5 Tips for Overcoming Imposter Syndrome
How to own your success as a small business owner
As small business owners, we are faced with countless day-to-day challenges. But sometimes, the hardest challenge to overcome is our own internal monologue — that pesky little voice in the back of our head that tells us “you’re not good enough” or “you don’t have what it takes.”
Since starting my business (almost exactly one year ago!), I have become all too familiar with that little voice. It tells me precisely what I fear most: that I am too young and too inexperienced to build a successful business.
The most frustrating part about the little voice is that it doesn’t listen to logic. It conveniently ignores any achievements that contradict its self-deprecating conclusions while grossly inflating any “failures” that confirm them. (Didn’t close that client you were hoping to? Didn’t hit your sales target for Q1? Add it to the pile of corroborating evidence).
As it turns out, there is a popularized name for this little voice I’m describing: “imposter syndrome.” It’s a psychological pattern in which people are unable to internalize or own their accomplishments. It tells you that your successes are based on luck, chance, or auspicious timing, while your failures are the natural result of your perceived deficiencies.
If left unchecked, this thought pattern can wreak havoc on your emotional wellbeing and jeopardize the future of your business. (Trust me, I’ve been there). That’s why I wanted to share some strategies that have helped me overcome imposter syndrome while growing my business:
- Acknowledge and observe the intrusive thoughts as they emerge. You can do this by completing the sentence “My imposter syndrome is telling me that I ________________.” For me, it usually goes something like this: “My imposter syndrome is telling me that I’m too young to be qualified to run a business.” Other common refrains I have heard include: “I’m not smart enough.”; “I’ll never measure up to the competitors”; “I’m just not cut out for this.”
- Write down a rebuttal to that thought. Once I notice the thought running through my head, I try to contradict it with facts. I like to do this in the form of a rhetorical question (for example, “If I were too young to be qualified to run a business, then why am I still running the business a year later?”) or a list of accomplishments that disprove the thought. For each accomplishment, make a note of how your time, skills, and talents uniquely positioned you to attain it.
- Record and review your wins, even the little ones. Every Friday, I spend a few minutes recording achievements, milestones, and learnings from the week on my Word of Web “wins board” on Trello. I find it helpful to review my wins regularly so that I can remember how far I’ve come and not get lost in how far I have to go.
- Set your sights on better, not perfect. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I’m a huge perfectionist, so this strategy is especially hard for me to practice. But it is a must-have mindset for business owners. If your goal is perfection, you will constantly feel like you’re underperforming, and that feeling will cause you to actually underperform. So whenever you start to beat yourself up about something you did “wrong,” take a moment to stop, think, and write down how you can do it better next time.
- Open up to friends, family, and colleagues. There is no shame in sharing your self-doubts with the people close to you. They can help you get out of your head and see your accomplishments for what they really are, not what you’ve twisted them to be. Sometimes, I’ll make my friends brag to me so that they can get comfortable with a more congratulatory self-narrative.
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