Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

Written by Tammy Durden

All of us face this at one time or another.  I know I have battled that inner voice that makes me believe that I cannot ‘do it’, (whatever the task is I’m trying to accomplish). You may have degrees, certifications, and skills, however, you can still suffer from Imposter Syndrome.

What is Imposter Syndrome

“a psychological condition that is characterized by persistent doubt concerning one’s abilities or accomplishments accompanied by the fear of being exposed as a fraud despite evidence of one’s ongoing success”

-Merriam webster

Imposter syndrome was once considered to be suffered by women only. We know now that it does not matter the gender, all may suffer from it.

It can hit you at any time, but I see it most often when someone is just starting out or when you change your service offerings.


Effects of Imposter Syndrome

Have you ever wondered how imposter syndrome can affect you? It can keep you from achieving your goals, and accomplishing tasks you know how to do but are afraid to do. This can keep you in a frozen state, afraid to move forward, but cannot go backward either. You probably feel as if you have stepped out onto the ledge and don’t know what to do.

It can also affect how you feel about yourself overall. It can give you lower self-esteem and affect your confidence level in your business. Which also affects the number of clients you land.

Let’s face it if we do not have confidence in ourselves to do the work how can a potential client have confidence in us to do it?

Imposter Syndrome may even keep you from going after projects or clients that you really want because you think that you are not skilled enough ‘yet’. The yet is the kicker, isn’t it? Too often the ‘yet’ never becomes ‘now’ you are confident and skilled enough. It can put many limitations on your work and other aspects of life.

As I admitted, I have struggled with Imposter Syndrome too. I had it when I first realized I was creating a business and had no idea how. It hit me again when I created my first agency and again with the second as I was not sure I had the knowledge and skill, yet everyone else knew I did.

“Tammy is like one of the founding God Mothers

in the Virtual Assistance space today”
-Mark Hunter

I also struggled with it when I first began teaching online courses. And it began again when I finally transitioned into coaching full-time. Although I had done it for years part-time, you wouldn’t think I would have had imposter syndrome simply going from part-time to full-time. I have over 15 years of experience, not to mention years of work in the ‘corporate world’ prior to my business.

So, why do we feel this way?

Why We Feel It

You may not know it but I do a lot of research in order to write my articles. I want you to have the best possible information available. In doing my research for this article I discovered many things I didn’t know about imposter syndrome. One of those things is that it can have the largest impact on those who suffer racial inequalities as well as those growing up in underdeveloped areas (see quote below for reference).

Interesting Discoveries I’ve Learned:

Many people who feel like impostors grew up in families that placed a big emphasis on achievement, says Imes. In particular, parents who send mixed messages — alternating between over-praise and criticism — can increase the risk of future fraudulent feelings. Societal pressures only add to the problem.

“It disproportionately affects high-achieving people, who find it difficult to accept their accomplishments.”

-American Psychological Association

The workplace also plays a huge role in continuing imposter syndrome. We tend to make those who have the phenomenon feel like it is their fault and there is no ownership from the workplace (office or corporate).

Is it time that the workplace moves forward and continues to become a better environment for those who work in it?

Why do I bring this up for virtual or remote workers?

I think it is important to give everyone the same respect and encouragement when a job is well done. There are too many people who pass right by us in the halls or cubies or on virtual conferences that get ignored. Yes, it is true for virtual work also. It is much easier to do it online because you are usually not face-to-face. Please be mindful of those around you on socials, workshops, webinars, and Zoom.

How Do You Respond

How should we respond when this syndrome happens? What usually takes place when you feel it becoming all-encompassing? It is crucial, if you work with a team, to remain positive even when a project isn’t going as planned. And, if possible, reach out to someone for help if you feel you cannot move forward.

I often have to remind myself that I am capable of doing ‘it’ and that I have the training and experience to accomplish the work.  This can especially affect the way we interact with potential clients or customers.  You may not think that it matters, but it does show through, whether you realize it or not.

Remind Yourself that you…

  • Are Capable
  • Have the training to do it
  • Can get through it
  • Can breathe through it
  • Have the skills needed
  • Need to be self-aware yet KIND to yourself
  • Can ask someone for help if need
  • Are ABLE

Imposter Syndrome Responses

Imposter syndrome can cause you to (1) shut down and not do anything at all or (2) you can overcompensate and completely overdeliver. When you overdeliver, however, while feeling this (I write from personal experience here) you look back on all the time you put into it and wonder if it was really worth it. You may also begin to over-criticize and then become angry with yourself.

Think about this example:  An Insurance Agent trying to upsell you on a new liability policy.  Would you want to do business with an Insurance Agent who did not seem sure of himself, let alone the product he trying to sell you?  Some salespeople will say, ‘Just fake it’ (’till you make it’).  I am of the mindset that it is better to be prepared and ready, as well as, genuinely knowing that you can produce what you promise.

For myself, I can be sure to create an attitude of confidence through a few different ways.

Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

Overcoming imposter syndrome is not an easy fix. Someone who has a mild form of this will probably become more comfortable and confident with the new project or client thereby letting go of the feelings of inadequacies and lack of confidence. We know, however, that it is not merely this simple for all of us.

The answer to overcoming imposter syndrome is not to fix individuals but to create an environment that fosters a variety of leadership styles and in which diverse racial, ethnic, and gender identities are seen as just as professional as the current model, which Opie describes as usually “Eurocentric, masculine, and heteronormative.”

