Imposter syndrome is REAL, and everybody has it. Yes, even you.
It usually pops up when you start putting yourself out there as an authority in your field or when you say you can do something that you haven’t really done enough to feel super confident about it.
It took me a while to understand what imposter syndrome really was and how it affected me as an entrepreneur. What I’ve learned is that this is an unavoidable step in the entrepreneurial journey, and it’s unavoidable because you push yourself to grow. And if you’re not pushing yourself to grow, are you even an entrepreneur?
What Is Imposter Syndrome, Anyway?
I know for a fact that there are people who are WAY ahead of me in terms of their visibility and thought leadership. But some of these people have also expressed to me personally, in private, how much imposter syndrome they still experience.
By definition, imposter syndrome is the feeling of being a complete fraud in your field. All of your achievements are by luck and not hard work or trial and error. And worse, you feel like you don’t deserve anything you’ve achieved.
Yes, it’s just as terrible as it sounds. But what I’ve grown to realize by hearing this from so many people is that if you’re an entrepreneur, and you’re always pushing yourself to a place you haven’t been, imposter syndrome is a natural by-product. If you don’t have imposter syndrome, you’re probably staying where you are because you’ve gotten comfortable.
No One Gets It Right the First Time, Every Time
When you try something new for the first time, you don’t know if you’re going to succeed. And if that new thing is hard, you likely WON’T succeed at first.
Let’s dial back to when you first started doing the things you’re doing now. At what point would you even KNOW something, anyway? When do you earn that expert status? It’s nothing like school where you go chapter by chapter through a subject, take right-or-wrong tests along the way, and get a grade that “proves” how much you’ve learned. Even someone who got an A+ in their world history class probably doesn’t remember everything they “learned.”
I’ll use myself as an example. I built my business around branding, but there was a point when I didn’t know the first thing about branding. But there never was a point where I suddenly “knew” branding.
It’s an evolution that continues to this day because branding isn’t a math equation. There’s not an answer.
I remember when I first got up in front of people to speak. It was a room of 5-10 people, and I felt immediate imposter syndrome. Who was I to tell them about this topic when I was still learning a lot about it myself?
But what I know now that I want to impart on others who are intimidated by the idea of sharing what they know online or on stage is that you DO know more than the average person.
Tim Ferris says if you read three books on a subject, you’ll know more than 95% of people out there. Even if that’s half true you have a leg up on the general public.
I talked about this with my friend and owner of New York Book Editors, Natasa Lekic, on a recent episode of my podcast. She shared a great story of how she still has imposter syndrome over her ability to speak on the subject of publishing even though she built a company that does almost a million dollars in book editing every year, all by herself! Click here to listen in on our unfiltered conversation in that episode and hear more stories on my podcast, Show Your Business Who’s Boss.
Similarly, if you have worked with ten clients in your area of expertise, you know more than anyone who HASN’T done this work. Have you achieved bonafide expert status? Probably not yet, but you definitely have a LOT you can share.
How to Take Down Imposter Syndrome
I think there are two keys to combating imposter syndrome:
The first is to understand that the feeling of imposter syndrome is natural when you are growing, so try to embrace it. It means you’re stretching yourself to new heights, and only then can you achieve greater things in your business and life. Identify it for what it is and choose not to let it affect your ability to grow.
And second, be honest about what you know and don’t know. You don’t have to apologize for what you don’t know or tell people how much you don’t know, but you CAN qualify yourself with your experience. Saying things like, “After working with ten clients, I can tell you I’ve learned THIS,” takes some of the pressure off. You’re not saying you’ve spent your life studying this, but you are saying that you have enough experience to speak to what you’ve seen.
As you gain more experience and grow, you’ll have even more ways to support your credibility. Just remember that even the most well-known and well-respected people in your field have experienced imposter syndrome, and if you never felt it, it likely means you aren’t pushing yourself to grow.