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It can be common to feel as though we don’t deserve the success we have. However, when you are the owner of a small business that doubt can often be overwhelming. It can creep into your everyday life and sometimes overwhelm you completely.


That doubt you are feeling is called imposter syndrome and a large percentage of the population experiences it at least once in their lifetime. It, however, affects people like small business owners a lot more often and for a lot longer than the average person. But overcoming it is possible. Here are a few tips to help you recognize and overcome your feelings of imposter syndrome.


What is Imposter Syndrome

So first off, what is imposter syndrome? It is “a psychological occurrence in which people doubt their skills, talents, or accomplishments and have a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a fraud”. It essentially means that you feel as though you don’t deserve the success you have or don’t trust that you have any skills or talents.


For example, a football player may experience imposter syndrome because they don’t believe they should be on a Super Bowl team. Either because they feel as though they are a fraud and have somehow tricked people into believing they are a good football player. Or because they genuinely believe they are not good enough. This, however, can be entirely false. The football player may in fact be the best player to have ever existed, but to their mind, they are not good enough. That is what needs to be overcome, the mental idea of fraud.


Symptoms and How to Tell

Some common symptoms to help you identify if you have imposter syndrome or not are:

  • Blaming your success on external factors such as luck
  • Fear of being seen by others as a failure
  • Over working yourself
  • Feeling unworthy of attention or affection
  • Downplaying your accomplishments
  • Holding back from reaching your goals
  • Picking apart your performance or accomplishments
  • Focusing on your failures
  • Self-doubt


Identify Why

Before you can begin to overcome or deal with your feelings of imposter syndrome, you need to identify why you are having those feelings in the first place. Start by asking yourself questions such as, is it because I think I’m a failure? Has someone in the past said something to trigger these feelings? Do I have unrealistic expectations for success? Have unrealistic expectations been placed on me in the past?


Asking yourself these questions can help you get to the root of why you are having these feelings. Every little thing matters. Anything big or small matters, so take the time to think about it.


If you are unable to figure out why, then don’t stress about it either. Yes, figuring out why can be helpful to overcoming it. But placing undue stress upon yourself to get to the root of the problem can in fact make it worse. Keep your expectations reasonable and don’t over stress yourself about this either.


Talk to Someone

Going along with figuring out why you are feeling this way, you should try talking to someone about it. Whether it is to help figure out why or simply to get the feelings off your chest, it is always good to speak to someone you trust. It can also be very beneficial to hear from someone other than yourself that it is okay to have these feelings but that they are also unwarranted.


You can speak to a loved one such as a spouse or parent, or a friend, or even a therapist if you already have one or feel it is necessary for you. Whichever option you go with is a good option if you trust the person you are speaking to and know they will not make the situation worse.


Separate Fact from Fiction

Next you need to begin to separate fact from fiction. What are you not good at versus what is just in your head. This can often be tricky, since you believe it is true therefore it must be true, but that isn’t always the case.


Talking to someone from an outside perspective can help. It allows you to look at it from their point of view and separate your own feelings of doubt from the situation.


Looking back on past successes and failures can also be helpful. This allows you to look at what you truly are good at, which you know for a fact, because it was a success. And what you know you need to work on for the future, because it was a failure. Now you can’t do this by simply thinking about what you believe to be a success and a failure because your opinion will be biased. Instead, you need to look at provable successes and failures. Like achieving your university degree versus that time you lost a client.


By being able to identify what is fact and what is fiction, you will be able to slowly tell your brain that you are not a fraud. You will be able to begin to break down the walls of your imposter syndrome and move on to achieving your goals and running a successful business.


Let Go

Learn to let go. It seems easy and it may sound simple, but it can turn out to be one of the hardest parts of dealing with imposter syndrome. Learning to let go of the little things, the small imperfections in your presentation that don’t really matter, your opening date being a week late, or anything else that in the long run won’t truly matter. Letting go of these minor issues will help you move on.


It can be hard, especially as a small business owner, to not let the little things get to you. To not let them take over your mind when you are trying to sleep at night or ruin your entire day and contribute to your feelings of inadequacy. But letting them go and moving on will free up your mind for better things. For your next great success or your big new client. It can also help you feel better about the successes you do have whether they be big or small. By not focusing on the small failures, you can better celebrate the successes.


Celebrate Success

Going along with that, remember to celebrate your success. It can be hard sometimes, especially when you feel as though you don’t deserve it. But take the time to celebrate your success. If you have a hard time reminding yourself too, have someone else do it. Listen to them when they tell you that you can celebrate and don’t question it.


Remember that you also don’t always have to make it a big deal if you don’t want to. If you just want to celebrate by yourself with a nice meal or a well-deserved drink, then go for it. But if you want to throw a massive party to celebrate something big, then it is okay to do that too. Whatever feels right for you is the best option, if you are still celebrating.


Slowly overtime it will get easier to celebrate and acknowledge your success on your own. And sooner then you know it, you’ll be throwing parties and nice dinners, or even buying yourself gifts because you believe that you deserve it.


Acknowledge Failure

However, you can’t always celebrate. Part of getting over your own internalized fear of failure is to acknowledge when you have genuinely failed. It can be hard to do this, as you’ll feel as though you are taking steps backwards. But by acknowledging when you fail, you are making room for future success.


Everyone fails, it doesn’t matter who they are, where they are in life, or how successful they may seem. They fail and so do you, and that is nothing to be ashamed of. Yes, it can be hard to admit at times, but you need to learn to do it to move on.


However, when you are acknowledging your failures, don’t throw yourself a pity party. Don’t let yourself get pulled down by this one mistake. Instead take it as a learning opportunity, not just for yourself but for others as well. Part of being a small business owner is setting an example for your employees. If you only ever paint yourself as a success, then you’re setting unrealistic expectations. But by sharing your failures you are not only painting a more realistic picture of yourself, but you are also making sure your employees know it is okay to fail because you fail too.


Accept It

Finally, you need to learn to accept it. That’s it. It is a part of you, whether for the long-term or just for now, but it is there and will continue to be for at least a little longer. By accepting it you are removing the power it has over you and opening yourself up for growth and change for the future.


Hopefully this was helpful for you, whether by helping you identify your feelings of imposter syndrome, getting over your feelings of imposter syndrome, or just to help someone else. For more blogs and other content check out REM’s blog page and other website content.

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