Even successful business owners can suffer from imposter syndrome

In this article Judith Germain addresses the ‘dirty secret’ of some of the most successful Business Owners. They have Imposter Syndrome, and it is driving anxiety and fear of success. Discover how to recognise Imposter Syndrome and the steps to take to resolve it

Even successful business owners can suffer from imposter syndrome

It seems like everyone is running their own business these days. In fact, at the start of 2023 there was 5.6 million small businesses in the UK, with a turnover of £1.6 trillion. 

Imposter Syndrome is a subjective experience of perceived self-doubt in one’s abilities and accomplishments compared with others, despite evidence to suggest the contrary. It is most common in high achievers. In 2018 24% of Business Owners reported suffering from Imposter Syndrome. In 2022 this figure had risen to 78%. 

This phenomenon (Imposter Syndrome) can mean Business Owners have increased anxiety because they are second guessing their decisions and fearing failure. By constantly comparing themselves to others they can either take too many risks to ‘catch up’, or ‘not enough risks’ because they feel that they are not good enough. 

Being plagued by self-doubt can have a limiting effect and lead rapidly to burnout or mental health issues. 

How do you know you have Imposter Syndrome?

You doubt your own accomplishments

You are too ‘humble’

You doubt your own success rate

When you are suffering from persistent self-doubt and low self esteem you can believe that you are not good enough to run your own business. Nothing is perfect, and perfectionism is elusive. You may believe that you are not adding any value to your market or that your business would be better off if it was run by someone else. 

These feelings can be crippling

Business Owners may deflect compliments believing that they don’t deserve them, that ‘anyone’ would be capable of achieving what they have, or that they were just ‘lucky’. When you believe that you will soon be ‘found out’, you can have a real fear of success. This can lead to self-sabotage so that no one ever finds out that you are just ‘faking it to you make it’ or that your success was really luck and circumstance. What is important to remember here is that there isn’t any empirical evidence that suggests that you didn’t earn your success through your own abilities. Imposter Syndrome is a product of your anxious mind.

How can you overcome Imposter Syndrome?

Whilst Imposter Syndrome can become embedded quite deeply in the psyche, I inform my clients that it is not something that you have to live with forever. In fact, I had one client inform me that they felt that their Imposter Syndrome had reduced by 90% after just two sessions, enabling them to focus on their work and not their persistent feelings of self-doubt.

There are a few things that can help eradicate Imposter Syndrome and if you are prepared to ‘put the work in’, you can be free from your feelings of inadequacy quickly:

Reframe negative self-talk. For me this is the most important step, and I provide clients personalised strategies to achieve this. Getting this stage right will make a substantial change to the Business Owner’s ability to leave Imposter Syndrome behind them forever.

Acknowledge your achievements. Regularly reflect on how these accomplishments took place and your role within them. Celebrate and talk about successes.

Continue your education. Broaden your knowledge set and find the learning in everything you do. Provide value and impact.

Build resilience by chunking tasks down into smaller achievable steps.

Find a mentor who can support you in your challenges.

Even successful Business Owners can have Imposter Syndrome; however, this doesn’t mean you have to be consumed by it or be unable to lead a successful business because you are plagued by self-doubt or perfectionism. Finding the right mentor can make a real difference to eradicating Imposter Syndrome for ever.

Judith Germain
Judith Germain

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