imposter-syndrome

16 Women Entrepreneurs Share Their Struggle with Imposter Syndrome & How They Conquer it

Entrepreneurship

Imposter syndrome is a thought pattern where a person has a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud.” This thinking may be destructive as it can shatter your confidence and self-image. Most entrepreneurs deal with this simply by shrugging these destructive thoughts off and giving their best at everything they do.

Imposter syndrome often shows up when we’re stepping outside our comfort zone and feeling like everyone will see that we’re not the expert we claim to be, maybe we’re not perfect entrepreneurs,” says Elizabeth Cush, MA, LCPC

It can show up around new business offerings, marketing ourselves, giving a presentation, or teaching a course or skill.

Imposter syndrome can keep us from moving forward in our business because of the fear that we’ll be “found out.”

If we can shift our mindset and see imposter syndrome as a signal that we’re growing and expanding as people and as business owners it can help us view the worry in a more positive light. We’re less likely to feel stuck.

Let’s read the stories of some influential women entrepreneurs about how they overcome their imposter syndrome.

Steph Hamill FRSA | CEO of MetaNoon

I’m a London-based entrepreneur. I experience Imposter Syndrome every day, mainly due to my career pivot two years ago, from advertising and media to human-centered tech and D2C experience. I’ve built a suite of coping mechanisms to overcome it, drive forward, and discover more about the outdated confines of societal and career ‘order’ in the process. Additionally, I recently discovered that I have ADHD, and it’s been my entrepreneurial superpower rather than the Kryptonite it’s made out to be in traditional working environments.

Steph Hamill

How I overcome this feeling?

I knew I needed some external help. My coach, Miriam, taught me the value of putting myself first. Of making sure that I recharged my batteries. Of having a positive routine. And far from me to sound like every other coach or West Coast CEO, it works. Yes, meditating every morning works. Yes, exercising every morning works. Yes, reading to grow your mind every morning works. Yes, I was saying no works.

In my last hired role, my nickname was ‘Mum.’ And that’s true. And like all good mothers, I’m only human. Once I got my head around that, I finally breathed again.

My experience struggling with imposter syndrome

Advertising and media. It’s dog-eat-dog. With senior members of staff happy to cut young teams down, label, and disregard ingenuity, it wasn’t healthy. God forbid you to challenge the status quo. This was when Imposter Syndrome began for me.

 In 2019 I left the ‘safety of advertising and repurposed my skills. I’d spent far too long selling people’ stuff’. Stuff that they didn’t need, items made of plastic that I knew would end up in landfills, and products that I didn’t feel comfortable using. I couldn’t do it anymore. But who would hire me? The industry is far from open to people pivoting sectors, despite the diversity being incredibly valuable.

I got lucky. I found the ideal role that segued from creative and brand experience into tech experience. And boy, was it a shock. Not the work, but the resistance of the people. The tech world is a boys club, more so than advertising.

Interestingly, before this, I’d only ever seen being a woman as a positive. I began to question it. Luckily, I built strong relationships that empowered me. Yet, I realized that to make an impact in an FTSE 250 company was going to take time, and I was impatient.

The intersection of my previous career, a creative mindset, and my growing ability to be a tech evangelist and translator. However, imposter syndrome knocked on my door every day. Whether it was a small, negative comment about my experience in a meeting or a task I would tirelessly work on to the point of perfectionism, one of my team making a mistake that I hadn’t picked up on, these triggers would knock me much harder than they had before. I wanted to move the goalposts and strikeout.

A core team from my company exited and launched our boutique consultancy, which we have been running for over a year. They asked me to step into the role of CEO. Now that’s a career shift! The niggling doubts crept back, and the imposter syndrome grew, to the point that I became a workaholic to overcome it.

Whether negative self-talk or seeing a competitor do something fabulous, it would present in one of two ways; to floor me, and I’d slip straight into Imposter Syndrome doldrums, or ‘that’s awesome, but I know that we can do better because….’

This past year has been the most rewarding of my career so far, but I only imagine it’s going to get better because I’m better. The last year was my greatest transition to date.

Perfectionism is a huge part of Imposter syndrome, and I won’t get into the psychological suggestions. Still, I do see patterns with similar entrepreneurs. I have never had an issue with hiring or delegation; in fact, I love the trust of handing a project to a team member and their opportunity to shine and show off their talent. However, my personal standards are high, and I cannot help but take it personally if I’m let down or taken advantage of.

3 Steps someone experiencing imposter syndrome can take to move forward, despite feeling like an “imposter.”
  • Get a coach. Seriously. Make your happiness accountable. And if money is tight, don’t buy that take way. Don’t buy branded products, spend that money on someone who can help you once a month and help you unlock what’s inside but keeps getting smacked down because of your past.
  • When you have a thought, check yourself. Go for a walk. Dance. Shake. Just move. Listen to some binaural beats or happy music, and bounce. Those endorphins make a huge difference, as does dancing to your favourite song.
  • Community. If you work with toxic people or in a toxic industry, make the moves you need to serve you. Join positive communities like The Innovation Café or Sister. Find your cheerleaders who help you bounce back and find that inner confidence consistently.

Amalia Sirica, Therapist & Yoga Teacher

I am a writer with a background in social work. I have been a therapist for the last ten years. I am also a storyteller and a yoga teacher. I believe that stories have the power to transform and create change.

Amalia Sirica
My experience struggling with imposter syndrome.

I have experienced significant imposter syndrome in my life. My brain regularly tries to tell me that I do not know what I’m doing or that I don’t belong. I have to do a lot of work to counteract these beliefs and form new ones. I find that an imposter syndrome is a form of anxiety that tries to convince us that we are unworthy of our dreams. 

How I overcome this feeling?

Practice different thought patterns. Practice interrupting the thoughts telling you that you are an imposter before they have time to take root in your mind. Also, take action, however small. Take steps towards your goals, even if they are baby steps. We build resilience when we try new things, even if they don’t end up working out. Our mind begins to build evidence that counters the imposter thoughts. 

