How to Overcome Imposter Syndrome as an Entrepreneur

by | May 26, 2023 | Mindset

Do you ever feel like a fake or fraud in your professional life? Do you get a creeping sense of dread that the people you work with will realize they made a mistake when they trusted you?

Self-doubt is normal, particularly for entrepreneurs and creative individuals who frequently face challenges. However, continuous fear and worry that you aren’t qualified to run your business or experiencing ongoing feelings of inadequacy may be signs of imposter syndrome. Left untreated, imposter syndrome can lead to difficulty making decisions, internal torment, and even burnout and depression, seriously derailing your aspirations.

Identifying imposter syndrome and overcoming it can help you become more mentally resilient, increasing your confidence and helping you regain the joy you once knew in your entrepreneurial journey. Manuel Astruc, M.D., founder of Your Next Act, experienced burnout in his own professional life, and that experience imparted a profound understanding of what you might be experiencing.

Your Next Act can empower you with the tools needed to get over imposter syndrome and find joy and balance in your life and business. Learn more about how to cope with imposter syndrome and some steps you can take to overcome it.

What Is Imposter Syndrome, and How Does It Affect Entrepreneurs?

Imposter syndrome can throw up roadblocks in your journey, significantly hindering your success as an entrepreneur — but you are not alone. This phenomenon affects a staggering number of entrepreneurs just like you.

A survey of more than 600 entrepreneurs conducted by the technology platform Kajabi revealed that 84% of entrepreneurs experience imposter syndrome. Among the respondents, 25% worried that people would discover that they aren’t as competent as they appear to be. Additionally, 23% feared that people would learn that they lacked knowledge, and more than one-fifth of the entrepreneurs believed their success came from sheer luck.

Imposter syndrome causes entrepreneurs to doubt their abilities to duplicate their success, question the importance of their work, and even criticize themselves for not accomplishing more. The additional self-imposed pressure can lead to pushing harder, working longer hours, and sacrificing more of their work-life balance — an ideal recipe for burnout.

The Common Causes of Imposter Syndrome

Before you can learn how to combat imposter syndrome, it’s essential to understand what causes it. Imposter syndrome is a type of cognitive bias that is the opposite of the Dunning-Kruger effect, in which people with low ability levels believe that they are more competent than they are. Because people experiencing the Dunning-Kruger effect have low levels of self-awareness, it doesn’t occur to them that they could be anything but intelligent and capable.

However, entrepreneurs are intelligent, driven, and highly self-aware. That awareness can cause you to focus on perceived mistakes and shortcomings, inadvertently diminishing sense of your competency and achievements. The general nature of high achievers is that they are often hard on themselves and focus on what they are doing wrong, which can lead to discounting any success they have achieved.

Other common causes include:

  • Family Dynamics: You’re at higher risk if your parents valued high achievements, had overprotective parenting styles, or you grew up in a family with high conflict levels.
  • Personality Traits: Perfectionism and neuroticism can increase anxiety and the likelihood of experiencing imposter syndrome.
  • Anxiety: Imposter syndrome can cause depression and anxiety. Likewise, anxiety can increase your chances of having imposter syndrome.

Overcoming Imposter Syndrome as an Entrepreneur

Although anyone can experience imposter syndrome, entrepreneurs are particularly susceptible because of their innate drive, self-awareness, and reliance on their own abilities for success. It affects some of the most successful people in the world. Without treatment, it can cause significant problems, including entrepreneurial burnout.

The good news is it’s possible to overcome imposter syndrome. The process allows you to build the mental toughness you need to deal with many types of professional (and personal) obstacles. Professional guidance is essential, but these 10 steps provide a starting point for overcoming imposter syndrome.

1. Speaking Up

Don’t let unwarranted feelings of shame make you keep your feelings inside. Sharing how you feel with others lets you know you’re not alone, and it can help you gain perspective.

