Running a business is not always sunshine and rainbows. You might have established your foundational brand pieces, you're highly skilled and you love what you do, or you already have a large customer base, but there will be times when you might feel like a fraud, question your abilities, or find it difficult to acknowledge the impact that you contribute to the lives of your clients. If you can relate to any of these scenarios, you might be dealing with imposter syndrome, just like so many other entrepreneurs.
Feeling like an imposter despite achieving a lot and successfully overcoming hurdles, occurs when you let outside influences create doubts within you. Notice how other people's social media, reading people's sales pages, or email marketing that you get in your inbox, triggers a ‘not enough’ feeling within you. These and other similar activities expose you to outer forces and outside influences which have the tendency to dictate how you're feeling, instead of choosing your feeling state for yourself.
Have you ever spent time on social media and felt worse after you started scrolling? If you have ever looked at social media and felt less confident about what you're doing in your business after scrolling, that is a sign that you are experiencing imposter syndrome. It is probably leaving you feeling confused, negative, self-critical, not enough, or overwhelmed.
All About Imposter Syndrome and How It Affects Us as Entrepreneurs
Imposter syndrome can take a huge toll on your self-trust, which really impacts how you feel about your business. Therefore, it is important to understand that feeling like an imposter and placing should’s on yourself is just a business version of a high school popularity contest. Thinking that everyone else is cooler than you or wishing that you'd worn that outfit to the dance instead. Sound familiar? You might have struggled with imposter syndrome back then by comparing yourself to others and deciding where the bar is for what success is supposed to look like. And now you're experiencing it again in this stage of life, in entrepreneurship or small business ownership.
For reference, I have been in some kind of business for four and a half years, in this business for three and a bit, and I still experience signs of imposter syndrome sometimes. I did a lot of comparing back in high school and I do plenty of this now. Back then, I was a Canadian band kid who, on the bus to the music festival in Saskatoon, was reading the Maclean's University Reviews magazine. So yeah, I had lots of thoughts on what was popular and how I *wasn't it.*
The idea of who is the most popular then has turned into who is the most successful chiropractor or podcast manager or tarot card reader now. You might be comparing yourself to other chiros, other podcast managers, other card readers trying to measure yourself based on how you think they are doing, and piling criticism on yourself at the same time.
If you're more experienced in business, you might shame yourself for still experiencing imposter syndrome or not being over it yet. But - do yourself a favor by pausing that judgment to understand the reason why it happens and reflecting on how you can overcome imposter syndrome as an entrepreneur.
Step One: Recognize and Acknowledge Your Imposter Syndrome Triggers
Reduce the frequency and the number of outside influences that trigger you to feel like an imposter instead of a successful entrepreneur. In order to do so, you have to recognize the outside influences that take too much of your time and drown out your intuition.
Outside influences come from the media and information that you consume such as social, DMs, video content, audio content, courses, programs, and freebies. Acknowledge that too much consumption of media and information makes you lose sight of what thoughts are yours and what thoughts belong to other people. The louder these outside voices are the quieter your intuition is, the harder it gets to hear it, which leads to signs of imposter syndrome.
The voice of your intuition is likely telling you, it's okay to do things your way, create your own path. You are good enough. You're on the right track. Just stay with it. You are completely worthy of clients and you do know what you're doing. Except these outside influences make that inner voice hard to hear, or impossible to hear. What you're left with is this feeling of everyone else knows what they're doing except me, which isn't true and isn't helpful.
Step Two: Be Mindful of the Time You Spend On Taking in New Information
After recognizing and acknowledging your imposter syndrome triggers, you can start reducing your inputs and evening out your consumption. There are two ways to even out your consumption:
Stop taking information after 2 pm or take every second day off from consuming new information for a couple of weeks. This can be a struggle during the first few days, but once you start taking away too many inputs, you're going to create a new mental space for yourself.
Take an accurate look at how much time you're currently spending taking in new information. Reduce that time by 30 minutes a day until it's at a more reasonable level.
You can use the time that you saved by focusing on creation. This could be working for an hour on writing a sales page after listening to a podcast episode. It could be journaling after reading many blog articles. It could be going for a walk after researching payment systems, for example.
It's even better if you link what you’re actioning on to the information that you were just taking in. As an example, you can journal about when the imposter syndrome comes up for you the most and make a plan to implement the tips that will work best after reading or listening to this post.
Impostor syndrome is a destroyer of motivation and agency. It stops you from practicing skills, stops you from trying things out, it even stops you from doing what you know is best. Being mindful of the time you spend consuming media and taking in new information allows you to even out your consumption versus creation ratio. Mindfulness makes you avoid focusing too much on outside influences and lets you focus on your intuition, which inspires creativity.