3 Steps someone experiencing imposter syndrome can take to move forward, despite feeling like an “imposter.”
  • Just start. Feel the fear and do it anyway. I’ve learned that the fear never really goes away. You just learn to breathe through it. 
  • Start building healthy routines and habits. Get in the practice of finishing what you start. Keep commitments to yourself and to others. Breathe through the doubt and keep going. 
  • Accept that you will make mistakes. Probably a lot of them. This is where the building of resilience is key. Learn how to forgive yourself, learn the lesson, and move on quickly. 

Farwah Sheikh (Mind, body soul coach +Nutritionist) 

You stop and wonder who would listen to me, follow me, be inspired by me? WHO AM I to be an “influencer/inspirer/leader etc.” 

I have to constantly sit and meditate, say an affirmation, and remember that I am doing what I do to help others find their voices and potential powers! When you put yourself out there, you are doing what most people cannot. Just the ability to show up and be raw and authentic is a skill in itself! 

Farwah Sheikh

You have a unique skill no one else possesses, and that skill will help change someone’s life, which will help them inspire someone else!

My experience struggling with imposter syndrome.

I have suffered from “imposter syndrome” multiple times. It creeps up on you and overtakes your ability to function with clarity and confidence. It started when I really put myself out there and spoke to people about how they can change their lives to become creative and productive. I would doubt myself before getting on client calls. Can I really help this person? Am I good enough? Do I even know the right information? I would do online courses, speak on podcasts or conferences and be a hot mess in the days or weeks preparing for the big day. I would be sweating, heart racing, no appetite because I was so scared of what people would think. I would say I don’t think I’m qualified enough. Maybe I should decline the opportunity or refer them to someone I think is better. I would self-sabotage without even realizing it!

How I overcome this feeling?

I recognize and know the signs and “symptoms” that happen to me when imposter syndrome starts creeping up. For example, I get nervous and confused about what my purpose is and what I am doing. I start to question my abilities and start a task and struggle to execute a task. My anxiety goes up a ton where my heart is palpitating for no reason. When I feel low energy and not motivated, I overcome this by disconnecting from my phone, work emails, social media, etc, and I connect inward. When these feelings come up, it’s an indication you must clear out a fear or limiting belief about yourself. I do shadow work, meditate and try to go for a walk in nature. I reflect on my successes through gratitude. I remind myself not everyone has the ability to step outside the norm. Confidence is a skill that is practiced and flourishes over time. So many people want the courage they have to do what they love, but they struggle to find it in themselves—remembering that even one changed life is a win for all of humanity! I would have to remind myself of my mission and vision that is bigger than me. It is to serve and help all humans to become the best versions of themselves. Most importantly, it is okay to take time for you to reset, realign to come back in stronger, focused, and ready to go.

3 Steps someone experiencing imposter syndrome can take to move forward, despite feeling like an “imposter.”
  • Take time to tune in! Ask yourself, what am I scared of? Reflect by being in nature or a quiet place without distraction from your phone, TV, coworkers, family, etc. Once you silence the noise, you can hear the inner voice of what’s causing this insecurity to surface.
  • Deep breathing and go into a meditative state and say affirmations of what you want to become Or remind yourself of all the great qualities you have. If meditation is not your thing, find a mirror and stare at yourself dead in the eyes and with confidence tell yourself, “I am worthy,” “I am Confident” Whatever you feel you lack, reassure your subconscious mind you are amazing and great! (Because you are!) Our conscious thoughts come from our subconscious; it is important for us to constantly communicate with that part of our minds.
  • Express gratitude, write down 3-5 things you are grateful for… Go back to emails or texts from clients where they expressed so much appreciation for what you’ve done for them to remind you of all the good you have done. We often forget the great moments we’ve had because we are running for ones that haven’t happened yet. That is why I emphasize being in a constant state of gratitude for every single thing, even the little wins, because it is still a win. That win brought you one step closer to your goal and changed the world!

Jess Feldt, Entrepreneur and Leadership coach

I am a Life and Leadership Coach for working moms. I support smart, ambitious women who want to find fulfillment both professionally and personally.

Jess Feldt

I’ve coached working parents at top companies such as Google, Snapchat, and Salesforce to create a life they love and screw all the “shoulds” that come with being a working mom these days. I am a certified professional coach and proud boss mom to two young boys. 

My experience struggling with imposter syndrome

As an entrepreneur, I fall victim to the classic imposter syndrome voices almost daily. “What if I’m not good enough?” “What if they find out I’m totally faking it until I (hopefully) make it?” As a solopreneur, the thoughts reverberate in my head even louder since there is no one beside me to encourage or reassure me. To make matters worse, as a Life and Leadership Coach, I am my product. Any sort of rejection or setback feels personal; it’s not a widget I’m selling; it’s me. When things are going well, it’s easy to turn down the volume, but when that fight or flight system is activated – watch out! The imposter syndrome voices can be deafening and completely sap out any sort of creativity or resourcefulness from me. It’s like that voice is telling me to freeze – don’t move, don’t breathe, or else you’ll be seen for who you really are.

How I overcome this feeling?

I overcome the imposter syndrome thoughts by reminding myself this voice is here for a reason, but I get to choose whether I want to listen to it or not. My imposter syndrome voice is my inner risk manager. She’s sending me warning signals that there is something scary or big up ahead and wants me to avoid failure or humiliation. Sometimes that voice can actually be helpful and drives me to do a little extra prep-work or build in some mitigation strategies if I’m taking a big leap. Sometimes, she’s out of control, and I need to tell her to sit down because the risk is worth it. I am not an imposter. I have a part of me that feels like an imposter, and that’s okay as long as I’m aware of the voice and feel I have control over her instead of her having control over me. But, it’s not easy!

