Confident Entrepreneurs Deftly Overcome Impostor Syndrome

The immense stretching exercise involved in launching a new business can incite fear and timidity. Ward off such feelings with these 10 steps.

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By Isaiah Hankel

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Entrepreneurs often feel like impostors at their businesses and in their lives because they're constantly trying to do things they've never done before. Every day they're learning new skills and this can prompt them to feeling like they're not really qualified to be running their businesses.

But many people experience impostor syndrome at some point. They persistently see themselves as inadequate or failures despite information indicating that their skills are sufficient or they're successful.

Confident entrepreneurs accept their inadequacies. They are simply faking it before they make it and that's OK. It's called learning.

Once business leaders learn to accept this process, their impostor syndrome goes away. Here are 10 other tricks confident entrepreneurs can use to avoid impostor syndrome:

Related: Easily Diagnose and Treat Impostor Syndrome

1. Own the victory.

Confident entrepreneurs own their accomplishments. The cause of impostor syndrome is an inability to internalize success. Instead, people think they got lucky, slipped in or benefit from an unusual amount of help.

It takes integrity to own a victory. Sure, you may have been lucky or have had help as a new business owner, but you probably did your part, too. Even if you were just in the right place at the right time, you were still there. Without you, the victory wouldn't exist.

2. Don't rely so much on external validation.

External validation is a crutch. No one should have more power to make you feel better about yourself than you.

Sure, it's fine to feel good when other people compliment you and you should always accept external praise, but don't overly rely on it.

3. Keep the pressure on.

You can't fight self-doubt with more self-doubt. Too many entrepreneurs make the mistake of combating impostor syndrome by purposefully lowering the bar for themselves.

These types say things like "Oh, I'm not that good" or "I'll probably mess up" before daring to take a specific action. Some will even go as far as sabotaging their own performance to fulfill the lower expectations.

The problem is that trying to take pressure off yourself by pretending to be more of a failure will make you more of a failure. It's a pitiful cycle. You set the bar lower and lower each time until what you do doesn't matter at all.

Related: Start Before You're Ready, Really

4. Act before being ready.

Many entrepreneurs feel like impostors because they wait and wait to take action. They want to launch a new product or change the direction of their business but never have the guts. They just think about acting.

Thinking without acting makes entrepreneurs feel like impostors in their own lives. They know what they want and who they want to be but never move toward it, leaving them feeling like a phony.

5. Encounter failure firsthand.

Entrepreneurs who critique other businesses but never dare to take great leaps in their own work are the real impostors. Reading about other entrepreneurs' failures and successes only goes so far.

Sooner or later you have to plunge in and start succeeding or failing first, experiencing things firsthand. You can't be a fake and fail at the same time. If you're failing, you're doing it. You're real.

6. Expose your true self.

The only way to destroy impostor syndrome forever is to be exactly who you are to everyone all the time. Don't prop up a fake image of yourself or your business to others. If your business is small, let it be small.

Be transparent with customers and use the fact that your company is minute to interact more closely with them. Align your thoughts, words and actions as much as possible. It can be hard to do but there's real freedom associated with this.

7. Laugh at yourself.

Find the humor in your business. People will like you and your business more. And, you'll be taken more seriously. In fact, studies show that self-deprecating humor by high-status people increases their attractiveness.

8. Ask for help.

Confident entrepreneurs are not afraid to say, "I don't know" and then follow it up with "Can you help me find out?" As an entrepreneur, you can't do everything yourself. Entrepreneurs who try to move mountains all on their own without ever asking for assistance will end up feeling like the biggest impostors of all.

You only have two eyes and two ears. You need to network and spend invest time in learning to tap into other people's wisdom so you can see and hear more. Then when you get stuck, you can benefit from their insights.

9. Plan all the way to the end.

Winging it will make you feel like a phony. Failing to fully plan for your business is another technique that entrepreneurs make the mistake of doing to try to relieve pressure in their stressful situation.

They think that winging it or making things up as they go will prevent them from being held accountable if they fail. This is not true.

The ending is everything. It's not enough to have a great start. You must finish what you start. Sure, no plan survives contact with reality unscathed. Things happen. Plans change. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't try to foresee and prepare for the possible obstacles that may arise.

10. Knock down pedestals.

It's impossible to feel like an impostor once you accept that everyone else is an impostor, too. The only thing that separates you from the successful entrepreneurs of the world is time and effort. Anything that they can do, you can do.

Too many people see great entrepreneurs or greatness in general as some kind of special thing that has to be assigned them. Nothing could be further from the truth. Every entrepreneur feels like an impostor at one time or another. All entrepreneurs are trying to be better versions of themselves.

Related: How to Deal With the Fear of Being Unqualified

Isaiah Hankel

Founder and CEO, Cheeky Scientist

Isaiah Hankel is founder and CEO of Cheeky Scientist; he helps people with Ph.D.s transition into meaningful, high-paying industry careers. He is also a STEM Ph.D. and a Fortune 500 consultant.


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