January 10, 2019

Tips for managing imposter syndrome anyone?

Hey folks and folkettes,

Does any one else ever find themselves playing down the fact that you're setting up / running your own business?

I quit my job in April last year to start my own thing and last month I topped 14$K revenue. 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 me.

Does anyone have any tops on counteracting imposter syndrome? Hit me up if so, it's the main personal development point I want to focus on this year.

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    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.

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      Thanks @growwithlogan, this is going to be my task for the weekend. Is this something you’ve done? Did it help you in your own process?

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        Yup, I spent a good bit of time this week in redoing my portfolio/website, resume, etc. Ended up with some amazing stats, social proof and more that I'll be leveraging personal brand wise.

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          That's so great to hear! Good luck with the new portfolio/website - looking forward to see it!

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    You're having imposter syndrome because your company is doing so well.

    In other words, you're having it because you're good at what you do. (But you don't believe that yet!)

    As entrepreneurs, we often tell ourselves stories like "I don't know what I'm doing," or "I was just lucky".

    But you wouldn't have $14k/month in business unless your reality was that you do know what you're doing and you're skilled at what you do.

    So work on telling yourself a more realistic story: you found an awesome opportunity in the market that fits your skillset, and now you're doing everything you can to make the most of it.

    If nothing else, you can use imposter syndrome as a signal: when you're feeling it, you're doing something right.

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      Thank you so much @Zeph! That perception of ‘I was just lucky’, and feeling somehow like I got here for reasons outside of my control have been big challenges for me. Working on reminding myself that i did this.

      Love the idea of using the feeling as a signal!

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    Hey, Daniella,

    I'd recommend checking out my friend Tanya Geisler's programs and consider her coaching services. She's been instrumental in both myself and my partner @mariepoulin's personal development over the years.

    One thing she'll not let you do is play small.


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      She's amazing!!! Her niche/speciality is literally the Imposter Syndrome :)

      Cannot say enough good things about her. Life changing work.

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        Amazing, thanks for the intro! I’ll check her out!

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          @typeoneerror @mariepoulin - out of curiosity, how have you worked with Tanya Geisler? Which of her services have you used? I was just looking at her website and saw that she offers an online courses which I'm thinking of doing. Would be great to hear your insights on working with her if you have done so :)

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            @mariepoulin and I went to one of her workshops in Toronto. Marie has also hired her as a coach 1-on-1 when she was first getting into speaking. Full disclosure: she's also one of our customers on Doki and we've helped her distribute some of her programs in the past.

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    Something that's REALLY helping me lately is a morning mantra.

    it sounds a bit woo-woo but I can see how it works, you're basically using propaganda on your brain.

    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".

    You wouldn't believe the difference it makes. It takes maybe 60 seconds to repeat ten times, and for the day then I feel focused and worthy.

    Give it a try, it's free. :)

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      I do a lot of yoga so I’m all about the woo woo! That’s a great tip, thank you - I’ll give that a try. I can definitely see how it would have a big effect on your psyche each day.

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        It really does. It's weird but absolutely works for me. Hope it helps you out 👍🏼

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          Thanks man 😊

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    Congrats, @DaniMancini!

    I've definitely experienced the same thing.

    When you're a solo founder without investors, it's probably even harder.

    Here are a few tips to help you feel more confident and get over your imposter syndrome:

    • Actively seek out and spend time with founders who are 'better' than you (for example founders doing $100k MRR or with exits behind them). You'll quickly realise that it really is the case that we're all just winging it.

    • Prepare answers to common questions from friends/family off by heart (eg "how are things with Scribly") - remember that the feeling it could all come crashing down in failure at any moment never truly goes away, but outsiders just see the positives. Also, it's ok to be a bit under-confident/self depreciating (especially if you're British) ;)

    • Make sure you have an outlet for your worries. Ideally, that's 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.

    • A slightly weird one, but hit the gym (something like weight lifting, crossfit, resistance training). It's amazing how much more confident you'll feel when you're physically stronger and have a more powerful stature/stance (even if it isn't visually noticeable).

    • Try as hard as you can to separate your feeling of personal self-worth/success from that of your business. You aren't your business!

    • Another weird one for those situations where a lot of people are asking you questions... smile! I know men aren't supposed to tell women to do that, but 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).

    Good luck!

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      +1 on work out. I find my depression goes away and I am more confident if I exercise in the morning. If you cannot go to a gym, get a pull up bar (costs $25). It is easy to attach to a door, and you can get your adrenaline flowing. Also lookup body weight exercises on reddit.

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      Gah @louisswiss thank you SO much for this reply - it’s so, so helpful. I’m actively seeking out a mentor right now, I totally agree that will help a lot. If you ever consider stepping into mentoring, please give me a shout :-)

      And amen to the sports point - I workout fairly religiously and my brain feels like mush when I don’t.

