It is often said that perception is the only reality. Perception is not actual data. It’s a belief based upon a world-view that is likely not entirely factual. Many of the entrepreneurs I’ve worked with over the years told me that they’ve felt like a fraud. They worry that it’s only a matter of time before people will think that either they, or their product, isn’t that great. As a result they hold themselves and their business back from opportunities that might have the slightest chance of revealing something “not so great” about who they are and what they have to offer. The Imposter Syndrome has a death grip on growth, personally and professionally, and in the ability to reach higher levels of profitability.
What is it?
Imposter syndrome has its roots in insecurity that one is not smart enough or capable to do anything worthwhile. It is a deep dark well of despair where one has this constant fear of being discovered to be a fraud and an impostor. Every achievement is seen as an opportunity where others can unearth the “fraudulent” you lurking somewhere under the guise of “achiever” you. It becomes a vicious circle of self-loathing to over come these feelings one works twice as hard and then again falls prey to the destructive feeling of being discovered as a phony. It is an emotional itch that slowly gnaws at your triumphs and turns them into sorrows of the deepest kind. Since most of this happens inside a person’s head, they don’t speak about it.
Imposter syndrome is often characterized by the fear of not being able to live up to the expectations of people. It is the dread of being evaluated and the refusal to accept praise and compliments for one’s accomplishments. It could also be referred to as the curse of the super achievers as they refuse to believe in their own competence and attribute their success to luck, timing or more importantly deceiving others to believe in their intelligence. There is always an overwhelming sense of being not good enough and getting caught for it. Anxiety and panic are the wicked stepsisters of imposter’s syndrome and thus are always trying to make it worse.
The answer lies within.
“Because one believes in oneself, one doesn’t try to convince others. Because one is content with oneself, one doesn’t need others’ approval. Because one accepts oneself, the whole world accepts him or her.”
What You Can Do About It
Learning to separate feelings from facts is the first step towards fighting the imposter syndrome. Just because you have a certain feeling about something does not necessarily translate into reality. You should trust your achievements and your strengths. You should believe that your success is the reward for your hard work and brilliance and not a fluke. Find yourself a mentor who would praise your accomplishments, provide constructive criticism and give you enough room to grow and improve.
As an entrepreneur you have lots of opportunities to win over the imposter feeling. Here are some things you can do to reclaim the full value of what you have to offer and your ability to bring it out into the world.
1. Do Something That Scares the Beejeezus Out of You
We tend to shy away from doing new things because we don’t want to be seen as inept in any way. The problem with that way of thinking is that it takes a lot of practice to get really good at doing anything. If you don’t do anything new you can’t master anything new. Make a point each and every day to learn something new, tackle something new or do something that you’ve never done before. The experience will give you more confidence that you’re well on your way to excellence even if you stumble and fall along the way.
2. Own An Achievement
Each and every day you accomplish things large and small. Own and acknowledge all of it. Provide your own validation. If someone gives you a compliment embrace it. Too often out of modesty we deflect the praise offered to us. Note if you’re inner babblecrap is serving up some justification why the accolades are misguided. Stuff a sock in that commentary between the ears.
3. Keep The Bar High
Some entrepreneurs hold themselves and their business back by keeping a low bar on milestone achievement. Stretch what you think it possible. Go for it! Mitigate your risks along the way as you push to reach higher and higher levels of achievement. Accept the fact that mistakes, and the lessons you can learn from them, are an essential part of extraordinary growth. To be extraordinary you have to do extraordinary, out of the ordinary, things.
4. Screw it, just do it.
When you realize that you are holding yourself back take the attitude of screw it, just do it. Muster up your moxie, your guts, your cajones and take a bold step. You’ll know when you are holding yourself and your business potential back when you are Finding Excuses And Reasons (F.E.A.R.) for not doing what deep down inside you know you need to do or if you feel like you just want to F*#k Everything And Run (F.E.A.R.). As a savvy entrepreneur you will circumvent the downside of any large risk as you keep moving forward anyway. Screw it, just do it? What’s the worse that can happen? The worse that can happen is that it won’t work out as you expected. Something even better can come out of it or, at the very least, you’ll discover a silver lining which will eventually be an essential part of your ultimate incredible success.
There is likely to be a bit of the imposter lurking deep within all of us. The key is to recognize if for what it is, and for what it is not, and never allow it to rule over us.
5. Dare to Be Real
Just as Oscar Wilde said “”Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” If you try to shape-shift yourself to please everyone you are valued by no one in particular. Trying to fit your business and your personality into what you think everyone will like is a recipe for mediocrity. Mediocre business cannot sustain. They’re crushed by businesses out there, taking a bold stand, and daring to piss off a few folks. This doesn’t mean you have to build a big business. If a small business is what’s real for you, real for what you want get out of your business experience, then that’s fine. Many small businesses are great because they can serve smaller amounts of people even more greatly. Be willing to stay true to what you know will rock your world instead of what others think about how you and your business should be. This means that you have to be honest with yourself, authentic in your communications and transparent in your brand. Not everyone will fall in love with what they see. That’s fine and dandy. Just continue to be real and deliver a stellar experience to those you serve.
The bottom line is, if you see any signs of the imposter syndrome in you actions and how you feel about your business, hit the pause button. Reach for a new and better perspective – one that will catapult you to confidence, courage and complete competence in every aspect of your life and business.