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Imposter Syndrome

Do you ever feel like you don’t deserve the things you have achieved? Or like the success of your business is more down to luck than anything else? If these thoughts sound familiar to you, it’s possible you may be experiencing Imposter Syndrome.

Imposter Syndrome is when you feel constantly doubtful or insecure about your ability to do something, for example, to run a business. While this can happen at any time, it is most common when people are going through transitions or trying new things like opening your business for the first time, expanding or changing aspects of your business, or having your business survive through tough times such as COVID-19.

While some level of Imposter Syndrome can be beneficial in increasing motivation and hard work, too much can cause feelings of anxiety and self-doubt, and prevent you from enjoying your well-deserved success.

Common characteristics of Imposter Syndrome

While Imposter Syndrome is not a formally diagnosable mental illness, prolonged feelings of self-doubt and uncertainty can lead to symptoms of anxiety and depression. There are some common characteristics that can help you identify imposter syndrome in yourself:

  • Feeling like you are a fake: Many people with Imposter Syndrome believe they do not deserve their success and fear they will be discovered as a fraud, even though they are perfectly competent.
  • Attributing successes to luck: Another common belief of people with Imposter Syndrome is that successful outcomes are not due to hard work and ability, rather to luck or a fluke.
  • Difficulty accepting praise: People with Imposter Syndrome may attribute praise to someone ‘just being nice’ rather than a genuine compliment. They may respond to praise by downplaying their involvement or attributing the success to other external factors.
  • Fear of failure: People with Imposter Syndrome feel a lot of pressure to succeed. Fear of failure may mean being sensitive to constructive criticism and worrying about small mistakes or flaws in your work.
  • Undermining yourself: Even if you are more skilled than others in a certain area, you might find yourself downplaying your expertise or not expressing your thoughts or ideas with confidence and conviction.

What can I do if I am experiencing Imposter Syndrome?

There are a few things you can do to help minimise the impact of Imposter Syndrome:

  • Acknowledge and share your thoughts: Identifying that you have these thoughts is the first step. Once you have done this, you should try sharing with others. Keeping these irrational beliefs to yourself means they may fester and have nobody challenge them.
  • Challenge your thoughts: When the characteristics of imposter syndrome emerge, question whether they are rational. If all the evidence points to you doing a good job, why can’t you believe it?
  • Stop comparing yourself to others: Just because someone else is doing well, doesn’t mean you aren’t. If it helps, you could even unfollow certain people or businesses on social media.
  • Practice accepting praise: Next time someone offers you praise for something, try saying thank you rather than attributing your success to something else.
  • Celebrate your success: Even if you think you got lucky or had outside help, a success is still a success. Own your accomplishments and do something to celebrate.
Infographic: Five ways small business owners can respond to Imposter Syndrome. 1. Acknowledge and share your feelings. 2. Challenge your thoughts. 3. Stop comparing yourself to others. 4. Practice accepting praise. 5. Celebrate your success. Learn more at

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