American psychological assoc.

If you know yourself and recognize your feelings it will go a long way to helping you overcome imposter syndrome. Especially if you can catch it when it first begins in you.

We can sometimes just feel ‘off’ and are not sure why. Take time to explore that and even talk with yourself and your feelings, asking yourself why you feel this way. Exploring and discerning the feelings you have is very important in most cases but very high on the meter for imposter syndrome.

“I would not be where I am without Tammy”

“I was new to the online business world, coming from a traditional business office environment and just finishing an MBA. Since then she has connected me with other service providers, helped me find my first subcontract, get my first proposal out, build my website, and marketing my business online. The bonus on top of that is I found what I love to do and can see what opportunities are out there. I would not be where I am today in business without her support and guidance. I am so grateful for Tammy and recommend her to anyone just starting or established, and those who want to change course, grow, and be true to themselves in their work.”
Bloom Content Design

As I said, I’ve struggled on and off with this for years. Sometimes I feel better than others, but I often feel (even though I have well over 15 years of experience) that I will not be able to fulfill a client’s expectations somehow. Although time and again I’ve been told how good my coaching and teaching are in helping others. So, I have to remind myself that I am where I am suppose to be and I am good at it!

As Harvard Business Review states in the quote below, none of us feel confident and whole 100% of the time. Stopping this thinking as it starts is important. We tend to spiral downward if we do not end our thoughts here. I often tell clients to visualize a Stop Sign in your mind just as soon as you notice it creeping up. This can actually help you to stop in the moment and reaccess.

Consider the context. Most people will experience moments or occasions when they don’t feel 100% confident. There may be times when you feel out of your depth, and self-doubt can be a normal reaction. If you catch yourself thinking that you are useless, reframe it: “The fact that I feel useless right now does not mean that I really am.”

Gill Corkindale of Harvard Business review

I like the idea of trying to reframe it and think of it differently. Just as with failures or losses, you have to consider what you have learned from those experiences. So, if you can simply recognize that this event (or job) will be good regardless of the work itself (although you should try to make it a success) it will feel better overall.

If it is overwhelming you in the moment, then stop and take a breath. I heard somewhere (sorry I do not remember where) that taking three deep cleansing breaths will help you refocus and feel better. Nothing is lost if it doesn’t work for you but it is worth a try in case it could work, right?

Building your confidence can be one of the keys to overcoming this. So, I’ve put together some steps to help you with your confidence in your business.

The irony is that the more do provide those services that make you feel the Imposter Syndrome creep up, the more confident you will become.

1. Prepare  – prepare by making sure have learned what the upcoming project or task area needs.  You can also prepare by taking classes, courses, webinars, workshops, and certifications to do what you do.  This also means You KNOW what you are able to do for a client. Whether that be certified in Social Media, or licensed in Insurance, it is always good to continue taking classes and continue learning in your field.

2. Know the client – I research my prospective clients. In doing this, I will begin to know them better and even their pain points more clearly.

So let’s say, in the past, a potential client calls me because they needed help with Bookkeeping, yet in researching them (or their Company), I find that they have no social media presence online. The next time I meet with them, I have the confidence to discuss not only bookkeeping but also their digital marketing to help them grow their business. Perhaps they will even be impressed that I took the time to do the research.

3. Accountability – I actually love having an accountable person in my life.  I have done this in many areas of my life in the past. I have had spiritual accountability persons, as well as, business persons who serve in this capacity. Even a Coach can do this for you.

They (accountability person) are the person who pushes you past what you think you know and past what you feel to where you succeed in your area of expertise. Often they see things in you that you cannot see yourself. I am not saying you HAVE to find a Coach, although many of the most successful business persons, I have heard speak, have had and continue to have Coaches.  

An accountability person makes perfect sense, no matter where you are on your road to success. This should be someone in your field (or at least knows your industry) and maybe is a little further along than you.  You also want a person who will keep you to the goals you set and keep your privacy.  Do not get your best friend to do this, because most of the time, your best friend will allow the excuses you use and let you off the hook when not meeting goals. Be sure to set some guidelines with one another (does not have to be formal), as well as, goals for yourself. Keep track of where you are and where you want to be and of course your progress along the way. You will probably be surprised at some points. Share your victories with others – celebrate them!

These are a few of the ways I have learned to build my confidence.  Remember also, that each time you get a new client or complete that big project, it will help you build your confidence as well.

“There is nothing like a little success to build one’s confidence!”

-Tammy Durden

Please remember to be kind to yourself. We are often harder on ourselves than anybody else. Also, remember to do self-care. Taking time to take a break, get a massage, take a nap, all of which can renew you.

It also takes you away from work for a moment and refocuses you. When you get back to work it will be with a new refreshed view. Often this helps the project you are working on at that time.

I could not leave this writing without also mentioning that some severe cases of imposter syndrome may need professional help. If you cannot seem to shake this and nothing you try is working please reach out to a counselor or someone who is able to help you through this time.

This is not an easy fix nor is it an easy topic but it must be addressed. Above all else know you are not alone. We have all been there and maybe there again soon someday.

What are some other ways you know to build confidence in yourself and your business?

Thanks again, friends, for stopping by. I appreciate it more than you know.

with love from Tammy Durden of Fearless Business Boss
Scale Your Business Checklist by Tammy Durden of Fearless Business Boss coaching company

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