3 Steps someone experiencing imposter syndrome can take to move forward, despite feeling like an “imposter.”
  • Show yourself some self-compassion. Imposter syndrome thoughts can be incredibly isolating because you feel like you’re the only one who is the imposter and everyone else belongs. Almost every client I have ever worked with struggles with imposter syndrome to some degree, so in fact, you are in very good company. That woman who looks like she has it all under control? Nope, she struggles with it too. It’s completely natural, so don’t beat yourself up for having these thoughts. 
  • Remember, this is just one voice of many you have within you. I’ve named my imposter syndrome voice “The Risk Manager.” I also have the voices of “The Rockstar Mama” and “The CEO” inside of me, along with a few others. Thinking of all these different voices as different parts of me allows me to choose which voices I want to listen to and when. None of the voices are good or bad – they all have their value at certain times, and I am empowered to choose.
  • Ground yourself in what’s really important. When the imposter voices get really, really loud, sometimes the only thing you can do is face them down with why it’s all worth it in the end. Yes, someone may see me for the imposter I sometimes feel, but when I look at all the working moms I know I’ve helped along the way, I know the fear of failure is actually worth it. You’re doing this work for a reason. Do whatever you need to do to keep that reason front and center.

Andrea Owen, Global Speaker, and Professional certified life coach

I am a global speaker, professionally certified Daring Way™ life coach, and the best-selling author of 52 Ways to Live a Kick-Ass Life, How to Stop Feeling Like Shit, and the forthcoming, Make Some Noise (TarcherPerigee, August 31, 2021). My podcast, Make Some Noise, has been downloaded over 3 million times. I have taught hundreds of thousands of women tools and strategies to empower themselves with unshakeable confidence to live their most kick-ass life.

Andrea Owen
My experience struggling with imposter syndrome. 

An example is when I got my second book deal. It was with a bigger publisher than my first and came with a larger advance. I felt an enormous amount of pressure and even had a hard time calling myself an author. I could easily categorize other people in other writing genres authors, and even other authors in MY genre, but not me. I worried for months that people would figure out I had no idea what I was doing (even though I was competent at my job) and that everything would fall apart.

How I overcome this feeling? 

It started with telling people I trust about it. People I knew would acknowledge my fears and point out how competent I really was. It also helped to pinpoint where the imposter complex came from. Part of that was my personal expectations. Where had I set the bar for myself (very high!)? Was it attainable (absolutely not!)? Why had I set such high expectations (because I gathered my value from my achievements and success!)? When we dig in and get curious, we get clarity. 

3 Steps someone experiencing imposter syndrome can take to move forward, despite feeling like an “imposter.” 
  • Learn to accept both positive and negative feedback. We, as humans, have a negativity bias, meaning we get stuck on negative things and tend to ignore the positive. Notice when you’re obsessing on the negative and when you make that feedback mean something about who you are as a person. Also, accept positive feedback with a “thank you” and trust that they’re telling you the truth, not B.S’ing you!
  • Make a list of your accomplishments, more than what’s on your resumé. Accept that you have experience, credentials, expertise, and resources. Yes, you may get a job where you don’t know everything there is to know, but you will learn.
  • Take inventory of your people. This is often overlooked and can be imperative to how you feel about yourself. If you find you’re often or constantly commiserating with your friends or speaking negatively about yourselves and others, it’s time to shift that. Start the trend where you steer the conversation to talk about your wins and celebrations instead of all the ways things are going wrong. 

Andrea Heuston, CEO of Artitudes Design

“I’ve always been driven to achieve. I am in constant competition with myself to be better, do better, show up better. But no matter what I achieve, how many people I help, how many individuals I employ, how many accolades I receive, I never feel like I’m good enough. I feel like a fraud.

Andrea

Once a month, I attend a half-day meeting with nine other CEOs. We are a mix of gender, business type, age, and income level. The main requirement for being part of this group is the level of revenue. All of us qualify, and all of us have a seat at the table. However, most of the time, I struggle with a feeling of not truly belonging.

How I overcome this feeling?

I remind myself all the time that other women (and men) feel the exact same way. They may not show it on the outside, but neither do I. We’re all fighting demons that shout to our insecurities and undermine our success.

My experience struggling with imposter syndrome

I’ve always been driven to achieve. I am in constant competition with myself to be better, do better, show up better. But no matter what I achieve, how many people I help, how many individuals I employ, how many accolades I receive, I never feel like I’m good enough. I feel like a fraud.

3 steps someone experiencing imposter syndrome can take to move forward, despite feeling like an “imposter.” 
  • Try not to compare yourself to others. Undeniably, this one is hard for me. I am ultra-competitive so I always measure myself against others’ achievements. But it’s not healthy. The only person you should ever be measuring yourself against is yourself; where were you a few months ago, a year ago, five years ago? It’s important to keep that perspective rather than focusing on where someone else might be in their journey.
  • Over prepare! I’m okay at winging it. But I am so much better when I’m prepared. And I feel better! When I really focus and work on something, I study the task or subject from all sides – inside, outside, sideways, backward, historically, and geographically. If I want to be on top of something, I come prepared.
  • Get rid of negative self-talk. I am the queen of telling myself what I do wrong. I may be the meanest person I know to myself. It’s worse than comparing myself to others because that voice in my head is constant. Instead of talking down to yourself, ask yourself what evidence exists that you are any less qualified than anybody else. And then ask yourself what evidence exists that you are just as qualified—or even, I daresay, more qualified—to do the job. Rinse and repeat daily.

Claire Shorall (she/her)Cofounder & CEO of Topknot

Claire Shorall, Cofounder & CEO of Topknot. Topknot is a coaching system for women to lead a fulfilling life.

My experience struggling with imposter syndrome. 

As a founder of an early-stage company, there are so many moments of potential doubt. Every choice is simultaneously an opportunity or a point of potential failure. I feel like I should know what choices to make; my last role was at an early stage VC fund, where I had a front-row seat to watch as entrepreneurs made their fledgling companies come to life. 

