Imposter syndrome is a psychological phenomenon that affects a significant number of entrepreneurs. It can have a detrimental impact on their well-being and business performance. As someone who has experienced imposter syndrome firsthand, I understand the challenges it presents and the importance of addressing it. In this article, I will share my personal journey with imposter syndrome and provide insights and strategies for entrepreneurs to overcome this common obstacle.
When I embarked on the journey of writing a book about men’s Italian elegance, I had no inkling of imposter syndrome. Despite being a first-time author and an outsider in the fashion industry, I felt confident in my abilities. My passion for aesthetic style and relentless dedication fueled my determination to create the best men’s style book ever published. I poured my heart and soul into the project, leaving no room for self-doubt.
After the book was released, it garnered rave reviews from renowned Italian magazines and newspapers. The positive reception validated my expertise and further boosted my confidence. However, when I decided to launch my first startup in 2010—an online luxury tie brand for men with a mission to create a clothing formal brand for men —the imposter syndrome crept into my mind and took control.
Within a year of selling ties online, I made the unfortunate decision to close the company. My unrealistic expectations and the fear of not achieving the numbers I had envisioned clouded my judgment. At the time, I failed to recognise the broader context. In 2010, e-commerce in Italy was still in its infancy, and my tie brand was a pioneer in the industry. I had secured top rankings for relevant keywords related to men’s elegance, suits, ties, shirts and formal shoes. My book had positioned me as the first and only Italian men’s elegance expert online, even before the rise of social media influencers.
However, the grip of imposter syndrome gradually eroded my belief in the future of my company. Little did I know that those who purchased my book would go on to establish their own menswear brands, become influential figures in the industry, or utilise my book as a training resource for their existing physical stores. I missed out on the opportunity of a lifetime, all because of the overwhelming feeling of being an imposter.
Reflecting on this experience, I learned a crucial lesson: if you have an idea, mission, or vision, you must wholeheartedly believe in it and fiercely protect it. While being open to feedback and reality is important, your confidence should be built upon your genuine beliefs and convictions. Imposter syndrome can distort your perspective, leading you to undervalue your abilities and overlook the opportunities within your grasp.
Overcoming imposter syndrome requires a conscious effort to reframe your mindset. Here are some strategies that can help entrepreneurs combat imposter feelings:
- Recognise your accomplishments: Take stock of your achievements and acknowledge the hard work and dedication that led you to where you are today. Celebrate your successes, no matter how small they may seem.
- Embrace vulnerability: Understand that everyone experiences self-doubt and fear of failure at times. Embrace vulnerability as a natural part of the entrepreneurial journey and use it as a catalyst for growth and learning.
- Seek support: Surround yourself with a strong support system of mentors, peers, or like-minded individuals who can offer guidance, encouragement, and a fresh perspective. Sharing your experiences with others can help alleviate feelings of isolation and validate your achievements.
- Challenge negative thoughts: When imposter feelings arise, challenge them with evidence of your competence and past successes. Remind yourself of the skills, knowledge, and unique qualities that set you apart.
- Practice self-compassion: Be kind to yourself and treat yourself with the same compassion and understanding that you would extend to a friend facing similar doubts. Acknowledge that it is normal to make mistakes and that setbacks are opportunities for growth.