5 Steps to Overcome Imposter Syndrome

We've all had those moments.

You're in a room with clients, peers or stakeholders and they're treating you like an equal… like you know your sh*t. And inside you're thinking…

“Please God don't ask me my opinion, because I'll say something that will uncover the truth… that I'm in fact… an imposter.”

Imposter syndrome is when you feel like you're unable to internalise your accomplishments, often viewing them as luck or timing. This leads to self-doubt, procrastination and undervaluing yourself and can be very damaging to the success of your business.

This post will discuss what imposter syndrome is, how it affects your digital agency, and the five steps that business owners can take to overcome it.

Understanding what Imposter Syndrome is

Imposter syndrome refers to an individual’s fear of being exposed as a “fraud.” The term was coined in 1978 by clinical psychologists Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes who found that high-achieving women were plagued with feelings of intellectual fraudulence and inauthenticity.

The following are some warning signs of imposter syndrome:

  • Unfounded belief that you're not qualified to do your job.
  • Fear of being “found out” and unmasked as an unqualified business person.
  • Feel like it was just luck or timing that led you to where you are.
  • Fear of being found out as incompetent.
  • A belief that you're an imposter and not the business owner or business professional you should be.
  • Feeling like a fraud.
  • Efforts are based on fear of failure rather than driven by a passion for success.

If you're someone who suffers from imposter syndrome and is wondering how this might affect your business, you should know that it can hold you back from success, from taking on better quality clients and from raising your rates to what you're really worth.

The following five steps should be taken to prevent business owners and freelancers from succumbing to the effects of imposter syndrome:

1. Admit you are feeling this way and be kind to yourself

Feeling like an imposter is not something to be ashamed of – it happens to pretty much everyone. Recognising your feelings might help you come up with ways to combat them.

The business world is harsh. It's full of people who are competitive, impatient and goal-oriented. In business and in life, we're taught to push ourselves hard until we hit the finish line; when you don't have a finish line, it can be easy to become exhausted from the pursuit of goals that seem perpetually out of reach. And when business owners find themselves feeling exhausted or discouraged they often turn their focus inward:

What's wrong with me? Why am I not succeeding like everyone else?

You need to learn how to practice self-compassion because this will help you feel better about yourself and your business which can make your business more successful.

  • Make time for yourself by carving out personal rituals that help you recharge and feel good about your life outside the business.
  • Be mindful: take some time every day or week to sit in silence and just be with yourself without any distractions (even if it's only for ten minutes). Observe your self talk. Is it positive or negative?
  • Say kind things to yourself. When you catch yourself saying things to yourself like “You're so stupid!” Instantly change that thought to “I'm only human and I make mistakes like everybody else.” This will help you to change your limiting beliefs. 
  • Surround yourself with people that lift you up. If you have someone in your life that puts you down, is competitive or makes you feel bad about yourself, then it's time to consider ditching them.

2. Get support and improve your business (and confidence!)

We all have our weaknesses and strengths when it comes to our business. So, overcoming imposter syndrome isn't just saying affirmations and increasing your prices. It's also about constantly working to improve your business.

There are many ways you can do this:

Courses: 

Joining a course, like the Blueprint or Client Acquisition Formula, gives you all the templates, scripts and documents you need to feel, sound and look professional. It gives you processes and the positioning you need to get clients who will actually value you and what you bring to the table.

Coaching: 

A mentor or business coach can help you achieve business success without feeling like an imposter. A business coach can help you stay focused on your goals, provide encouragement when needed and offer constructive feedback.

Group coaching is my preferred method of coaching as the power lies in the community as well as the coaches.

Join supportive groups of like-minded people: 

I've seen a lot of business owners come to Facebook groups, such as our Digital Mavericks Facebook group, for business advice and it can be really helpful.

When you join groups like this, you'll feel supported, because it's tough doing it alone and you'll find that most digital agency owners feel the same.

3. Celebrate success in your business

Keep records of your successes in business, so that you're not always comparing yourself against other people's accomplishments. This might help you believe in your business and see what a success it's been.

It's important to celebrate business success. As business owners, we are very critical of ourselves, but this may cause us to overlook all the great things the business has accomplished.

Celebrate successes with your employees and business partners to keep them committed to their work. Here at Agency Mavericks, we have a “wins” channel in slack and we also share our wins (personal or professional) in our team meetings, so everyone can share their wins. It encourages motivation, support and a sense of pride in your work.

The more you talk about success, the better it will make you feel about business decisions in general- which then usually leads to even greater success for your business!

Businesses that celebrate success will be happier and can become more motivated to continue pushing for business growth.

4. Don't judge yourself against the success of others

It's important to not judge your business against the success of other business owners.

  • Focus on what is going well at your business instead of all the things that are wrong with it because this will help motivate you and keep working towards goals and remember: What you offer is perfect for someone's needs right now.
  • Celebrate that you are succeeding in business, even if other people might seem to be more successful than you.
  • Define YOUR meaning of success. It might be to have more time doing the things you love rather than having the expensive car. Do success your way and stop comparing yourself to others!

But most importantly… focus on your sweet spot, so you are doing what you enjoy and what you are good at. This will ensure you hit a home run each time.

5. Identify the root causes of your imposter syndrome and address them head-on

Feeling like an imposter can be overcome by addressing the root cause of why this issue exists in the first place. In order to do this successfully, business owners need to identify what causes them stress so that they can address these issues head-on.

It could be business-related stress or it might also have more to do with personal life stress in which case you may want to chat to a counsellor or Psychologist.

Either way, business owners need to figure out what the root cause of their imposter syndrome is so they can take steps toward solving the problem and overcoming this issue once and for all.

Don't let impostor syndrome stop you from achieving your business goals! With the right support and the right mindset, you can overcome self-doubt and start on the path to success.

Finally, share your story with others who are struggling with this issue, so they know they're not alone!

Be mindful of how you're comparing yourself to other business owners and compare your business to others' success as well. Recognise how far your business has come and celebrate its successes no matter how big or small.

Our coaches have helped many business owners overcome this issue and start feeling like a successful business owner instead of an insecure one with a fear of success. So if you're still struggling to feel good about yourself, feel free to reach out to one of our coaches for a clarity call.

During this free (no strings attached) 20-minute call, we will help you get unstuck and moving in the right direction.

Click here to book a time.

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Emily Bryant

Emily Bryant

I am the Head of Content here at Agency Mavericks and I love being part of an awesome company that's so passionate about helping people succeed. I started out as a client so I understand a lot of the struggles of a freelancer working towards becoming an agency owner. I live in Christchurch, New Zealand with my husband and two young boys.

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