How to overcome imposter syndrome as an entrepreneur

how to overcome imposter syndrome

Last week, we looked at what imposter syndrome is and how it can manifest as an entrepreneur. It’s very common (as you all demonstrated in responding to last week’s post!) – so that’s the first thing to recognise, that you’re not alone in feeling this way. The second thing, of course, is to work out how you can start overcoming imposter syndrome.

This week, we’re looking out how to overcome imposter syndrome as an entrepreneur – and set yourself up for sustainable success.

Reimagining success

My biggest tip and strategy for overcoming imposter syndrome is to question the traditional definition of success, in the form of a long career as an employee with a prestigious job title and a well-known corporation with work taking precedence of all your personal priorities; strip away all those ‘shoulds’ and external obligations that you’ve taken on over the years thanks to the conditioning you’ve received from your teachers, parents and managers; and start to explore what exactly ‘success’ truly means to you.

You want to get super clear on what you’re working towards and why it’s so important to you. The more clarity and conviction you have for your vision for your business and your life overall, the less you’ll look to other people for validation and guidance on what you should be doing.

(Read more about how to get what you want from your business.)

Managing your mindset

Running your own business, and especially starting a new business, will require a different frame of mind than being an employee. You’ll need to embrace learning and experimentation versus getting it right the first time; being flexible rather than following established systems and processes; and showing humility rather than letting your ego get in the way. (Have a look at some other mindset shifts you’ll need to make if you want to succeed as an entrepreneur.) Making these shifts will help you move away from the performance anxiety that comes with perfectionism, and enjoy the journey!

A few things that can help, more concretely:

  • You may be new to entrepreneurship and this particular business, but you have a history of professional experience. Consider how you can make sure that you’re making the most of your existing skills in your business and how your past experience is setting you up for success.
  • Pinpoint your unique strengths to help you see all that you bring to the table. Although a personality test can never give you the full picture, I’m personally a big fan of Myers Briggs and find that it can give you a lot of great insights. Try this one: 16 personalities.
  • Collect your compliments! No, you don’t want to be dependent on other people telling you that you’re good, but it can be a welcome boost to reflect on all the praise you’ve received over the years. Keep a record of any notes of thanks, messages, testimonials, and so on – and dip into them when you need that boost!

Surrounding yourself with the right people

One of the biggest mistakes you can make as an entrepreneur is to try to go it alone. (Check out some other big mistakes to avoid here.) I get it, you’re a confident and capable person, you are used to knuckling down and getting on with it, and you don’t feel that you need to ask for help. The truth is that what has worked in the past doesn’t necessarily work as you reach higher levels in your career; and, even if you can do it alone, it will be much faster and a whole lot more fun to get help along the way!

Find your tribe

One challenge that a lot of us face as we transition from full-time employment to setting up our own business is that our existing network – professional contacts as well as close friends – are all rooted in that ‘old’ life. This is not to say that you should turn your back on that network and dump all your friends, but you are likely to need to make new ones as well. Find online groups where like-minded people are working towards similar goals (my Facebook group is a great place to start!), go to events and meet-ups where you can share your experiences and hear what other people are doing, and find supportive people who will cheer you on and encourage you, no matter what.

Find mentors and coaches

Friends and supporters who cheer you on are so important to get you taking action and sticking with it when it gets tough; but you also need role models and experts who can guide you along the way. Finding someone who is a few steps ahead of you will mean that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel, when someone else has already been through something similar, and will help you avoid unnecessary mistakes. It’s so easy now to get to know and experience different coaches and mentors via Facebook live, Instagram, podcasts, and so on, so you never have to feel that you’re buying into someone who you don’t respect and resonate with. One of the most common things I’ll hear from people is, “I wish I’d got a coach sooner” – don’t wait until you’re ready, your coach will help you get ready!

(You can read more about my 1:1 business mentoring here.)

This is a process, and requires a bit of work on your part, but the result can be transformative. As you lessen your dependence on other people’s labels and opinions, as you build your own inner sense of self-worth, and as you reinforce your trust in your own path, you’ll find that a weight will be lifted from your shoulders. You’ll be free to be more creative, more productive, and more successful than you could have ever imagined.

To get started with your own support system and find your tribe, come on over and join us in the Facebook group. This is where you’ll find like-minded people and an opportunity to share your insecurities, get encouragement and support, and work on overcoming that imposter syndrome, once and for all.


2 Responses

  1. A confident capable person? I am anything but lol. I have no history as a successful anything in any firm – half the time I count it as a major success that I am out of bed. My last job ended in medical redundancy over a decade and I have been on benefits since then. I spend my whole time thinking I have absolutely no right to even be thinking of trying to set up a little business – my definition of success is to just manage to get a small trickle income in so I am not totally dependent on benefits. I know what I am trying to do – in theory, it is possible. It’s just that constant voice, I have come to it too late, I am not good enough with the camera, I am just pretending I can do stuff to talk myself up, everyone can see how bad I am really. I am fighting it by trying to shine a public light on it – and waiting for the laughter and scorn to start

    1. That’s fantastic that you’re sharing your experiences publicly, I’m sure a lot of people will be reassured and encouraged by your posts. It’s incredibly brave to put yourself out there and you may well get some negativity coming back at you, but we all do. Focus on your reasons for publishing, and the positive messages that will inevitably come in.

      I can understand that being on benefits has shaken your confidence, but the fact that there are medical reasons for this demonstrates that it has nothing to do with your competence. As you say, you know that what you’re trying to do is possible. Take little steps, and you’ll find that you gain in confidence with every step.

      As for that little voice: it’s never too late; what is ‘good enough’? who is ‘everyone’?

      I would also encourage you to work on showing yourself self-compassion. This has been a massive learning for me, and it’s still something I’m working on. But when it comes to the struggle to get that balance right, that you’ve written about in your recent post, we need to allow ourselves a bit of slack when we don’t get everything done all the time.

      Thanks so much for commenting!

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