How I Deal with Imposter Syndrome as a Young Entrepreneur

I’ll never forget the first event I attended as a “founder”. I stayed up late into the evening practicing my elevator pitch with my business partner the night before. We rehearsed tirelessly until we had every last word memorized. We didn’t know it then, but this would be the first of many events, conversations, pitches, and speaking engagements we would attend in the future. As bart loomed from the far east and into San Francisco, I had a sick feeling in my stomach. Have you ever felt like you didn’t belong? As though everyone could see you didn’t deserve to be there? When we entered the summit we received a few sideways glances and puzzled expressions: we were the only women in the room. Though uneasy, I clung to the words I had rehearsed the night before. I held conversations with people who felt light years beyond me. I spoke about our business with potential investors, advisors, and colleagues. And though I wasn’t the most confident, experienced, or decorated person the room - I managed to muster confidence in what I knew.

Imposter syndrome is real. An estimated 70% of people experience imposter syndrome at some point in their careers, according to a review article published in the International Journal of Behavioral Science.

We’ve all been there. We’ve all asked ourselves the question,“Why me?” I have been in situations were I have felt under-qualified and insufficient, just as there have been times I have known I was the right woman for the job. As my professional career has continued to develop, I experience imposter syndrome exceedingly more often. Why is this? Well, the more I build my personal brand (learn more about that here), the more opportunities I am given, the more often I say yes, which means the more I feel uncomfortable.
Growth is terribly uncomfortable.

Imposter Syndrome

So, how do we combat feelings of imposter syndrome?

Learn by Doing.

Pull the trigger, bite the bullet, free-fall into what is left untried. This means saying yes without too much contemplation, which poses too much potential risk, deterring us from a golden opportunity. Your personal brand can generate new partnerships, advancements, and possibilities that are outside of your immediate comfort zone. You may not be the most qualified person in the room, but you will have the opportunity to provide value where there otherwise wouldn’t have been. The brand adopter can benefit just as much as the brand creator.  

Seek out Constructive Criticism.

My mom once offered a piece of advice I will never forget. She said after any speaking engagement she usually makes time to mingle with members of the audience. In her conversations she always asks the other person, “What did you hear?” A simple question, yet incredibly effective for deciphering which ideologies resonated with the audience. Making room for constructive criticism is a good way to remain open and self-aware. It helps us to clarify our message and improve our process for future opportunities.   

Change Your Disposition.

Your thoughts can be your most powerful play, or your biggest obstacle. How are you speaking to yourself? Are you practicing encouragement or using negative commentary? Visualize yourself making a phenomenal first impression, speaking with purpose, or nailing that first interview. Assess the areas in which you feel weak, then visualize yourself excelling in the same areas. In preparation for my first keynote speech, I envisioned myself at the front of the room commanding an attentive audience because of a strong message. I kept this visual on repeat until it was so engraved in my mind I had no choice but to see anything else. When I arrived to my first speaking engagement I was over-prepared and ready to put my practices to the test. I excelled, but only because I told myself I would excel.  

Give yourself Grace.

Everyone who tries something new runs the risk of failure. The problem arises when we set extremely high expectations for ourselves, and let any small mistake drive us into a pit of self-criticism. Give yourself grace when difficult circumstances pose unsettling outcomes. How can you do better next time? Remember, there will always be another opportunity for a chance to get it right.

Have you ever experienced imposter syndrome? How do you cope? Share with me below.  

Anna Vatuone