Imposter syndrome is a pattern of intrusive thinking that can lead to self-doubt, negative self-talk and missed opportunities. It can affect anyone at any point, but it's often those who are perfectionists, hard workers and high achievers who are most at risk of feeling like imposters in their own lives. It starts when you begin to doubt your capabilities and worth in a role, stirring up fear, anxiety and stress.
Starting a new business can be overwhelming for various reasons: the fear of the unknown, financial security, unconventional working hours, or asking yourself questions like "Who am I to do this?".
💡Some symptoms may include:
- Intrusive thoughts such as "Why would people come to me?", "Who am I to think I can do this?" or "There are more successful people out there. I may as well give up now."
- Hiding/feeling unworthy of attention
- Downplaying accomplishments and accrediting any to 'luck.'
- Fear of being seen as a failure or not living up to your expectations
No matter how much evidence proves the intrusive thoughts wrong, many people believe they aren't as capable or intelligent as others think. You may feel you're 'pretending' and can't do what you set out to do.
The crippling, intrusive thoughts leave you feeling unworthy and untrusting of yourself and your business. You don't like to promote yourself because you don't feel you have the same level of experience or expertise as others in your field, making you feel like a fraud. Any small 'failures' or setbacks only highlight this belief, and it's difficult for you to trust any sense of achievement or success because, deep down, you feel lost.
👉 If you've ever felt this, you are not alone. According to YouGov, 6 in 10 Britons experience a form of imposter syndrome, and according to Indeed's Working on Wellbeing 2022 report, 3 in 5 in the UK.
How to overcome imposter syndrome
Overcoming intrusive thoughts takes patience, dedication and practice. It's about moving your mind away from the thoughts when they pop up, as they are ultimately there to try and protect you from what it perceives as 'danger', aka - being exposed, embarrassed, ashamed or a failure.
Usually, this is learned behaviour through past experiences, and it takes time to retrain your brain towards a more positive, accepting and confident mindset.
Take note of them when they arise 📝
Thoughts feel more significant when they linger in your mind with nowhere to go but through your behaviours and feelings. Writing them down allows your brain to process them and keep tabs on what surfaces and when - helping you remain mindful, thus releasing them faster.
Separate fact from fiction💡
Once you've taken note of the thoughts and they start creeping in again, be prepared for how your body reacts, observe your feelings and be ready with a response. It's important to note that just because you think certain things about yourself doesn't mean they're true. A great way of doing this is to flip the narrative, so when you think thoughts like "I can't do this", affirm that you are capable, smart and can do anything you put your mind to.
Write down your accomplishments ✅
When you feel less than, it's good to have a tangible reminder of your successes. When the imposter's voice is strong, it can be easy to forget the positives and achievements you've made. Writing down your accomplishments in the moments where you feel proud and motivated is a great way to pull you back and rebuild your confidence.
Note all the reasons why you 'can' and are 'worthy' of💪
On top of writing down your accomplishments, it's good to note down all the reasons why you are worthy of success and the characteristics that prove you can succeed. The typical feeling that arises when imposter syndrome creeps in are feelings of being less than, worthless, unmotivated and not enough. Reminding yourself of why you're capable helps solidify your self-belief.
Stop comparing 🙅
Focus on your achievements, qualities and abilities. You're allowed to take up space, be authentically you, and make mistakes. "Comparison is the thief of joy" applies not only to confidence and self-worth but also to business. When you compare, you are looking at differences and the lack of what you offer, leading to a downward spiral of feeling less than. Even in a 'crowded' market, there is no one else like you; your uniqueness matters, and what you offer is important.
Talk to a trusted person 🗣
Sometimes, talking with someone who knows and supports you, whom you also trust, can help you realise that your imposter feelings are normal but also untrue. Amid the emotion associated with the thoughts and feelings you experience can be paralysing, and sometimes, we all need a little additional support. Talking to a therapist, if available to you, is also a great way to help you discover the 'why' behind the thoughts and feelings, process them and create new behaviours to get past them.
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The information in this article is intended for your educational use only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have.