On the road to business success -- and even after many goals have been met -- entrepreneurs often feel doubt creeping in. This "imposter syndrome" is that feeling you've somehow fooled everyone into believing you are competent or successful. So how do you get past those fears, build confidence and continue to achieve great things?
These six entrepreneurs explain how they've managed to combat "imposter syndrome," and give advice for how to keep those negative thoughts from getting you down.
Embrace the feeling.
Turn your negative into a positive. Instead of trying to overcome the feeling or shove it aside, let it motivate you to work harder and strive for more.
"I embrace 'imposter syndrome,'" says Kyle Goguen, founder and CEO of specialty pet retail site Pawstruck. "It's what keeps me motivated. The feeling of inadequacy is what keeps me striving for improvement, humble and moving forward in business and life."
Take time to reflect.
If you find yourself struggling with "imposter syndrome," it's likely because you've found yourself in a position of great success. Take comfort in the fact that you aren't alone in your feelings, and take time to look back over all the things you've accomplished so far.
"I spend time reflecting on how far we've come and some of the tougher situations we've navigated through. I find that's enough to defend against that feeling. Also, taking action helps. If you're always moving forward, then you don't have time to think negatively," says Baruch Labunski, founder and CEO of SEO marketing service Rank Secure.
Maintain a resume.
Eric Mathews, CEO of venture development organization Start Co., likes to take stock of past accomplishments in a more concrete way by maintaining a resume. Writing out your recent wins can help you see how much you've grown, even if you're not currently seeking a new position.
"To remind myself of my accomplishments, milestones and achievements in business, I like to periodically update my resume and CV. This gives me a chance to come up for air and overcome doubt on how I got to where I am," he says.
Learn to let go.
If your feelings of doubt are coming from concerns that you're not keeping up with others, or are missing the mark in some way, take a step back. Remember that everyone makes mistakes and you can't control how others see you.
"Getting past impostor syndrome is all about two things: not worrying about what other people think and giving myself the freedom to make mistakes," says Ajay Gupta, CEO of digital marketing firm Stirista. "Both of those fears can paralyze us into becoming docile leaders. Remember that even industry leaders make mistakes, and detractors are unavoidable in the days of social media."
Trust your "future self."
Negative feelings are often rooted in the past. If you find yourself wishing you could have done something differently or thinking about some missed opportunity, it may be time to change your focus. Take control by imagining what the best future version of yourself would look like, and start seeing yourself as that person now.
"It's easy to fall prey to the idea that we don't currently know how to do something because we haven't done it before, getting stuck in this past version of ourselves. If you're getting caught up in that, consider your 'future self,' who is confident and successful. I like to imagine my 'future self' reaching back through time and pulling me toward her," notes Rachel Beider, owner of Massage Greenpoint and Massage Williamsburg.
Remember, doubt is a feeling.
At the end of the day, perhaps the best thing you can do is to recognize feelings of doubt for what they are -- feelings. Just because you feel like an imposter on one particular day does not mean that's what you are.
"Doubt is part of the human condition, and just like confidence, it's a feeling, not an indicator of reality," says Justin Blanchard, CMO and co-owner of cloud server business ServerMania Inc. "The confident can be incompetent. The doubter can be master of their craft. Understand that everyone feels this way. Then do the work, which is all that matters in the end."