”

This might be on the extreme side of imposter syndrome, but I understand the sentiment. It is REAL and everybody has experienced it in one way or another. There are some who feel that their success is due to ‘a stroke of good luck’ or good timing. And it can pop up when you least expect it.

I think for me, it reared its ugly head about a year after I started my own business. I had emigrated to a different country, but I worked online in my own language. I was doing well and had a few clients who I regularly wrote articles or blogs for. Then I started looking at other articles and other peoples’ work online and started to feel that I didn’t measure up. This worried me and I thought that my clients would be thinking ‘who does she think she is?’ I started to doubt my own ability, even though I knew that I was competent and knew what I was talking about! This feeling creeps up on you and dents your confidence.

Does this sound familiar?

How can you deal with imposter syndrome?

I’ve since realised that imposter syndrome is a real thing and can have a devastating effect on you and your business, BUT I also recognise that it is unavoidable. The reason you suffer from it is because you are pushing yourself to do better, pushing your business to grow, and working hard to make a success of what you do.

If I look back to when I started my business in 2013, I knew that I still had a lot to learn, and I knew that I would make mistakes, and that there was a likelihood that I wouldn’t succeed. It wasn’t that I wasn’t going to succeed, it might just be that I wouldn’t get it right the first time…and I didn’t!

But do you know what? That gets better as you progress in your business, and your confidence grows in what you can do.

Now, I feel that I know my business inside out. I know that I can help my clients and that they like and appreciate what I do.    

OK, so there are a couple of things you can do to deal with this monster.

  • Understand that imposter syndrome is a normal feeling to have – you are going to have these feeling when you are growing your business. Try and embrace those feelings. They mean that you are pushing yourself to newer and better things.
  • Take a good look at what you’re doing at the moment – are you doing a good job? Do your clients like what you do? You’ll find that the answer is ‘yes’, so you can then recognise your feelings as those of imposter syndrome and choose to not let it affect you and your business growth.
  • There will be things that you don’t know or that you still need to learn about. Give yourself a break! We can always learn more about what we do. Be honest with yourself about what you do know and don’t concentrate on what you don’t know. Now, I don’t mean that you ignore what you don’t know – of course it’s important to recognise that, so you can continue to grow, but try and focus on the experience you do have and what you’re proud of.
  • Sometimes you just need to let go of being a perfectionist, as this can feed your imposter syndrome tendencies. If you set yourself really high, ‘perfectionist’ standards, you will be putting yourself under a lot of pressure to achieve them. This is when self-doubt can creep in, so try and set yourself standards or goals in chunks that are more achievable.  
  • If you keep a record of your successes, with details of what you did to get there, you can refer to this when you feel that imposter monster looming. Be kind to yourself and celebrate your wins, no matter how big or how small

Imposter Syndrome Survey

Kajabi, an industry-leading knowledge platform has released a first of its kind study on the impact of imposter syndrome on entrepreneurs and small business owners. They recognised that it could keep businesses from reaching their potential and wanted to find out how businesses deal with these feelings.

Over 600 entrepreneurs and small business owners took part. Here are some of the overall findings:

  • 84% of entrepreneurs and small business owners experience imposter syndrome
  • Male entrepreneurs tend to experience more intense feelings of imposter syndrome compared to women.
  • Many entrepreneurs are worried about being ‘found out’ for lack of knowledge or ability
  • Some business owners felt that their success was due to luck.
  • Small business owners tend to compare themselves to and feel less intelligent than those around them.
  • After being recognised for an achievement, many entrepreneurs doubt they can repeat their successes.
  • Many entrepreneurs tend to discount the importance of their work.
  • Many of the respondents are disappointed in their current accomplishments and think they should have done more by now.

Orlando Baeza, CMO of Kajabi commented, “Imposter syndrome can be such a heavy subject and barrier to success for many people. And since it’s perceived as taboo by many, people dealing with imposter syndrome simply don’t feel comfortable talking about their struggles with it.

The biggest downside is feeling isolated and as though you don’t have a community to turn to or resources for how to move past it.”

Kajabi observed that imposter syndrome can be a real barrier for small business professionals, especially those who take big risks in the name of pursuing their dreams.

If you’re interested in reading the fully survey results, you can go to their website

Conclusion

We all know that imposter syndrome exists. We know what it feels like and that we are not the only ones who suffer from it.

I hope that now you understand a bit more about it, that you can recognise it for what it is and learn ways to deal with it, and to not let it rule the roost.