How Entrepreneurs Can Deal With Impostor Syndrome

by Vanessa Van Edwards


Your success is your own; don’t let impostor syndrome make you feel like a fraud.



Do you feel like a fraud? If so, you are not alone.


Impostor syndrome is an interesting psychological phenomenon where people feel like they don’t deserve their accomplishments. Internally they feel like a fraud, or they worry that one day someone will find out that they are not good enough.


Entrepreneurs are one of the largest groups to wrestle with feelings of worth, achievement and self-esteem. No matter how successful entrepreneurs are on the outside or how much external evidence there is of their skills or competence, they often feel as though they don’t fit in with their peers. Entrepreneurs who struggle with impostor syndrome are convinced that they don’t deserve the success they have achieved.


Studies have found that 70 percent of all people feel like impostors at one time or another. But even though it’s very prevalent, it’s rarely discussed. When we don’t discuss this issue out in the open people feel incredibly alone. Many successful people have come out and admitted to having bouts of impostor syndrome, including Sheryl Sandberg, Meryl Streep, Tina Fey and Denzel Washington.


More importantly, when we don’t feel we deserve our success it contributes to greater feelings of depression, inadequacy, difficulty in relationships and low self-esteem.


Eliminating Your Impostor Syndrome

1. Recognize Impostor Syndrome Signs

Look at the following statements and answer yes or no:

  • Do you ever feel that you don’t deserve your achievements?
  • Do you ever worry that people will find out you are secretly not worthy?
  • After a success, have you dismissed it as luck or timing?
  • Do you think you have tricked others into thinking you are more successful than you actually are?
  • Do you think others over-value your success?


If you said yes to more than two of these statements, you have likely experienced a form of the impostor syndrome.


2. Understand That This is NOT a Defect

Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes coined the term “imposter syndrome” after observing many high-achieving women who tended to believe they were not competent and that they were instead over evaluated by others. What’s important to note is that this is not a personality trait; rather, it is a reaction to certain situations. Because of that it can be controlled and addressed.


3. Name It and Tame It

The good news is that just recognizing you are feeling certain thoughts can help you stop them. So you need to get in the habit of hearing your own self-doubts. If you hear yourself say, “I don’t deserve this,” or “It was just luck,” pause and note that you are having impostor syndrome thoughts.


4. Keep Reminders of Success Handy

Sometimes we forget that we are worth it. If you know you have imposter syndrome tendencies, start to gather success reminders. These can be emails from colleagues or friends and family. They can be letters you have received. They can be pictures of times you felt proud. It can even be calling a friend who is a great cheerleader.


5. Keep a Gratitude Journal

Nothing grounds you more than writing down what you are grateful for. Writing therapy has proven to be a great remedy for imposter syndrome. When you are feeling those self-doubts, you can pull out a journal and write down five things you are grateful for. You can also write about your proudest moment. This gets good juices flowing.


As entrepreneurs, we face daily challenges to our self-confidence. They can make it an uphill battle to achievement. So while climbing to the top, be sure to recognize your value and never lose sight of your inner worth.



A version of this post originally appeared on the author’s


Vanessa Van Edwards is lead investigator at Science of People, a human behavior research lab. Her innovative work with science-based people skills has been featured on CNN, the Huffington Post and the Today Show. As the modern day Dale Carnegie, she consults for Fortune 500 Companies and does online trainings on relationships, communication and body language.


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