Add to that the culture around “building in public” frequently means sharing your wins only. It makes you feel like if you’re not knocking it out of the park every day, you’re doing something wrong. 

How I overcome this feeling?

My work at Topknot supports women in getting clear on what they want and going after it with purpose. So, for me to overcome my imposter syndrome, I make plans and trust that they will guide me through rough patches; I get better at listening to what my feelings are telling me, and try to use fear and doubt productively; and, I have a strong group of founder friends who are committed to being vulnerable for the sake of learning.

3 steps someone experiencing imposter syndrome can take to move forward, despite feeling like an “imposter.” 
  • Define goals that matter to you and make a plan to go after them. You’re less likely to feel like an imposter when you know what you want and how you intend to go after it.
  • See doubt and fear as an opportunity. Nerves mean you care! You can acknowledge feeling nervous about something and shift those feelings into questions about what’s true about the moment. Nerves and excitement are cousins. 
  • Find a supportive group. I’m obsessed with peer coaching — that’s why I am building a company to bring it to more people — because it allows us to learn and explore in a safe but prodding space. Often the feelings that bring up imposter syndrome for us are shared by others.

Andrea McFarland, Founder of 61Marketing

Andrea is the founder of 61 Marketing, a company creating content and automation for busy entrepreneurs. As a speech pathologist in the medical field for 15+ years, Andrea began her own private practice. She quickly fell more in love with marketing and design than the therapy she was providing. What began as helping fellow practitioners start and scale their businesses has evolved into a marketing strategy, content creation, and web design company. Andrea specializes in simplifying email marketing and creating online courses to grow your business. In addition to running 61 Marketing, she’s a busy mom to three girls–two teenagers and a toddler.

 Andrea | 61 Marketing

How I overcome this feeling?

One of the most helpful pieces of advice I heard was this– you’re always an expert to someone. I may not have been an expert to the gurus, but I was an expert to someone. Once I embraced that, I was able to keep learning, keep gaining knowledge and experience. The forward movement steadily increased my authority, influence, and expertise.

My experience struggling with imposter syndrome. 

Imposter syndrome set in quickly for me. Comparison and self-doubt started before my business even officially launched. Coming from a completely different field, I immediately had feelings of not belonging. I would look at other successful marketing businesses and feel like a fraud. It was such a struggle I considered giving up. Even though I was no longer passionate about being a speech pathologist, I contemplated staying in that profession because that’s what I knew, and that’s where I was comfortable. I knew if I was going to move forward in my new business, I had to overcome imposter syndrome. When I took a step back and looked at it logically, the only person who saw me as an imposter was me. Once I made that realization, the game changed. 

Steps someone experiencing imposter syndrome can take to move forward, despite feeling like an “imposter.” 
  • If you’re struggling with imposter syndrome, stop comparing yourself to others. It’s poisoning your business and your personal growth. Your journey is your own, don’t obsess over following someone else’s. Remember, there’s always someone better and further along in their business than you. They were once in your shoes. And chances are, there’s someone else who’s looking to you for inspiration.
  • If you’re on social media, use it only for your benefit. If it makes you feel inadequate, change your mindset or take a break. Even if you use social media to promote your business, letting it make you feel like you don’t belong isn’t serving its purpose. Be honest with yourself and take a hiatus when self-doubt creeps in. Come back refreshed and ready to make genuine connections.
  • Permit yourself to not know it all. We’re all working at our own pace. When you fail or fall short of your expectations, understand that is a part of the growing process. Come back and be better next time. Putting in the mental work to overcome imposter syndrome will help you take your business and productivity to the next level. It’s time to let go of the self-limiting beliefs and thrive.

Jandra Sutton, Founder of The Wildest Co

Jandra Sutton is a writer, speaker, and founder + creative director of The Wildest Co, a Nashville-based creative agency specializing in content creation, branding, and marketing for busy entrepreneurs and small business owners. 

My experience struggling with imposter syndrome

I’ve dealt with imposter syndrome for most of my life. In school, I was the shy, smart kid who was too afraid to speak up in class because I was terrified people were going to find out that I wasn’t as smart as they thought I was. In college, I was one of the only females in a male-dominated department, and I frequently found myself in situations where I was the youngest and least experienced person in the room — and I was convinced that it was only a matter of time before the truth of my inabilities would be revealed. After graduating, things only got harder. I jumped into a career completely unrelated to my degrees, and I found myself quite literally making it up along the way.

Jandra Sutton

As a result, I’ve rarely — if ever — not felt like an imposter, and it’s cost me. I’ve lost tens of thousands of dollars of potential revenue due to imposter syndrome, mostly after turning away potential clients because I was worried they’d overestimated my abilities, and I’ve watched several of my business ideas and project fail not because the opportunity wasn’t there but because I crumbled under the weight of my imposter syndrome. Even now, I struggle to own up to my expertise, and I undermine myself constantly despite a laundry list of professional achievements that should make me feel more comfortable and confident.

How do I overcome this feeling?

Initially, I thought imposter syndrome could be conquered through achievement. I thought that once I accomplished a certain number of goals, I’d feel better, that I could silence my inner critic simply by proving myself over and over again, that I’d “arrive” at the point where I could no longer question myself. No matter what I’ve done — scaling my business, getting mentioned in Forbes, going viral on social media, coaching creative teams at NBCUniversal International Networks Latin America —I’ve realized that imposter syndrome doesn’t just go away. 

If you want to overcome imposter syndrome, accepting that you can’t out-maneuver it is the first step. You have to reframe your thinking and stop looking at imposter syndrome as something to “get rid of” and viewing it as something to work through. I like to think of it as if you’re becoming an Olympic athlete. You don’t just decide to become an Olympian, and “poof,” you’re there overnight. So why would you expect the same with imposter syndrome? You have to work at it. You have to practice, train, and push your boundaries. You have to show up consistently and get stronger. The goal here isn’t to be fearless; it’s to learn how to move through your fears and do it anyway. 

