This week our blog post is written by Alana Rouso, a success coach from Canada who works with creatives and entrepreneurs to help them crush their goals and achieve success. One of her areas of expertise is helping people push through imposter syndrome; keep reading to learn her advice on how to overcome it and live the success you desire. And if you want to hear more from Alana make sure to listen to this week’s Badass CEO podcast episode all about her career and success tips.
If you’re an entrepreneur, chances are at times you’ve felt like you’re playing dress-up. While some moments are fun and exhilarating and you don’t want them to end, often they are deeply clouded by feelings of inadequacy and fear.
Enter Imposter Syndrome.
Imposter Syndrome can be defined as an overwhelming feeling of doubt and inadequacy, culminating in a fear of being exposed as a fraud. Despite proof of success, “imposters” routinely dismiss accomplishments and override them with negative self-talk.
“Imposters” feel like they are wearing shoes that don’t quite fit and pretending to be someone they want to be. When Imposter Syndrome creeps in, you may find yourself thinking things like:
“Who the heck am I to be a CEO? I’m just a (insert self-defining title here).”
“I have no idea what I am doing and everyone – including my friends and family – is going to call me out and I’ll be so embarrassed.”
“I just don’t think I have what it takes to run a company.”
Imposter syndrome is pervasive and while it does affect men, it is widespread among women. For those suffering, it keeps them up at night, causes intense stress and anxiety, and makes decision-making incredibly difficult. In many cases, there’s that repetitive mental thought loop that goes something like this: “I’ll make the wrong step and my company will fall apart, I’ll lose everything and the world will see I’m really a fake – hello, catastrophic thinking. Sound familiar? You are not alone. Millions of women describe feeling this way.
While Imposter Syndrome is real and at times debilitating, there are things you can do to combat this mental pattern. Here are 3 steps you can take to start truly feeling like the BadAss CEO you truly are:
1. Reframe the Narrative
Congratulations, you have Imposter Syndrome! Umm, say what now?
If you are suddenly feeling like an imposter, consider it a good thing. It’s a clear sign you are up-leveling, stepping out of your comfort zone, and rising up to a new challenge. If you were playing it totally safe, you would likely not be battling Imposter Syndrome.
In the coaching world, we call this ‘reframing’. Take something that is seemingly a glaring negative, and spin it so you can view it from a new, more positive perspective. It is not intended to diminish the harsh reality of the situation, but rather to breathe new energy into a scenario so you’re no longer paralyzed with fear.
Those unnerving waves of discomfort are crucial hallmarks of a successful business owner. Ask any successful CEO about their rise to the top and they will confirm there were many, “Oh frick, what do I do now?” moments. While it is extremely unnerving to feel these waves of discomfort, it is, indeed, necessary. If you manage to persevere the discomfort, more congratulations! You’re making huge strides in reaching your goal of BadAss CEO.
2. Define what kind of CEO you want to be
What kind of CEO do you want to be? There are, in fact, many kinds to choose from (yes, I did say choose). You can be a flip-flop-wearing, top-knot lovin’, work from a laptop kind of CEO, or a power suit, hustle-in-high heels, limo-riding CEO. Define what kind of CEO you aspire to be and you may find your Imposter Syndrome may diminish.
Ask yourself if you trying to be the kind of CEO you think you should be, rather than the CEO you really want to be?
In an exercise I do with clients called “Being Who You Want to Be”, I have clients describe their ideal CEO-self in detail. Ask yourself questions such as, “What are her habits?”, “What does she believe?” and “What thoughts does she tell herself?” and then write down your answers. Reflect on what you have written. The more in alignment you are with your answers, the less likely you will experience Imposter Syndrome. Forcing yourself to act like a CEO that does not resonate with your values or beliefs will only cause you more stress. Authenticity for the win! This leads me to #3.
3. Fake it – for now
Back in 2012, social psychologist Amy Cuddy told us to “Fake it till you become it” in her TEDGlobal talk, “Your body language shapes who you.” Listen to Amy!
The truth is you’re not actually faking it. You’re doing what it takes to be a CEO, and that includes trial and error and making mistakes. Everyone – yes, everyone – is making things up as they go along with the hopes of finally ‘making it’.
Remember, a key attribute of those who experience imposter syndrome is to dismiss accomplishments. Most women have a laundry list of successes they have achieved yet they are scratched out deeming them insignificant or trivial. The fact is, those successes are concrete wins and signs of business prowess. Remember, it’s a consistent series of small wins that build a successful empire.
With every decision you make, every action you take, you are closer to becoming the BadAss CEO you’ve dreamt of (see point #2). One day you will wake up feeling less of a fraud if you commit to the full entrepreneurial journey. Accept that there will be moments of insecurity, but do not let them stop you! You can do this.
Ultimately Imposter Syndrome stems from not feeling ‘enough’ – good enough, smart enough, experienced enough, or strong enough. But you are enough. All you need is enough courage to take the next small step in front of you. And given that you have gotten this far, you’ve proven you have what it takes to walk alongside all the incredible BadAss CEOs out there. Just. Keep. Going.
Alana Ruoso is a Success Coach for Designers, Creatives & Entrepreneurs who know deep down that they can do better but keep falling short of where they want to go. With humor and honesty, Alana shows them how to ditch struggle, own their value, and move their career (and life) from vanilla success to spectacular triumph. Alana is a Certified Professional Coach, COR.E Dynamics Leadership Specialist, and Energy Leadership Index Master Practitioner.