Imposter syndrome – the phoniness feeling
The term imposter syndrome can be defined as: “An intense feeling of intellectual phoniness despite success”. It describes a negative feeling about your own ability. It’s akin to a limiting belief and can have a crippling effect on your confidence and self-esteem.
Are there times in your business when you feel insecure about your expertise?
In other words, do you doubt yourself and your ability to perform as well as your competitors?
Maybe you even feel a bit of a fraud. Even though you’ve done your time and practiced
hard, the feeling that you don’t really know your stuff as well as the next person is enough to freeze you on the path to progress. Maybe it makes you retreat to a place of safety where you’re not working to your full potential, therefore denying yourself the potential to grow and your clients the benefit of your full wisdom.
Don’t worry you are not alone. It’s estimated that 70% of people experience this phenomenon at one time or another. In extreme situations it can lead to anxiety, high stress levels and even depression. In these circumstances it is important to seek professional help.
The Roots of Imposter Syndrome
With so much promotional activity taking place on social media you don’t need to look further than your browser or your mobile phone to see the ‘brilliance’ of others. People with huge and growing numbers of followers, innovative social media posts and eloquent blog posts whirring in front of your eyes all day every day. It's enough to make you give up the ghost and accept you’ll never really make it.
I implore you – do not retreat into your shell.
Remember things are not always as they seem. So-called influencers might not be portraying themselves accurately. It could be that they are just bolder and brasher at self-promotion. Dig deeper and you may well find that their products and services are not quite what they seem on the surface.
My personal experience of imposter syndrome
Last year I was a member of a very active membership site run by a well-known master of personal branding and felt that horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach that I was an imposter. I was ‘in the clan' but didn't really feel ‘part of it' and trying to reach the inner sanctum was just never a realistic option. In retrospect it was not even a worthwhile goal. I started to doubt my own ability and this feeling began to undermine plans for my consultancy.
The Power of Listening
Fortunately I received two pieces of advice from the owner of the forum I will never forget. Firstly, he said, “Listen”. Yes, a simple one-word instruction. Not only did he mean listen to others but also listen to yourself – the voice in your head which guides you.
When you have to let an idea go
The second piece of advice he delivered was regarding a course I had written two years before but not launched. He asked why I hadn’t launched it and I replied that I didn’t have faith in my ability to sell it. “Ah…imposter syndrome,” he replied. Not only did I agree but this comment made me reflect on whether my heart was in that project. Ultimately it wasn't.
As a result that project is on the back burner whilst I develop the Homepreneur website with objective of helping those who work from home find a community of like-minded individuals.
Over the past two years, I have adapted my business in order to focus on a few consultancy clients and the Homepreneur community safe in the knowledge that I’m totally confident about the products and services I have to offer my customers. Now I know that I have firmly buried my imposter syndrome.
As our businesses evolve there will always be new areas we wish to develop which will take time to perfect. The first time you move into a new field it’s natural to feel out of your comfort zone. So when you get those feelings of doubt listen to them and then put them to one side.
Working alone and imposter syndrome
It’s easy to slip into imposter syndrome mode when you work on your own especially when you rarely come into contact with your clients. This is highlighted even more when your work is delivered online. For example, if you are a social media manager for a client with sole responsibility for sharing content. You're working on their accounts but rarely interacting with them.
If you are a freelancer working for an agency you may be one step further removed from the organisation using your services and never even meet the client. This lack of contact may result in you doubting yourself. Striking the balance between the overenthusiastic client who questions your every move and the silent non-communicator takes careful management. Building a mutually beneficial relationship which works for both parties takes tact and diplomacy.
Lack of feedback feeds imposter syndrome
The lack of feedback in these situations may cause you to experience imposter syndrome. In all aspects of our work we thrive on feedback – that constant to and fro of reaction, action and evolution. If you work in a vacuum in a space where there isn’t a definite right or wrong outcome then imposter syndrome can become overwhelming.
There will be occasions when partnering with another expert with a specialist skill will show your business off in a better light.
For example, if you are a baker will your customers think less of you if buy in beautifully handcrafted sugar paste roses from a specialist cake decorator? This doesn’t make you a second-rate cake maker but rather someone who wants to deliver the best possible product to your client.
To help you banish imposter syndrome, here are three tips:
- Find an accountability partner or a mastermind group where you can air your concerns and benefit from their support. They say a problem shared is a problem halved and when it comes to imposter syndrome sharing your fears before they become overwhelming.
- Look back at times where others have sought you out as the expert and gain strength from the fact someone else has relied on your knowledge and skills.
- List your positive characteristics and the achievements which make you stand out from the crowd in your field.
Know who you are, what you are good at, what you enjoy and makes you feel alive. Be forthright in communicating your message, confident in your product or service and know when to ask for and listen to feedback and to learn from others. Beating yourself up won’t get you anywhere.
“If you’re going to doubt something, doubt your own limits.” Don Ward