I attended a wonderful event last week for an old coaching client whose business is really starting to take off. Something she said when addressing the small group of women she had gathered for the event really stuck with me, namely because it is something that I have struggled with myself. She said that she feels like she's faking it, like the business isn't real, and it's something that still feels a little foreign to her.
I told her that feeling is actually quite normal for women starting out in business. In fact, for my first year or so in business, I couldn't bring myself to actually tell people that I ran my own business. Instead, I would just tell them that I was freelancing. It took my husband introducing me to someone and telling them that I ran my own business to provide me with that lightbulb moment of, "YEAH, I DO!"
Imposter syndrome, which is the term used to define the way high-achieving individuals experience doubt, or fear of being exposed as a fraud, despite their success. Although imposter syndrome isn't exclusive to women, it's something that has disproportionately affected them over the years.
Women, Success & Self-Doubt
I understand the plight of imposter syndrome since it's something I've experienced myself. In the early days of my business, I found it hard to believe that people continued to not only hire me, but to also pay me money for my services! Especially now, in the time of social media, it's easy to compare your life to the digital life of others and doubt yourself.
Regular women, like myself and my awesome client, are not the only ones who experience the pangs of imposter syndrome; plenty of famous women have experienced it as well:
"The beauty of the imposter syndrome is you vacillate between extreme egomania and a complete feeling of 'I'm a fraud! Oh God, they're on to me! I'm a fraud!' So you just try to ride the egomania when it comes and enjoy it, and then slide through the idea of fraud." -Tina Fey
"I have spent my years since Princeton, while at law school and in my various professional jobs, not feeling completely part of the worlds I inhabit. I am always looking over my shoulder wondering if I measure up." -Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor
"Sometimes I wake up in the morning before going off to a shoot, and I think, 'I can't do this, I'm a fraud.'" -Kate Winslet
"I have written 11 books, but each time I think, 'uh-oh, they're going to find out now. I've run a game on everybody, and they're going to find me out.'" -Maya Angelou
Overcoming Imposter Syndrome
There is so much to doubt when you are running your own business, it can be easy to become consumed by the negative self-talk, but it's crucial to figure out how to overcome it. Here are a few ways you can help yourself work through your own struggles with imposter syndrome:
Speak Positively, Out Loud And Often. The best way to combat negative self-talk is with positivity. When my client told us that she feels uncomfortable thinking of herself as a business owner, I spoke up to tell her that it's not uncommon and the more she says--out loud--that she IS a business owner, the more it will become a part of her reality. It's not so much following a concept of "faking it til you make it," but rather "practice makes perfect."
Stop Comparing Yourself To Others. It's easy to think you're not as successful or doing as much as other people, especially in the age of social media, but being so focused on others apparent success instead of focusing on your own accomplishments can be detrimental to your progress and stunt your growth as a business. Instead, celebrate all of your accomplishments, both big and small, and try to keep blinders on when it comes to others.
Change The Way You View Failure. If you have any hope of making it as a business owner, you need to embrace failure. In every failure there is a great lesson to be learned that can help you become stronger, work smarter, and even come up with some of your best ideas. Don't let failure bring you down; instead, try to find the ways in which it can help lift you up!
Finding The Right Support
A major component of overcoming your imposter syndrome is having a great support system. If you launched a business by yourself and work as a solopreneur, it can be hard to live outside of your own head without anyone to bounce ideas off of. With my marketing coaching services, you'll never have to worry about spiraling out of control because you'll always have a cheerleader to encourage you to keep going and helping you troubleshoot any issues that pop up.