Today we’ll be looking at imposter syndrome.
Fear of failure, limiting beliefs, imposter syndrome… they all go together, and they’re something that everyone struggles with from time to time. I’ve created podcast episodes about topics like these and confidence, and they’re amongst the best performing episodes.
I’m not a doctor, I’m not a psychologist – but I’m talking from years of experience and 100s of my clients’ experience.
Imposter syndrome is where you doubt your experience and competence, despite evidence to the contrary. My brother Matthew, who’s a very successful photographer, is one of the world’s leading experts in what he does. Literally. But he also suffers from imposter syndrome! It’s very common for creators to suffer from this. So don’t feel like you’re alone in this, or totally crazy for feeling this way. You could even feel like an imposter in your job.
Do you ever feel like you’re not qualified to coach people? Or to start a podcast? Or to sell your services?
Chances are, you have imposter syndrome. You feel like you can’t do the thing. You can’t get started. You’re just doubting your ability.
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Before we go into how to fix this, I want to let you know that this is sponsored by the Business Freedom Elevator, my new program. It consists of 9 modules going through how to create the business and life of your dreams – whether you’re making 0k, 3k, 7k or more.
I did some research on imposter syndrome when I was preparing this episode, because I didn’t feel like I knew enough about it already… I hope you get the irony of that.
Despite people paying me for help with their mindset and imposter syndrome, I was worried I didn’t know enough about it…
There are a few signs you might recognise that relate to imposter syndrome.
#1: You’re a workaholic
You sit behind your laptop all evening, and you struggle to give up on your work, because you feel like there’s always another thing to prove. If you stop working, everything will start crumbling and you’ll be exposed as a fraud. You work really long hours.
#2: You’re a perfectionist
You want to do things 200%, because 100% isn’t good enough. You start to procrastinate, because you don’t want to do anything that isn’t totally perfect. You don’t want to hit the ‘publish’ button because maybe it’s not quite as good as it can be. You might also struggle with letting go of things, because you always want to be in control. A lot of women I work with struggle with the idea of getting a housekeeper, because in some way, it will feel like they’re not a perfect housewife.
#3: You might be a typical strong person
I’m definitely this person. You think you don’t need help. You say you can do it yourself. You just want to be independent. I often go into fight mode whenever something goes wrong.
#4: You’re a typical expert person
You always want to know more. You’re always researching and reading and learning everything you can about a topic. Sometimes, you actually know too much to get started with something.
I recognise myself in all of these, so don’t feel bad. That’s why this podcast episode exists. It all makes so much sense.
I remember reading the book Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. She touches on so many subjects like feminism and all of that, and a lot of what she says made sense in my own head. I realise that I have a lot of bias, and I do things differently, and a lot of women sabotage ourselves because we’re programmed that way.
Let’s say a new job is opening up, which is one position senior than you. If people suggest that role to a guy, he’ll say (ignore the stereotypes for a second) “I don’t know how to do that yet, but I’ll learn”. A woman will be like “oh, I don’t have the requirements yet, so I won’t apply.” Who ends up getting the job? The guy.
Apply for the job. Take the leap. Kiss the guy. Write the book. Don’t just write the book – publish the book and sell the book. That’s what we’re going to do today.
If you want more confidence tips, check my confidence manifesto for more. If this speaks to you, so will this guide.
Reminder: Overnight success doesn’t exist.
Another of my favourite books is Malcom Gladwell’s Outliers, in which he talks about the 10.000 hours rule. This states that if you do something for 10.000 hours, you’ll become a pro. I loved reading this, because it made so much sense to me. I remember reading it and counting up my one-on-one coaching hours, and I had thousands of hours. I remember a stark difference between the first hundred hours, and the next.
You might see someone on Instagram and think, “wow, they have such a great personal brand. They’re selling so much and making so much money.” I can bet you they’ve spent years prepping for that thing to happen.
