And How to Overcome It
“Fake it until you make it” is excellent advice for some real business momentum, especially in those early days. But what happens when that ‘Fake it’ feeling never goes away?
Imposter Syndrome is real, and unless you are a sociopath, you’re likely to experience it at some point on your business journey. But don’t feel bad; you’re in great company because it’s also a staple of high achievers, top athletes, movie stars, bestselling authors, even presidents and first ladies. On a weirder note, there’s evidence to show imposter syndrome seems to affect women more than men, but it’s not a gender-based phenomenon. I can attest to that, and perhaps women are just more aware and comfortable talking about it.
It’s crucial to recognise imposter syndrome when it strikes and accept it as an entirely normal thing; otherwise, it can lead to you playing small, it can affect your mental health and ultimately lead to you giving up on your dreams. Also, know that it comes and it goes.
So how do you know if you’re an imposter syndrome sufferer?
- Feeling like people have overestimated your skills
- A fear that others will discover your fundamental failings
- Putting any success, you do have to external factors like luck or fluke
This isn’t an exhaustive list by any means, and it can simply mean being in a business funk, which becomes a personal gloom and suddenly doubting your abilities. It’s our brains that do it to us. Our critical thinking zones randomly give too much weight to the wrong thing, so we believe them to be true.
So why do we suffer from Imposter Syndrome? Well our wonderful but also flawed little brains have evolved to make connections. It’s called critical thinking, and it’s often helpful to protect us. A sense of unease telling us, “Don’t make camp on the edge of that cliff”, for example, was useful to our more primitive selves. But when those connections go wrong, our brains make us believe things based on false or incomplete evidence.
For example, feeling nervous before doing a presentation makes us assume it will go badly, which unfortunately means it might. Thinking one minor setback means an entire project or venture is doomed. If you stumble slightly once over an element of a single treatment, it means the whole treatment was terrible. Maybe ALL your treatments are awful. Then there’s mental filtering – again designed to protect our primitive selves in the wild, now means we gloss over those 99 positive reviews and focus on that single negative review deciding that one means we should give up now. Sounding familiar?
But overcoming imposter syndrome requires a few simple tools from your resilience toolkit.
- Identify it. Now you can recognise it. That’s the first step in overcoming it.
- Check Yourself. Do a quick reality check. I like to do this on paper. Challenge the assumption causing the feeling. Doing this shows that one slight misstep doesn’t mean you’re unfit to call yourself human.
- Recognise your success. Keep a list of your wins, your positive reviews, thank you emails etc. Don’t put these down to chance or fluke. The number of them proves this isn’t the case.
- Ditch that comparisonitis. Everyone is different. Everyone started from another place and are at various points on their business journey. Only compare yourself with past versions of yourself and notice the growth.
- Learn to take a compliment, damn it. Yes, you are good at what you do, so resist the urge to self-depreciate that positive feedback away. Let the approval sink in and make you and the person complimenting you feel terrific.
There’s no cure for imposter syndrome. That’d be just too easy, wouldn’t it? But it doesn’t have to hold you back. Sure it can be annoying, it’s going to pop up now and then, but now you know how to spot it and how to overcome it. Here’s a thought. It’s even possible to channel it and flip it around for positive purposes. The occasional bout of imposter syndrome likely means you care. You care about what you are doing, about the people you are helping, which means you are doing meaningful work. You probably have a constant need to do your best, tweaking and improving as you go. So imposter syndrome, properly handled, can inspire you to be the very best version of yourself. Imposter syndrome sufferers unite! 💪We’ll make the world a better place if we do.
What happens when it’s ALL the time? If you find yourself struggling with imposter syndrome, then you might need some more specific tools to handle it. Otherwise, it’s going to hold you back and maybe even spiral you down into something much more severe.
CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), not to be confused with CDB oil, although that might help, I suppose, is a fantastic way of managing imposter syndrome in a more ongoing way. CBT trains us to be more objective and see ourselves and the world around us in a more unconnected way, a.k.a. reality. For example, did that client really blank you as you passed each other in the supermarket because she thought your last treatment was appalling, or maybe was she simply looking for which aisle has the spices on it?
Not everything revolves around you. Hardly anything does, as it turns out. But if you are able to recognise Imposter Syndrome for what it is – your brain trying to be… well, helpful to a certain extent.. then you’re half way there.
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