2. Understanding Feelings and Facts Aren’t the Same

Everyone feels foolish or like a failure occasionally. That doesn’t mean they are incapable or unintelligent. When negative feelings start running rampant, give yourself a quick SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis. This can help you overcome your feelings by recognizing your abilities and areas where you can improve.

3. Acknowledging When It’s a Normal Response

You may be under pressure to perform well or disprove social stereotypes. If you don’t feel a sense of belonging in a specific setting, it can just be a natural byproduct of circumstance.

4. Talking About Your Successes

For many entrepreneurs, the anxiety of saying the wrong thing leads to skimming over their achievements. Talking about what you have accomplished isn’t bragging. If you’re worried about what could happen if you talk about your success, work through the worst-case scenarios in your mind and take steps to avoid those issues. This practice will leave you less afraid and ready to embrace your achievements.

5. Embracing Failures and Mistakes

Data shows that failures and mistakes teach invaluable lessons that drive success. Instead of berating yourself, learn from the situation. Turning mistakes into lessons allows every failure to become less of an obstacle and more of an opportunity to improve.

6. Modifying Your Self-Imposed Rules

Do you tell yourself that you should never have to ask for help, or do you feel like you should always have an answer? Give yourself the space to be human. You have just as much right as anyone else to ask for assistance or be incorrect occasionally.

7. Changing Your Inner Dialogue

Use your self-awareness to your advantage. Pay attention to the conversation in your mind, and when you find yourself thinking about what a fraud or phony you are, turn it around. Instead of saying, “Everyone is going to find out that I don’t know what I’m doing,” tell yourself, “I’m learning so much, and I have the smarts to get the job done.”

8. Tapping into the Power of Visualization

Pro athletes often take time to picture their success on the court or the field. Try envisioning yourself successfully pitching new investors or making a riveting presentation. This practice can help ward off feelings of impending doom, allowing you to manage performance anxiety and increase your confidence.

9. Developing a Growth Mindset

Entrepreneurship is more of a marathon than a sprint, with a focus on progress instead of perfection. A growth mindset requires believing you can grow your talents and abilities with effort and support from other people. When you develop and adopt this mindset, the path to success becomes far more joyful, no matter the obstacles and possible setbacks.

To adopt this mindset, consider the following:

  • Reflect on mistakes and failures and use them as feedback and fuel for improvement.
  • Focus on strategies and teams to build momentum instead of only focusing on results.
  • Take time to reflect, learn, and reprioritize accordingly.
  • Give yourself (and your team) time to rest and recharge for greater motivation, inspiration, and engagement.
  • Anticipate disappointment. Taking risks is part of the gamble, and disappointments happen. Embrace it as a stepping stone to improvement.

10. Surrounding Yourself with Positive Influences

The saying, “You are who you hang out with,” isn’t just a figure of speech. Like-minded people will provide greater support and inspiration for you. Attitudes are often contagious, and others in your professional and social settings might experience similar feelings. Your existing peers aren’t the only people to consider. Joining professional associations can expand your circle of influence.

Bonus: Put Down the Yard Stick

Stop comparing yourself to others and measure your progress instead. All too often, we hold a yardstick up next to people we admire and focus on where we fall short. In other instances, you might compare your own actions or progress against what you consider the “perfect execution.” This is a recipe to continually fall short of a perceived ideal.

One-on-one executive coaching is another tremendous resource. A coach can provide support, guidance, goal setting tips, and perspective to help you better cope with imposter syndrome.

Get Over Imposter Syndrome and Embrace Your Abilities with Your Next Act

Imposter syndrome can drive you to work harder, experience more stress, and ultimately burn out. As an entrepreneur, you deserve the type of support that comes with personalized one-on-one coaching for entrepreneurs. That support can help you gain a fresh perspective and move past imposter syndrome to embrace your journey.

Discover how Your Next Act can free you with coaching that can help you develop the mindset you need for ultimate success. It’s time to enjoy every minute of the ride along the way. Call us today at 518.583.7410.

Create more energy, engagement, and productivity with tips in my daily Morning Musing and weekly Your Next Act Insiders Newsletter.


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