Imposter syndrome and how to deal with it

This fab blog was written by writer, sponsor and fellow ‘Freelance Mum’ Rin Hamburgh (who is 100% real and definitely not an imposter!). Thank you for your brillaint blog Rin.

Business owner? You? Don’t be ridiculous! You haven’t a clue what you’re talking about. You’re just making it up. There are hundreds of people out there that are far better than you. Any minute now people are going to discover that you’re a fraud.

Sound familiar? That’s the voice of Imposter Syndrome, and I’m sure most of us have heard it at some point in our lives. For some, it rarely goes away. And it can be exhausting.

But here’s the good news: even mega successful women like actress Emma Watson and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg have admitted to suffering from imposter syndrome. You’re not alone. And you don’t have to put up with it!

It took me ages to start referring to myself as the founder of a copywriting agency. It just sounded far too important when really I was just a busy mum doing my best with a few freelancers to help out with the workload. Even now that I’m building a team of employees I still have to fight the urge to justify myself, especially with big clients.

So what can you do to reduce or get rid of imposter syndrome altogether?

Don’t compare

I think it was former US president Theodore Roosevelt who said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” It’s also a big factor when it comes to imposter syndrome. The problem with comparison is that we compare people’s outside with our inside. So we see all these amazing business owners and think, “Crikey, they’re doing so much better than me!” But we forget that inside they’re probably feeling the same – and they’re looking at your outside and thinking you’re doing well too!

Let go of perfect

If you set the bar too high, you’re setting yourself up to fail. The truth is that no one gets it right all the time – not Deborah Meaden, not Richard Branson, not anyone you admire in the business world or anywhere else for that matter. So be realistic with yourself. As you do that, you will be able to act in a much more authentic way. You’ll start to feel like yourself again and so that sense of being a fraud will slowly start to disappear.

Talk about it

The thing about imposter syndrome is that it festers away in the dark. As soon as you bring it out into the light it’s much easier to deal with. Talking about how you feel will help you to see things for what they are. You could share your worries with a friend, find yourself a mentor or coach, even get some therapy if you think it could be useful. Personally, I’ve done all three in the last year and it’s had hugely positive results! You’ll also find plenty of support at Freelance Mum. Because we’re all in the same boat and we totally get it. And that’s invaluable.

Look how far you’ve come

While no one is suggesting you should live in the past, it is really important to stop every now and then and take a glance back at the road you’ve travelled. You may feel like an imposter, but if you think about where you were five years ago, or a year ago or even last month you’ll probably realise that you’ve already improved as a business person – and that means you’ll continue to do so. Remember that we’re all a work in progress.

Relish the compliments

It’s a very British habit to shrug off compliments or try to justify or explain them away. But people don’t generally bother to say nice things unless they mean it. So when a customer or client gives you a testimonial, don’t just see it as a useful marketing tool. Really absorb it and let it bolster your self-image.

Invest in training

It could be that the reason you’re feeling insecure is because there are areas of your business you don’t actually feel that confident about. You might be an excellent photographer but not really understand turnover and profit margins. Or maybe you’re a top notch designer but have no idea how to actually go about selling your services. If that’s the case, why not get some training? There are all sorts of workshops out there – online and face to face – some of which are free through organisations like Get Set For Growth. With a bit of extra knowledge under your belt, you’ll soon start to feel more confident.

Get some help

There’s nothing more stressful than slogging away at things you just aren’t any good at. And it’s ok to admit where your weaknesses are! We all have them. If you’re no good with numbers, get a book keeper. If thinking of interesting things to say on social media gets you all flustered, outsource it. By operating in your “zone of genius”, you’ll experience more confidence boosting wins – and the stuff you’re outsourcing will get done more efficiently and effectively too.

If you’re looking for a supportive network in which to grow your business and your confidence, come along to Freelance Mum in Bristol. We meet on the first Tuesday or every month at St Paul’s Church and on the last Friday at Windmill Hill City Farm. We’d love to see you there.

2 replies
  1. Isabel Clark
    Isabel Clark says:

    Hi Great article, I think as Freelancers we need to be bold about what we are good at and also admit our weaknesses and get help. For example I know I need some admin help soon to help me focus more on clients!

  2. Becky Joynt
    Becky Joynt says:

    Wow, this has really resonated with me, I didn’t realise it was an actual thing but have long felt that what I do doesn’t really count. I have been freelance for years and do design work around my children but I do it nearly all from home and generally feel a bit like a fraud and that I am not really ‘working’ at all. I don’t promote my services and struggle to see what I do in the same realm as others who are employed by companies and actually go to work!


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