Career Advice

Imposter Syndrome: You are Not a Fraud

Female Creative contemplating idea while looking out window

Imposter syndrome is real — and many successful entrepreneurs do not realize they have it. As Editor-in-Chief Jason Feiffer recently wrote in Entrepreneur, “Every Entrepreneur Has Imposter Syndrome,” and we need to start talking about how almost everyone in business struggles with a touch of imposter syndrome.

After running my own staffing company for close to 30 years, I had never heard of imposter syndrome until recently. When I stumbled across an article written by the entrepreneur William Adoasi on how he grappled with it, I quickly realized I have unknowingly struggled with it as well. 

For me, when I was building my company, I was uncomfortable with the title CEO. Suddenly, I was no longer a software analyst, the first position I held in the U.S. But, a software analyst was the career I most identified myself with — not the CEO of a rapidly growing, successful business. When I was asked what I did for a living, I would tell people that I worked in Information Technology. I did so out of what I felt was a sense of humility. Even though my organization continued to grow at a tremendous pace, I couldn’t embrace my role authentically because I was second guessing myself.

I am not alone though. Many people struggle with feeling as if their achievements are never enough or that they aren’t good enough for the role they’re in.

How to Overcome Imposter Syndrome

From my own experiences, my advice to overcome imposter syndrome is to embrace the things that you are afraid of. We can only conquer fear by recognizing it as untrue negative thoughts. By being present in your life, many of the issues related to these thoughts will disappear. You must recognize the voice in your head as if it were just a passing cloud — this will allow you to accept who you are and where you are, instead of struggling with the idea of who you think you should be. Your acceptance of this allows you to give to others and bring a profound sense of meaning to your life.

But this cannot happen just because you wish it. You have to put some work into countering the feelings that arise from imposter syndrome. I recommend the following practices for your journey:

1. Journaling

I’m a big fan of self-reflection. I’ve already written about how important journaling is for a number of reasons. Writing down career and life goals, the feelings that we may struggle with on a daily basis, as well as successes and failures helps us gain perspective. It can also help us recognize and observe cognitive distortions that contribute to the skewed perception of ourselves.

2. Mentors or Trusted Colleagues

Having trusted colleagues can provide us with a meaningful connection at work. With a mentor or trusted colleague, you can voice your self-doubts and they may be able to give you a different perspective on your achievements.

3. Humility

It’s good not to become arrogant about your success, but downplaying or denying your hard work, skills and talents may feed into your inadequate feelings. Embracing a true sense of humility allows you to recognize your achievements, but avoid becoming overinflated by them. This is a highly-valued trait! Aim for this, instead of perfection. 

4. Acceptance

Accept that you are perfect as you are. Often, we are so hard on ourselves and so absolute in our definitions of success. Because of this, we can be afraid to show our vulnerability. If we learn how to observe the critical self-talk and not accept it as hard truth, we can then learn to accept ourselves and unhinge our self-worth from our achievements.   

5. Define Your Success

Everyone has their own version of success. Remember that. Do not define or measure your life with someone else’s yardstick.

If you find yourself struggling with imposter syndrome, recognize it for what it is. Beyond the labels the world may tag you with is an authentic self. This self has existed since the day you were born — it does not change, regardless of the struggles or ups and downs you go through. It exists without praise or blame. Undermining your authentic self creates conflict and struggle within you. Rather, embrace what you are offering, what you have achieved and become confident in the life you live and the work you do.

After quitting her job as a systems analyst, Sue Bhatia launched staffing company Rose International 25 years ago from in the basement of her home, with one desk and a phone. After being told over and over again she would fail, within six months Sue’s husband had to leave his job to join her company and within another six months, Sue’s former boss had to leave his job and join her company. In 2017 Rose International hired 10,000 people. 40% of its employees are minorities and the company has spent $200 million with other MBE’s (Minority Business Enterprises) in its lifetime. Sue was the first female minority business owner to join the National Minority Development Council’s (NMDC) Board of Directors.

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