Starting an running a business is tough. It’s hard work and it takes a lot of self-belief. Sometimes (often!), that self-belief takes a hit. Here are 22 ways you can deal with self-doubt when it kicks in.
1. Celebrate the small successes
Celebrating your success is an important part of diminishing impostor syndrome and self-doubt. How you celebrate will depend on your personality of course, but every success should be celebrated.
For me, I love to open up a bottle of champagne to celebrate my wins. Maybe you want to Tweet about it. Or you treat yourself to a coffee, massage, walk in the park. Perhaps you call your mum, hug your kids, do a happy dance in your PJs in your kitchen. It doesn’t matter how you celebrate but do it! Every single time! No matter how small the achievement!!
When I sold my first online course I celebrated by having a glass of champagne with my husband (even if I wasn’t anywhere near breaking even). When I was first approached to be a paid speaker I did my happy dance around my house (even though the gig didn’t end up happening). When I published my first blog post I sat in silence for a few minutes and told myself how awesome I was (even though it didn’t have any readers yet). See the pattern, it doesn’t matter how small the accomplishment, celebrate it and own the hard work you put in to get to that point. No brushing it off as luck!
2. Document your accomplishments and read them when you feel inferior
Start a list and every time you achieve something, add it to your accomplishments list. It is so easy to forget the amazing things you’ve done. Those things that at the time pushed you to your limits and you felt so great for the achievement. When we have them listed out, it is easy to refer back to them.
When you feel inferior, pull out your accomplishments and read them. Really read them, and think about how awesome you are to have achieved all this so far.
3. Focus on what you have achieved rather than what is still to be done.
Running a business means you are never completely done. There is always more that you could do (or have to do).
When you get overwhelmed about how much you still have to do, take a few minutes to breathe and sit and think about everything you have achieved so far. Think about everything! The smallest little thing that you have achieved. Bought a web domain? You rock! Paid an invoice? Look at you go! Learnt how to schedule social media posts? I’m in awe of you! Shipped out your customers orders? You are a legend.
Think about what past you would have found daunting. Focus on what you have achieved and how far you have come. Past-you would be so proud of what you have achieved.
I’m a big believer in positive self-talk. We believe what we constantly hear. These are some affirmations that I love!
- “Nobody belongs here more than me”
- “When I hold myself back, I am robbing the world of my impact”
- “Nobody knows what they are doing”
5. Start a “I kick-butt”/“I belong here” file
No matter how many positive customer feedback, online followers, comments, DMs, praise from friends and family, I’d receive that one negative comment, or critic and it would send me spiralling down into self-doubt.
Just recently I started an ‘I Kick-Butt’ file. You can also think of it as an ‘I belong here’ file too. I started to do it when I was going up for promotion in my job before I quit to become an entrepreneur. I wish that I had started this sooner. So take my advice and start one now.
Every time I get a compliment, a kind DM or a positive comment, I screenshot or take a photo of it and add it to my file. If I feel kicked in the gut or self-deprecating, I open it and read all the people telling me that I kick butt and I am reminded that I belong here.
6. Talk about impostor syndrome/self-doubt with those you admire
I bet you that there is someone who looks to you and thinks you are killing it! I know your competitors looks to you and wish they had something you had; your brand, confidence, loyal customers… etc.
Talk with those that you admire and ask them about their self-doubt. With an estimated 70% of people experiencing impostor syndrome chances are they experience impostor syndrome and at a minimum a little self-doubt once in a while. When I read that Seth Godin experiences self-doubt it made me feel just that little bit better because I think his content is amazing.
7. Discuss your impostor syndrome/self-doubt with a peer
If you aren’t comfortable talking with those above or below you then talk with a peer. Talk with someone who is at the same stage as you. Sometimes the smallest comment by a peer can make you realise that you do belong and you are kicking butt. At the very least, a conversation with a peer can make you realise that you aren’t alone in your feelings.
If you are looking for a community of like-minded entrepreneurs that you can connect and share with while also learning how to thrive in the business world, join my FREE Facebook community.
8. Give others the gift of imperfection (judge others less)
The more compassion we give others the better we can feel about ourselves.
I am not one to judge others for typos and grammatical mistakes because I make so many myself. This makes me feel better when I discover a typo/error in a past piece of content because I can just say to myself ‘nobody cares about typos/small errors’. Doesn’t work all the time but any little nudge can help to not spiral into impostor syndrome.
9. Judge others more (realise it is about them not us)
I know I just said we should judge others less but sometimes you have to realise that others are just out for themselves and are trying to cause chaos in your world.
Example: a company with a product I thought was cool started following me on Instagram and I send them a DM saying that it was awesome and I’d love to collab with them. Later that day they unfollowed me. At first, I started to question myself but once I ‘judged’ them, I realised that they were using follow/unfollow methods to gain more Instagram followers and it wasn’t about me at all. Sometimes judging others can make us realise that other people have their own stuff going on and we really aren’t on their radar.
10. Embrace the negative
This is a concept that resonated with me from Seth Godin. In his book Tribes, Seth talks about making a ruckus and that if you aren’t getting any negative feedback then you aren’t pushing the boundaries. While Seth is really talking about creating online content I think it can apply to all areas of life and business.
Sustainable business practices are still not mainstream and we need to create a ruckus if we want to make change. Doing the status-quo is no longer acceptable and if you are pushing people to grow they will probably push back.
