Yesterday I reached out to the IH community for guidance on how to overcome one of my biggest challenges as a founder: Imposter Syndrome.
I got so many amazing pieces of advice, that I decided to write a post summarising them for other founders feeling similar bouts of self-doubt.
Read on for nuggets of IH wisdom that will overhaul your confidence and self-belief 💪
I quit my job in April 2018. At the time, I didn’t know what I was going to do, I just knew that I needed to start my own thing.
After a few months of freelancing as a copywriter full-time, I decided to launch Scribly.io - a subscription-based copywriting service. Despite not having any entrepreneurial experience outside of being a freelancer, last month I topped $14K revenue (still can’t quite believe that when I write it down!).
I'm so proud of my progress so far. And yet, when people ask me what I do, I'll often answer under-confidently or self-deprecatingly - almost like I feel people won't believe that I could have done this alone. Or worse, like I ended up here by pure fluke.
So I decided to ask the IH community for their tips on counteracting Imposter Syndrome. Here's what they had to say:
Develop an elevator pitch for family and friends
One of the biggest challenges I find when people ask me what I do is how to summarise my business in way that
a) doesn’t sound douchey, and
b) makes sense to people who aren’t that digitally savvy.
I’m so conscious about striking that balance between being confident but not boastful that I get tongue-tied. So I’ll often fumble my way through a response about running a small writing business, or something equally uninspiring.
Time to flip things up.
@sendthatinvoice made the great suggestion that I could develop a simple elevator pitch for family and friends. Something that’s short, to the point, and confidently describes what it is that I’m running/building.
This has to be one of my favourite suggestions from the thread, and something that I’ll definitely be putting some time into.
If you feel like it could add value to your own process, here’s a thread to share and get feedback on your family & friends elevator pitch.
Do a deep reflective exercise
It makes sense right?
If you want to feel confident about your achievements, you first need to be conscious about just how far you’ve come.
And yet, how many of us actually take the time to write these things down? To pause for a second and celebrate our successes.?
Imma say it's not that many of us.
I, for one, am the worst at it. I’m always so focused on all the things that I still want/need to do, that I don’t take time to look back and appreciate the wins (big and small) I’ve had along the way.
Go back and create an archive of every project, little thing, work, client, job, experience, portfolio item, testimonial, you name it from the last 5-10 years... before you know it, you'll be proud of yourself.
Shift your focus of IS as a weakness to a strength
Most cultural and social philosophies in the West often have us bury uncomfortable feelings. The general school of thought goes that negative emotions are bad, and we should try to avoid them.
This goes for Imposter Syndrome as much as any other challenging emotion. The more you try to ignore that niggling self-doubt, the more it becomes all that you can fixate on.
So rather than try to push your IS out of mind, you may as well embrace it.
Heck, maybe you could reframe your perception of it entirely and come to think of it as your super power?
Once you realize that many of the greats had imposter syndrome, you will start to see it as an asset. The need to prove oneself is a powerful motivator. Embrace it, we are lucky :)
Or, as @zeph so rightly puts it,
If nothing else, you can use imposter syndrome as a signal: when you're feeling it, you're doing something right.
Actively seek out and spend time with founders who are 'better' than you and get a mentor
Not to be all “woe is me”, but sometimes I feel like I’m from a bit of a generation that’s in between two worlds.
I grew up without smart phones or social media (I was 19 when I got my first Facebook account, and in my 20s when I got my first iPhone). When I was at school, thoughts of the future were a bit more square. We went to uni, got a degree, and got a job.
It took me some time to connect with founders who inspired me to start my own journey.
Building out that network of founders that I have meaningful contact with is something I’m actively working on (ironically, due to my Imposter Syndrome I’ve always felt very intimidated around other founders).
According to @louisswiss this network is important not just to inspire you, but also to give you an outlet for your worries.
Ideally, [your outlet is] not your partner, but someone completely outside of your professional/private circle. Mentors are great, other founders who are at the same stage or slightly ahead of you are great too.
Get a coach
I’ve been dabbling with the idea of getting a professional/life coach for some time. Objectively speaking, it makes total sense but I’ve always been sceptical about the cost benefit of the process.
I’m still delving into options here, but I’d love to hear from other Founders about their experiences of working with coaches.
Remember that you aren’t your business
Feelings of Imposter Syndrome are driven by self doubt. Among other things, you’re scared to own your success for fear of what others will think.
As @reinder rightly reminded me, it’s important to remember that you’re doing this for you and no-one else.
So what if someone doubts you, or judges you? That’s on them. It says more about their view of the world than it does about your abilities.
When that little voice in your head tells you you’re not good enough or deserving of your success, remember - you did this. Tell that to yourself 20 times over. And then do 20 more.
And if it all goes bottoms up, that’s just part of the process. Failure is just one chapter of a much longer story, so remember, your worth is not defined by your business.
Because you are not your business
I’m just going to pause here for a moment on the difference between self-confidence and self-esteem.
The two do not necessarily go hand in hand, and it’s often far easier to build self-confidence with things like income, status, physical appearance etc, and yet still have a low self esteem.
Consider, for example, just how many famous people have the self-confidence to put their work in front of millions, but so little self-esteem that they would damage themselves with drugs and alcohol.
So whilst it’s really important to build up your self-confidence, its also important to remember that the foundations of self-confidence are incredibly shaky without a solid self-esteem for support.
Put otherwise, if you don’t truly place a high emotional value on your self worth, you’re leaving yourself wide open for Imposter Syndrome to creep in.
That’s why working out regularly can have a big impact. As @louisswiss reminded me, when you feel strong and capable on the inside, that naturally translates to how you project yourself to others.
After all, your self-esteem is the prism through which we think, feel and act. If you feel less-than, then it can’t help but affect your experience as a founder.
Give yourself a morning mantra
I do a lot of yoga, so I often find myself setting myself daily intentions to keep me focused and present.
Turns out, this has been a helpful tool for other IHers too. For example, @ChipD advises to:
Take something that's holding you back, and just repeat 10 times to yourself the opposite. For me, I believe that I don't have the experience and focus to achieve what I want, so in the morning I literally sit there and, out loud, tell myself 10 times that "I'm experience enough, I'm focused enough, and I deserve success".
Never underestimate the power of a smile.
Studies show that altering your posture and physicality can have a huge, unconscious impact on how not only you feel, but how others feel about you.
IHer @louisswiss also recommended this as a useful technique when you’re battling Imposter Syndrome, which was a lovely reminder to myself that often we are far more in control of self-doubt than we may sometimes feel
Just taking a second to smile and collect yourself before talking to someone about your business can 'trick' your brain into being more open and confident than you were just a second earlier. I do this when starting investor pitches and it has worked noticeably for me (to the point where it's automatic now).