7 ways to deal with impostor syndrome

When you’re starting a business it’s natural to feel some doubt and uncertainty along the way.

One of the biggest barriers to success is the feeling that you’re not qualified to do what you’re aiming to do. This doubt can even make you feel like a fraud.

You might be comparing yourself to others and feeling like you don’t deserve success — or you just “don’t belong here”.

These feelings are something that strikes many of us — impostor syndrome.

Rather than celebrating their accomplishments, people suffering from impostor syndrome can feel like they’re tricking people into thinking their good enough. This can lead to anxious feelings of being “found out”.

Researchers believe that up to 70% of people have suffered from impostor syndrome at one point or another. It’s not exclusive to business owners, it can affect your career progression too.

“I have written eleven 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

Tina Fey, Kate Winslett, Emma Watson and Sheryl Sandburg have all opened up about suffering with impostor syndrome, so if these thoughts are plaguing you, you’re not alone.

If your struggling with doubt, self-confidence or suffering from impostor syndrome, it can have a serious impact on your success. You need to find ways to overcome it. Luckily, there are ways to cope.

7 ways to deal with impostor syndrome

  1. Acknowledge what you’re going through

Signs of impostor syndrome can sneak into our everyday lives and before you know it, it’s taken over. Recognising the signs early can help you tackle it.

You might be suffering from impostor syndrome if:

  • You feel like your success has been down to luck, even when you prepared and worked hard
  • You find it hard to accept praise
  • You apologise even when you haven’t done anything wrong
  • You hold yourself to high standards which are sometimes impossible to reach
  • You are paralysed by the fear of failure

2. Reflect on what triggers these feelings

It can be helpful to keep a journal and make a note of what triggers your feelings of impostor syndrome.

Are there particular times, tasks or conversations that bring on these feelings?

Are you comparing yourself to others — maybe without even realising it?

By writing it down whenever you feel these doubts, you might be able to spot patterns and triggers. This will help you recognise and overcome these feelings.

3. Stop trying to be perfect

Perfectionism can really get in the way of productivity. Many people who suffer from impostor syndrome are high achievers who set high standards for themselves. This can lead them to perfectionism.

When you feel like a fraud, it’s usually because you’re comparing yourself to a “perfect” outcome that’s either impossible or unrealistic.

Instead of striving for perfection, acknowledge that often done is better than perfect. This will make you more productive, and the more things you achieve the more confident you will feel.

4. Don’t compare yourself

There’s so many amazing businesses out there, and social media makes it easier than ever for us to compare ourselves with others.

But when we do this, it can be easy to get hung up on people with more followers than you, more subscribers or people who are seemingly more successful.

The problem with this is that you’re comparing the back end of your business to the front end of someone else’s. It’s not an accurate comparison.

It’s good to have people you admire in business, and to keep an eye on competitors, but try to avoid drawing comparisons to keep impostor syndrome at bay.

5. No negative self-talk

Silencing negative thoughts isn’t easy, but negative self-talk is a bad habit that can increase our stress, anxiety and feelings of being a fraud.

It’s not easy to keep the negative committee in your head at bay, but it is essential for success.

Try re-phrasing negative questions and doubts into positive ones.

Instead of asking “what if this doesn’t work?”

Ask yourself “What if this does work?”

Our thoughts play a powerful role in defining our attitude and actions. Setting yourself positive affirmations can be an excellent tool in overcoming impostor syndrome.

6. Record and celebrate your successes

As well as writing down when you feel like a fraud, it’s important to document your successes — so that when you’re feeling like an impostor you can remind yourself how far you’ve come.

Keep track of your wins and what you did to achieve them.

You might keep track of your blog post page views each month to see how they’re increasing, or look at your Twitter engagement rate for example. You might record how many sales you make each month, or keep a journal of positive customer feedback from social media, email and other sources.

Re-visiting these positive experiences when you’re feeling down can help you reinforce your confidence and overcome self-doubt.

7. Work with your feelings, not against them

We all struggle with impostor syndrome from time to time. It’s impossible to get rid of it completely, but you can stop it from getting in your way.

With the right coping mechanisms you can even make it work in your favour.

Feelings of doubt and insecurity can show you gaps in your skills.

Investing time and effort into training and developing these areas can make you even more successful.

It can also be helpful to talk it out with other business owners, or even a mentor.

When you feel the negativity coming on, remind yourself that it’s not in control — you are. Manage it in the ways you’ve practiced and don’t let it stand in the way of your success.

Do you have any coping strategies for impostor syndrome?

Is it something you’ve suffered with before? What works — and doesn’t work — for you?