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Imposter Syndrome

I feel like a fraud, but don’t we all? Do you constantly feel like a fraud? Do you feel like an imposter in your own business, and that you’re going to get found out, someday soon? You’re not alone.

In fact, it’s been estimated that 70 per cent of us have these thoughts – with more women than men trapped in a cycle of inner-doubt.

But, I’m here to tell you that it is far from being a huge negative! Yes, you heard me right. Imposter syndrome, as it is known, afflicts only the talented, the strivers, the creative people out there – who go the extra mile!

So, if the inner demons are plaguing you, you are in very good company! Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer, for one, has been very open about having days when she wakes up feeling like a fraud. The actress and UN ambassador Emma Watson has repeatedly said she feels like an imposter as has fellow actress Kate Winslet. You’ll rarely find an uber-confident journalist either– instead they’ll tell you they’re only as good as their last story.

They’re all just waiting to be found out.

‘Imposter Syndrome’ was given its name in 1978 by academics at Georgia State University who identified the phenomenon. Further research by a team at Ghent University who were also looking into this ‘feeling’ found, that the psychological traits most associated with feeling like a fraud, are actually perfectionism and neuroticism. Quite a cocktail!

However, when you’re giving everything to something you feel passionate about, these emotions, can actually be very positive. How good would your business look if you weren’t a perfectionist? None of us want to be neurotic, but a healthy dose means that we check and double-check what we produce. We take care over every detail on our websites, every detail of our orders. In other words, we care, a great deal!

To alleviate some of the more negative aspects of Imposter Syndrome, however, you need someone chivvying you along, reassuring you that you’re doing a good (in fact, excellent) job. You need a proverbial pat on the back. Finding those positive people who validate what you do and offer nuggets of useful feedback and advice will help you feel less like a fraud.

Bravery medal by Magpies & crabs

Sometimes when you’re running your own business it’s hard not to feel exposed. What you are putting out there, what you are selling is a little bit of you. You can no longer hide behind a big company name. This is your passion, something at the very heart of you, turned into your daily business. If your product is criticised or you feel you have failed to deliver, this can hurt.

When you’re working on your own or in a very small team, there’s nowhere to hide, there’s no coffee break where you can offload to a colleague about the meeting that went wrong, the pitch that didn’t succeed. Instead you’re left feeling that maybe you are in the wrong shoes.

Life coaches refer to the inner demons as ‘saboteurs’ – the little gremlins on your shoulder who keep telling you that you’re no good, preparing you for failure, telling you to back off taking that next step. The knack is to sweep them away and stay positive and believe you can do it.

It was the writer and philosopher Bertrand Russell who said: “The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.”

As you expand what you know about your business you’ll be exposed to more of what you don’t, leading you once again to feeling like a fraud all over again. The only solution is for those who’ve gone through it all before, to share their experience and reveal their own insecurities.

Then you’ll discover that we all feel the same, and we all don’t have the foggiest!

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