Posted on 19 March, 2018  |  3 min

As we continue in our blog series to celebrate Women’s History Month 2018, impostor syndrome is very much a hot topic. The Entrepreneur's Godmother, turned guest blogger, Alison Edgar talks about how women can own their skills and value their contribution as a small business owner.

It’s Women’s History Month in the UK and around the world. But if you ask me, I don’t think we need an excuse to celebrate our accomplishments and feel worthy. Still, I know from my work helping entrepreneurs of all stripes that women often feel they have something extra to prove. If they are successful (and many are—you’re amazing!), they don’t feel they deserve the success.

If you feel this way, you’re not alone. Many successful women business owners experience constant, nagging thoughts that their success is unwarranted. They worry that at any moment, someone will expose them as a fraud. The evidence strongly suggests otherwise, but they just can’t shake this anxiety and they overcompensate. This phenomenon plagues even top CEOs—it’s called impostor syndrome. 

I’m here to tell you that you are not an impostor, and it’s time to honour your hard work and enjoy running your business.

Celebrate your success

You deserve your success. You deserve to run your own business. From my work and tonnes of existing research, I know that women tend to see their successes as a result of temporary causes, such as luck or extra-human effort. In contrast, men usually feel their success comes from ability. Guess what? You are totally capable. All that success you have? It’s not just luck or putting in extra overtime, it’s also because you are skilled. Don’t let the feeling of being a fraud hold you back or make you undervalue your success.

I know what you’re thinking: “That’s easy for her to say. She’s got it all figured out.”

Well, I’m here to tell you that you have a role in your success and it’s worth celebrating. It may seem counterintuitive but one of the best ways of dealing with impostor syndrome shame is to talk it out. Name these shameful feelings and you’ll quickly find that you’re not alone. Simple as it may seem, talking to shame is one of the best ways of combatting it.

How do I know this? I meet women entrepreneurs every day who are changing the landscape of small business, who are doing amazing jobs selling and creating jobs for their family and communities. Yet, these women still think they are frauds. It’s time to name your feelings as just that: feelings, not facts, and celebrate what you accomplish.

You’re already doing the work! Take a moment to own your skills and treat yourself with the self-compassion you deserve.

… and you’re not making this up

The ruthless business world doesn’t put a lot of faith in women. This lived experience can have a real impact on the psyche. Since society has lower expectations of women, it can be easy to internalise these stereotypes and feel that if you defy it (aka if you are successful!), you must be faking it. You’re not.

One of the best tips I have for entrepreneurs at every stage of business:stop comparing your business to other businesses. It’s important to learn to value your own business strengths and achievements, of which there are many! If you’re trying to start or grow your business, you’re already on the right track. Believing in your skills is the first step to overcoming those horrible feelings of inadequacy. Your hard-earned skills, along with your hard work, are what leads to business success.

People who have experiences of impostor syndrome often think that you either have confidence or you don’t. No one is confident 100% of the time. Taking risks and trying things out is part of running a business. Failures and successes are part of everyone’s business life. When something doesn’t work out, it’s not proof that you’re a fraud, it’s an opportunity to learn. I know that the impostor syndrome monster is often looking for signals that say, “ah yes! That proves it! I am a fake! It was all luck.” When you need to build up your confidence, the key is to look at real evidence.

Trust the facts

One of the hardest parts of feeling like an impostor is not trusting yourself or believing in your success. One way to start combatting this and develop your well-deserved self-confidence is to use tools that help you look at the evidence. Cloud-based software provides you with qualitative data about your business efforts.

I’ve been recommending 9 Spokes to my clients. I love that it provides a dashboard that simplifies what all of us business owners have been doing for years. I especially recommend it to my clients who need an extra boost in confidence. When you can see everything about your business in one place, it’s easier to start trusting the facts and believing in your abilities. Take a step back, see the big picture and make decisions based on information and data instead of on worries.

Have fun

I believe part of having a business is enjoying what you do. Good, hard work on your own business should be satisfying, but when impostor syndrome gets in the way, no amount of work ever feels like enough. Instead of satisfying, your success just feels like luck and you’ll just be stuck with the anxiety of waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Start having fun, talk to your peers, look at the evidence and learn to trust in your business talents.

I do.

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For more tips and support, join my private Facebook community for Entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurs Can Clan or follow me on Twitter. There, you’ll find other people who are in the same shoes as you. You’re not alone. Come be part of our community.