When I started my business, I was pretty well-prepared for dealing with customers and clients. After years working in an ad agency, I was accustomed to collaborating with all types of people – the good, the bad, and the downright terrible. It kind of comes with the territory.
So imagine my surprise when the hardest person to please in my business turned out not to be any customer or client, but myself.
We’ve all heard about imposter syndrome as entrepreneurs – that mindset shift that occurs when you find yourself in uncharted territory and you start to seriously doubt your own worth and capabilities. Some days it’s just annoying, other days it’s nothing short of debilitating.
When you’re taking this giant leap of faith, going out on a limb and setting up shop out there often completely alone, the very last person you feel like you should have to explain yourself to is…well…yourself. But it’s like this evil alter ego takes over and before you know it, you’re spoon feeding yourself these lies that do more harm to your business than good.
It can feel like you’re fighting a losing battle. But the lies don’t have to become your reality. You ultimately get to choose what you believe. It can be a tough business, waging your own mental war. I get it.
So I’m here dropping some reminders for you to read when you become a little battle-weary. It’s a reminder that other people have been in your shoes, that imposter syndrome doesn’t have to define or derail your business, and most importantly that there is a way through to the other side.
Lie #1: I can’t do this.
Yes. You can. Full stop.
You might have had a crap day and you might’ve cried into your coffee and you might have mascara running down your face, but don’t let one bad day, or bad week, or even bad month get you down. One bad month does not an entire career make.
Everything is figureoutable. No matter the situation. Not getting sales? Figureoutable. Bad reviews? Figureoutable. Missing order, upset client, general business confusion? All figureoutable.
So give yourself a minute to wallow or be angry. Then pull up your big girl pants and get to work figuring out what you’re going to do to fix it.
The longer you spend feeling sorry for yourself, the longer the situation will persist.
Lie #2: I’m a fraud.
A classic imposter syndrome lie.
Okay, claiming to be airline pilot without any official pilot’s training? Fraud. Selling a product that you promise to send someone and then just deciding not to send it? Fraud. Claiming to have over a decade’s worth of experience in business consulting when you’ve spent the past 10 years as an animal trainer at the zoo? Fraud.
But owning a business that you’ve worked hard to build, selling products and services that you’ve poured blood, sweat, and tears into, and dispensing advice that comes from your personal work and experience is not being a fraud.
Are you the foremost authority in your industry? Probably not. There’s always going to be someone who knows more than you.
But your experience and background and skills have led you to know more than a lot of other people and that is valuable.
If I’m looking for jewelry or a cake decorator or a florist and I like what they sell, what difference is it to me how long they’ve been doing it?
The question to ask yourself is do you know more than the general public on the specific area you do business in and do you know enough to help them with it? If the answer is yes, you’re not a fraud.
Lie #3: I don’t know what I’m doing.
Welcome to the freaking club, my friend! No one, I repeat no one, knows exactly what they’re doing all the time. And if you do, you’re not doing it right because it means you’re doing the exact same thing every day on repeat, which is so not good for your business.
If you’re not taking a risk and trying new things, your business will plateau.
So contrary to what imposter syndrome might tell you, it’s a good thing to not know what you’re doing sometimes. And it’s okay if that makes you nervous.
Find someone who has done it before you and use them as a guide or resource. Get on YouTube and look up the steps.
The hardest part is the fear of the unknown. But once you’ve done something once, it won’t be unknown anymore and every time you do it after that will get progressively more comfortable.
Lie #4: I can’t do everything that’s expected of me.
Great. No one can. And you shouldn’t have to. So screw what’s expected of you, if you’ll pardon the French. Do what you can, when you can, how you can. If you feel like you can’t keep up, or it’s just not enough, then ask for help.
Actually, if I’m being honest, most people don’t expect as much from me as I expect from myself. You ever notice that?
So maybe it’s time for you to have a nice heart to heart with yourself and recognize that just because you expect it doesn’t mean it’s realistic.
Since when did making your dreams come true involve nearly killing yourself from stress and fatigue in the process? I mean, if you can’t enjoy it, what good is the dream anyway?
Cut yourself some slack. Do what you can. Ask for help with the rest.
Lie #5: Asking for help means I’m weak.
I’ll be the first to admit that I like to consider myself Wonder Woman. There’s a lot of pride that comes with feeling like you can do everything all by yourself.
