How to Overcome Imposter Syndrome as an Entrepreneur

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Peter Shallard
CEO | Commit Action |

A big new opportunity comes your way that you’ve always deserved. Instead of excitement, you feel knots in your stomach. 

You start thinking, “Will they see through me and realize I don’t have what it takes?”

No matter how hard you work, or how many milestones you hit, a small voice in your head whispers, “I don’t deserve this.”

If this inner self-doubt sounds familiar, you're experiencing a common phenomenon called imposter syndrome. 

It's estimated that up to 87% of entrepreneurs have experienced imposter syndrome to some extent despite clear competence.

But there are proven ways to silence that voice for good.

At Commit Action, our coaches have helped thousands of driven entrepreneurs overcome imposter syndrome using psychology-backed techniques. 

In this guide, we take a look at what imposter syndrome is, how to combat it in real time, and cultivate a new empowering mindset.

What is Imposter Syndrome?

Imposter syndrome manifests as persistent self-doubt and feelings of fraudulence despite clear external evidence of competence and achievement.

First recognized in 1978 by psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes, imposter syndrome affects even the most accomplished people across fields.

At the core of imposter syndrome is an intense, deep-seated belief that you are an inadequate fraud just posing as competent and qualified. You have an inability to internalize and accept your success.

This distorted self-perception fuels thoughts like:

  • I convinced investors to fund my startup but worried I couldn't actually deliver on the vision I sold them on.

  • I got promoted but I think my charm and networking skills got me here more than any real leadership abilities.

  • I work harder than everyone else trying to overcompensate for a lack of natural talent or ability in this area.

  • If people got to know the real me behind the facade, they would be utterly disappointed.

Despite mounting external proof of competence like awards, promotions, praise, or measurable results, you believe none of it is real or deserved.

6 Common Symptoms of Imposter Syndrome

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Feelings of self-doubt tend to manifest in specific behaviors. See if any of these patterns ring a bell:

1. Perfectionism & overpreparation

You obsess over precisely getting every detail right to minimize chances of failure or rejection. Presentations get rehearsed 20 times. Simple emails get re-written multiple times before sending. You keep researching and preparations drag on because it never feels ‘ready’ enough.

2. Discounting praise & accomplishments

You insist ‘I just got lucky’ or ‘It was a fluke’ when receiving positive feedback or external validation about your skills. All compliments roll right off you because your internal narrative says you’re undeserving.

3. Believing you're undeserving

You feel like a sham who sneaked past the bouncer into an exclusive club you shouldn’t actually belong to. You believe it’s only a matter of time before you’re exposed as inadequate and expelled.   

4. Frequent self-doubt when taking on new challenges

You become filled with worry whenever you need to stretch beyond your comfort zone, like taking on a new project in an unfamiliar area. You assume you'll fail despite proven abilities.

5. Crippling fear of failure and aversion to risk

You avoid taking risks or putting yourself in positions to potentially fall short because you feel unable to handle failure. You delay acting due to inner turmoil.

6. Reluctance to ask questions or ask for help

You refrain from asking questions or seeking assistance because you feel you should already know the answers. You don't want to appear unknowledgeable.

Do these patterns sound familiar? You’re absolutely not alone in feeling this way.

Read also: Enhance your adaptability and decision-making in business. Learn what is cognitive flexibility and its impact on entrepreneurial success!

Why Are Entrepreneurs Prone to Imposter Syndrome?

Aimless slackers don’t typically struggle with imposter syndrome. People with grand goals who take bold risks do. 

But what specifically makes ambitious entrepreneurs vulnerable? Here are some reasons:

1. You're under constant pressure to appear competent

As the face of your business, displaying ironclad confidence is an expectation you impose on yourself. Admitting uncertainty or self-doubt feels terrifying. You feel immense pressure to have all the answers.

2. You frequently compare yourself to other entrepreneurs

It’s easier to focus on other founders further along their journey than realize how far you’ve already come. Social media intensifies comparison. You see carefully curated highlights reels, not real life.

3. You strive towards perfectionism 

As a driven entrepreneur, you likely hold yourself to extremely high standards. Shortcomings and failures hit hard. Self-criticism comes easily.

4. Taking big risks inherently triggers deep self-doubt

Doing work that matters requires a bit of imposter syndrome. You're advancing into unknown territory - of course, you'll question if you can pull it off. 

5. You lack professional training in your domain

Many founders learn by doing and chart their own path without formal credentials. You constantly question if gaps in traditional education make you unfit.

6. Your identity is closely tied to your work's success

As an entrepreneur, your work feels deeply personal. Failures or setbacks in business hit you hard at your core, fueling imposter syndrome.

The very drive and traits that fuel your ambition also prime you for limiting thoughts. 

At Commit Action, our coaches help entrepreneurs reframe these tendencies and dynamics in order to overcome self-doubt.

