Facing Imposter Syndrome

Written by Ren Butler on the 13th of July, 2017

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Imposter Syndrome: a concept describing high-achieving individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.

Take note of that ‘high-achieving’ part.

The funny thing about Imposter Syndrome is that everyone who’s doing something daring gets it. The good news, it’s actually a symptom of being on the right path. We feel this way when we’re getting out of our comfort zone and edging into our growth zone. As a startup founder you’ll likely be spending most of your time in your growth zone, if you’re doing it right. Have you ever heard that metaphor about jumping off a cliff and figuring out how to build the parachute on the way down? There’s some truth in it.

The cool thing about doing daring things—aka being innovative—is that you don’t need to know all the answers. In fact, you shouldn’t! If you did, that would mean it’s already been done. Imposter Syndrome comes from a place in our lizard brains that seeks approval or comfort from our immediate surroundings. If left in a vacuum or given no information to go on, most of us will have some negative thoughts. It’s vital as a founder that you set up a solid support network around you to help you revive from both external and internal negativity. That’s one of the many reasons that programs like SheStarts are immeasurably valuable.

External support structures and networks are necessary but your internal support system is the most important tool when it comes to pushing through feelings of Imposter Syndrome. The answer is both simple and yet incredibly hard at times. Know your why. Ask yourself:

Why are you taking on the challenge of this startup? Every startup should be solving a problem for a clearly defined market/community. What’s your relationship with this particular quest?

How to manage Imposter Syndrom

I’m serious. Sit with these questions in a quiet moment for at least ten minutes. Write down what comes into your head. Edit those answers down to something simple and meaningful to you. Keep those answers posted somewhere you’ll look at them regularly. This is your personal confidence touchstone to check back in with when you start to feel your confidence points getting low.

It’s all about perspective. When you start to find yourself thinking, “Who am I to do this?” or “Why would they take me seriously?”

Remember, you are the one who’s caring, driven and passionate enough to do something about this challenge. If they don’t care, that’s fine, move on. You only need the time and attention of people who believe in your mission. The rest are just noise.

Every single one of the SheStarts program participants have gone on that deeply personal, challenging and scary journey. Maybe some of their stories will resonate with you and help you find the confidence to take on your own startup quest. It’s the only way to learn how to push through Imposter Syndrome.

For more insights into how Imposter Syndrome affects entrepreneurs, have a look at the SheStarts episode 25.

To catch up on all the episodes and watch next week, stay tuned here!

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