How to beat Imposter Syndrome - every solopreneur's pain in the backside!

holly wood at desk thinking

What is imposter syndrome?

Ever had that feeling of dread, worry or even anxiety when it comes to selling yourself, your services or your products?

Ever been invited to speak, host, showcase, teach and thought "why me"?

Ever asked yourself "why am I doing this?".

Or maybe you've dropped your prices as you don't think you're worth it?

Chances are, your answer is "yes to all of the above". I know that's my answer and it's the answer of most solopreneurs, content creators and small businesses owners I know (and I know a lot!).

But what exactly is imposter syndrome? What's going on up there?

“A psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments.” (Psychology Today)

From a psychological perspective, imposter syndrome is when you don't believe you're as competent as others perceive you to be. Essentially, you feel like a fraud. You might doubt your talents, your skills, your ability - even when others don't! Regardless of your successes and achievements, you have feelings of doubt and low self-worth.

Can you relate? Thought so.

Why is imposter syndrome so bad?

Other than making you feel like poop, imposter syndrome is a limiting belief and can lead to you not having the courage to move forward, try new things and take opportunities. It stops you from reaching your true potential and it's something that holds many women particularly, back.

Let's see exactly how to beat imposter syndrome (the ultimate pain-in-bum)...

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1 – Start with acknowledging your feelings

The first step to overcoming anything psychological, is to acknowledge and recognise it. Chances are, if you're reading this, you've done just that. So well done.

Take it one step further by keeping a journal of when you feel imposter syndrome. Write down how you're feeling any why - try to go into as much depth as possible about the situation (for example the opportunity you were given or presentation you gave) and what it is that's actually making you feel that way. Now sit, read it back and reflect. Chances are that the feelings or beliefs of imposter syndrome you experienced, were automatic and wrong. So onto point number 2, cognitive restructuring (or reframing).

2 – Reframe that automatic belief

Now that you've acknowledged that feeling, we need to look at how we can beat imposter syndrome and a really useful tool is cognitive restructuring (or reframing). Essentially, this is about turning that negative emotion or feeling into something positive. Developed by Albert Ellis in the 1950s, cognitive restructuring is a core component of CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) and has been used successfully to treat a range of conditions and negative emotions. (Disclaimer: Although I study psychology, I am not a trained therapist, so the information I give you here, is a summary and introduction to cognitive restructuring).

How to reframe imposter syndrome (in a nutshell):

  • calm yourself & practice some deep-breathing
  • identify the situation that triggered your feeling of imposter syndrome
  • journal (as mentioned in step 1) and include those automatic thoughts that occurred eg. "no one liked the presentation", "I'm not qualified enough for that promotion", "I'm not good enough to charge that"
  • now write down anything that actually supports that feeling. eg. did anyone say that they didn't like the presentation? Look objectively at what actually happened.
  • now look at the counter-arguments to those feelings objectively. eg. "that as the first presentation I've given and it went well, people seemed engaged". Or, "I've got 10 years experience in that field".
  • now you've looked objectively at both sides of the situation, so to speak. Can you see how already, you're starting to reframe that initial feeling of imposter?

You should now have a more balanced view, opposed to that automatic reaction you had at first. Note how you feel now - better? If you're still struggling, it might be worth speaking about it with someone else, talk through the process above and have an objective conversation about it.

3 – Positive Affirmations

Steps 1 and 2 are the most important to get comfortable with but this step is a great simple tool to add to your armoury too (and works for many different things!). Positive affirmations are a great way of reminding yourself of how good and worthy you are and setting yourself up for a positive day ahead.

When it comes to beating imposter syndrome, some examples of positive affirmations are:

"I have over 10 years experience in my field, I know my stuff"

"I have helped my clients achieve xyz results, so I am good at what I do"

"I am a caring, conscientious and strong woman and bring that to everything I do"

Spend a few minutes now and write down 3 of your own. Keep them somewhere that you can refer to daily (by the bed, on your desk, in your phone). Say them out loud to yourself a few times every day and/or when you feel those feelings of imposter syndrome creeping in.

4 – Be kind to yourself

No one is perfect and no one knows everything. I'll say it again... No one is perfect and no one knows everything.

It's important to remember that and acknowledge your strengths and weaknesses. Not everyone can do absolutely everything and that's ok. In fact, as I get older, I realise how specialising in just one area, is often the key to success. Don't try to be everything, to everyone, all of the time.

Be confident in what you DO offer and don't dwell on the things that you DON'T. Note, I used the language "do" and "don't" here, not "can" and "can't". Most of us can achieve things if we put our mind to it, but we constantly tell ourselves we can't. But that's not actually true.

So again, a bit of reframing here is useful. Instead, think of the things that you choose to do. That's what you offer. Those are the things you should have confidence in. Those are the things that people will come to you for.

So be kind to yourself. Don't expect yourself to be able to do everything. It's simply not possible. For example, you wouldn't go to a doctor and then expect them to help you with selling your house would you? But would you think less of them if they said that's "not something I do"? No. You'd respect that there expertise is as a doctor and instead, you should be going to a lawyer for the house sale. See what I'm saying?

5 – Own your wins!

Find it hard to take a compliment? Yep, thought so.

Again, it's something a lot of us struggle with, but why? It's important to acknowledge our successes and our wins. If we don't recognise our achievements and give ourselves a pat on the back, then why are we doing this?

So rather than thinking "I just got lucky", take the compliment! Bank it. Write it down even.

Something I love to do is screenshot any DMs or emails I get from happy clients. Or when someone says something nice about me, my ability or my services. I save these in a folder on my phone, so when those feelings of imposter syndrome creep it, I have a quick reference that instantly reassures me that there ain't no imposter syndrome here!

We often dwell on the things that don't go to plan, or don't go quite right. That's good too. Reflection on the "fails" is an important step BUT acknowledging the wins, is as equally important.

So here's your homework... next time you achieve something, or someone compliments you on your service/product/offering, or you make a sale, or speak in front of an office or audience... tell yourself well done! Reward it (maybe a glass of your favourite drink, a little treat or a self-care day off). Write it down or print it off and make a scrapbook of your successes (I love this exercise!).

Then you've got something to refer to when you need to beat imposter syndrome.

Here's a little image you can use if you need an excuse or help to acknowledge your successes. Just save or screenshot it and share it on your social media. Tag me in if you'd like so I can celebrate with you:

beat imposter syndrome social media share image

The finale: it's a long-game

None of the things I've talked about today will "cure" imposter syndrome and mean you never experience it again. But if you use these tools regularly, over time, you'll be well equipped to deal with imposter syndrome and stamp it out, when it starts to creep in. And remember, you're not alone in feeling this!

If you enjoyed this blog post, please share with anyone you think might benefit from reading it too. You might also like my post about beating overwhelm.

Holly Wood flourish digital marketing mentor in home office

About The Author

Holly Wood, has over 10 years experience of building a digital brand and business online. From blogging, to being an influencer, to founding a membership community, to speaking and 1-2-1 mentorship - Holly has a wealth of knowledge in the practical and cognitive steps to building a flourishing brand and successful business online. Follow Holly on instagram here, connect on Linkedin or follow on Twitter.