Because of what we see on social media, we start to think that we’re not a success yet. But remember all the hard work that goes on behind the scenes. You might have read Tim Ferriss’ book The 4 Hour Work Week. A lot of people haven’t read it but they’ve heard of it, so they assume that you can become a success story of 4 hours a week. In reality, you’ll have to work a lot harder and longer.
Do you want to become a success story? Remember that it’s simple, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.
You have to put in the work.
If right now, you stumble when you record your first podcast, or you did something wrong, that’s all okay. Your success comes from continuously putting one foot in front of another.
One person to look at is Jenna Kutcher. She’s super successful, and at a certain point, her Instagram blew up because of one post she did that went viral. It got her a lot of new followers, but she already had a lot of followers and great structures in place. What happened there looked like an overnight success because she went viral, but she was going viral on a very great baseline. She already had everything set up to go viral – she had worked on it for years.
Are you waiting for that one moment to happen before you become a success? There is not one moment. It’s a whole long series of little moments, and you just have to keep going.
Deal with your little devil
You might have to deal with your little devil. Let me paint a picture for you. It’s late at night, you can’t sleep, and something’s on your mind. You can’t remember if you replied to that message maybe, or you’re worrying that you’re a bad friend. At night, you’re worrying. You need to recognise that the little red devil isn’t a reflection of reality. You might be tired, you might be hungry, you might be emotional. You might need some more hugs and sex. Sex is a great stress relief!
If you’re feeling imposter syndrome, you might just need to get an early night, or there’s something else going around you that’s not caused by the reality. You doubt your worth, despite evidence of the contrary. Don’t let your little devil take over! It’s not the reality angel talking.
Let’s say it’s morning, and you’re feeling that little devil take over. Try and figure out what’s going on for you first. Do you need to have an orgasm? Or to take a nap? Or to have some water? Write it down. The first step for changing it, is recognising that it’s your little devil talking. You’re self-sabotaging. This is not actually the reality.
I used to struggle with emotional eating. I’ll eat more when I’m stressed, and when I was almost hitting burnout a couple of years ago, I read a book about this. It talked about a great concept: surfing the wave. When you get the urge to binge, instead of going into a discussion with that urge, you go over it. You recognise its existence, but you don’t start arguing with yourself. If you do that, you always lose.
When you’re feeling weak and icky and like the launch is never going to work, try to surf the imposter wave. Recognise that it’s not you. It’s that little devil. Surf the imposter wave. Don’t fight it – just notice that it’s there. Look at your little devil like it’s some naughty kid. You’re the adult with control over your thoughts and actions. What you need to remember is that everyone has that little devil.
Even Marie Forleo, who I really respect, experiences imposter syndrome. She said that at every new level of what you’re doing, you encounter the same issues. If you’re feeling imposter syndrome, remember that even Marie Forleo feels like that sometimes.
You don’t always have to give attention to your thoughts. You can just see it happening, and take a nap or drink a glass of wine, and come back to it when you feel better.
Find your true fear
Another thing I really recommend when you’re feeling imposter syndrome is finding your true fear. Get rid of the ickiness. When I’m launching something, I can start to feel like this – a little bit grumpy and a little bit icky. It comes back to being afraid. I am afraid it won’t launch well. I’m afraid that people won’t buy it, or that people won’t like it.
Whenever that feeling comes up, I allow myself to find my true fear, because the ickiness doesn’t come from the true fear. It comes from knowing what it is. Try talking to yourself out loud, and asking yourself what’s really bothering you. Or, try writing it out on a piece of paper. Why are you feeling like that? Word vomit it all out until you realise what you’re really scared of.
Build your resilience
Every human has resilience, and you can also build it up. The most successful entrepreneurs have a lot of resilience so they can bounce back well from things going badly. Does that mean you can’t cry when things go wrong? Of course you can! I do that. Sometimes I’m just very sad. By doing things, and failing at them, you will acquire new facts to help you battle feelings of unworthiness. You build resilience by doing things. The more you do, the more you’ll fail – and the more you’ll see that that’s okay. And when you win, you’ll learn that you can do things.
