ealing with imposter syndrome is something that entrepreneurs have to face on a regular basis, and it can impact your personal life too. We were lucky enough to have a “Beat the Imposter” workshop in Blossom last month and it prompted me to pen some thoughts on how I’ve tackled this over the years. We’ll be interviewing Natalie King, our imposter syndrome expert, here on the blog very soon but in the meantime, you can check out her website here.
The first real brush for me with imposter syndrome came way before I began my own business.
It takes me right back to my time in the corporate world. I was a young female who had progressed quickly within my job role, in a predominantly male-dominant environment. I found myself as the Marketing Manager for a global SME at the age of 26 and sat within the senior leadership team, alongside others who were many years further along in their career.
My job came with great responsibility, a huge annual marketing budget and what I thought (at the time) was a fairly decent salary. I managed a team of six across two countries and our department was responsible for the marketing efforts of four brands. I was juggling a lot of people, meetings and tasks. But with all of that good stuff came a huge heap of self-doubt and the feeling of being constantly judged by those around me.
I was always questioning myself and my abilities. This was only further fuelled by the internal company culture and the pressures we faced as leaders in the business. So many destructive thoughts would come my way.
I basically spent the best part of five years expecting bad news, bracing myself for negative feedback. Sometimes it came (of course – nobody is perfect!) but a lot of the time, it didn’t. I had just convinced myself that I was way out of my depth and struggled to find my confidence.
Little did I know, my biggest transition and challenge was yet to come.
In 2020, I was made redundant from my job due to the pandemic and was thrust into the world of self-employment way sooner than I had intended.
Historically, I’d sat behind-the-scenes of a business. I’d always been part of the team and suddenly found myself being the brand as a (somewhat terrified) new business owner.
After years of feeling like I’d had my personality dissected and my values questioned, my self-doubt was off the scale. At that moment, I would have said that my self-confidence and faith in my own abilities were at their lowest point ever.
I had the biggest corporate hangover to navigate and had to spend a huge amount of time digging deep to regain a true understanding of who I was as a person. That environment had made me question everything. I wish I could say that I’d launched myself into the entrepreneurial life with a spring in my step, but it was actually quite the opposite. Things did get better, but it wasn’t easy.
I believe that creative individuals struggle with imposter syndrome a lot, because we’re essentially putting our talents out there and baring our souls to the world to judge, which feels extremely vulnerable. We’re saying this is me – wrapped up as a craft, talent, product or service. We’re therefore constantly inadvertently seeking acceptance and hoping to receive validation. It can be completely and utterly exhausting.
Another big reason why I believe this catches so many of us out is that we place so much emphasis on success – which is important in business of course. But then that becomes directly attributed to our self-worth, which is dangerous.
We fixate on things like big sales, positive feedback and marketing metrics – but we end up telling ourselves that not being successful in our business means that we’re fundamentally failing as a person and in life too. One bad month, one bad moment and we’re down the blackhole of despair.
This is something I continually need to remind and check myself for. If a client fails to renew a contract, cancels a discovery call or has to end their time in my membership group, it is not an attack or a reflection of me as a person. And as a moment of reassurance for you, all three of those things have happened to EF&G in Q1 of 2022 and it was still our best quarter ever.
I know that I commonly over deliver and always provide a fantastic service. I’m, a natural caregiver and I enjoy watching others succeed. We just have to accept that sometimes, people need to move on to pastures new and try something different. A lot of the time, clients and customers will also return at a later date, so remember, you may not have lost them forever.
When we have our own businesses, there’s no getting away from the fact that we’re deeply rooted in them. We have a personal investment which is why it’s really hard to separate the two and why we constantly over analyse our efforts. In my view, the imposter syndrome that I feel now is elevated way more than it ever was in my corporate role, and that’s saying something.
Allowing ourselves to be affected by this and falling into the comparison trap can be super detrimental to ourselves and our businesses… but the good news is we can do things to avoid it.
There are some amazing resources out there for how to recognise and subsequently tackle imposter syndrome.
I’m going to share some of the things that have really worked for me but this is by no means an exhaustive list.
Whether it’s your business coach, someone you aspire to be like, or just your fellow business besties. Some of us suffer with this more frequently than others but nobody is completely immune. Take reassurance in that whilst it’s uncomfortable, it’s also completely and utterly normal to experience imposter syndrome.
It takes some patience, some self-development and some determination but 9 times out of 10, whatever feels incredibly difficult right now will feel a whole lot better in a week, a month or even a year from now. If you’re going through a period of change or growth and you’re finding yourself way outside of your comfort zone, you’ll be comfy again soon. You just have to weather the storm until you get there.
One of the simplest ways to combat imposter syndrome is to look at the mounting stack of evidence that suggests that the thoughts and feelings you’re experiencing are blatantly false. We’ve been inspired to reintroduce our weekly wins posts in Blossom for this very reason, to demonstrate to each member exactly how much they’ve achieved and why they are a bloody brilliant business owner.
It turns out that I’m a “Perfectionist Superwoman” – I had no idea that there were more than one type! There are actually five in total and it’s very common to be a hybrid of a couple of them. You can read a little more about the different types here.
When I get a bout of imposter syndrome, my go-to technique is to usually voice note my wonderful business coach. She will typically reply and immediately helps me to rationalise what I’m feeling. It could be a friend, family member or close business contact. And if you don’t have those or would rather get your thoughts down on paper, why not confide in your journal? Very often, when we see these things in front of us or hear them out loud, it can often stop us in our tracks.
I’d absolutely love to hear your experiences with imposter syndrome. Feel free to shoot me a DM over on Instagram if you’ve enjoyed this blog and would like to share any of your experiences with me.
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