With research-backed techniques delivered through our accountable coaching model, you can finally quiet your inner critic and move past limiting beliefs holding you back from your full potential.

Our proven methodology helps you recognize your capabilities so imposter syndrome no longer diminishes the unique value you bring.

Refine Your Entrepreneurial Tactics: Looking to sharpen your business approach? Take our Entrepreneur Personality Test and find out how your unique personality can refine your entrepreneurial tactics for greater success.

6 Practical Tactics to Counter Imposter Syndrome

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When that nagging inner voice pipes up, try these thought interruption techniques:

1. Ask what you'd tell someone else feeling similarly

Imagine a close friend or mentee expressing the same doubt you’re feeling. What advice or reassurance would you offer? Give yourself the same compassion.

2. Review your accomplishments and positive feedback

Re-read past performance reviews, emails, testimonials from happy clients, and encouraging texts from family and friends. You’ve earned this - external proof outweighs internal doubts.

3. Share imposter feelings openly to normalize them

Confiding in trusted peers or an accountability coach helps release the burden of feeling alone in this struggle. You’ll often realize you’re not the only one who feels this way.

4. Make a list of objective reasons you're qualified

What relevant experience, knowledge, skills, and strengths do you possess for this opportunity? How have you prepared? Focus on your proven track record rather than imagined shortcomings.

5. Look at all you've overcome in the past

When self-doubt creeps in, remind yourself of previous challenges you've faced and conquered through perseverance. You've made it this far - you have what it takes.

6. Visualize yourself succeeding

Imagine yourself excelling and being praised for top performance. Envision handling challenges smoothly. Mental rehearsal builds real-world confidence.

Actively counter negative self-talk by getting objective. You’ll realize thoughts like “I’m unqualified” simply aren’t true.

Cultivating a Growth Mindset and Healthy Self-Narrative

While combating individual thoughts helps in the short term, rewriting your whole inner narrative is key for lasting confidence.

Our coaches at Commit Action guide entrepreneurs to adopt a growth mindset through the following:

  • View abilities as flexible skills you can develop over time, not fixed traits set in stone. You have the potential to improve at anything.

  • Celebrate progress made rather than demanding perfection before feeling satisfied. Focus on improvement, not error-proof performance. 

  • Take constructive feedback as helpful input to grow, not personal criticism of who you are. Other people's perspectives help us see our blind spots.

  • Remember, setbacks are inherent to the journey of growth. Have self-compassion when you make mistakes.

  • Compare yourself to your past self rather than unrealistic standards. Are you wiser and more skilled than you were 1 year ago?

With this mentality shift, you stop feeding the roots of imposter syndrome - beliefs that abilities are innate and fixed, and that your worth depends on achieving perfection. 

You recognize struggle and criticism are part of the journey, not reasons to quit. Self-doubt becomes just another obstacle to overcome, not a roadblock halting all progress.

Silence Your Inner Critic and Realize Your Potential

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At Commit Action, we specialize in helping entrepreneurs like you build the confidence, resilience, and boldness needed to overcome imposter syndrome through our time-tested coaching methodology.

Our team of expert coaches guides members in implementing techniques like:

  • Reframing distorted thoughts through cognitive behavioral approaches

  • Anchoring successes into your self-narrative

  • Establishing empowering daily habits and rituals

  • Learning to take action despite discomfort

With 1-on-1 support, you'll be able to move past limiting beliefs about yourself and embrace your capabilities.

Don't let imposter syndrome rob you of your potential for even one more day. Sign up now to learn more about our proven approach to defeating self-doubt.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Can you ever get rid of imposter syndrome?

While occasional feelings may always arise when stretching yourself, managing thoughts gets easier with time and practice. Recognize distortions but don't expect them to disappear entirely.

2. What triggers my imposter syndrome?

New opportunities, promotions, public praise, big presentations, competition, and mistakes often trigger imposter syndrome by heightening pressure.

3. Do I have imposter syndrome or am I just bad?

Imposters attribute success to luck, while the incompetent overestimate abilities. In the end, imposters still produce results despite self-doubt.

4. How can I learn to take smart risks even with imposter syndrome?

Start small pushing comfort zones and reframe failure as learning. Achieve mastery slowly with practice. Your imposter feelings will fade.

5. How do I open up about imposter feelings without looking insecure?

Frame it as seeking mentorship on building skills, not confessing inadequacy. Most people appreciate honesty and will relate to you.

6. What's the best way to reframe challenges and failures?

Extract lessons, improve, and get 1% better. Failure has seeds of growth with a shift in mindset. Use failures to reveal areas needing improvement.

7. How can I compare myself less to other entrepreneurs?

Compare yourself to past versions of yourself, not others. Focus on your growth trajectory because each journey is unique.

8. How do I overcome imposter syndrome as an introverted entrepreneur?

Introverts can journal privately to process feelings and seek support from small circles. They can also reach out to trusted peers and coaches 1-on-1 like Commit Action

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