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Imposter Syndrome

Fake it ’til you make it! If you’ve spent any time in business you’ve undoubtedly hear someone throughout this type of advice. In The Boiler Room, a sales manager played by Ben Affleck, he tells his new recruits to “Act as if. Act as if you’re the President of the Firm.”

In many businesses, young people need a shot of confidence and are given various forms of advice designed to help them envision their success. I’ve been there, so I get it. But for many entrepreneurs, after several years, they run into the opposite feeling – imposter syndrome.

Impostor syndrome is defined on Wikipedia as a concept describing high-achieving individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”. For me, it can manifest itself as the internal voice that reminds me that despite almost twenty years in business that my college degree is in Elementary Education.

If you’ve ever felt like an imposter – someone who doesn’t deserve the success you have – here are four ways to work your way through it.

Talk to someone you trust. Whether it’s a mentor, a spouse a partner or a friend, talking about what you’re feeling immediately reduces its power. It’s easy to let our pride get in the way, but the fact is telling someone quiets the inner voice that can cripple us.

Accept that it’s ok to feel this way. I’ve heard it said that “feelings aren’t facts, but they’re real.” The surest way to work your way through this phase – because ultimately that’s all it is – is to realize and accept that you’re in it.

Focus on other people. Whether you call them clients or customers or teammates, there are other people involved in your business. Spend some time focused on them. How can you make their experience better? Could you adjust the environment or your product to better serve them? The surest way I’ve found to quit worrying about my circumstances is to worry about someone else.

Remember that no one knows what goes on behind the curtain. I learned this lesson before a speaking engagement. I was nervous and a good friend reminded me, “No one knows what’s supposed to be in the presentation anyway. If you forget something out there, it’s ok – even normal.” Her point was, life and business don’t require perfection, but they do require consistency.

Every now and then, it’s easy to feel like you come up short. I’ve felt it in my business and at home with my boys. For me these steps have been incredibly helpful in the times that my inner voice gets going.

If you’re reading this, I have no doubt you’re the real deal. But frankly, it doesn’t matter what I think.  It doesn’t even really the matter what you think – it matters what you do. I’d start with these steps. I bet you’ll be your old self again before you finish!