If you have any preteens in your life, you are most likely familiar with the popular online game, Among Us. It’s a multiplayer game all about survival, where you, the protagonist, win by killing off or outing the imposters while completing all the required tasks.
We all have those days when we feel like the imposter in the room. That ominous feeling that one day you’ll ultimately have to fess up once discovered as a fraud.
But, the reality is that you’re not the imposter – even in an online game – even if you have an irrational and unfounded fear that you aren’t smart enough, savvy enough, or talented enough to have earned your place as a successful business owner.
Imposter syndrome can affect any one of us at any time, and that goes for business owners too. There are no exceptions.
In reality, you’re in good company. Up to 82% of people experienced imposter syndrome in 2020, and it can cause enormous stress and anxiety while you wait for everyone to “realize” that you’re faking it.
So, what’s imposter syndrome?
The term “imposter syndrome” was coined in 1978 by two psychologists. Pauline Rose Clance, then pursuing her PhD and having personally experienced and identified the feeling of suspected internal fraudulence, wondered if it was common amongst other high-achievers, began her research and testing. She and her partner identified and studied accomplished people who often felt their success was due to a mysterious fluke or just dumb luck.
Imposter syndrome capitalizes on self-doubt, positioning its sufferers to dismiss praise and ignore their own achievements; they don’t believe they deserve recognition as they have not earned it.
Ironically, it’s often the most successful individuals who experience imposter syndrome. They drive themselves extra hard because they’re afraid that someone will reveal “the truth.” Well-known imposter syndrome sufferers include Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, HuffPost owner and CEO Ariana Huffington, and the first Hispanic Supreme Court judge, Sonia Sotomayor.
As far as the company goes, this is not a bad crowd.
When it’s not us, but them
Many psychologists think that women and people of color are more likely to suffer from imposter syndrome, just because there’s more pressure placed on them to succeed. In fact, imposter syndrome might be a misdiagnosis, and actually, it’s systemic racism and sexism chipping away at the confidence of women and POC in the corporate world.
Psychologists suggest a few root causes of imposter syndrome:
- Perfectionism or a natural talent that creates uneasiness
- Low personal self-confidence
- Lack of representation or role models
- A toxic environment
OK, sometimes it’s us
Only one in three entrepreneurs are women. Even when female entrepreneurs are successful, imposter syndrome often forces them to avoid risks and hesitate to present their ideas publicly, says Clare Josa, author of Ditching Imposter Syndrome. She puts forward that entrepreneurs are more likely to experience imposter syndrome than in-house corporate professionals because they are personally accountable for their business failures in a way that employees are not.
You can win the war
Imposter syndrome can be very powerful, but you don’t have to remain hostage to it. Here are the top three tips to get you up and over it:
Name those feelings
Imposter syndrome can creep up on you. It helps to remember that these feelings don’t reflect the truth, so swap out those negative and most often unfounded thoughts for ones that add value to your self-identity and internal monologue.
Shake off the stigma
Hiding your imposter feelings can make things worse and hold you back from the bold, risk-taking business behavior that’s required for long-term success. Talk about your doubts to fellow entrepreneurs who can reassure you that you aren’t the only one feeling this way.
Feel the fear & do it anyway
Imposter syndrome can stop you from offering to speak at conferences or bid for a big project, and that can restrict your business growth. Ironically, that’s what can make you feel even more like an imposter since you’re thinking small and playing small. Next time you see an opportunity, seize it. You might be scared, but once you succeed, you’ll realize what you’re really capable of.
Running your own business is hard enough as it is. You don’t need to let pesky syndromes slow you down, too. Now that you know that you’re not the only SME owner out there grappling with these feelings, you can talk about them, overcome them, and power your business further.