Entrepreneurs: Here’s 7 Ways to Conquer Imposter Syndrome and Own Your Success

Imposter syndrome: Worried woman entrepreneur with a laptop

Navigating imposter syndrome is a rite of passage for entrepreneurs.

It’s that nagging voice that whispers, “You’re not good enough,” even when things are going well. It’s tricky, but you’re not alone in the fight.

We’ve asked a few entrepreneurs in the trenches to provide some real talk and tested wisdom. Let’s kick imposter syndrome to the curb and push forward with confidence.

Build Resilience and Set Realistic Goals

Overcoming impostor syndrome, especially as an entrepreneur, requires a strong focus on resilience. The first tip I have is to acknowledge your feelings (which stem from low self-esteem). You’re definitely not alone. It’s like this secret club we’re all part of, but don’t talk about! 

Next, take time to reflect on your accomplishments, no matter how small they may seem. Keeping a success journal or a list of positive feedback can serve as tangible reminders of your capabilities and successes.

Also, set goals that are actually reachable. I’m all about dreaming big, but Rome wasn’t built in a day! I set a goal for 2,500 unique traffic users in the first month of ResilientStories being live (we’ve hit 220). That goal might have been a bit of a mistake, but it was a gold mine for learning! Fight impostor syndrome by remembering that growth happens in our mistakes, and your skills will only grow.

Finally, don’t go it alone—find a mentor or a buddy. Sharing your fears and successes can really put things into perspective. And be kind to yourself. We’re often our own toughest critics. When that little voice of doubt starts whispering, hit back with some solid facts about what you’ve achieved. 

Remember, it’s not about never feeling doubtful—it’s about how you bounce back and keep going. You’ve got this!

Danielle Dahl

Danielle Dahl, Co-Founder, Resilient Stories

Embrace Your Unique Perspective

Instead of seeing your different background or approach as a potential weakness, recognize and embrace the value it brings. Your unique perspective can be a significant asset in problem-solving and innovation.

Often, impostor syndrome arises when individuals feel they don’t conform to a perceived norm. Instead of conforming, celebrate the diversity of your thoughts and experiences. Understand that your distinct viewpoint contributes to a richer and more dynamic team or work environment.

For instance, if you come from a non-traditional background in a field, your fresh perspective might be the key to unconventional solutions. By acknowledging and appreciating the unique insights you bring to the table, you not only combat impostor syndrome but also enhance your self-confidence and the overall creativity of the team. Remember, your differences can be your greatest strengths.

Brian Meiggs

Brian Meiggs, Founder, My Millennial Guide

Reframe Failure as Learning Opportunity

View failure as a chance to learn and grow, embracing the iterative nature of entrepreneurship. By reframing failure, you can reduce the fear of making mistakes and overcome impostor syndrome.

For example, consider a scenario where a new product launch doesn’t meet expectations. Instead of feeling like a failure, see it as a valuable lesson in understanding market dynamics or customer preferences. Take the opportunity to analyze what went wrong, learn from it, and make necessary improvements for future success. Embracing failure as a learning opportunity builds resilience and helps entrepreneurs overcome impostor syndrome.

Ben Lau

Ben Lau, Founder, Featured SEO Company

Embrace Achievements and Seek Positive Networks

Overcoming impostor syndrome is one of the key experiences of being an entrepreneur—it can keep you away from the goal you have at hand.

One key to overcoming it is to embrace your achievements and acknowledge that success is a result of hard work and competence. Celebrate your milestones, no matter how small, and recognize your skills and contributions.

Make sure to surround yourself with a positive network of mentors and peers who can provide constructive feedback and perspectives.

Remember that everyone faces challenges and moments of self-doubt. Use that experience of impostor syndrome as a catalyst for growth, and continue to push yourself out of your comfort zone to acquire new skills and experiences.

Focus on your continuous learning and improvement; understand that entrepreneurship is a journey of growth. Treat yourself with the same kindness you give others, and understand that not everything is perfect in being an entrepreneur.

Nicholas Robb

Nicholas Robb, Head Honcho, Design Hero

Acknowledge Your Feelings, But Recognize Your True Gifts

When we feel imposter syndrome, the first thing we try to do is not feel that way. Psychologically, that’s just not helpful. You need to accept that you’re feeling it and not try to change it.