3 steps someone experiencing imposter syndrome can take to move forward: 

1. Get out of your comfort zone.

Whenever my imposter syndrome takes a turn for the worst, it’s usually a sign that I’ve been playing it safe. Growth happens outside of your comfort zone, and the more comfortable you get with being uncomfortable, the easier it will be to cope with feelings related to imposter syndrome. You don’t have to jump straight into the deep end if you’re not ready, but even small steps can make a big difference. I love the quote by David Bowie that says, “Always go a little further into the water than you feel you’re capable of being in. Go a little bit out of your depth. And when you don’t feel that your feet are quite touching the bottom, you’re just about in the right place to do something exciting.”

2. Keep a success log. 

I have a folder on my computer called “feel-good fuel,” and it contains screenshots and documentation of my personal and professional achievements. This includes articles I’ve written or been mentioned in, analytics or metrics of my business’ success, and positive feedback that I’ve received over the last few years from various customers, followers, and colleagues. Whenever I’m feeling down, I can scroll through that folder to show myself how far I’ve traveled — proving to myself that I’ve done a good job — and to remind myself that I did all of those things in spite of my imposter syndrome. Obviously, this doesn’t always work (especially when you’re really good at talking yourself out of things), but it can help.

3. Practice positive self-talk.

Psychology tells us that positive self-talk works, and it offers a whole host of health benefits. When you’re dealing with imposter syndrome, however, I find it’s even more powerful. There’s no right or wrong way to practice positive self-talk, whether you want to start incorporating positive affirmations into your daily routine or something different, but one of my favorite ways to use this tool for imposter syndrome is to never let negative self-talk go unanswered. 

When you have a negative thought pop into your head, don’t ignore it. Respond to it. Talk to yourself the way you would talk to a friend. You wouldn’t nod along to a friend saying, “Ugh, I don’t belong here. I’m going to look like an idiot, and I’m never going to measure up.” If you don’t count those intrusive thoughts, you’re basically agreeing with them in your head — and thus perpetuating the narrative that your imposter syndrome wants you to believe. If you respond to it, however, you’re sending the opposite message. Even if you don’t actually agree with it (yet), telling yourself that you belong- is the first step to believing it.

Kate Flynn, Founder of Sun & Swell

Kate launched her natural food company, Sun & Swell, a few years ago with a mission to make healthy and sustainable eating more accessible. Kate has a bachelor’s from UC Santa Barbara and an MBA from Harvard. Kate’s professional career prior to Sun & Swell most recently includes working as Management Consultant, and before that, a CPA at Deloitte. Kate lives in Santa Barbara with her husband and co-founder, Bryan, and new daughter, Leila. 

Kate Flynn

My experience struggling with imposter syndrome.

My imposter syndrome really kicked in when I started my graduate degree. I excelled academically and graduated within the top 5% of graduating class at UC Santa Barbara throughout high school and college. I was naturally able to do well at my first job as a CPA for Deloitte (my skillset was well aligned with the job). I felt super confident with myself and my capabilities. But everything changed when I went to get my MBA at Harvard Business School. While going there, for the first time in my life, I struggled academically. Surrounded by some of the brightest minds in the country and adjusting to a totally new way of learning, I had a hard time keeping up in class no matter how hard I tried. I immediately felt like I didn’t deserve to be there. Over time, I have overcome these feelings, but it’s the first time I recall feeling that overwhelming sense of self-doubt. 

As a first-time female founder, my imposter syndrome hovers around me constantly. Some days I feel ready to take on the world. Totally unstoppable. But other days, I start to doubt myself. Can I really do this? Can I really achieve my goals? Maybe I don’t have the skillset to do this. I

How I overcome this feeling

On a day-to-day basis, if I feel my imposter syndrome start to creep in, I take a minute just to breathe or go for a walk. I clear my head and permit myself to have a little space to process the feelings rather than just pushing through them. I also have a support network of friends that I can lean on when I need friends who will tell me I’m crazy for thinking I’m not capable! I always listen to books/podcasts that inspire me and remind me that I’m the only limit to my greatness. And I regularly take time to do “then vs. now” comparisons with our business. It reminds me of how far I’ve come, how much I’m capable of achieving.

3 Steps someone experiencing imposter syndrome can take to move forward, despite feeling like an “imposter.”
  • Look for ‘expanders’ – people you feel like you, who have achieved the things you want to achieve. For me, I look for other first-time female founders (bonus if they’re new moms!) who have been able to achieve the goals I’m striving to accomplish with my business. When I see their stories, I think, “that could be me!” It’s nice to have a broad array of ‘expanders’ – some closer to where you are along your journey, as well as others further along, to where you ultimately want to be. 
  • Stop “scrolling” social media (LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook) without intention. Ask yourself, what are you looking for when you spend time on these channels? If you mindlessly scroll, you will find posts about people who are achieving big things. It will be impossible not to compare yourself to them, even if you know you shouldn’t. You don’t have to get off these channels entirely, but use them with intention (e.g., “I’m going to regularly post on LinkedIn to keep my network engaged, and log on to check/respond to any comments on my posts, but then sign off”)
  • Reflect back on your accomplishments every week, month, quarter, and year. It’s so easy to feel like we’re not doing enough and not achieving enough, but it’s because growth change happens over time. Constantly reminding yourself of what you have achieved so far will make you realize what you are capable of. 

Rashmi Pearl Weiss, Founder of Charmofgifts

Rashmi Pearl Weiss is the owner of the blog ‘CharmOfGifts.’ Before venturing into blogging, I enjoyed a rewarding 6year career working in Finance IT (Wall Street, New York).

