Beating Imposter Syndrome
You have the office, the funding, the customers, and the products that were only a mere concept in your mind three years ago. But you still lie awake sometimes thinking that you’re a fraud, that you’ve tricked everyone into buying into you and your vision, and that you’re about to be found out. That could be imposter syndrome, and it’s utterly exhausting.
What is imposter syndrome?
“An internal experience of intellectual phonies…Despite outstanding accomplishments, women [persist] in believing that they are really not bright and have fooled anyone who thinks otherwise.” – Pauline Rose Clance & Suzanne Imes, who first coined the term in 1978.
It could manifest itself in several ways:
- Over preparing for low-priority meetings or projects
- Dwelling on email responses too long
- Always feeling that your employees, customers or clients are going to leave you
- Difficulty internalizing your accomplishments
- Being too ‘nice’ and saying what you think people want to hear
- Not investing in your talent-development
It’s a phenomenon that’s becoming more prevalent, as we compare our lives to everyone else’s online highlight reels.
If this sounds like you, you’re in good company. Amazing women like Sheryl Sandberg, Serena Williams, and even Michelle Obama have reported that they’ve felt imposter syndrome at some point in their careers.
Some say that this is a natural conclusion of living in a world that often refuses to believe in women–we feel the pay gap in our wallets and the lack of VC funding in our businesses. That might sound fairly grim, but knowing that you’re just a product of your environment can be liberating.
Imposter Syndrome expert, Valerie Young, said in an interview with Newsweek: “you need to “reframe” your thoughts. Instead of thinking, “Oh my God, I have no idea what I’m doing,” when surprised with a huge project, for example, try thinking, “Wow, I’m really going to learn a lot.”
Beating imposter syndrome can be tough and requires deliberate practice, but think of all of the extra brain space you’ll have if you’re not stressing about what your event vendor thinks of you because you asked a lot of questions.
Young goes on: “the only way to stop feeling like an impostor is to stop thinking like an impostor.”
To support this practice in your everyday life, you could work to:
- Know that you aren’t alone
It might be helpful to remember that almost everyone has felt like a fraud at some point. Connect with friends and family to see how they overcame that feeling in their lives.
- Find your people
Find a buddy who often feels like this and become co-hype-women. This doesn’t mean you give each other a pass on anything you do, it means that you recognize that negative self-talk in each other and work to squash it.
- Accept praise
We’re often told that reveling in compliments is self-indulgent, but if we’re constantly batting them away or passing them off to dumb luck or timing, it doesn’t give us a chance to appreciate and internalize them. It’s also more gracious to the person who said the nice thing.
- Save every piece of positive feedback that you get
If you get a lovely email about your customer service or a great tweet about your product, save all of them in a folder for a day when you’re not feeling too hot and refer back to them.
- Sign yourself up for a hobby you have zero experience in
Being a true beginner means that you can abscond yourself from the pressure of being perfect.
- Investigate your criticism
Look at your self-criticisms impartially and unbiasedly. Are they truly well-founded? Are they mean? Think of how you would feel if someone said that to one of your friends.
- Remember that making one mistake doesn’t detract from everything you’ve done right
We all make mistakes. If you’re a person who hasn’t, you’re a miracle (and also probably haven’t ventured too far out of your comfort zone.) Reframing a mistake as an opportunity to learn and an outlier stops you dwelling and gets you working.
If you can, try to stop seeing your responsibility for building up your self-esteem as a task or a burden, but a joy that you get to explore. If you’re ever in need of a less biased view of how your business is doing than the voice in your head, please sign up for mentorship. We’re proud that the women in our community, aside from being whip-smart, are genuinely interested in helping new entrepreneurs find their way.