You've heard of Imposter Syndrome, right? That all-too-common psychological response causing you to feel inadequate and believe you lack the skills to succeed. Women are no stranger to this feeling, but men aren't immune either. For evidence, look no further than Harvard Business School, a mecca for talented, high-achieving individuals. When admitted students were asked if they felt they were there because the admissions committee made a mistake, a mind-boggling two-thirds of students raised their hands.
Odds are that as a business owner or entrepreneur, you've experienced Imposter Syndrome many times. No matter how much past success you've had, when Imposter Syndrome takes hold, you get bogged down in thinking you're not up to the task and that it's only a matter of time before the rest of the world realizes you're a fake.
While this kind of thinking is common when you're reaching for something more or trying to do something different, it's not a pattern of thought you want to permit yourself to fall into or indulge too often. So when you notice yourself thinking and feeling like a phony, here are some steps you can take to get out of your head.
Fake it until you make it.
You've probably heard this advice before. Maybe you've dismissed it because it feels disingenuous or just rubbed you the wrong way. But it works and there are various scientific studies to back it up. For example, a 2012 study found that just expecting to get the correct answer on a test can improve the outcome. There are seven other great examples in this Mental Floss article that show that believing in yourself or faking it will help you get where you want to go.
Focus on what you know--and the rest will follow.
When you notice your symptoms of Imposter Syndrome, take that as a sign to just go back to the basics. Build your confidence up by working on the things you're sure of and then when it comes time for you to do something outside of your comfort zone, you'll have established a decent base of doing the stuff you are good at.
Many times, Imposter Syndrome also comes from our perceptions of what people might think. But you just can't let that guide you. People are jealous or they might feel threatened by you in some way. Regardless, you don't really know what others are thinking or why. But that's not really your problem. Just focus on what you know.
Focus more on learning instead of performance.
You have to train yourself to not see mistakes or setbacks as limitations. Change your mindset to focus instead on the learning process rather than the immediate outcome. Mark Murphy, the founder of Leadership IQ, writes in Forbes that "even the most ambitious people need the time and opportunity to develop the required skills." Murphy explains how to execute this mindset:
Instead of focusing on some end result, learning goals focus on acquiring knowledge or skill. For example, maybe I set a goal to learn three new exercises that will strengthen my legs. Or perhaps I set a goal to lengthen my running stride or increase my steps per minute. These learning goals focus on learning effective ways to do something. As a runner, I'm not skilled or knowledgeable enough to set a performance goal of breaking a four-minute mile. So for right now, I'm much better served by setting goals that require me to learn how to be a better runner. Once I've acquired that knowledge or skill, then I can start to think about setting a performance goal.
So next time you feel like you might not be good enough, remember that we all feel this way from time to time. Recognize that, but then adjust your thinking so that you don't get caught in an Imposter Syndrome trap.