Embrace the negative comments as they are validation that you are on the edge of your field, being the change-maker that the world needs.
11. Stop comparing yourself to others on a different path. Respect your journey.
Hands up if you are guilty of comparing yourself to others. Me! It is so easy to compare ourselves to others highlights real. Especially with social media. Nobody posts about all the failures, all the doubt and all the negative feelings they have – and if they do you probably unfollow them. We focus on our own failures and other’s success.
In the early stages of starting my business I’d compare myself to competitors who’d been in business for 10+ years. So often we compare ourselves and our business progress on the same metrics despite being at different stages in our journey.
Respect your own journey. Try to focus on the unique things you would not have done or achieved if you took a different route. I wouldn’t have met my husband if I didn’t take a detour into a Finance minor in undergrad. I wouldn’t have started my blog if I didn’t move to America and start teaching social media marketing. I wouldn’t have quit my job and started my eco-business if I hadn’t been treated so poorly on return from maternity leave. I’m sure you can come up with some pretty cool life experiences that make you who you are today because of your journey. You should only compare yourself to your past self.
12. Say ‘it’s just impostor syndrome’
Acknowledge that it is impostor syndrome. Impostor syndrome is defined as “the persistent inability to believe that one’s success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved as a result of one’s own efforts or skills.”
If you can convince yourself it is impostor syndrome you are halfway there because you have admitted that you have success. Then you can work on feeling legit and deserving.
13. Write a stream of consciousness.
This one is great when you are paralysed from self-doubt. Writing a stream of consciousness on a scrap of paper will get all of your self-doubts and excuses out of your head and onto a page. Then you can screw it up and throw them all away.
14. Take action
3,2,1 go! Do something every day that you aren’t ready for. Think less and act more.
Think about yourself as a work in progress. Hit send on that social media post, record that podcast interview, publish that blog post, sent that email, draft the first sentence. Remember a draft can always be improved so write that draft. Practice makes perfect so start practising.
Those who start an eco-focused business have high expectations of the impact that their business needs to make. Everything they do must be perfect and to the highest standard. Those high standards can paralyse you.
Maybe you start to tell yourself that if you don’t try at least you can’t fail. But if you don’t at least try you can’t make the impact our world needs from you. Perhaps it won’t be this business idea that has the impact you want to make, maybe it is the next one. The failures today help you learn for the future.
If you are failing you are doing. Celebrate your failures. Think about yourself constantly moving forward rather than as a stationary impostor.
16. Give yourself grace
Accept that perfection is impossible and give yourself the grace that you probably give others. Most of us judge ourselves much harsher than we do others.
Stop being so hard on yourself. Try to give yourself the same courtesies you would a dear friend.
17. Remove the negative labels
Telling yourself “I’m not good at…” I’m not a … person” needs to go. Impostor Syndrome alert!
Time to remove these negative labels from our lives. Turn them around to “I’m learning how to…” or “I have the ability to learn…”
18. Develop a skill
Feel like you aren’t good at something? Then sign up for an online course, read some blog posts, borrow a library book, or watch some YouTube videos. Become the expert that you think you aren’t. (Do this with the removal of negative labels to double down).
19. Understand your abilities/strengths/personality
Spend some time rationally assessing your abilities, strengths, and personality. Knowing what you are good at can help you be confident in who you are and outsource areas that aren’t your zone of genius.
A great way to get insight into your abilities, strengths and personality is to ask people that you interact with daily/often to tell you what they think. When I have done this I realise that I have strengths that I knew deep down I had but didn’t intentionally think about.
20. Ask for recommendations
Even if you aren’t going for a new job or promotion make a habit of asking for recommendations for those you work with and for. I recently asked past students, peers, and bosses to write me a recommendation on LinkedIn and reading them as they came in made me feel like I was amazing.
If you don’t want to go the formal route, just text a peer/friend and say, hey I’m doubting my abilities if you were describing my abilities to someone what would you say?
21. Embrace rest, recovery and reflection
Remind yourself that you do not need to be constantly working or hustling. It is okay to have some downtime. You do not need to be improving every second of every day. Find the flow that works for you. I hate it when people talk about how much they work, entrepreneurship has such a bad culture of being busy. The more time you work the more you are seen as doing the right thing and being ‘successful’. This is so detrimental because I believe you can work much better in less time. There are people who work all the time and that works for them but in my opinion, most people are either procrastinating or lying.
Don’t get me wrong entrepreneurship is a lot of work! To succeed we have to put in the hours upfront for the change of a return. But, if we are honest with ourselves we know that we spend a lot of time off-task, being inefficient, switching tasks, procrastinating. One of the biggest benefits that my clients get from coaching is prioritising tasks and building systems that allow them to do more in less time. Entrepreneurs have to work bloody hard, but then also need meaningful rest.
So what has this got to do with impostor syndrome? Well, I know many feel like they aren’t up to the standard of others because ‘others don’t take time off’ or ‘others work more hours’. Take some time out from entrepreneurship and rest, recover and reflect. Come back refreshed.
22. Remember that you are doing something that is important.
The future of mankind is in your hands. Bit intense? I know, but you started your business to make a bigger impact and that is amazing. Focus on why you are doing this and that it is bigger than you and your self-doubt. The world needs change-makers just like you. It really isn’t about you. So buckle in and get started.