SUPmentor | Self-Doubt: How feeling like an Imposter is an obstacle to your success!

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By: Dr. Pamela Foelsch

As an entrepreneur, you are challenged to have a great idea, manage an amazing and productive team, formulate a successful business plan, convince investors of your viability, and get your product to market successfully, all while remaining 100% energized! This is hard to do when you have self-doubt or feel you are one decision away from absolute failure! If you feel this, you may have something known as “Imposter Phenomenon.”

Identifying the “inner critic” and applying strategies to change that negative inner voice of self-doubt and fear of failure (or success) can get you over that internal barrier to achievement and help you enjoy your successes. Set higher and more realistic performance expectations, confident in your competence, empowered by your strengths, knowledgeable of true deficits, and function with more joy. Don’t turn down an opportunity to advance or reach your dreams. Applying three strategies, outlined here, you can release yourself from your Imposter feelings and claim your success, with joy!

Do you ever doubt yourself and your abilities? Do you ever feel…
• unable to internalize your accomplishments?
• remain convinced, despite external evidence, that you are a fraud and do not deserve the success you have achieved?
• a persistent tendency to attribute success to external factors?
• other people have an inflated perception of your abilities?
• fearful that you are going to be “found out”
Be honest!

As an entrepreneur, you are challenged to have a great idea, manage an amazing and productive team, formulate a successful business plan, convince investors of your viability, and get your product to market successfully, all while remaining 100% energized! This is hard to do when you have self-doubt or feel you are one decision away from absolute failure! If you feel this, you may have something known as “Imposter Syndrome.” Defined as “an internal experience of intellectual phoniness, particularly prevalent among high achievers” by Clance and Imes in1978. “Imposters” feel that success is attributed to “hard work, luck, knowing the right people, being in the right place at the right time, or to interpersonal assets such as charm and the ability to relate well, rather than to ability or competence”.

“Imposters”…
• create an internal barrier to achievement
• are unable to enjoy their successes
• set lower performance expectations
• do not have a realistic sense of their own competence
• are not fully empowered to internalize their strengths, accept their deficits, and function with joy.
• may turn down opportunities to advance or simply don’t even attempt to meet their dreams
Anxiety, self-doubt, fear of failure, and guilt about success undermine their ability to function at their highest level. They lose the sense of reward and joy that ordinarily accompanies success (Hirschfield, 1982). Most importantly for entrepreneurs, it hinders the ability to advocate and negotiate for themselves and their businesses!

The Impostor Cycle.The Imposter feeling is maintained each time you face a project or task, have great doubt or fear and question whether or not you will succeed this time! While having anxiety, psychosomatic symptoms, nightmares, etc. you work hard and over-prepare, or, you procrastinate and then prepare in a frenzied manner. When you succeed and receive positive feedback, you dismiss it, because of your Difficulty in Internalizing Positive Feedback, Overestimating Others While Underestimating Oneself, and Defining Intelligence in a Skewed Manner!

We can change our view of self, the choices we make and the actions we take!
The first step is to identify your Inner-Critic, also known as that (negative) little voice inside your head who stores all the rules on how you “should be” and then if you don’t follow these rules, punishes you. It also continually criticizes and compares you to other people. The critic takes over what risks you are willing to take or not, to avoid real or imagined disapproval.

Alternatives to the Inner Critic were outlined by Kristin Neff (2011) who focused on the need to Respond instead of React by identifying the feelings, vulnerabilities, and insecurities associated with this inner critical voice… and create alternative thoughts and actions!

Counteract the negative feelings with ACT
• Accept that you feel anxious
• Choose to see/view things the way you want them to be – create visualization
• Take action to make things that way

Lastly, create an environment, build a network and take productive actions to banish those Imposter feelings!
• Create a list of your accomplishments… to remind you of your ability to succeed!
• Take a positive action, take the risk to fail
• Become a mentor…there is nothing more self-affirming that sharing what you know with someone else!
• Surround yourself with supporters…positive people who see your best and finally, using everything you’ve just read, to understand the “why” for you…and let it go!
You and your accomplishments are REAL!

Pamela A. Foelsch, PhD
COO, CleVer Family
www.cleverfamilybond.com
NYS Licensed Psychologist