      Again, thank you so much!

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    I don't know that I can help you, except to say I understand. I'm proud and excited on the inside, but I keep my whole project on the down-low. I think it's because it comes off as a little nutty, and -- simultaneously -- a little boastful.

    Maybe it would help if you (me, too) worked on a kind of "pitch" for lay-people. Some particular turn of phrase that landed a little softer, but still made the full point.

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      This is such a great shout! What would your friend and family pitch be?

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        That’s a good question. Some years ago, somebody asked me what I did. I said I was a business owner or something (I forget my exact wording); they responded, “Oh, so you’re unemployed.” That exchange put me off of sharing much.

        I can understand the strange optics of the words, “entrepreneur,” “self-employed,” “business owner,” et al. Does that mean you’re a) a hard-working community leader generating surplus capital, or b) somebody selling pencils out of a tin cup at a busy intersection? When every Herbalife nut is a “business owner,” it kind of takes the wind out of those sails.

        Thinking of the more brick-and-mortar analogs of this situation, when you ask the founding partner of a successful law firm what he or she does, they don’t say, “I’m an entrepreneur, and I’m crushing it! I’m a business owner disrupting the law sector!” They say, “I’m a lawyer.” A plumber is a plumber. An electrician is an electrician.

        So, maybe when you tell people you’re a “software developer,” it’s appropriate. Or perhaps you need a title that falls more in line with the services your software development provides. You’re only a software developer for you and your company. To the rest of the world, you’re a... Digital Marketing Consultant? A Content Manager? You’ll know the best option for you.

        After that, if somebody is interested in delving in, you can more organically talk about your business, or have a social pitch ready to go about what your company does, who it helps, and what your clients are like. Then, if they ask who you work for, you can explain you own your own business. Being a “business owner” will probably come across more smoothly if they already know you didn't just open your first Etsy shop to sell them a customized tin cup for their pencils.

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    I do, mostly because here in Italy when I tell people that I work as a digital marketer and run my own online businesses 99% of the time they don’t have a clue about what that means 😂

    By the way, I would be very curious to hear more about the story of how you managed to go from 0 to 14k and successfully acquire new clients from scratch!

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      Hey @andreabosoni - haha I totally get you. My family is Italian so that’s very familiar 😃 I’m about to switch off for the day now but I’d be very happy to write a post on my process getting to $14k - will do that asap!

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        Ottimo! 😀

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    Congratulations because 14$K is no small task.

    All the things you’ve done up to this point have played a role.

    Not everybody could pull this off. You’ve got talent.

    And if you’re comparing yourself to others, you will find that everyone is really trying to figure things out.

    Take a piece of paper or open up your favorite notes app and write down all your accomplishments to date.

    What I find also helps is recognizing those people who have helped you along the way. It really grounds you and then you realize how lucky you are.

    Again, congrats on the revenue milestone. And here’s wishing you many more successes!

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      Thank you so much for your kind words. That's a great idea, I will definitely do that! Wishing you all the best too :)

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    Feeling and thinking about not being good enough is so ubiquitous. I definitely have it even though a lot of my friends see me as the person who lives a really happy life.

    My take is that the best antidote to imposter syndrome is vulnerability. Having a facade, a 'persona' we show to the world could be a great obstacle to appreciating who we really are. If I may, I'd like to suggest you reading Daring Greatly by Brene Brown.

    You might also want to check this video about highly successful CEOs insecurities.


    I was quite into hip-hop when I was a kid and I just recently read a book by DMC from Run DMC where he writes about being an alcoholic, having depression and suicidal thoughts for decades. And all that's while being extremely famous and successful. I was so surprised to realize a person like this being in such a dire condition for most of his life.

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    Wow $14K/month is impressive! You should certainly not downplay what an amazing accomplishment that is :).

    I find that women tend to be more prone to feeling imposter syndrome than men. Not all the time as this is just a trend but I think part of it is that we are trained not to show off and not to come across as arrogant or too confident. I totally agree with another comment that we like to brush off our accomplishments as luck or some other factor that has nothing to do with our skills.

    What I've found to really help with this is asking the question, why not me? I've always had strong doubts about myself and my abilities and my husband turned the tables around one day and asked me, why not you? You can find 100 reasons to voice your doubts but I think that asking yourself, why not me makes you stop the doubts and start thinking more about whether there's any basis in your insecurities, especially given what you've already accomplished. Find counter examples as to why YOU are the one to do it and your mindset will slowly start to change.

    I used to struggle hugely with this but from taking those first few steps, it has helped me stop spiralling down the negative path of self-doubt and start thinking about all the reasons why I can do it, based on the things I've accomplished in the past and the ways that I've already proven myself.

    It's going to be someone else, so why not you?

