Jennifer has a strong work ethic and maintained at least a 3.8 GPA. She went to a good college, got a Masters, and graduated Magna Cum Laude. As soon as she finished school, she landed a great job and worked there for twenty years - receiving numerous accolades and even awards along the way.
Last week, Jennifer was presented with an incredible job opportunity that will not only be a passion project, it will cause her to grow as a person. Although it is excruciatingly tempting, she turns it down because she’s “not seasoned enough.”
She eventually confides in her friends that she really doesn’t know what she’s doing and is sure that if she took that job, people would find out. Sound familiar?
I heard this story over the weekend and so many other times before that. So have you. The name “Jennifer” is interchangeable with a million other names - Janet, Bill, George, Sue, and maybe even your name.
Imposter syndrome is a universal feeling - especially among smart, capable people. In fact, Tina Fey, Emma Watson, and Sheryl Sandberg (among many others) have struggled with imposter syndrome and have openly spoken about it.
This debilitating condition causes a person to think that they are incompetent, lazy, or even undeserving of love. Those with imposter syndrome convince themselves that all of their accomplishments have been achieved because they faked their way through it and are terrified about being “found out.”
Some folks like Maya Angelou and Sonia Sotomayor have obviously worked past their imposter syndrome and have continued to achieve, however many people are not reaching their full potential because of this mental block. Entrepreneurs are particularly susceptible to this.
Just like anyone doing anything worthwhile, entrepreneurs are constantly having doors slammed in their faces. It’s really easy to feel like an imposter when all you’re hearing is “no” for an extended period of time, so it’s important to nip imposter syndrome in the bud! Here are a few ways:
Talk it Out
According to psychologist, Joseph Cilona, “Imposter syndrome thrives on isolation.” So if you’re working alone for twelve hours a day with little non-work-related human contact, you might want to be conscious of that. When you start feeling the pangs of imposter syndrome, talk it out with friends or family. You might find that giving a voice to the fears make them sound utterly ridiculous.
Get a Mentor
Being an entrepreneur is hard. Rewarding, yes, but also hard. It’s important that you have support, not just from family and friends, but from someone who knows what you’re going through firsthand. This is why getting a mentor is important. They’ve been there, they know. They can relate to what you’re going through and help redirect thoughts that don’t serve you.
Write It Out
This one has been helpful to me. A few years ago, I wrote a musical and based one character on me, in the throes of what I perceived to be my neurotic behavior. At the very first concert reading, I was astounded to see how relatable by struggles and fears were, based on the audience feedback. All of a sudden, I realized I was normal and I was able to embrace the highs and lows better. Maybe you don’t want to write a musical, but you may try going on Reddit forums and opening a dialogue with others. It’s pretty amazing to see how universal our experiences are.
According to writer Rebecca Healy, “When you help others in their own career paths, you'll realize how familiar your concerns are. Empathy is a powerful healer.” Helping another person is not only the right thing to do, it will also give you a greater perspective on yourself.
In short, struggling with imposter syndrome not only stunts our careers, it stunts our happiness. You probably became an entrepreneur to lead an optimally fulfilling life and constantly feeling like a fraud is just not conducive to that! If this is your struggle, know that you’re not alone and proactively seek out a community that will support you in being your best self. The world needs your innovative mind.