Instead, try to feel neutral about the presence of imposter syndrome and accept it for what it is: just a feeling. Feelings lie to us all the time. Feelings aren’t fact.

So, in the moment you’re feeling imposter syndrome, acknowledge that you’re feeling it and ask yourself what triggered it. Go deep and ask yourself why you’re feeling this way, what trigger the feeling, and then remember your feelings aren’t fact.

Remind yourself, your accomplishments, why you’re unique, how God made you to have your own path of success that doesn’t look like anyone else’s.

We aren’t meant to have the same success as others. The same journey as others. The same gifts or talents or skills. We are made uniquely us and that in itself is something to celebrate and feel confident in.

Even though we may share the same gifts or talents as someone else (i.e. maybe we both are quirky copywriters or we both do panels, etc.) you are made different in your personality. You’re not meant to do the same service the same way as someone else.

The way I run my copywriting agency and treat my customers and show up on social media isn’t going to be the same for the other copywriter who does the exact same as me. Because we have different gifts, personalities, experiences, etc.

Just because you may be in a room of people who seem “better” than you at something, it just means they are doing it differently. Period.

Practically speaking, lean on your inner circle for support. Having someone who sees all the good in you and all of your skills and talent remind you of these things can be very helpful in the moment you’re feeling the weight of imposter syndrome.

Haley Slade, CEO and Founder, Slade Copy House

Tame the Beast That is Imposter Syndrome

The angst of imposter syndrome plagues many founders – first timers and even more seasoned ones – especially women. In fact, a 2023 KPMG study revealed 75% of executive women experience it.

And the bigger, more disruptive, more original the idea, the more overwhelming it becomes.

I know this first hand because as an “outsider” who since childhood tended to think differently, I struggled with imposter syndrome for years. It came to a head when as a young copywriter, I was offered a position that would leapfrog my career and pay me 2x my current salary. I totally freaked to the point I seriously considered declining.

What if I couldn’t pull it off? Fortunately, I had an amazing mentor who set me straight, encouraged me to make the bold move and more importantly cheered me on.

Now, as a Branding Mentor myself, I work with lots of start-ups and young companies and I see this crisis of confidence all too often.

Imposter syndrome comes from many sources: family, friends and peer’s expectations, working in an organization that feeds self-doubt, and working solo as many founders do. Perfectionists and workaholics who push themselves harder and harder frequently see themselves as imposters.

It also often comes from the pressure of feeling that you have to represent not just yourself – but your entire social group: For women (or even minorities), it might sound like this: “If I fail people will say “She doesn’t have what it takes.” Worse, they’ll say “Women / fill in the blanks don’t have what it takes.”

Probably, the most disconcerting part of imposter syndrome is that the panic can appear out of nowhere. And it’s definitely not something you get rid of overnight. Nor is something that ever goes away completely. It can rear its ugly head when you face your next big hurdle or take on the next big risk.

So, how to you tame the beast? How do you combat feeling of “not being good / smart / ready enough?” Learn to:

  1. Fess up. You’ll be surprised at how many people are feeling the same distress. Sharing your feelings can help make them feel less overwhelming.
  2. Accept compliments. Don’t apologize for your success by saying / thinking, “It’s no big deal.” It is a big deal. And you did it!
  3. Toot your own horn. Celebrate your milestones. Own your accomplishments and post them, share them with others. I belong to The Upside (betheupside.com), a community of independent consultants who join forces to advance their business. Each week members post their Wins & Gratitude.
  4. Embrace imperfection. Perfectionism causes paralysis. No one wants to make mistakes – but they are amazing learning opportunities
  5. Bust out of your comfort zone. Courage is a muscle that gets stronger the more you exercise it!

Don’t let anyone ever tell you that your work is crap.

Robin Albin, Founder and Brand Strategist, Insurgents

Learn to Let Go of Perfectionist Tendencies

Imposter syndrome often stems from two main factors: perfectionism + low self efficacy (your beliefs about your own skills or abilities to do things).

So, in order to work on the imposter syndrome, you first need to reduce your perfectionist tendencies and then increase your self-efficacy levels.

Dr. Valerie Young proposes that imposter syndrome can be segmented into five distinct types, each associated with specific behavioral patterns and biased beliefs:

  • The Perfectionist: I need to be perfect all the time.
  • The Superwoman/Superman: I need to be the most hardworking person in the room.
  • The Soloist: I need to be able to do everything on my own.
  • The Expert: I need to know everything.
  • The Natural Genius: Everything must come easily and perfectly to me.

