As a small business owner, it is probably fair to say you have your fair share of self doubt and the odd crisis of confidence. Quite often referred to as Imposter Syndrome, we asked Lisa Hardy of Confidence and More to explain  what it’s all about.

Imposter Syndrome: “the persistent inability to believe in one’s successes is deserved or has been legitimately achieved as a result of one’s own efforts or skills”.

In other words, you feel like a phony.  You feel out of your depth, like you don’t belong and at any moment you’re going to be caught out and it’s all going to come crashing down around you… It can cause crippling anxiety, self-doubt, fear of failure and worry you’re unable to live up to expectations.  It can feel very isolating and embarrassing and at times like you’re heading down a black hole of burnout and uncertainty.  But how does it make you feel to know that a whopping 70% of all people will experience imposter syndrome in their lifetime?  Not such a lonely place now hey?!

Imposter syndrome was a term first used psychologists in the 1970’s initially to describe high achieving women but since has been recognised more widely affecting both men and women regardless of status, work background, skill level or degree of expertise.  Imposter syndrome can really impact your life, it can stifle the potential for growth whether in your business, work opportunities, relationships and personal life, but by confronting it face on you will allow yourself to thrive!

So how do you know if you’re suffering from imposter syndrome?

There are lots of indications that may quickly hint or prove that you’re stood in the midst of imposter fog… Feelings of crippling self-doubt and extreme lack of self-confidence (even though on paper your qualifications, skill set and experience clearly states you are at the top of your game).  Negative self-talk, criticising your own performance, you overwork to overachieve to prove yourself and others wrong…  But if you’re still a little unsure, let’s take a look at the 5 types of imposter syndrome and see if the penny drops for you as it does with my clients…

The Perfectionist:

Perfectionists are never satisfied and always feel their work could be better and rather than focusing on their strengths, they tend to fixate on any flaws or mistakes made.  This often leads to a great deal of self-pressure and high levels of anxiety which can feel hard to dig yourself out of.  But what if I were to tell you perfect doesn’t exist??

The Superhero:

These individuals feel inadequate and so they feel the need to push themselves as hard as possible, often leading to exhaustion and burnout.

The Expert:

These individuals are always trying to learn more, regardless of their current qualifications and skill set, as they’re never satisfied with their level of understanding and undermine their expertise.

The Natural Genuis:

These individuals set unrealistic or excessively high goals for themselves and then feel completely crushed when they’re unable to achieve them on their first try…

The Soloist:

These people tend to prefer to work alone.  Their self-worth often stems from productivity and so they often reject help from others and they most certainly wouldn’t ask for it as they see it as a sign of weakness or incompetency.

Do you recognise yourself in any of these or maybe you’re a combination of them all?  That’s ok.  Understanding that these pesky thoughts and feelings are not your reality or truth is an absolute game changer, I’ll explain.

There is no single, clear cause of imposter syndrome, there are however number of factors that without awareness can be a trigger such as parental relationships, your belief system inherited from a parents or guardian, your natural personality traits, existing mental health symptoms, new responsibilities at work or home and the role of bias such as gender or race just to name a few. But to understand it’s common, you’re not alone and that you CAN overcome it can be life changing for some.

The first point of call is to spot the signs, grab imposter syndrome before it grabs you! Are you agonising over the smallest mistakes or flaws in your work or yourself? Do you find it hard to accept praise?  Do you apologise even when you didn’t do anything wrong?  Are you downplaying your expertise to others?  Do you feel like you just got lucky when you worked hard and prepared well?  Are you sensitive to constructive criticism?  Do you find the fear of failure paralysing?  Yes? You could be suffering too…

So, first things first, it’s time to become aware of your thoughts and assess them. What is it you’re thinking?  Is it true?  Where’s the evidence?  Look back at your achievements over the years, are they backing up the story you’re telling yourself?  My guess is, probably not… From here, today, start to track your success going forward too as this will help reduce future imposter episodes.

Learn self-compassion.  What would you say to a friend or colleague who are feeling the way you do?  Speak to yourself in the same way.

Refuse to give in to the fear of failure and start to imagine how it would feel to succeed.  What would it mean to you? Your career?  Your life?

Say YES to new opportunities.  It can be daunting, stepping out of that little comfy, safe, haven but it’s actually an incredible way to increase your self-confidence and building that portfolio of evidence of greatness!

And my last tip: use social media responsibly, as cliché as it sounds, comparison IS the thief of joy!  Endless scrolling can cause us to live in our heads and help us to create all sorts of untrue, paralysing stories.

If you would like further help or guidance around imposter syndrome or all things confidence get in touch with Lisa.

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