But pride doesn’t pay the bills. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. You end up wasting a lot of time on meaningless tasks that could be outsourced to someone else, time that you could be spending making more of your product or improving your product or scaling your business.
If you don’t know the first thing about building a website, what do you think is the better path to take as a business owner:
- Spending 100s of hours researching how to build a website, watching tutorials, trying something once, realizing you did it wrong, trying to undo it so you can try again, googling answers, skimming articles that don’t even give you the answer, and winding up with a website that kind of works but is kind of cobbled together. And oh, because you spent all that time on your website, you’re now behind on getting your products ready. Or
- Hiring a professional website designer who not only knows how to put together a professional website but also knows how to put it together strategically so it drives better results. And while they’re working on that, you’re working on getting your products pulled together or outlining your service packages so everything is 100% ready to go at launch.
Asking for help does not mean you’re weak. It means the exact opposite. It means you’re confident enough in your skills as a business owner to know where your time is best put to use.
Lie #6: I’ll fall behind if I take a break.
I’m intimately familiar with this imposter syndrome lie. It’s something I still tell myself just about every damn day. So I’m probably not one to be dispensing advice on the topic.
But it is something I’m working on.
Forward motion, to me, is like a drug. I’m addicted to making progress, to that tiny thrill I get when I strike an item off of my to-do list.
But no matter how hard I try, my to-do list never gets shorter. The second I finish one thing, there’s another one waiting in the wings to take its place.
And here’s the thing. Every car needs to make a pitstop every now and then, to get gas, have an oil change, get the tires rotated. Even Teslas have to recharge, right?
Your work will still be there tomorrow. Or next week.
There will never be a good time to take a break, go on vacation, or just freaking rest. But there’s also never a good time to completely run out of gas and break down. And the latter will take you much longer to recover from.
Lie #7: Everyone else makes it look so easy.
Every entrepreneur, regardless of who they are, is like a duck floating upstream – they may be cool and collected on the surface but underneath they’re kicking like crazy to get where they want to go. Every single one has face imposter syndrome, has felt inadequate or not good enough, or like they’re falling apart at the seams.
My dad has owned his own business for over twenty years. And he’ll still tell you it’s hard. It never gets “easier”. The difficulties are just different and/or better understood.
Also, be mindful of who you’re comparing yourself to. If you’re comparing your six-month-old business to a business that’s been around for five years, it’s like comparing an apple to an avocado. They’re both fruit and they both start with the letter A, but the similarities stop there.
Everything can be hard when you’re starting out. So cut yourself some slack. Before you know it, you’ll be the one with the established business that all the newbies are comparing themselves to.
Lie #8: People don’t want what I have to offer.
This is such a common imposter syndrome lie, and it’s a frustrating one. The first thing you need to ask yourself (honestly) is do people actually know what you have to offer?
You set your website live or you open your shop and you expect there to be this giant surge of people clamoring to buy what you’re selling. And when there’s not, panic starts to creep in. You start to second-guess yourself. You wonder if this really was a good idea. You feel stupid, disappointed, confused, and a whole host of other things.
But people don’t know what they don’t know. If people don’t know your business exists, they won’t know to look for it.
Having a great idea, turning it into a product, getting it set up on a website are just the half of it. The second half is marketing to people to let them know you’re there.
The internet is a big freaking place. There are literally billions of websites. You can’t expect people to know yours exists without telling them it’s there first.
There’s a good chance it’s not your product. It’s your marketing.
And if you start to market and you’re still hearing crickets, then you need to start digging deep into how you’re marketing and who you’re marketing to in order to figure out where the disconnect is.
Lie #9: I don’t have the time (or money or energy) to do this.
If it’s important to you, you’ll find a way. If not you’ll find an excuse.
Sounds harsh, but it’s true.
Excuses are just our way of masking our fear or hiding behind reasons that we think are out of our control, when in reality we don’t want to try too hard because we have so much on the line, so much to lose.
So the question isn’t whether or not you have the resources. You can almost always find more resources. The question is how badly do you want it? Realizing you don’t want something as badly as you once thought you did is not a bad thing. It’s being honest with yourself.
When you’re a small business owner or entrepreneur, imposter syndrome kind of comes with the territory. For better or worse, you’ll become well-acquainted with it as your business grows.
But that doesn’t mean you have to listen to it. By learning to identify the lies and how to remind yourself of the truth, you can overcome imposter syndrome without letting it get the better of your business.
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