Step Three: Start Asking Yourself Questions to Overcome Imposter Syndrome
Every time a “should” comes up, is a moment to start asking yourself questions to overcome imposter syndrome as an entrepreneur. These should’s are probably coming from an outside source rather than an inner voice. Be inquisitive and start on self-inquiry using this list of questions:
Does this advice even apply to me and my business?
Is it the right time for me to be taking in this information?
Do I trust and respect this source?
Does this should activity match my values?
Would my ideal client appreciate this?
Do I believe this will truly help me move forward?
In order to give you a clearer idea of how asking yourself questions can overcome imposter syndrome, here is a real-life example from a service-based business owner.
Example: Virtual Assistant Overcoming Imposter Syndrome
A virtual assistant is considering advertising in an online directory of sorts, where potential clients can search through and learn more about the VA and click through to book a call. The should here in this example is, “I know I should be advertising online to get more clients”. The VA is getting this should because of a sponsored Facebook post on how VA’s can find clients by being part of this agency.
To start on self-inquiry, the VA can ask themselves the question: Does this advice even applied to me and my business? In this case, the post is about VA’s, it is about advertising online, it is about finding clients, which means that the advice does apply.
The next question is: Is it the right time for me to be taking in this information? If the VA currently needs clients and needs help with lead generation, and they don't have as many clients as they want, then this is the right time.
Do I trust and respect this source? The sponsored post might be someone that they already follow and that they're already familiar with. Only the VA can know if this is a trusted and respected source.
Does this should activity match my values? This question can be answered by digging deeper and asking more questions such as: Can the VA see from this sponsored post or from the rest of the sponsor’s profile that they feel the same way about business as the VA do?
The VA is then going to take a look at that before answering the question: Would my ideal client appreciate this?
In this example, the ideal client would be browsing through this site and it would probably make their journey to finding a virtual assistant that matches with them easier so the answer to this one is yes.
Lastly, do I believe this truly will help me move forward? Does this VA instinctively get the impression when they're looking at this online directory, when they're browsing through, do they get the impression that this is the kind of client they want to work with, who is going to be browsing here?
All of this kind of self-inquiry will help lead to your decision-making. Going forward with all of the questions is a way to do a gut check, to find out if the step that you are taking feels right for you, or if you’re only taking it because you should.
Step Four: Stop Outside Influences From Dictating How You Define Success as an Entrepreneur
The recipe or the secret to success cannot be found in someone else's business or in someone's one size fits all type program. Stop taking in information from outside influences that aren’t directly related to the step you're on right now. Allowing outside influences to dictate how you define and achieve success can clutter up your mental space and stop you from taking action.
Avoid idolizing business owners, specifically coaches and mentors who tell you that you have to do things their way or that you should do such and such a thing or that they alone have the recipe or secret to success. This idea of the secret or the recipe to success always makes you the problem, not the strategy itself. The trouble with this concept of a secret or recipe is that there's an implication that there's a strategy to follow and if you follow it and it doesn't work for you, there's something wrong with you. And also, if you don't follow it, you're avoiding best practices or good advice.
The reality is, there are no rules in small business and entrepreneurship, except for the rules of being kind and ethical, but beyond that, there are no rules to online business. When you start some kind of traditional job, there is often a training manual, a course, a set of videos to watch, or some kind of mentorship or training session. There's typically some kind of job description to follow. There's a set of actions or strategies in order to be successful in that role, in that job position.
With small business ownership, there is no such manual. There are no such rules. There's nothing pre-prescribed, laid out for you that is going to dictate your success going forward because it is all very unique and individualized, which is, it's a benefit, but also, it's stressful. The fact that there is no manual is leading you to use social media as your manual. The problem is that you are also using social media as your performance review, as your book of tools, as your resource binder, and as your therapist, which is asking a lot for a very unregulated tool.
If you are exclusively looking to social media to tell you what to do in building a business, imposter syndrome is bound to come up. I would recommend getting some kind of feedback, mentorship, or coaching as soon as it feels right for you and it's accessible because this is going to get you further ahead than those one-size-fits-all types of offers.
A lot of these programs go only in one direction. They're flowing information to you. You'll want to look for courses and group programs that also have some kind of connection and interaction with the business owner themselves or at least some hired coaches within the program, so that they can get the context of what is going on in your unique business so that you can get personalized advice and custom feedback. Without this, you’re left to interpret how this information applies to you on your own, which is d difficult when you're new to business.
As you’ve seen in this post, there are many steps you can take to help you deal with the natural imposter syndrome that comes up. Start by recognizing and acknowledging your imposter syndrome triggers. The more you know, the better you can handle them! You can also train yourself to be mindful of the new information you take in, and learn the right questions to ask yourself. Lastly, redefining success for yourself is sure to take the wind right out of the sails of that imposter syndrome feeling.
The more you know, like, and trust yourself, the more imposter syndrome will go away. One way to work on that is to join the Aligned Action Workshop!