How to Deal With Imposter Syndrome as a Startup Founder
To help you conquer imposter syndrome as a budding entrepreneur, we’ve gathered advice from 11 successful startup founders and CEOs. From embracing positive self-talk to understanding your audience and building experience, these leaders share their best tips for overcoming self-doubt and embracing your accomplishments.
- Embrace Positive Self-Talk
- Portray Confidence in Situations
- Practice Self-Compassion
- Value Small Wins
- Manage Self-Doubt with Facts
- Create a Brag File
- Understand the Source
- Practice Mindfulness
- Confront Self-Doubt
- Understand the Audience, Build Experience, and Value Your Opinion
Embrace Positive Self-Talk
Embrace the power of positive self-talk! Whenever those self-doubts creep in, turn up the volume on your inner cheerleader. Remind yourself of your accomplishments, celebrate your unique skills, and acknowledge that everyone starts somewhere. Remember, even the biggest successes had their doubts along the way.
Portray Confidence in Situations
The funny thing about founding a company is how many new situations I find myself thrust into. I thought I was reasonably well-suited to starting a company, but you never know all the situations you’ll be in until some of them actually arise. Obviously, I felt like an imposter at first. And maybe I was.
I found that acting like I’d been there before really helped me out. (I’m not the first one to notice this, but it’s surprisingly good advice.) If you feel like an imposter and act like it, everyone will notice. If you act like you’ve been there, at least you’ve got a shot at conveying competency. The worst-case scenario is somebody thinks you don’t know what you’re doing. But at least you’ve led with confidence, and that counts for a lot.
To overcome imposter syndrome, focus on your achievements and practice self-compassion. Celebrate even small successes, reminding yourself that everyone starts somewhere. Build a supportive network of mentors and peers who understand your challenges, share experiences and seek advice.
Recognize that imposter syndrome is common among entrepreneurs, normalizing your feelings. Prioritize self-care and engage in activities you enjoy. Treat yourself with kindness, understanding that mistakes are part of the learning process.
By nurturing a positive mindset and acknowledging your worth, you can overcome imposter syndrome and embrace your role as a confident entrepreneur.
Value Small Wins
A win is a win, no matter how great or small. When self-doubt sinks in, remembering even those small wins can make a big difference in how you view your successes. They’re excellent reminders that you’re doing something special because wins don’t often happen by themselves.
Every win is a testament to your capabilities, skills, knowledge, and efforts, so use them to build a ladder out of the self-doubt hole and embrace your expertise as it is.
Manage Self-Doubt with Facts
Rather than try to avoid your imposter syndrome thoughts, instead try to suppress feelings of self-doubt by managing them. Dwelling isn’t particularly proactive, and willpower is rarely successful without a plan.
Acknowledge your feelings and reason with negative feelings of self-doubt by using facts; think of your success, skills, achievements, family, ways you’ve helped people, etc. A mental evaluation and shift in perspective are oftentimes all it takes to overcome imposter syndrome as a budding entrepreneur.
Create a Brag File
Imposter syndrome haunts even the best of us, and one strategy that proved useful for me is to keep a “brag file.” I have a little notebook where I note down every sale and every milestone in my business. This isn’t about being arrogant; it’s about self-recognition and confidence. Every win, no matter how seemingly small, goes in there.
So when those days hit—the ones where self-doubt tries to take the wheel—you’ve got a powerful tool at your disposal. Flip open your brag file, read through your accomplishments, and realize that you are way cooler than you remember.
Understand the Source
My best tip for overcoming imposter syndrome as a new entrepreneur is to try to understand why you feel like an imposter in the first place. Often, it’s because you’re worried you won’t be able to provide value. But actually, that’s a good thing—it means you genuinely want to help others.
Once you’ve identified the source of your imposter syndrome, think about this: Why wouldn’t you be able to provide value? If you’ve had results yourself and are sharing what you know, there’s no reason why you wouldn’t be able to help others too.
Focusing on your strengths–on your unique qualities and background and experience—can help you successfully overcome illogical fears so that you can ultimately make a difference.
Because we are all in a state of continuous learning and evolving through our mistakes, overcoming the “Imposter Syndrome” is about shifting how we view our challenges, turning them from potential setbacks into opportunities for growth.
My best tip is to practice mindfulness. As it is a core aspect of my business, I’ve learned to step back from these self-doubting thoughts, strengthening my confidence in my own abilities. This change in perspective turned my initial doubts into a force that pushed me to strive for more. Embrace it, learn from it, and use it to remind yourself of the value you bring to your clients.
Don’t be afraid to talk about your achievements and challenge the idea of being judged or appearing too confident. Try a technique called exposure therapy where you logically assess the worst-case scenarios and accept different outcomes.
By doing this, you can weaken the grip of fear and regain your confidence. Embrace your accomplishments and confront self-doubt to overcome imposter syndrome and thrive as an entrepreneur.
Understand the Audience, Build Experience, and Value Your Opinion
My best tip for overcoming imposter syndrome as a budding entrepreneur is to focus on three things: target audience understanding, build experience, and value your own opinion.
Firstly, by doing in-depth research to understand the exact questions your target audience is asking, you can be constantly in the loop and ready to answer any questions without feeling like an imposter. Secondly, building experience is important. Think back on the things you have tried before and understand why certain things did not work. This will help you prove to yourself that you are no imposter.
Lastly, and most importantly, it’s critical to value your own opinion. If you feel passionate about something, don’t be afraid to share your point of view, even if others may not agree or listen to you. It’s more about speaking out for yourself and being confident in your own voice.