Feeling like a fraud is something that a lot of women struggle with and I’m no different. It’s something that crops up every day in my business and I’m not afraid to admit it.
Last year when I was building my business I was terrified every time someone asked me questions like “what do you do?” or “how many clients do you have?”. I’d be scared that they’d turn around and say something like “you don’t know what you’re doing and you don’t have the experience”.
I’d go to networking events and I’d find myself in situations where middle-aged men would say things like “how old are you?” and “you’re so young to be helping businesses”. They even had the nerve to give me unsolicited business advice and say things such as “why do you only work for women?”… “men need help too”. Shocking I know!
It was in these moments where my pervasive feelings of self-doubt, insecurity and fraudulence were triggered. I realised that people’s comments were a projection of their insecurities rather than my own.
It wasn’t until I learned this one truth that everything changed.
The truth is, we’re all imposters. We’re all doing important work risking that it might not work out. We’re all taking on projects where there are people who could do them better than we could.
Feeling like an imposter is just a sign that we’re on a journey of growth. Therefore, our challenge is to not let our doubts dictate our choices and stop us from exploring.
We’re on this earth to share our gifts, dance with our fears and discover how capable we truly are. This requires us to lay our pride and vulnerability on the line if we are to risk being exposed to the world.
Why do we experience imposter syndrome?
Having feelings of self-doubt and fraudulence is a sign that we’re experiencing resistance towards success. Essentially they’re manifestations of the assumptions that we formed about ourselves in childhood.
“I don’t belong”
When we feel like we don’t belong we’ll have a fear of outshining others and being abandoned. Because we don’t want to be labeled arrogant for owning our successes or seen as outshining our peers, we’ll downplay our abilities. Hence, we do this because we believe that we’ll be more accepted when we fit in rather as opposed to standing out.
“I need to be perfect”
Our emotional need to be perfect stems from our childhood experiences when we failed to meet the expectations of our parents and teachers. We learn’t very early on that in order to receive approval and love we need to be perfect. You can read more about this in 8 ways women entrepreneurs stay stuck. Consequently, people who are perfectionists experience imposter syndrome and spend hours working overtime to overcompensate.
“I’m not good enough”
When we experienced certain situations that lacked approval or acknowledgment in our childhood, we resolved this tension by forming a belief that we’re not good enough. As a consequence, we learn’t that the only way to receive love was to impress and achieve. This explains why high achievers tend to experience imposter syndrome.
The good news is that imposter syndrome gives us an opportunity to cultivate self-awareness, overcome self-doubt and integrate techniques to feel more confident in our business.
When you fear being exposed as a fraud, learn to label it for what it is – imposter syndrome. Awareness is the first step to creating change and you can read about it’s extraordinary power here in cultivate a girl boss mindset. Pay attention to bodily sensations and automatic thoughts and beliefs. What are the sequence of thoughts, feelings and beliefs that your mind starts running? You’ll learn to realise that this will be a repeated pattern of thoughts and beliefs, such as “I don’t deserve this”, “I don’t know enough about this topic” and “I’m not good enough”. Essentially, these scripts are automatic thoughts that are created from your subconscious mind to keep you safe and secure.
Give each script of fear a character such as “the critic”, “the perfectionist”, “the achiever” or “the victim”. This will help you to get into the habit of labeling your fears so that they don’t dictate you. Practice talking back to them, thank them for looking out for you and tell them that their services are rendered. See ya later!
Increase the volume of your inner wisdom as this will help you to tap into intuition, courage, and compassion. Listen to the thoughts and write them down. These might be “I have the courage to be imperfect” and “I’m willing to dance with fear to grow”. Finally, name these thoughts your “genius” as they’re part of your superconscious mind that will encourage you and coach you to move beyond fear.
Realise you’re not alone
You can be reassured to know that you’re not the only one who experiences imposter syndrome. It’s estimated that 70% of successful people have experienced imposter syndrome at the pinnacle of their career including Maya Angelou, Albert Einstein, Meryl Streep and Kate Winslet.
It’s important that you don’t see it as a sign that you’re not meant to be successful in business. You’ll realise that it’s just a signpost that you’re delving into the unknown and taking risks. True imposters don’t experience imposter syndrome. Inflated levels of self-confidence is the result of the Dunning-Kruger effect, which means that you can’t recognise your own ignorance. So give yourself a break if you’re experiencing imposter syndrome as it means that you’re conscious and self-aware!
Write a success journal
Celebrating accomplishments is something that women struggle with and as a high achiever myself, I’m honestly no different. When we’re ambitious and reaching out goals, we’re always stretching ourselves to achieve more. As a consequence, we’re failing to acknowledge our successes and we’re reinforcing a bottomless pit of feeling unfulfilled.
Just as much as we have to take responsibility for our failures in life, we have to take responsibility for our successes. Downplaying our successes doesn’t serve us or our tribe.
If you’ve read my previous article on our upper limit problem you’ll see why downplaying our successes is a form of self-sabotage so that we stay within our success comfort zone.
If you find this difficult, write a success journal with all the things that you’ve achieved to date. When you hear your self-doubt creeping in, check-in with your success journal to remind yourself of your amazingness!
See your path as a journey of discovery
Embrace the fact that you’re an imposter. An imposter who has the humility and modesty to realise that you don’t know everything. Instead of fretting about your status as an imposter, reframe your path in business as a journey of self-discovery, exploration and mastery.
Every expert started as an amateur and that includes you too. Recognise the fact that you’re a work-in-progress and that mastery is a lifelong journey. Ultimately, you’re going to experience learning curves. You’re not going to know everything and the more you know, the more you’ll realise what you don’t know!
Have the courage to be imperfect. Making mistakes are all part of learning and growing. We have to let go of the need to know everything if we want to expand in abundance. Sometimes it seems logical to acquire as much knowledge as possible, but in reality it’s a survival strategy to protect ourselves against threats in our environment that could harm us. Therefore, let go of the need to know everything and learn from taking action and making mistakes.
Hold onto courage
Being afraid of being “found out” that we’re a fraud can stifle our success. It drives us to play small because we’re afraid of being exposed as incapable, inadequate and unworthy. Yet while our fears pulls us towards sticking to what we know we’re good at, we’re also risking being mediocre.
Turns out, one of the biggest regrets of the dying is that they wish they’d had the courage to live a life true to themselves, not the life others expected of them. While playing small removes the risk of being exposed and rejected, it opens an even greater risk of never knowing how powerful, worthy and deserving that you are.
Instead of listening to the subconscious scripts that are telling you to play safe, hold onto courage. We overestimate what we can achieve in one year and underestimate what we can achieve in 5 years. Right now your vision of what you’re capable of is limited based on your past experiences. Unless you take the risk, you’ll never accomplish so much more than you thought. Trust the process. Take the risk. Choose courage.
So keep doing what you’re doing and don’t give up because of fear. The world is waiting for you to step into greatness and be the woman that you were meant to be.
I’d love to hear from you. We have the biggest insights and breakthroughs when we hear other people’s stories. We realise that we’re not alone and we’re all connected. How do you overcome the fraud feeling in your business? Share below.
With so much gratitude and appreciation,