Do you ever ask yourself…“Who am I to do this? Or am I really good enough?” People will find out I'm a fraud and no one will take me seriously. Well, my friend if that's cropping up for you, you’re not alone. It's all about imposter syndrome. And I hear you. Because I feel it all the time. I don't really know too many people that don't.
When you're a new entrepreneur and you're starting out, it can absolutely cripple you if you don't get to grips with it sooner, rather than later. So, what is imposter syndrome anyway? It's when we doubt that we have the skills or the talent, or maybe the accomplishments, to do what we want to do.
It's like you feel that you're a fraud. You feel you’re going to be exposed or shamed.
I mean, isn't it true, that almost all of the things that we do as humans are trying to avoid feeling shame. Imagine going out there with your beautiful sparkling bit of content or a program, or a course, and people think that you're not worthy of it. The shame that you would feel.
But realistically, that's not something that's likely to happen. And especially not to you.If you're reading this, then you're probably doing all the things that you need to do to be a successful entrepreneur.
The likelihood of that shame really happening is small, but it doesn't stop us feeling terrified and feeling like an impostor.
It's come up for me so frequently and I always have to tackle it, which is why I'm really excited to do an episode about it today. I’ll discuss some of the things that we can do to overcome it. So much about being successful is just recognizing the things that are holding us back and finding ways to overcome them. You know, it's ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’ which is something that I embrace, and I've had to do so many times.
Imposter syndrome comes up way more frequently for women than for men
...that feeling “Who am I to do this?” It is just something that seems to have been born of this gender inequality in the workplace. When I say it's for women more than men, I am generalizing. I do believe it's for all individuals but there's been enough research that shows that women have developed a sense of not wanting to put themselves forward in the workplace. So potentially, as we move into the entrepreneurial space, it can hold us back if this idea of not wanting to put yourself forward is deeply ingrained.
So how does that show up? It shows up though overcompensating with perfectionism, for example. Do you feel that you need to create everything perfectly before you can really put it out there?
And it's slowing you down but if it's not perfect then people will think that you don't really know what you're talking about. They won't think that you're a real expert in your niche.
Maybe, it shows up as analysis paralysis or over preparation. You know what that's like, where you drop into so much work and research that you’re never ready to put it out there. This idea that, “Oh well, maybe I'll just need to do one more thing, learn one more thing or I just need to add something extra.
I've really learned by now that you could go at 80%. You never, ever need to go 100%. If you get to a hundred percent you've overworked it.
What about playing small? Playing small, that's where you keep a low profile. Instead of moving into your power and leveling up and really bringing the best of what you have; you just keep small because you think you're an imposter. You think that you'll get found out. Or maybe you're withholding talent? You’re not going to give your opinion for fear of being found out. That could show up, say in groups or forums, where you're reading other people's stuff and you think ‘I know better than that, I've definitely got an opinion... I can help’ and yet you don't post. You're not saying what you know you have the expertise in, because you're scared that people will view you as an imposter. Or you’re not finishing really important projects for the same reason.
It all boils down to feeling like ‘I just can't do it, I'm not good enough.’ You know that feeling when you feel really worried and you don't feel lit up, and you actually feel scared to be seen because you might get judged.
This came up for me absolutely enormously when I first started my business. I'd come out of a corporate job that I had been in for 20 years, not a particular job but certainly an industry, where I'd climbed the corporate ladder. I’d spent the last 20 years literally starting out as a graduate in the advertising industry at Ogilvy & Mather, then working my way up to a very senior position at another media agency in London.
Then when COVID hit at the beginning, I was made redundant or I think you say laid off if you're in the US. It was really frightening to be in that position, but I knew in my heart that it was meant to be because what you're seeing me do now is what has been bubbling up within me for a very, very long time.
But that didn't stop the imposter syndrome cropping up enormously. Really when I knew it had really got me was, when I’d been about four months in, I had pivoted and started doing all the training and all the learning that would lead me into my Business Coaching business and I thought...“You know what, I really would like to start marketing and getting into LinkedIn.”
Then I realized I hadn't even changed my LinkedIn profile for four months. Literally hadn't touched it to reflect what I was doing now. That's because I felt like people would judge me. They would see me, now that I’ve become a business success coach, and say “Well, who is she to do that?” Actually, I was asking myself, who are you to do this?
Because the truth is those people I was worried about weren't sitting there thinking about me, they’ve got their own things to be getting on with. Even if they were thinking about me, I would like to think that they were feeling supportive and maybe even intrigued, so that’s how I got over it. When I realized what was holding me back, I really quickly changed my LinkedIn profile and that enabled me not only to move forward with LinkedIn, but to move forward with my own self-confidence in my business.
Taking that one action helped me level up how I was showing up in my business. So, it’s interesting, there can be little clues around as to how imposter syndrome is showing up for us. The important question is what can we do about it? And there are lots and lots of ways that imposter syndrome can be approached. First one, this is so important- remember your story. Why are you the right person for this gig? Why are you the right person to help other people make whatever transformation is needed. What is the gift only you can give? I think so many times we don't respect our experiences and our journeys that got us here.
You're here for a reason. If you’ve got in your heart to teach what you want to teach, it is because you've experienced it.
