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Overcoming Imposter Syndrome as a Small Business Owner

Have you ever felt like you've only gotten to where you have with your business because of dumb luck? Or that you don't deserve to be where you are professionally? You wonder why anyone would listen to your advice and expertise. Us too. And a lot of other people feel this regularly.

Almost every business owner feels it at some point: imposter syndrome. It's the feeling that you're not good enough to be doing what you're doing, and that you are a complete fraud in your field.

What is imposter syndrome?

"There's no way I could be smart enough/interesting/legitimate when there are all these others out there!" Why should people listen to you? Even though you're totally qualified to be owning a business, you feel like you aren't. Imposter syndrome is that feeling like a fraud, where you get stuck in that headspace that you are an imposter in your industry.

Who gets imposter syndrome? And why?

First of all, it is totally natural to have imposter syndrome. And YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Us at the Club, we have fallen down into imposter rabbit holes on the regular, spinning out of control. If you are experiencing these feelings, know that it doesn't have to last forever!

Did you know that imposter syndrome is especially common in women, women of colour (especially black women) as well as the LGBTQ+ community.

“When you experience systemic oppression or are directly or indirectly told your whole life that you are less-than or underserving of success and you begin to achieve things in a way that goes against a long-standing narrative in the mind, imposter syndrome will occur.”

-Brian Daniel Norton, a psychotherapist and executive coach in New York. Read more here.

So how do we move past it?

1. Talk to people you trust about it.

You'll probably learn that a lot of people feel the same as you, and totally understand what you're going through. Talking about it with trusted friends, co-workers, mentors, and family can help you feel a lot less "crazy". They can also help to point out where your biases are coming in, and help you see your position from a different point of view.

 It's easy to get stuck in our heads, and spin into some really weird thought patterns. By opening up about it, we can break that cycle!

Just naming the feeling your having can help massively in letting it go! As our therapists love to tell us, "Name it to tame it." Name the emotions behind the thought. Name the thought for what it is: a symptom of imposter syndrome.

2. Keep a list of those big successes!

Great reviews or thank yous from customers, a big milestone you've reached, a revenue or profit goal you've hit, a difference you've made for someone around you. Collect these moments and save them somewhere where you can revisit them. Maybe in a journal, or just on a note on your phone.

It's easy to focus on mistakes and failures, and totally forget about all the good things! It's just human nature to think about the negative and remember what went horribly wrong more than what when wonderfully right!

Collect positive moment, always. This doesn't just have to be in your professional life, but in your personal life as well. Remembering the positive can help keep us in a better mindset.

3. Be honest about what you know and what you don't know. 

We can't know everything! Be honest with yourself about what you know how to do, and what you don't. Also know, there are lots of things you don't know that you can figure out!

Once we know what we aren't capable of doing, we can ask for help or get further training to get better at those things. Asking for help, or saying you just don't know, is not a sign of weakness. It is the opposite. Being real with ourselves makes us stronger!

4. Challenge the imposter syndrome thoughts.

Just because you think something, doesn't make it a truth or real. We have tons of thoughts daily that aren't true, aren't what we want, or are just plain weird sometimes. Just because you have a thought, does not mean you need to act on it.

If you feel like you aren't good enough for a contract or project, you can take action on that thought by giving up on it or cancelling, or you can move through that thought by challenging it! Think about why you are having that thought, and what in your life has made you think that thought. What around you makes you carry the beliefs that lead to that thought? And what can you do to take action or not on that thought?

We prefer to journal on this, using the ABC model:

A) What was the Activating event for the thought?

B) What is the Belief behind the thought?

C) What is the Consequence before or after having this belief?

Do you struggle with imposter syndrome? What has helped you move through those feelings?


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