What It Is and How to Overcome It as Women Entrepreneurs

Many women entrepreneurs are plagued with the feeling that they are a fraud, inadequate, or a failure. These self-beliefs are commonly referred to as imposter syndrome and disproportionately affect females more than their male counterparts. For decades, females have been conditioned to downplay abilities and self-deprecate, resulting in low self-esteem. When we feel like frauds, there are emotional, mental, creative, and financial consequences. As a result, female entrepreneurs struggle in three key areas; professional development, business growth, and client work.

As a female #entrepreneur#, you are responsible for your own success, and if you have imposter syndrome, you could be holding yourself back. The founder of a digital media company, Brittany Berger, had said, “For me, imposter syndrome looks like not going for opportunities because I feel like I’m not experienced enough, keeping my prices low for products and services and going too long without increasing them, and setting ridiculously high expectations for myself, so that, of course, I’ll fall short”(Quote Source: Fast Company, Kat Ambrose, Writer for SAAS and E-Commerce companies, 7-6-2019). Brittany is not alone. According to the International Journal of Behavioral Science, 70% of us suffer from imposter syndrome.

Signs you have imposter syndrome

There are some telltale signs if you have imposter syndrome, and they appear in the form of thoughts and self-beliefs. To help you identify whether or not you are being affected by it, ask yourself if the following apply to you.

• You are a perfectionist and always striving to be the best.
High-achievers are often the individuals who have imposter syndrome. It’s this perpetual feeling of waiting for the other shoe to drop. Although they continue to excel on projects, do well in school, and always take on more, they are afraid that they will fail sooner or later. To hold on as long as possible, they aim for perfection in everything they do. Imposters believe they should be perfect, or at the very least, others should believe they are perfect. The truth is, no one is perfect, and this is why they feel these imposter feelings.

• You discount your successes and have difficulty accepting praise.
When people praise you, do you have trouble accepting it, or do you start to discount it? For example, if someone praises you on your new website, do you follow up saying you know nothing about website design and hired someone? Or, if someone compliments you on your work on a project, do you only pass along the praise to someone else, stating you “just helped.” Those with imposter syndrome often attribute their successes to external factors like who they know, someone who helped, or even luck.

• You have felt paralyzed by the fear of failure.
To you, failure is not an option, and you will do everything you can to make sure it doesn’t happen. Sometimes this even means doing nothing at all. If fear has ever left you paralyzed and avoided tackling jobs that need to be completed, you may have imposter syndrome. When you have failed previously, did you spiral and feel humiliation, shame, and remorse? This is also a sign of imposter syndrome.

• You feel dissatisfied and burnout at work.
Constantly striving for perfection leaves you overworked. The fear of failure may also prevent you from seeking another job, starting a business, or pursuing more clients. This can put you at higher risk for burnout. A study found that those who have imposter syndrome tend to stay in their position because they don’t believe they can do more.

If you are interested in overcoming imposter syndrome, I have some good news. There are ways you can combat these feelings and the negative consequences.

Start tracking your successes and stumbles.
Female entrepreneurs with imposter syndrome fail to internalize their triumphs and are terrified of making a mistake. They aren’t able to see the full picture. Keeping a list of both successes and stumbles will help shed light on both. You don’t need to do this every day, but an annual reflection will help you realize how far you’ve come and what you have overcome. It will show you that your mistakes did not ruin you or your business and show you just how much you have accomplished.

Create your hype file.
When you are employed, you may keep a file with praise from your boss, colleagues, or clients. As an #entrepreneur#, you don’t get the same level of praise and compliments. You are your own boss, and if you lack confidence, you definitely aren’t getting the praise you deserve. Instead, keep a file (digital or print) with all the compliments, positive comments, testimonials, and thank you’s you have ever received. When those imposter syndrome feelings start creeping up, review your hype file.

Talk about your feelings with others.
When you start feeling like a fraud, call up someone who can remind you that you aren’t.
High-achievers will have trouble with shame and have difficulty admitting it. Shame researcher Brene Brown has said the best way to handle a shame attack is to reach out and share these feelings. When you talk to other female entrepreneurs about overcoming imposter syndrome, you will soon find that you are not alone and others feel the same.