Have you ever wondered why your inner critic goes crazy at 3 a.m. worrying that ‘they’ might find out you’re not ‘good enough’ to be an expert in your field? Or that you don’t know as much as you should? Or asking yourself, ‘Who am I, to be running my business? What if they find me out?’
This self-talk and the secret self-sabotage behaviours that go with it move beyond the realm of simple ‘self-doubt’ into Imposter Syndrome. And the 2019 Imposter Syndrome Research Study showed that a shocking 82% of entrepreneurs – men and women – struggle with it on a regular or daily basis.
That’s four in five. Look around you. You are not alone!
But we’re not talking about it. Each of us thinks we’re alone with that 3 a.m. self-talk. And, in an industry where confidence is everything, we end up feeling ashamed of admitting we’re scared we aren’t good enough.
In fact, the research study shows that running your own business is much more likely to trigger fears of failure because only 47% of the general population struggles with this at the same level.
And if you’re a high achieving Youpreneur – with a business that is built around you, rather than a ‘widget’ – then the risk of Imposter Syndrome increases even further. If a customer says ‘no’, it’s not because the widget was the wrong colour, it feels personal.
Imposter Syndrome Symptoms
Classic Imposter Syndrome-driven behaviours for Youpreneurs include:
- You’re doing all the right things, but not getting the results you hoped for
- Saying ‘no’ to that golden opportunity, when your heart is screaming ‘yes’
- Leaving it slightly too late to reply to a request for a proposal and justifying it as being ‘too busy’
- Discounting your prices without being asked or not charging what you’re worth
- Turning down opportunities to shine, especially when you see who else is on the metaphorical or real-world stage
- Not making progress on your goals, no matter how well planned they are, because you stuck at the ‘play-it-safe’ level of actions, rather than taking the big hairy, scary actions that create breakthroughs
- Recurring feelings of inadequacy
The research makes the differences between self-doubt (a mindset and confidence issue) and Imposter Syndrome (an identity-level ‘who am I’ problem) clear. Self-doubt is about what you can do. Imposter Syndrome is about who you think you are. So the pep-talk techniques that help when self-doubt strikes don’t touch the sides when Imposter Syndrome comes out to play.
The research study shows that there are four early warning signs, which are incredibly common in the entrepreneurial world.
The Four Ps Of Imposter Syndrome
This is where you set yourself unattainably high standards and, if you achieve them, you write your success off as ‘fluke’ or ‘luck’. This figure is low with entrepreneurs, at just 16%. It’s much higher in the corporate world where the next Ps are less of an option.
A worrying 70% of entrepreneurs in the research study admitted this is their go-to stress response when Imposter Syndrome strikes. Whether it’s the rabbit hole of feeding multiple social media monsters each day or using distractions to stop yourself from taking inspired action on your dreams, procrastination is perhaps the biggest trasher of brilliant business ideas.
53% of entrepreneur respondents in the research said they regularly ‘freeze’ on a project if it is triggering Imposter Syndrome. They avoid it completely, until just before the deadline, when the adrenalin of the last-minute rush pushes them through their fears. But ‘pushing on through’ those fears affects our performance and makes things worse.
This is the entrepreneurial habit of over-giving (especially the free stuff), lacking clear boundaries with clients (57%), discounting your prices without being asked (68%), and not charging what you’re worth: “Who am I, to earn that much?!”
The Four Ps make it hard for your business to succeed, no matter how magnificent your marketing plan might be, because they get in the way of you taking the great big, scary inspired actions that create breakthroughs, instead leaving you stuck with the overwhelm that triggers burnout.
Add in ‘comparisonitis’ (82% of research study respondent entrepreneurs said they struggle with this) and ‘Shiny Object Syndrome’ (a great way of expressing the success-avoidance-strategies of Procrastination and Paralysis) and the fact that we achieve as much as we do becomes worthy of an award!
But you’re not stuck with Imposter Syndrome. There is plenty you can do to ditch it, so it doesn’t have to be the soundtrack to your business journey anymore.
You can start by being on the look-out for the Four Ps – your early warning signs. If one of them pops up, ask yourself: “Is this real? What do I get to avoid by doing this?”
Meet that need in a healthier way and you’ll find those ‘mind-story fears’ disappear.
Hitting the Pause Button
Learn how to press ‘pause’ on the inner self-talk that triggers this self-sabotaging behavior, reclaiming your power to choose how to think, feel and which actions to take.
And then deal with the root causes of Imposter Syndrome, so it genuinely no longer has to get in your way.
I ran the 2019 Imposter Syndrome Research Study because I have spent the past fifteen years specialising in helping business leaders and entrepreneurs to set themselves free from feeling like a fraud, so they can finally feel good enough and become the leader they were born to be. It was breaking my heart that so many people were struggling in silence, feeling that they, alone, were going through this. And the research showed just how widespread this is.
But far from being stuck with Imposter Syndrome, having to ‘push on through’ despite it (which makes it worse), there is plenty you can do to ditch it in ways that are positive and don’t require ‘pretending’. If you’re hungry to get out of your own way, my book Ditching Imposter Syndrome guides you through how to feel confident and safe to finally take off your secret masks, so you can make an even bigger difference in the world.
Clare Josa has spent the past fifteen years specialising in helping business leaders and entrepreneurs to get out of their own way, so they can make an even bigger difference in the world. She’s the best-selling author of five life-changing books, including Ditching Imposter Syndrome and Dare to Dream Bigger and speaks internationally on how to change the world by changing yourself.