When Enough Isn't Enough - How To Manage Imposter Syndrome
Updated: Oct 29, 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic has thrust many into the entrepreneurial ring to make up for the lack of income suffered from loss of employment. It is unfamiliar territory when navigating a business start-up journey. Of course, there are the financial and logistical hurdles, but what often is not spoken of are the psychological hurdles that may also cross one’s path.
As the owner of a business, it is presumed you have expertise in the product or service you are providing. Customers are demanding high levels of service for the best price. Having to bear those expectations can result in a feeling of doubt in your abilities. This, at times mentally debilitating phenomenon, is called Imposter Syndrome.
According to the Harvard Business Review, “Imposter syndrome can be defined as a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success. 'Imposters' suffer from chronic self-doubt and a sense of intellectual fraudulence that override any feelings of success or external proof of their competence.” Those dealing with imposter syndrome will receive awards and accolades for their work and feel as if they do not deserve it. In their minds, they are truly unqualified and are just faking it to make it. They will as if they have no right to be successful despite their well-earned achievements.
Imposter syndrome was first identified in the 1970s by Suzanne Imes, Ph.D., and Pauline Rose Clance, Ph.D., both Clinical Psychologists out of Georgia, after recognizing it in “high achievers who are unable to internalize and accept their success.” They believe they just got lucky and at some point, they will be exposed as frauds. Although this very real issue is respected and treated as such, it is not recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (or DSM).
People who have started a new endeavor, such as building a business or graduating from higher education are most commonly impacted. Minorities and women are also among the sufferers due to societal and familial pressures on success. They are raised to believe they must work twice as hard to be seen as half as good due to their race and/or gender.
Perfectionism is a trait of many mental health conditions including imposter syndrome. There is a need to have every task completed perfectly without asking for help. Some may procrastinate and wait until the last minute while others may overprepare and overcompensate. For either the perfectionist, procrastinator, or the overprepared, the pressure and anxiety placed on the job are necessary for getting it done. Without it, they do not feel as if they put in enough effort to be deserving of success or praise for a job well done.
Entrepreneurs can cause their businesses to flounder if the symptoms of imposter syndrome continue to go unrecognized. Should thoughts of being inept or being out of one’s league cloud their vision their business will begin to suffer. If the fear of failure and judgment also enter in without being curbed, a business is sure to deteriorate.
Placing unnecessary stress on a project, task, etc. should not be a tool used to better your business or justify its success. Acknowledging and accepting that you may be experiencing imposter syndrome is the first step to helping save what you have worked so hard to accomplish. Some recommendations made by professionals to help overcome are:
1. Talk to a therapist or counselor to help sort out where these thoughts stem from and learn ways to cope.
2. Consult with a mentor or business coach. They can offer support as well as encouragement to stay on task and pushing you to continue to move forward.
3. Share your knowledge with others to help you realize that you are indeed a qualified expert in your field.
4. Remember that no one is perfect. There is no such thing as an overnight success. Have patience with yourself and the process.
5. Celebrate even the small achievements and reward yourself along the way.
Imposter syndrome does not have to derail your business. Once recognized, deal with it head on. Work on changing your mindset and positively affirm yourself. Be confident in your abilities and embrace your accomplishments.
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