Rashmi Pearl Weiss

My experience struggling with imposter syndrome

Starting a new business while struggling with imposter syndrome impacted how I approached my daily tasks and planned my business milestones. No matter how big or small the task was, my self-doubt made me feel my competitors were better and they had a better chance at success, without any physical proof, than I did.

Many times I would start my day feeling thrilled about owning a business of my own but quickly lose steam the moment I started my computer.

The overwhelm also made me look for distractions as a way to tell myself at the end of the day; I couldn’t finish my tasks because I simply did not have enough time.

How I overcome this feeling?

Even though imposter syndrome is not classified as a mental disorder, at the end of the day, that is how it affects you- mentally!

I had to dive deep to uncover why I feel this way and to find a way to either make these feelings go away or learn to live with them. 

My morning meditation sessions have helped me deal with these emotions. Whenever any doubt comes up, I silence my mind and acknowledge the thought without judgment. It helps slow down the spiraling of negative thoughts. 

I particularly pay attention to any unease I feel physically because of stress. For instance, a queasy stomach or sweaty palms, and focus on releasing the tension in that area. 

Once I calm my mind, I counter every negative emotion that I feel with a positive thought.

This simple exercise might feel difficult and time-consuming initially. Still, with time and practice, I have learned to calm my mind down faster, even when I am not exclusively meditating.

3 Steps someone experiencing imposter syndrome can take to move forward, despite feeling like an “imposter.”

I can’t say, for certain, if imposter syndrome completely goes away, but here are three best ways how I manage to consistently move forward and stay focused on my business goals.

  • Speak to people who build you up. I have chosen to let go of toxic people who made me feel (more) insecure about the future of my business and doubt my abilities.
  • Focus on respecting yourself and building your self-worth. ‘I Am affirmations at the start and end of the day can work wonders. Carry small flashcards with your handwritten positive affirmations so you can refer to them when negative emotions start to bubble. You can create your own affirmations focused on your business goals or utilize free ‘I Am’ affirmation videos available online. 
  • Never undermine your accomplishments. It is easy to forget and overlook what you have learned, how many new skills you have gained, and all the times you beat out your competition that you NEVER thought was possible. Maintain a list of all your accomplishments and refer to it every now and then.

Celebrate all your victories, and don’t forget to pat yourself on the back!

Lisa Swift-Young – Entrepreneur| Inspired Philanthropist | Global Wanderer

Best-selling author thrives when helping others turn passions into profits. She is committed to sharing her expertise in ways that help others get to wins faster. When she’s not on a new adventure, she’s bingeing international independent films.

Lisa Swift-Young. MBA

Struggling with imposter syndrome.

What I’ve learned about imposter syndrome is that everyone has experienced it. It doesn’t matter if you are incredibly wealthy, very successful, or highly educated. It’s that inner voice that says; you’re going to get found out. They are going to find out that you don’t know all the answers. My friends and I described it as the cycle of “doing too much when you’ve already done enough.” My first encounter with imposter syndrome was in my 20s in my first corporate position as a pharmaceutical representative. It was a coveted position among my peers, and I secured the job after my first interview. I felt like I had cheated. I wasn’t supposed to be there. Few women of color had been able to break in. This was classic imposter syndrome. I felt like they’re going to find out that I don’t know what I should know. My response was to work harder, study more, make more calls in hopes that I would somehow live up to being worthy of that position. I had not come to terms with the fact that I was there because I was prepared, and I was the best person for the job. I wouldn’t have been there having I not been the best. 

Part of my hesitation was that I did not have role models or mentors—Imposter syndrome affected my self-confidence. I learned to surround myself with people who would affirm me. They helped me to stay focused. They reminded me that I was supposed to be there, earned my status, and everything I had, I was supposed to have. I want people to know that imposter syndrome can happen in multiple situations. Whether one is getting married, having a child, changing careers, or learning something new. You can be young or old, male or female. It is an equal opportunity experience.

How I Overcoming the feeling?

The classic ways that I combat imposter syndrome are positive affirmations and journaling. Impostor syndrome is often triggered by comparing your situation to those of others around you. People naturally focus on what someone has that they don’t. Through daily positive affirmations, I think about what I do have instead of thinking about what I don’t have. This act helps reduce anxiety and keeps imposter syndrome at bay. I remind myself I’m supposed to be here, I am good enough to be in this particular space, and I use gratitude as a way to center myself so that I can overcome that feeling. When I was writing my first book, I would often feel overwhelmed with the thought of becoming an author. The idea of becoming a bestselling author would most certainly expose my inner imposter. One thing that got me through is a note on my desk that says, “You’re overthinking again. You’ve got this.”

Journaling is also a personal tool that helps me overcome feeling like an imposter. Five years ago, my son and I began a gratitude journal. Our daily texts chronicled the highs and lows we have faced and overcome. The journal becomes a reference source when I sense my inner imposter trying to discourage me from moving forward. I can reflect on how much I have overcome. This reminds me that if those things, people, events did not stop me. This new fear doesn’t have a chance. Journaling is also a technique I use in my transitional coaching practice to help my clients overcome imposter syndrome.

Three steps anyone experiencing imposter syndrome can take to move forward, despite feeling like an ‘imposter,” are:
  • Practice gratitude daily- this will help reframe your thoughts and see the opportunity instead of the obstacle.
  • Curate a community of encouragers – they will be there to remind you that is normal. As well, they will help you see your blind spots that may be hiding behind your feelings. 
  • Accept that this is part of the process- every time you experienced imposter syndrome, you pushed past it and discovered a new strength or a new skill you didn’t know you had. Embrace your brilliance and continue to build a better you.

Dara Connolly, TEDx Speaker | Author | Confidence Coach  

Dara Connolly is the author of the new book Flip Your Fear and founder of PTC™– an award-winning confidence program for women. Dara helps women who are tired of getting talked over or ignored– speak to be heard, kick fear to curb, be TEDx confident!

A nationally recognized expert in the field of confidence, Dara has coached over 10,000 women and has been featured on FOX, CW, The Connect Show, Dr. Laura, and other media outlets.

