We were sitting in a small silicon valley office, eagerly waiting to talk to him.
At 11:30 AM he walked in, shook hands, nodded, smiled and casually hooked up his laptop to the projector. He had a presentation, a 15 minute long presentation. It was full of graphs, numbers, and what seemed to me like a whole lot of people pleasing fluff, unnecessary jargon and name-dropping. I felt it was all a bit underwhelming, but everyone in the room LOVED it.
I couldn’t for the life of me understand why, so I started asking questions, wanting to dig a bit deeper, and was instantly met by a flood of mansplaining, smirks, and eye rolling. So I stopped. It’s not like me to give up but there I was, doubting myself, thinking that maybe it all went waaaay over my head…Maybe despite my 11 years (!) of experience, I have no idea what I am talking about… Maybe I don’t even belong in this room and maybe this guy is the real deal and I’m just an imposter….
Have you ever felt like that? Like you’re a fake? A fraud? An imposter?
If you’re an entrepreneur, there is a big chance you have. Particularly if what you do
is innovative, disruptive or driven by a sense of purpose and not just profit.
Because doing something new, or something old in a new way is choosing the road less traveled. There is nothing to compare with, there are fewer certainties and therefore a lot more doubt. Not to mention the fact that when you’re the only one in the room doing what you do, it’s easy to think you’re in the wrong room.
It’s important you know you are not alone
According to scientific research, 2 in every 5 successful people feel fraudulent. Another research found that around 70% of people have experienced this feeling. That’s crazy, right? We’re talking about phenomenally inspiring people like the late, great multiple-award-winning Maya Angelou, the co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post Arianna Huffington, The billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes, the technology executive, activist, and author Sheryl Sandberg, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, and even the first man on the moon, Mr. Neil Armstrong.
“Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will” (Suzy Kassem)
Left unattended, Impostor Syndrome can destroy you and your business.
I’ve seen it happen… “Oh, I was lucky….”, “I knew a guy”…, “They’re just being nice”… It all sounds pretty harmless, humble even. But it’s not.
Feeling like a fraud is a heavy burden to carry. It influences your every move. It strips away every ounce of confidence and it will drive you to the shadows where no one can call you out. You can’t run a business from the shadows.
According to the inspiring Seth Godin
“Yes, you’re an impostor… so is everyone else. Superman still lives on Krypton and the rest of us are just doing our best.”
Despite what most of us think — none of us are perfect. NONE OF US.
But unlike most of us, you are actually showing up.
You are trying to make a difference in the world.
You are doing your best.
There are quite a few things you can do to prevent this syndrome from getting a hold on you and your business. Here are the ones I found powerful and effective.
Talk about it — Doesn’t matter with whom. Find someone you trust and share. Hearing your thoughts out loud is a very simple yet powerful tool
Keep track of your accomplishments — Make a list of all your accomplishments. Work, home, family, friends, hobbies, anything you feel proud of. Seeing it all in one place could be very empowering
Get what you need — Don’t give into your thoughts, listen to them and see if there is anything you can do about them. If you’re not sure you know enough, go and learn. If you don’t feel you have done enough, go and do. This might turn into a bit of a bottomless pit if you’re not careful, but better do something than do nothing, right?
Remember what you’re doing this for — As a good doing entrepreneur you serve higher principles. You’re working to create a positive change, to improve something, to make a difference. Make it less about you and more about the goals you want to achieve and the reason behind it.
Have a crystal clear, well thought of plan you can stick to — Having a good plan that fits your needs, dreams, and limitations will keep you on track, even when your mind wanders.
Bring others on board — Don’t let the business come to a halt. When in doubt, bring in like-minded quality professionals that can support you and help your business get to where you want to go.
Serve your public — This is one of the most powerful counteraction any entrepreneur can take. When in doubt, let your audience lead the way. Think of them, think of what is good for them and what will make your product or service better for them and let that lead your way.
Do the work — Keep on walking. No matter how big or how small of a step you make, make sure you take at least one every day. This one might seem mechanic and vague, but it saved my business.
Do you have any other tips on how to deal with the impostor syndrome?
Let’s help each other and share them in the comments below.