Get rid of limiting beliefs
When someone tells me they can’t make 10k months doing what they do, that’s bullshit. If they say they can’t, then they won’t. A better question is “how can you?”. If you’re saying “I can’t” to yourself, you’re creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. Focus on what you can do. I’m a big believer of what thinking, instead of how thinking.
I believe that in order to achieve your goals, you need to figure out what you want, and then reverse engineer that, instead of focusing on how you’ll do it. Let’s say you want 10k a month. The goal is to make that money, and then you can work out how. If you’re just saying you can’t achieve the what, then you won’t work out the how.
Saying “I can’t” is the biggest limiting belief out there. You’re blocking your brain from coming up with solutions and coming up with the roadmap you need. You won’t unlock anything when you say “I can’t”. Please get it out of your vocabulary, because it’s bullshit and it doesn’t exist.
Another thing I’ve been struggling with lately is saying “it’s irresponsible to”. You might have been following along on my Instagram, in which case you’ll know that I’m in the process of buying a house. I was almost thinking that it’s irresponsible to do something like that at my age. You might be thinking it’s irresponsible to hire someone or to outsource stuff. I struggled with that with my first hire. People in my environment were telling me I needed to wait, but deep down, I knew that if I wanted to evolve further, I needed this to be my new normal.
When you find yourself thinking “it’s irresponsible to”, try and change that to “this is my new normal”.
When you’re worried about doing something that might seem irresponsible, it’s probably related to something from earlier in your life – maybe a family problem, or something like that. But the way you’re living your life right now, and the risks you’re taking – this is your new normal. You don’t need to make it bigger than it needs to be. Instead, normalise it.
It’s your chance to level up – but it’s okay to have weaknesses
Imposter syndrome is not necessarily a bad thing: it means that you’re breaking through a new barrier. You’re advancing. That’s a good thing! You’re stepping into a new zone, and you’re stretching what’s possible. You’re growing. I felt it when I was scaling my business, until I realised that this is what scaling your business looks like. If you’re experiencing this, it’s your chance to level up. Or, you can be pulled back by it. The discomfort will pass, because you’re passing a new level of normal.
This is something my dad passed onto me. It’s totally okay to have weaknesses. Often, we hear people say that we need to work on our weaknesses and make sure we improve on them. But sometimes, it’s fine to have weaknesses and things you’re less good at. Instead of trying to work on them all the time, choose to focus on your strengths. You don’t have to fix everything and do everything yourself. I’m not always good at things like lists and remembering appointments. As my team knows, if it’s not in my iCal, it doesn’t exist. I have a team who picks up the stuff I’m worst at. They’re great at planning, so they help me with that. I have mentors and coaches. You don’t have to do it all yourself.
You already know enough
I have so many clients who do endless webinars, group courses and coaching. But you know what? At a certain point, you know enough. If you keep putting it off by learning more, it’s a sign that you’re afraid you’re not worthy. I’m here to tell you that you know enough. It’s time to just do the thing. Another webinar won’t fix your imposter syndrome. My programs are amazing because they’re not about knowledge. They’re about you implementing that knowledge.
Sometimes, we can hold ourselves back. Years ago, I had a friend in university who didn’t take an exam because she knew she would fail. Because she didn’t take it, she had to re-do it during the summer. But if she’d have tried and failed, she would have had to retake it in summer anyway. If she’d have done the exam and passed, she wouldn’t have to have done the retake. There was almost nothing to lose apart from being confronted by her own shadow. You might worry that if you launch, you won’t sell anything. But by not launching, you’re also not selling anything!
Here’s the thing: life isn’t about knowing, it’s about experiencing, failing, and failing again. That is how you learn and evolve into success. You get over imposter syndrome by doing.
PS Are you thinking, after reading this article, that you’d love some actual coaching from me and my team? Then it’s your lucky day because I’m hosting my Business Summer School again this year.
I hosted it last year and more than 3000 people attended. We talked about mindset, taking fast action, creating a profitable product suite, marketing, launching and basically all of the good stuff.
Do you feel like joining? Go take a look at fastforwardamy.com/bus and register for my Business Summer School of 2023!
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