You've had the transformation yourself, or perhaps you've already helped others. Maybe you’ve gone through a really tough patch. I know that my story is littered with really, really difficult things, which, you know, in retrospect, I thank them all because it's those hard times that have brought me to a place where I feel I have something to say and something to give. So have a look at your stories and remember that that's what gives you the right to offer your help to others. Never really doubt yourself.
When you do, it's probably because you're dropping into comparing yourself with others. I always think to myself, just don't compare your first chapter with somebody else's finished book. That stuff could be absolutely brilliant, but they had to start somewhere too. One of my tricks for that is always go back to their very first podcast episode or their very first post on Instagram to find out what they said first. It's always so joyful to see how far they've come and to know that that journey is ahead of us too. So just get out of your own way and stop worrying what other people are doing. Just take your next step and focus on how you can help your next client.
The next one is to embrace failure, just say goodbye to being perfect.
My favorite type of action is Messy Action. I've already said it a couple of times in my short tenure as podcaster. If you could, just enjoy learning and having fun. It's okay if something didn't hit the mark or you didn't really get a lot of response. It's okay if you hear crickets, just don't worry about it, because the alternative is imagining not doing your thing, not having your successful business, and going back to the nine to five.
If that is unimaginable to you, as it certainly is to me, then you know that you have to embrace failure because you can't be successful unless you fail sometimes. And look for evidence. You know when we look for evidence, the way we do sometimes, we just find evidence to support whatever it is we're thinking. So, if we're thinking negative stuff about ourselves, it'll just seem like everything supports that. But the truth is, if you really start looking for the positive evidence that you are not an imposter and you really do know what you're doing, you’ll see evidence for that. It’s what happened for me, when I first pivoted into business coaching, I needed to build up a lot of evidence to get over that imposter syndrome.
I started doing a lot of free coaching sessions. I've just offered my services. Whenever I saw somebody was in my niche and needed help I was there. I was like, ‘Oh, I'll jump on a call with you.’ Like, let me help... let me see. I found that I was helping. Not only that, I was getting really phenomenal testimonials. People were just telling me that I was doing great things for them in their business. As this evidence mounted up, it made me believe it too. I realized that I could do this. Not only could I... I am doing this...I am a business success coach. This is what I do for people. So, lean in to helping people.
If you're already being paid to do it, that's phenomenal, but don't be too proud to offer your services for free to build up your confidence. Understand exactly what transformation you can make for people and gather those testimonials and hear about their results. After you’ve spoken with them, after you taught them, what did they go on to do? Not only is that great for your business to have those testimonials, but it will be great for your confidence.
Sometimes the universe will give you the evidence exactly when you need it. That happened for me when I was really worried that I wasn't going to be able to help corporate mums make the transition into becoming entrepreneurs. Literally, as I was fearing that really, I was imposter, I got a message from an old colleague from my old advertising days saying that she'd seen some of the work that I’d been doing and some of my Instagram posts. She would really love a chat with me. When we jumped on the phone, she was saying such amazing things to me. She was saying that what I was posting about really resonated with her, she is a mom too, and really felt that she wanted to consider having more meaning in her life in the future and she was really inspired by what I was doing, because so much of what I was doing was relatable to her.
Ultimately, it's about being two steps ahead. It's not necessarily being the finished article but somebody that others can look to.
They can relate to you and say, “I could achieve that... How has she done it? What steps did she take? How can I learn from her?” We know it's actually more beneficial to our clients. We give way more commitment and attention than the big players who might be serving thousands of people. So, embrace the fact that you're only two steps ahead because it's actually a real positive for the tribe that needs you. They need your expertise to help them move forward.
Also, I really love support systems. Lean on them when you're feeling imposter syndrome. It could be your friends or your family. Have them tell you why you're good at what you do. Find a business mentor or an accountability pod. Look around you. Ask yourself, who is it that will build me up? Give me the confidence when I'm not feeling it? Borrow some confidence from them for a while. Cause that's okay. We all feel like we can't do it sometimes. So, hearing from others that we really do have what it takes, we do know our stuff and we're not an imposter is going to go a long way to getting over that hump.
Finally, be realistic. Make changes if they need to be made. Do you knowthe idea of dressing for the job? Now, I don't mean that literally because I am from the messy bun brigade, but I do think that you just need to walk the walk. So, if you feel like an imposter because the truth is you're not doing what it is you're teaching others, now's the time to take a good look at yourself and say, “You know what, I just need to level me up first and then I know that I'm going to level up my business too.” So be honest, if there's a little tweak that you need to make, now's a really, really good time to make it because you have got a special gift that only you can bring. There are people out there that need your expertise. Your tribe's waiting.
Imposter syndrome, and this is a fact, is never going to leave. I keep overcoming it and it keeps coming back.
I like to think that actually imposter syndrome is good if it shows up then you're leveling up. You will know when you're moving into your biggest fear, if imposter syndrome is showing up.
Because you're mixing with people who are now making you up your game, then it's good because it's keeping you on your toes, but just remember that it should never ever stop you. Now it's just the time to move on to be as confident as you can. So I hope you can shake off that imposter syndrome today and take that Confident Action.