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      Amen to this! I've noticed that this is something that women tend to have a much harder time with than men. There's definitely something about women fearing being considered arrogant when we speak about our successes.

      You're SO right in turning the tables. This is such a great exercise - I'll be doing that for sure.

      I just checked out your profile and love the product you're building, sounds so much fun. Wishing you every success in it, and if you ever need fellow female support along the way, you know where to find me :)

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        Thanks Dani! Same to you as well :).

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    Dont know if this helps but my own life goal is to make a sustainable living from my own projects and do what I love.

    Assuming you're working alone you've already reached the definition of success to me. You should be really proud of that.

    The thing is that ambitious people are never really happy with where they are. We reach new levels and then we raise the bar for ourselves. Have a look at where you were 2, 5, 10 years ago and you'll probably realise you've achieved loads.

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    I know the feeling! Sometimes I avoid social situations because I'll likely have to explain what I do. Sometimes I don't even mention my app and just say "software developer." I've been working on my app for years and only make about $300 per month, so it's in career limbo. I feel weird calling it my job since freelance work pays my bills, but my app is what I spend 80% of my time thinking about.

    Next time you feel imposter syndrome, I'd recommend reflecting back on how far you've come. Mentally reviewing your achievements can prop up your confidence and actually make you feel happier. (A common tip for a happiness boost is to look at your resume - people tend to downplay their achievements, but seeing them on paper helps!)

    Not to repeat what everyone else has said, but $14k is a huge milestone! Congrats!

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      Thanks so much for sharing your experiences @mattkandler. I know it’s totally pot kettle black here, but you should be so proud that you have built something that’s meaningful to you on the side of being a functioning adult that pays their bills on time. Most people live a lifetime not achieving that, so you should share that part of you with total pride.

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    $14K monthly? Congrats. I'll take $100 per hour to help you with your impostor syndrome. :D

    Just kidding about that.

    I think the most important part to help with this is to realize you aren't just one person. You have the "you" everyone knows. This you is quite fake, to put it in a certain way. This you tries to be polite and is generally a "face" that you show everyone.

    Jung calls the other person your "shadow". This other part of your personality includes many wants that aren't "kosher" enough to show to others, it can say means things and bring you down, but this personality is also responsible for a lot of creativity. It's not always easy to integrate your shadow into your "other" self. But it's doable.

    Why do you feel like an impostor? If you are anything like me and most other people I speak to, this likely stems from an underlying sense of low self-esteem. You might feel you don't deserve X because of Y, or etc.

    You live in a free market economy, your clients pay you because you're worth it.

    At one point I asked myself "what if I was REALLY an impostor?" No one else seems to notice, perhaps everyone else is also an impostor. Who cares? I'm made up of atoms that happened to clump together to form molecules, standing on a sphere orbiting the sun, and the world's best scientists still can't quite explain why gravity even works.(the best theory that tries to include quantum properties includes a "virtual" particle called a "graviton").

    I recommend reading "the suble art of not giving a fuck". Or if you have the patience for a longer read, "Laws of human nature". And if you want to go on an adventure that may last years, pick up Jung.

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      I just love this whole reply @aabreu. I’m really into science and quantum physics and this massively resonated with me. Thank you for the pep talk - I needed that 😊

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    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 :)

    Once you've embraced it, you can view "speaking under-confidently or self-deprecatingly" as just like any other muscle like the heart or biceps, instead of making it some arcane thing. The solution is almost always the same: consistent practice and step by step.

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      Thank you for that insight @dhruvg - such a great way of framing something I’ve perceived as a weakness.

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    Isn't amazing wat a global business can do and how much you can do? You are rightfully proud of your achievement, congratulations!

    From my own experience I think part of it is not really believing it is happening yourself so maybe it is good to realize this and be confident about it. I think this is the biggest part.

    The other part of it is that depending on the people you discuss your progress with, not everyone will understand what you are doing or think this is possible/a real thing.

    Previously this would bother me but I actually like it now and don't mind keeping a relatively low profile, in the end I'm doing this for myself and my family and not for others.

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      Great insights @Reinder - do you ever feel a pressure to attain growth for the sake of growth? I felt a lot of pressure at the end of last year, and it took me taking a bit of time out to remember that I’m doing this for me and no-one else.

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        Yes its off course easy to get lost in the numbers and forget the real reason.

        I'm productive by focusing on three key things; focus, flow and fun. So focus = know why you do things, what, and who. flow = see progress every day, unblock blockers asap and keep flowing. and fun = do what you like, don't forget it is fun and celebrate your successes.

        One thing that helps is to get employees in your team, it gets more fun when there are more people.

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          Yes! I am massively feeling this right now. I just brought someone on the team and it’s totally shifted my whole perspective on things. I feel so much more motivated and excited than when it was just me working alone