As entrepreneurs, no matter the experience under our belt or the achievements to our credit, at some point we’ve felt like an imposter, like we’re out of our league. I’ve been there so many times. I run successful businesses, I have received awards and recognition and my career spans 14 years as an entrepreneur, but there are still days when I feel like an imposter.
What Is Imposter Syndrome?
Imposter syndrome is an “emotional cocktail” that can make us hit the brakes way too soon and set our bars way too low. It can riddle an individual with self-doubt, making them question their own abilities.
Have you ever experienced the excitement of having a business idea or something else you want to create, feeling fired up to start? You put the pedal to the metal, but you come to a screeching halt when you meet your first obstacle. Thoughts that this may be beyond your abilities begin to cloud your mind.
In some cases, it’s in our entrepreneurial nature to pull up our socks and power through it, but often our lizard brain (the part of the brain that’s meant to protect us) tells us a different story. You start saying phrases like “I’m not really a ….” or “Who am I fooling?” or “I better go back to the familiar,” and unfortunately, many times we do.
Sometimes, subconsciously, we declare failure just so we have an excuse to quit. We might make irrational decisions like selling our business or charging less than we should for our products or services because we don’t feel worthy. We’re so afraid of being called out that we sometimes prefer to play it safe.
During my career, my businesses came close to bankruptcy multiple times. I explored areas I had zero experience in, and imposter syndrome was a habitual guest in my mind. In those moments I felt I was lying to myself and others — playing an entrepreneur while my businesses were starting to tank. But looking back, I’ve noticed that the best years for my businesses came right after a long period of constant visits from our friend imposter syndrome.
Making Imposter Syndrome Work For You
When struggles arise, you might retreat for a while, then try to remind yourself of all your achievements to stay motivated. But for me, true growth happened when I realized I needed to act on the feeling of imposter syndrome to grow myself and my business.
Self-help books often advise making imposter syndrome go away by telling yourself the opposite of what you feel, replacing doubt with confidence. Say it enough times and you’ll believe it! You encourage yourself to build the mental energy to navigate the hardships and reach higher ground. I’ve personally experienced slight improvement in mood and motivation when using this technique. But I came up with a more practical “game” for myself whenever I experience these feelings.
I call it the “I’m not good enough” game. Whenever I start to feel doubt in a challenging project, task or meeting, I thank this doubt and take it as an invitation to grow and improve.
If I’m not good enough to complete this task the way I want to, whom do I need to ask for advice? If I’m not confident enough to make this meeting successful, what added value can I bring to the table to be certain I contribute? If I’m not skilled enough to run this business, what course or coach do I employ to help me master this skill?
Do you see how this flips the script? Doubt and fear are just energy your brain creates to protect you from harm. We can’t and shouldn’t ignore these feelings completely. Instead, I channel that energy of doubt to grow myself and even embrace it as my coach. I use the opportunity to come up with ideas for how to solve the challenge by asking for advice, taking a course or addressing the areas in my mind where I’m not where I need to be.
When you operate from this state of mind, your potential is endless, because you can differentiate between confidence and competence. You will have the confidence in yourself to figure things out while being humble enough to acknowledge that you might not have all the tools to solve that challenge or reach that target right now.
This mindset can be applied to anything in life — business, dating, cooking, fitness, relationships and parenting. If you have a growth mindset, this method I have adopted will allow you to be open to new opportunities you may not have considered.
You may have rejected meetings, business opportunities or even dates because your brain told you you weren’t good enough. Try saying, “Brain, you might be right. What can I do to increase my competence and improve my skills? What am I missing that if I had I’d feel more confident taking the next step?”
You will notice that over time, you walk into new opportunities with confidence, not as a know-it-all, but as one who will figure it out, one way or another.