You’re getting somewhere in your business, and it’s pretty great.
But wait, do you really belong at this level? Maybe it was all just dumb luck, and others are going to find out pretty soon that you don’t deserve to be here. When’s it all gonna come crashing down?
It sounds like you’ve got a case of impostor syndrome.
Impostor syndrome is a common issue among business owners. It’s that nagging sense of doubt that says, “You don’t deserve to be where you are right now.” Gaining a fresh perspective on your skills, your accomplishments and your worth as a person can help you overcome impostor syndrome.
What Is Impostor Syndrome?
Impostor syndrome is the feeling that you haven’t earned the right to be where you are. Although you’ve gotten results, you’re sure that people will soon find out that you’re not actually the one who was supposed to get them. You’re an impostor, and people are going to figure that out pretty soon.
When you’re living with impostor syndrome, it can feel that you’re constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop.
If you’re experiencing this feeling, you’re not alone. It’s one of the most common challenges that business owners face. It tends to creep in as you start to experience some success.
Even the famous author Maya Angelou knew what it was like to experience impostor syndrome. She was once quoted as saying, “I have written 11 books but each time I think ‘Uh-oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.’”
The first thing to realize when you’re grappling with impostor syndrome is that nothing has gone wrong. Everything is okay. You are a person who’s having an experience.
Although impostor syndrome is normal and common, you’d probably rather not dwell in that place. So let’s dive into what’s going on with impostor syndrome and some ways that you can address it in your reality.
Where Impostor Syndrome Comes From: The Curse of Knowledge
The curse of knowledge is one of our cognitive biases. It’s our brain’s way of forgetting that we had to put a lot of work into learning the things that we know how to do. We also forget that other people don’t always know how to do the things that we’re already good at.
Learning to Walk
An example that I love to use for this is that of a child learning to walk.
Chances are, you can walk and you don’t typically put a lot of thought into doing it. If you’ve got the equipment to walk, you become a walker. That’s the way human development goes.
And yet, the process of learning to walk is a long, slow, and arduous one. It’s full of failure and falling over, scraped knees, and bruised elbows.
We all go through it that way, but we forget that we do. We learn how to walk and then forget that there was a time when we didn’t know how to do it.
That’s the curse of knowledge. It’s forgetting that there was a process that you went through to be able to do things.
In our society, we often prioritize hard work above nearly everything else. We tell ourselves that the value of work lies in how hard it is. If things are easy for us, we don’t value them as much because we don’t find them hard to do.
The skill of walking has great value for us. But when’s the last time that you really appreciated that you have the ability to walk and that you have cultivated that skill? My guess is that you don’t spend a lot of time thinking about how glad and grateful you are to walk and what a journey it was to learn how to do it.
When we’re having an experience in which something feels easy to us, we tend to undervalue that thing. We don’t realize how much we’ve invested into learning it. We also forget that we have a skill set that not everyone else shares; we can contribute things that others can’t.
These mistaken beliefs feed right into our impostor syndrome. We buy into the idea that we haven’t done anything worthy of getting us to where we are right now.
It’s time for us to shift our thinking so that we can gain a new perspective on who we are and what we’ve done in our lives.
5 Strategies for Overcoming Impostor Syndrome
Your impostor syndrome feelings relate directly to your experience of worthiness in the world. Here are five tools to help you better understand your worth and appreciate your accomplishments.
#1) Remember That You Can’t Fool the Universe
First of all, know this: You can’t trick the universe into letting you get somewhere that you weren’t able to get. How would that even make sense? What would be the evidence of that?
You simply can’t get somewhere that you weren’t able to get. Wherever you are now, it’s because you got there.
#2) Create a Personal Badassery List
Spend some time focusing on the process that it has taken for you to get where you are right now. Making a personal badassery list will help you do it.
Take a piece of paper. In the first column, write down:
- Everything you’ve accomplished
- All your skills
- All your talents
- Everything you can trust yourself to do
- Everything you’re proud of
It’ll be an ongoing list. You’ll keep going back to it and adding new things or referencing what you’ve already written.
The focus of the other column is “What did it take for me to get there?” Another way to put it is “What did it take for me to be able to trust myself to do that thing?”
As you fill in that column, recognize that anything you can do and do well right now is something that, at some point, you were not able to do.
Spend some mental time and energy reflecting on how much you’ve invested into getting yourself where you are right now.
#3) Look at a Baby
To help you with this, imagine yourself as a baby. Or, if you’d like a more concrete visual, go visit a baby that you know.
Babies have potential. But at this point in life, they really can’t do much of anything.
You know, I can kick any baby’s ass. It’s not because I’m inherently better or more worthy than a baby. It’s because I’ve got a lot more Kung Fu skills than a baby.
So as you’re making your personal badassery list, imagine yourself as a baby, not being able to do any of the things on that list.
Recognize that there’s a journey you’ve gone through. Think about what it has taken for you to go from zero skill in something to where you are today.
#4) Continue to Grow in Your Mastery
Can you imagine anybody getting so good at something that they couldn’t develop more in that skill? Of course not!
And yet we often believe that we have to reach some level of ultimate mastery. At that point, we’ll be unable to get better at things because there will be no more learning and growing to do. And only when we reach that level will we no longer be impostors.
But that’s just a story that we tell ourselves. The ultimate level doesn’t actually exist. Believing it does set us up for failure.
There’s always an ever-expanding level of success, accomplishment and achievement available to us. There are more skills out there to cultivate.
Keep moving forward — but also remind yourself that you are worthy right now, just as you are.
#5) Celebrate Your Wins
Be on the active lookout for your wins. When you spot one, add it to your personal badassery list.
Looking at and celebrating your wins is a great way to build your self-esteem and your sense of worthiness.
The more you practice this, the more you’re going to be able to identify your wins. You’ll be training your mind to spot them.
Your world is shaped by what you’re looking for in your world. impostor syndrome shapes your world with limitations. With it, you’re creating a world in which you’re held back.
So if you want a world that’s shaped by wins and successes, then that’s what you want to be looking for in the world. Notice your wins. Add them to your personal badassery list. Celebrate them.
Because in everything, by hook or by crook, you’ve figured your way through your systems. You’ve always figured out the things that you’ve needed to figure out in life. There’s proof of that. It’s the fact that you’re here with breath and a pulse right now.
You’ve always been able to figure everything out, and that’s how you’ve gotten to where you are right now. You are not an impostor.
Want more convincing? Tune into Episode 4 of The Shift to Freedom podcast so that we can keep chatting about overcoming impostor syndrome.
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