How To Handle Impostor Syndrome As A Product Business Founder
Imposter Syndrome is a common issue that a lot of product business founders I speak to, deal with every day. They experience negative feelings about themselves and their businesses, and they find it becomes difficult to stay positive, focused on business growth and product innovation.
How do you deal with such an issue daily? Here are my top tips to help you tackle it:
What is Imposter Syndrome, and why do many Female Entrepreneurs experience it?
Imposter syndrome is all about feeling doubt over your accomplishments. You worry that you’ll be seen as a fraud or fake of some kind, even though what you accomplish with your business is entirely legitimate and all down to your hard work.
Many of the Female entrepreneurs I meet, deal with Imposter Syndrome very frequently. Up until recently, product businesses, in general, were not often female-led. In these types of businesses in the past, Women typically found themselves in deputy or assistant roles, rarely leading investment decisions, pitching or funding rounds and without the chance to rise up and be the CEO.
So in many cases if you've grown up in that "old school" work culture, it is actually very common to feel like a fraud even though now you're running your own business - simply because of how gender roles played at work for you, in your early career.
Your product is usually a reflection of you and that's why this is scary
When we are brave enough to put a new product out into the world and ask the public, our customers, and the press to comment on it, buy it, compete against it - it can often feel like a little piece of our soul is being pecked apart!
This is unique to the life of a product based business owner - the product development journey is often a very tortuous one and the reason for starting your product business, is often a very personal one.
When my clients start beauty brands because they've had skin problems themselves, or create innovative hair care products because they've experienced hair loss - they are having to tell a piece of their story and share it, open it up for criticism - and when we are already feeling like a fake in our big shoes of "CEO" - then this is just another layer of uncertainty, risk and doubt we've added!
It’s easy to assume that successful people don’t feel like frauds
You would be forgiven if you thought that a successful woman doesn’t feel like a fraud, or that the CEO of Google is immune to Imposter Syndrome. However, you would also be wrong. Plenty of people suffer from doubt and don’t feel like they earned their accomplishments, no matter what their official job title. It’s a by-product of the world we live in, and it isn’t easy to overcome.
Fake it till you make it - What then?
A general piece of advice that I hear my clients have been given by other people, is to simply "fake it until you make it". However, in my experience, that doesn’t always work as a principle because what happens after that?
If you’ve faked it until you made it, you don’t develop a legitimate sense of your own accomplishments and a deep, unwavering confidence in your own capability. You have a lot to be proud of if you've grown your own business even this far, and it's all too easy to forget that. Own your success - even the small wins!
Build yourself a community of like-minded, trusted people
If you are someone who is trying to overcome imposter syndrome, it might be in your interest to surround yourself and build up a tiny, trusted community of like-minded product entrepreneurs.
This trusted group of people can help you to see that your product-based business and your accomplishments are things you've worked hard to create for yourself.
It may not seem like it all the time. But when you have a group of other entrepreneurial founders in your network, who are as ambitious as you but sometimes suffer from the same doubts, you can all work together to support each other and overcome them.
Step back, get context and avoid comparisons
If we had a dollar for every time we met a client who has done a hatchet job on themselves - going down the rabbit hole which is 3 hours on social media in "comparison doom scrolling", well, then we'd all be very rich indeed.
THE worst thing that you can do if you know you are edging towards a bout of imposter syndrome is to compare yourself to someone else.
You do not know what their situation is, you do not know what resources they have or help they've had which is totally unique to their business... and importantly, they may even feel twice as bad as you right now! We all know that those smiley images on Social media are never what they seem. No one posts their ugly sides when it comes to telling their business growth story. They just don't. So you simply don't know what is really going on in your comparison targets world.
Try to remember that the only person who you should ever compare with is yourself. You are the benchmark for your life, it's your personal journey. Only you started from where you started. Only you will get to where you will get to. So the journey can't ever be compared. If you try to compare to others, you simply aren't comparing apples vs apples, as my Gran would say!
If it all gets a bit too much it can be essential to step back from time to time, even delete your social media apps for a couple of days and take stock of a situation - get context on it and learn how to appreciate space and yourself.
Remember to interact with customers
When you are a product business owner who is suffering from imposter syndrome, you should make sure that you never hide or try and shut yourself away. I get it, if you feel like a fraud, it becomes too easy to shut yourself away and stop interacting with customers and colleagues. Remember to interact with the people who matter because they will lift you up, give you courage to get out there more and shine.
Make It Happen In Your Business
Imposter syndrome can be a challenge for any product-based business owner looking to grow their business. It is crucial to think about all of the different options you have to tackle it and be kind to yourself on the journey. You’ve done so well with your accomplishments already, and no one can ever take that success away from you.
- End each day with a reflection on your #WINS - it is vital that you celebrate the little successes. Even if it's as small as a tiny change on your website. It all counts in moving you forward and building courage and confidence.
- If you need to talk to someone about Imposter Syndrome, whilst this is not in the realm of business advisors like us, there are professionally trained life and career coaches who are qualified and able to support you and guide you through this. Do your research before appointing external support and make sure you can share how you really feel with them.
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