Now, when these archetypes show up in business they create a number of difficulties for entrepreneurs the first “most common” effect is “Comparison and Self doubt”. Often people with imposter syndrome are mainly perfectionists and high achievers so chances are: they are indeed good at what they do but they have massive amounts of negative inner chatter, especially when they are triggered by other people who they perceive as “doing better then them”.

TIP: Limit the amount of time spent on social media. We see way too many business gurus nowadays sharing their own advice on how to make 7 figures per year. We also know that overusing social media bring up feeling of inadequacy and inferiority. Often what we see on social media does not correspond to reality, instead it showcases a carefully constructed narrative for entertainment or promotional purposes.

Then there is “fear of imperfection” that leads to complete avoidance. Avoiding going to networking meeting, new ventures, or stepping out of their comfort zone etc.

TIP: These behaviors can be conscious or subconscious so self-awareness is crucial. Make a list of all things you have avoided in the past month and be honest with yourself. Then start with small challenges to step out of your comfort zone by “expanding it.” Gradually increase the complexities of the challenges as you grow more confident. Usually, people affected by Imposter syndrome tend to not recognize their accomplishments and are more likely to attribute those to external factors rather than their own capabilities. So, remember to celebrate your successes, no matter how small they seem to you.

Define your own vision of “success”: Those who own a business often seek to see results immediately and when that doesn’t happen they withdraw or give up or start focusing on other things which then lead to procrastination or delaying.

TIP: Set realistic goals. What do you think would be achievable in 1 year, what about in 6 months and what about in 3 months? Then focus on the next step. Don’t solely rely on external benchmarks, understand that progress is also a personal development journey.

Then there is the “burnout” effect: doing too much, spending too much time of the details, not delegating or asking for help are some of the behaviors entrepreneurs put in place that might lead to burnout.

Delegating doesn’t mean that you are not good enough, it means you are self-aware and know when to ask for help.

Entrepreneurs must learn to balance their workload, delegate what they are less good( or what they don’t enjoy doing as much) and surround themselves of people who can support them.

TIP: priorities self care and create boundaries with your work hours. Delegate tasks that don’t require your direct involvement and surround yourself of individuals who possess skills you lack so they can compensate you. Emphasize quality over quantity in your work, and recognize that sustainable success involves maintaining your physical and mental well-being.

I coach CEOs, directors and partners of big financial companies and politicians and they all have imposter syndrome. Acknowledge that this is a common experience and that doubts, worries and limiting beliefs show up every time we level up in life.

We can’t control all intrusive thoughts we have, but we can control what we do about it.

As a business person you have a strong inclination towards personal growth. You are probably very self- reflective and committed to improving yourself which means you are also more likely to see “where you are lacking”.

Lastly, shift your focus to your “why”. Have your mission statement as clear as possible in your mind or write it on a sticky note and keep it near your computer or set it as a background on your phone. This will give you clarity of purpose, set you apart from others and increase resilience.

Creating a strong connection to your mission can diminish the tendency to compare yourself to others. Instead of measuring success solely against external benchmarks, you anchor your evaluation in how well you are advancing your unique mission.

Ludovica Colella, CBT Therapist and Certified Life Coach, LuCole LTD

Conclusion: Don’t Turn Imposter Syndrome Into Your Life’s CEO

Tackling impostor syndrome isn’t about silencing your doubts.

Instead, it’s about recognizing your achievements, big or small, and understanding that stumbling is part of the journey. This collection of insights is more than advice – it’s a reminder that you’re in good company.

Embrace your unique journey, keep learning, and remember, every entrepreneur shares this path of doubts and triumphs. Let’s master the art of bouncing back and owning your success story.

For more on information on battling the personal elements of entrepreneurship, visit our Founder Life resource page.

About the Author

David Domzalski has covered the stories of entrepreneurs and professionals for over 13 years. A storyteller at heart, his work has appeared on various notable platforms, including AOL, Bankrate, Forbes, MSN, University of Phoenix, and Yahoo.

David is a strategic advisor for PlayerWallet, a startup in the college sports recruitment space. He also advises founders on how to best position themselves as thought leaders in their industries.

Learn more about him at DavidDomzalski.com.

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