Dara Connolly

How can you overcome “impostor” feelings

1. The first step is to notice the feelings when they appear

Whenever we do something new or different, fear tells us not to do it and gives us every reason under the sun to run the other way. Combine that with impostor syndrome (or feelings of unworthiness). We stay stuck inside our comfort zone– to prevent ourselves from getting hurt.

However, I have found our mind often mislabels fear or impostor syndrome with what I call ‘emergency button fear.’ This is a type of panic fear that arises when we feel an immediate threat or if our life is in danger. This may have been quite helpful for us during prehistoric times when we needed to make split-second decisions as there was much to fear– such as a wooly mammoth chasing us, but these days not so much.

The problem is, this type of ‘emergency button fear’ does such a good job at protecting us that it often categorizes every new thing we do as an ‘emergency’– and prevents us from moving forward.

Here’s an example. Let’s say you are about to move to a new city and go after your dream job. When feelings of impostor syndrome become overwhelming, you may go into emergency button fear– causing you to panic and wake up in the middle of the night and rethink your move at the last minute—this a bad idea. I’m not really qualified for this job… What if they find out and I get laid off and can’t pay my bills? And on and on, this loop goes…

You know you are suffering from impostor syndrome or emergency fear when you feel restricted and tight in your body. In some cases, this fear is so intense it can literally immobilize you from taking action. 

However, moving to a new city or exploring a new job is not a life-or-death emergency. Your mind has simply mislabeled this feeling. Try saying, “I am excited to move to a new city and try a new job,” and notice if your body feels open and energetic rather than restricted and tight. Once our mind realizes that this situation is actually safe and exciting, we replace the impostor syndrome feeling with positivity. The next time we are in a similar situation, our mind will label this as excitement and remind us that we can move forward anyway.

2. Step two is to acknowledge your accomplishments.

The self-limiting beliefs that occur from doubting your success or down-playing your achievements may prevent you from moving forward in your career, going after a promotion, or feeling deserving of the success you already have. The result is you constantly live in a state of fear that you are not good enough and that others will discover you as a fraud.

Some people exhibit signs of impostor syndrome by becoming a people pleaser or constantly fearing being fired even though they have positive reviews. You may notice you are overworking or over-preparing for projects because you believe ‘it is never good enough or worse, that you are not good enough.

Other traps you may feel stuck in are constantly comparing yourself to others or thinking everyone has more success than you. These feelings can prevent you from moving forward or achieving success.

Take time to write down all of the major achievements you have made in your life– go back as far as you can remember. What did you do well? In what areas did you excel? Did you win an award, get certified, graduate, etc.? You will surprise yourself with all that you achieved when you take time to sit down and do this activity. It is important to write them down. Let your mind relive each memory as you write and add the feeling of accomplishment you had at the time of your win.

Keep adding to your list of achievements! I like to keep a running list of my achievements and organize them by year. This way, when I feel extremely overwhelmed or when fear tries to sneak in again, I can go back and look at my list and think, “Wow, I did that then; I know I can do this now too.” Taking time to validate your past achievements and to continue to do so with an ongoing list is crucial in diffusing the power of self-doubt.

3. The third step to conquering impostor syndrome is to stop comparing and know you are exactly where you need to be.

When you live in a state of comparison or doubting yourself, you inhibit your interpersonal relationship and growth—constantly being reliant on other’s ideas or opinions of you– instead of seeing them as independent beings, eventually strip away and diminish the strength of your ideas, thoughts, and beliefs. You lose your sense of self-worth even more. Suddenly everyone around you feels like a threat to you, and you live in a state of fear, competition, or paranoia– rather than feeling safe, content, and self-assured with who you are or what you have accomplished. It is nearly impossible to feel confident about yourself when you are busy comparing yourself to others. 

Accept that wherever you are on your journey is exactly where you need to be. Our culture is so conditioned to want to rush to achievement or success, but there is no finish line– the success lies in staying the course and being consistent on your journey. When I first started public speaking, then later private coaching, I knew it wasn’t an overnight process. I had to continue to learn new skills, practice, and work with coaches to better myself. Even to this day, I am not done learning– I push myself to new challenges and never stay stagnant. The secret of highly successful people is not that they don’t ever feel fear or impostor syndrome; it’s that they continue to move on despite it. Stay consistent along your journey and continue to grow and challenge yourself every single day.

Sara Yagoub, Founder of ‘The Referral Circle’

Sara Yagoub, The Intentional Entrepreneur, is a mother, wife, businesswoman, referral marketing expert, speaker, author, investor, founder of ‘The Referral Circle,’ and Host of Renegade Revolution Radio™ Podcast. A former overworked corporate-yes-girl, Sara escaped the 9-to-5 grind using what she learned to build her own successful multi-million-dollar business empire. Through digital programs, workshops, and speaking events, Sara empowers high-achieving female entrepreneurs to shift their mindset, up-level their consciousness, tap into intuition & live with purpose.

Sara Yagoub

My experience struggling with imposter syndrome.

When my business hit the seven-figure mark, many other business owners and entrepreneur groups asked me to come and share the steps I made that led to this accomplishment. Initially, I turned down many offers. I didn’t feel like a business “success” because my business grew so quickly, and I didn’t feel like I had the accolades and business model that a “successful” business owner is ‘supposed to have. 

How I overcame:

The way I overcame this fear was a mindset reset. I had to do a complete overhaul of my headspace. I realized that I was telling myself stories that were keeping me playing small and devaluing my worth. It turns out my ego was mastering me instead of me mastering my ego. I began to flip the script on my thoughts.

Once I reprogrammed my thoughts, I started celebrating my accomplishments and kicked the imposter syndrome to the curb. However, with each new level, it does try to rear its head again. Only now, I’ve learned to keep it at bay.

