Imposter Syndrome: How to Beat It and Feel More Confident In Your Business

Everyone has moments when they feel like an imposter. Am I good enough?

Imposter Syndrome. Everyone has moments where they feel they aren’t good enough or we think we lack certain skills that everyone else is better at, right? It can be even more stressful when you feel people may not take you or your business seriously.

There’s a big difference, though, between feeling an occasional lack of confidence in certain areas of your life and experiencing full-blown “imposter syndrome” and that’s what I’d like to address today.

Imposter Syndrome is extremely common throughout our society, interestingly much more prevalent in women than in men.

But, imposter syndrome isn’t just experienced in the workplace or by women, it’s felt across our society regardless of age, sex, education, income, religion, or other factors.

The conflict that it generates can spiral out of control and generate anxiety, depression, or negative self-image issues.

What Is It & How Common Is It?

Essentially, a person that experiences Imposter Syndrome generally works hard and is often successful in many of their efforts. They simply don’t see themselves as “successful”.

Success was a fluke, they say to themselves, I “got lucky” or they attribute some other false premise rather than accept a compliment or accolades.

Even after many accomplishments, they lack reassurance that the success was based on positive personal attributes.

At any moment, they feel they’ll be found out for the fake they are and suffer insurmountable shame. They will finally be found out for who they really are.

Obviously, this is a very painful and destructive pattern.   

In a 2014 article, Forbes Magazine wrote that up to 70% of the US population have experienced Imposter Syndrome at some point in their life.

That’s a lot of us walking around feeling pretty bad about who we are and what we’re capable of and it needs to change.

People experiencing Imposter Syndrome Often Expect They’ll Be Judged

What’s Behind Imposter Syndrome?

The problem? People aren’t comfortable sharing feelings of lack of confidence. They expect judgment from others, especially in a work environment.

This limits their growth opportunities that can provide them with a sense of accomplishment and pride.

Leading Imposter Syndrome researcher, Dr. Valerie Young, has broken “imposters” into 5 groups in her book “The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer from Imposter Syndrome”.

1. The Perfectionist –

Perfectionism is a key factor in Imposter Syndrome. It comes from comparing ourselves to others who we think are smarter, more talented, or more skilled.

The Perfectionist may try to avoid trying new things or learning new skills because they are afraid of looking bad in the process or afraid of letting others down. They also create such a high standard for success for themselves that it’s likely even an expert in the field wouldn’t be able to meet their unrealistic expectations.

An Individualist with Imposter Syndrome has to do everything on their own or they don’t feel they’ve truly achieved success

2.  The Rugged Individualist or Soloist –

The Individualist perspective is that you can’t achieve real success unless you do it completely independently.  You’re unworthy if you relied on others to reach a goal. Somehow, it takes away from the glory of the accomplishment because you didn’t have what it took in skills or know-how to accel on your own.

This can be a real problem, especially if you’re resistant to trying new things because you don’t want to look foolish.  Without taking the chance to work your way through the learning curve that we all have to go through in new experiences, you limit your ability to build new skills and expertise.

3.  The Expert –

When faced with a new task, the Expert goes into overdrive learning everything they can about a subject.  They want to be ready to answer any question or challenge to avoid exposing their vulnerability to others on their team or group. 

The challenge, though, is that one can’t learn everything there is to know about a subject simply by reading or researching about it. There’s an element of “doing” something over time that comes with earning expertise on a subject, which includes experiences of both success and failure.

The Super-Hero Imposter

4. The Super Hero –

The Super Hero is all about successfully multi-tasking various roles in their life. Whether that’s as a parent, a spouse, or a co-worker, it’s a massive juggling act to ensure you dazzle everyone around you enough to ensure no one sees your deficiencies.

Failing at any of these roles is tantamount to failing at them all. There’s no moderation here. No points for successes in one role that can compensate for the failures of another. Because of this, a Super Hero overcompensates, often to the point of exhaustion or compromising their health. 

They typically push themselves well beyond their capacity, so when the facade “crashes”, it only serves to prove their unworthiness and the spiral begins again.

Where It Comes From

So, what creates this unhealthy and unhappy emotional and mental state? 

Psychologists say it starts at our earliest growth stages in childhood when we are at our most impressionable to outer familial or community influences.

For example, a person received over-active pressure by a parent to accel in school.

They might have had primary caregivers who were highly controlling or over-protective. They grew up constantly being given messages that they weren’t good enough. Many are told to do better no matter how many times they succeeded.

We are a product of our environment. You might have received criticism without the balancing positive reinforcement to offset it. If this is the case, it’s not surprising that it continued into adulthood unabated.

Overcoming Imposter Syndrome Requires Giving Yourself Grace

What You Can Do About It

We all experience self-doubt at points throughout our lives, especially when we’re facing new environments or life situations. It’s natural to question ourselves and try to gauge our abilities in an honest way as well.

But, true Imposter Syndrome requires a self-perception that your personal abilities or skills create an ongoing sense of unworthiness that is in direct contradiction to how others see, or feel, about the real (and very worthy) you.

If you feel you’ve struggled with Imposter Syndrome for some time now, it might finally be time to do the internal work through counseling, education, or focused self-reflection to strengthen your confidence and sense of self-worth.

So, my friend, until next time….stay safe, stay healthy and stay strong!