Imposter syndrome, the feeling that you’re unqualified to hold a particular position or responsibility, can act as a serious barrier between women with a lot of entrepreneurial spirit and achieving their potential. In fact, a 2019 report by Natwest showed that “nearly two-thirds (60%) of women have considered starting their own business but haven’t due to feelings commonly associated with imposter syndrome”.
Though successful female entrepreneurs have become far more visible in our lifetimes, women with great ideas can often fall at the first hurdle due to totally imagined shortcomings.
Here are some of our favorite tips and habits you can use to overcome imposter syndrome as a female entrepreneur.
1. Recognize the Issue
First and foremost, it’s important to acknowledge that you’re experiencing imposter syndrome, and make a conscious effort to understand how this feeling can be worsened or mitigated by various factors in your life.
Seeing as you’re reading this, there’s a fair chance that you’re your own worst critic. Take a moment to think about other times when you doubted your abilities, whether in your professional life or otherwise. In hindsight, you’ll likely see some situations where you were doubting yourself and making decisions based on a rootless gut feeling, rather than any kind of objective evidence.
In many situations, trusting your intuition can be the right move, but when self-doubt comes out of nowhere and takes control of your decision-making, it will soon become more of an obstacle.
The first step towards overcoming imposter syndrome is making yourself aware of it, the kinds of events and situations that can trigger self-doubt, and knowing when you’re being taken in by feelings that are needlessly holding you back.
Keeping an eye on your own mental behaviors can be hard at the best of times, but by meditating, reviewing your own decision-making, and other good habits, you can begin to catch your imposter syndrome in the act without even thinking about it.
2. Stop Striving for Perfectionism
Few people start a business thinking that it will be easy. However, when reality doesn’t align with your dreams of success, those little doubts can quickly snowball into something far more damaging to your entrepreneurial mindset.
It’s been shown that female entrepreneurs are more likely than their male peers to exit a business before it fails financially, and this tendency to err on the side of caution can often lead to would-be success stories abandoning their ventures just before they were about to break through.
If you find that every little mistake sends you spiraling into a state of severe self-doubt and negativity, take a moment to consider whether you’re setting yourself realistic targets.
It’s good to have a vision to work towards and shoot for achievements outside your comfort zone, but if you’re clinging to an unrealistic ideal, the disappointments can make this way of thinking tantamount to self-sabotage.
Remember that no product, service, or business plan is perfect, that every entrepreneur has made wrong calls or fallen short of their goals, and that moving in the right direction is more important than hitting a home run every time.
3. Acknowledge your Achievements
People who suffer from imposter syndrome often have a habit of focusing on the negatives in life: the mistakes they’ve made, the obstacles in their way, and the worst-case scenarios for any situation.
A little cynicism can have its advantages, (e.g being cautious when you’re having to navigate a risky situation) but it can also blind you to some of the major achievements you’ve had in your life. When you’re doing something as challenging as starting and growing a business, those little wins are essential to maintaining the right mindset.
If any of this sounds familiar, it may be worth taking some time to reflect on what you’ve achieved and remind yourself of just how much you’re capable of. This might be something as big as spearheading a large and complex project in a previous job, or something as small as helping out a friend when they needed you to come through.
Reminding yourself that you’re the same person who made these achievements possible, who didn’t quit when the going got tough, can be an excellent way to foil imposter syndrome.
If self-affirmation doesn’t come naturally to you, try adopting the “Three Good Things” exercise. This encourages you to take a moment each day to remember three good things that happened to you in the past 24 hours, making it easier to celebrate your achievements and put negative things into perspective.
4. Nurture a Support System
When you’re falling victim to your own insecurities, having a support system of people you can count on to help can make all the difference.
Surrounding yourself with like-minded people is a good habit found in many successful women, and when you have a close cohort of people who share your values, passions, and dreams, the challenges of entrepreneurship can suddenly feel far more manageable.
Talking to people who want to see you succeed will remind you that you’re not alone, that your imposter syndrome is probably built on false pretenses, and that people like you have gone through similarly challenging times and come out better for the experience.
Most of all, building your support system will help you normalize talking about the times when you doubt yourself, giving you a safe space in which to discuss your imposter syndrome and figure out a way to combat it.
For many people, one of the biggest causes of imposter syndrome is not having a forum they can use to talk honestly about their feelings, causing them to keep the negativity bottled up where it can have a far more toxic, pernicious effect.
Building a support system can take time, especially if you don’t usually allow yourself to be vulnerable and need to start from scratch. As you nurture your own support network, try to remember that these relationships are a two-way street, and that you’re probably surrounded by people who need confidants just as much as you do.
Imposter syndrome is an exceptionally common issue among female professionals and entrepreneurs, but by taking a proactive approach to the problem and keeping things in perspective, you’ll soon find it much easier to deal with.
We hope these pointers have started you on the right path toward managing your imposter syndrome, and finding more positive habits you can adopt in its place.