3 Steps to Overcoming Imposter Syndrome:
  • Reality Check: Awareness is the first step in changing any behavior. When you notice you’re feeling like an imposter, ask yourself why? What story are you telling yourself?

Ex: I’m not good enough… I don’t know what I’m doing… I don’t deserve it…Once you identify your story, you’ll know how to counteract it.

  • Flip the Script: Start feeding yourself better serving thoughts. Separate yourself from the false story. For every “You’re not good enough” thought, remind yourself of your success stories or an accomplishment you’re super proud of. Write these down, put them on post-it-notes around your home, record yourself saying them and replay them every chance you get. Do whatever it takes to reinforce these better-serving, true thoughts so that you drown out the false stories. 
  • Celebrate your wins, big and small. When you feel like an ‘imposter,’ it really affects your sense of worth and self. When you celebrate your wins, your behavior isn’t in alignment with low self-worth; it’ll trick your mind. When you combine that with step 2, your mind won’t stand a chance at any negative self-talk. The imposter syndrome will have to take a seat until you reach your next level; by then, you’ll be prepared with a game plan.

Ellen Mackenzie, Founder of Dishing Up Digital

She is a 25-year-old 9 to 5 escapee turned six-figure business owner from New Zealand. As a social media and business coach, Ellen helps female entrepreneurs master and monetize their Instagram. She went from dumped and jobless in the fall of 2019 to work with over 100 clients, selling out her programs and surpassing the six-figure milestone in the span of just two years.

Ellen Mackenzie

How I overcome this feeling?

To overcome imposter syndrome, I remind myself over and over that I am worthy. This is a daily habit that you have to force yourself to do in the beginning before it becomes more natural. Journalling and putting pen to paper have helped me so much. My journal is full of pages with words like “I’m a boss business queen” and “I am confident, talented, and worthy.” I remember writing “I’m a six-figure business owner” before I was even making that money. It’s all about believing in yourself and reminding yourself of these big dreams every day. 

My experience struggling with imposter syndrome.

When I first started my business, I felt like I “tricked” people into working with me. I had such little faith in myself that even when the dollars hit my bank account, I was scared to spend any money because I thought everyone would ask for refunds. I worked as a journalist and spent 12 months getting rejected from marketing jobs before I decided to start my own side hustle as a social media manager. Getting rejected from all those previous jobs set a fire under my belly, and I wanted to prove everyone wrong. But it also really hit my confidence. I worried that maybe I wasn’t good enough. A few months down the track, I remember sitting there on the phone talking to a potential new client. They were talking about their Instagram strategy and ended their sentence with a simple question that changed everything. They said, “But what are your thoughts, Ellen? You’re the expert here.” I was thrown for a second there because my immediate thought was, “I’m really not an expert.” However, the phone call went on, and I ended up booking the client. It made me realize that my client believed in me more than I did – and that needed to change. I started journaling more and reminding myself daily that I wasn’t an imposter; I was an expert. Those next few months, my business really took off, my income increased, and I quit my full-time job to go all-in on my business. That shift in my mind and overcoming my imposter syndrome was instrumental to my success. Although imposter syndrome still pops up every now and then, especially when I launch something new, I know how to deal with it now.

3 Steps someone experiencing imposter syndrome can take to move forward, despite feeling like an “imposter.”
  • Force yourself through this uncomfortable feeling. You’ll never overcome it if you don’t face this feeling head-on.
  • Keep a folder of all your achievements to look back on when you’re feeling down. For me, this is a folder of screenshots on my computer. In there, you’ll find reviews or messages from clients and Instagram comments or DMs from people saying how much I’ve helped them and their business. These screenshots always make me feel so confident and amazing. Having them in one place that I can access with one click is great whenever I feel imposter syndrome popping back up again.  
  • As said above, journalling was a huge help for me. Writing things down can help clear your head of irrational thoughts and feelings. 

Micki Weiner, Founder of Petal + Ash

Micki, the founder of Petal + Ash, a Brooklyn-based sustainable lingerie company currently in the start-up. Their mission is to empower women to feel at home in their bodies while honoring their home, Mother Earth.

Micki Weiner

How I overcome this feeling?

I constantly go back to my “why.” It brings me back to the heart of my mission and realigns my confidence. I also seek out other entrepreneurs; I’m often reaching out to founders I’ve heard speak on panels or found on networking platforms. More often than not, they are willing to chat with me, and hearing their experiences makes me realize that we are all figuring it out a lot of the time as we go. These conversations make me realize no matter what level we’re at; we’re all fighting some form of imposter syndrome. It may sound strange, but knowing that allows me to release my own struggle.

My experience struggling with imposter syndrome

I come into the sustainable lingerie space as a frustrated consumer and fashion industry outsider. Yet, I am building my brand off years of thorough research. I’m knowledgeable in the space I’m entering, yet imposter syndrome constantly creeps up. As I move through the various stages of start-up, I’m working on expanding my network and building relationships within the industry. It’s in these interactions that my imposter syndrome really kicks in. I’ll hear the voice in my head getting louder and louder, as it tells me I’m not qualified or I don’t know what I’m talking about. My insecurity kicks in, and I start to doubt my vision and the value I’m bringing into the world.

3 Steps someone experiencing imposter syndrome can take to move forward, despite feeling like an “imposter”:
  • Honor the compliments and achievements you have made thus far. It may seem silly, but when I’m really feeling like an imposter, I’ll make a list of everything I’ve accomplished. It’s pretty powerful to read that list back to myself, and it reinforces my place as an entrepreneur.
  • Stay educated. Grounding yourself in the current happenings of your industry and other relevant industries or news events is a great way to back up your ideas and quench your imposter syndrome.
  • Go through the motions, even when you feel like a fraud. On the days I’m really feeling like an imposter, I force myself to do whatever tasks that day requires. I find that by forcing myself through the motions at a certain point, my imposter feelings start to calm down.

Do you need help overcoming impostor syndrome or removing fear and self-doubt?