How To Overcome Your Impostor Syndrome

I had been telling my sister and current business partner, Krista, to quit her corporate job for years so we could start a business together. She wasn’t happy in her corporate life and we had always wanted to do something together, we knew combining our synergy, talents and experience would empower us to build a successful company.

I had left my corporate career more than a decade ago to start a production company with my husband in Los Angeles. We had built a successful company but I was yearning for something new, something that would ignite my soul.

In early 2016 my sister called me to say she did it. She finally told her boss she was leaving. After 15 years she finally took that leap. Although I was thrilled for her I was terrified for me.

“Oh crap,” I thought. “This means we actually have to start the business we had been “talking” about for years. I can’t do this. I don’t know anything about running a company.  Everyone will know I am a fraud.”

It became a pretty debilitating fear. In so much that I had to devote a few therapy sessions to it. And as I found out in those sessions, it turns out my fears and self-talk were common, and they had a name.

I was experiencing something called “Impostor Phenomenon”, otherwise known as Impostor Syndrome. This phenomenon was first described by psychologists Suzanne Imes, PhD, and Pauline Rose Clance, PhD in 1978. It is a concept describing high-achieving individuals who have a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud.”

They discovered that despite external evidence of their competence, those exhibiting the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be.

It turns out that studies show that 70% of all people have felt this at one time or another and Impostor Syndrome is even more prevalent in high achieving women.

Although I had built two successful businesses and had a breadth of experience and skills over the 20 years in my career I doubted that I could make it work.

It turns out many successful people suffer from this syndrome. The great author Maya Angelou said, “I have written 11 books, but each time I think, Uh oh, they are going to find me out now.”

I set out to discover what I could do about this. I came across an article in Fast Company outlining the following 8 steps:

  1. Recognize that it exists.
  2. When you receive positive feedback, embrace it with objectivity and internalize it. By denying it, you are hurting that person’s judgement.
  3. Don’t attribute your successes to luck.
  4. Don’t talk about your abilities or successes with words like “merely,” “only,” “simply,” etc.
  5. Keep a journal. Writing your successes and failures down gives you a retrospective insight about them, and re-reading them makes you remember equally both of them.
  6. Recognize that the perfect performer doesn’t exist, and that problems will pop up eventually. Take them as little fires under you that make you move forward.
  7. Be proud of being humble.
  8. Remember that it’s okay to seek help from others, and that even the best do it.

What I have discovered is that taking action every day, even if little, has lead to momentum and confidence. And when that negative self-talk creeps up and that doubt appears, as it often does, I battle it by moving forward –  minute by minute, hour by hour and day by day.

Do you suffer from Imposter Syndrome? Join us on May 6 in Studio City, California for the SisterUp One-Day workshop and learn how to overcome your fears and take that first step in making money doing what you love.


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