Ensuring imposter syndrome doesn’t sabotage your entrepreneurial goals

September 11, 2020

Imposter syndrome

Cecilia Harvey, CEO of Hyve Dynamics, talks about imposter syndrome, how it can affect entrepreneurs, and ultimately how to deal with it.

Self-doubt and consequently imposter syndrome can establish itself when you do not have a reference point to identify with…when in your mind, you’re the only person to have ever walked this path. Growing up, I didn’t have a “career” role model I could really identify with. I didn’t see or hear about successful women in business who looked like me and came from a similar background. 

And when you rarely see these positive role models, it is hard to believe that you can achieve it for yourself. As a result, I constantly thought I should be doing better. I constantly compared myself to others and I never appreciated my own accomplishments.

This is how imposter syndrome sets in for many of us.

What is imposter syndrome?

Imposter syndrome is the misguided belief that your successes or position in business, as well as life, are a result of luck or fraud, rather than ability or hard work. This belief can be crippling and ultimately stunts your freedom to grow and succeed further. 

While everyone’s experience is different rest assured that some of the most successful people in the world have faced this challenge. Meryl Streep, John Steinbeck and Michelle Obama are just a few who have spoken about their struggle with imposter syndrome. This is something which should unite rather than isolate…and it can be overcome!

What causes imposter syndrome?

My own experience with imposter syndrome early in my career may be familiar to you. 

What I have never lacked is ambition. I’ve always wanted the top job. I never felt as if I was different from anyone else. For me, imposter syndrome took hold when I did not give myself credit when accomplishing my goals. I often doubted my ability against all the evidence in front of me that I had what it took to be successful. Also, just because I had a more difficult journey in many instances, did not mean that I did not belong. If anything, it proved that I earned my right to “be at the table”. 

Hearing the phrase ‘imposter syndrome’ was the turning point. I immediately identified with it. It was liberating to see that my internal struggle had a name. Sometimes identifying the enemy is half of the battle, right? When I changed my mindset, took active responsibility for my career development, and strove for progression rather than perfection I felt unstoppable. I guess that’s what I hope this article might do for someone who reads it and also has that Eureka moment.

How to deal with imposter syndrome?

These are the things that helped me deal with imposter syndrome – let’s call them my top tips to overcoming imposter syndrome:

Choose your environment and those in it carefully

Your environment – whether that is a business or home situation – and those in it can feed imposter syndrome. Ensure you are surrounded by supportive people in a culture which celebrates success and helps you to learn from failure. It wasn’t easy but distancing myself from those who brought me down was key in maintaining my long-term self-belief.

Self-belief begets self-belief

Your environment – whether that is a business or home situation – and those in it can feed imposter syndrome. Ensure you are surrounded by supportive people in a culture which celebrates success and helps you to learn from failure. It wasn’t easy but distancing myself from those who brought me down was key in maintaining my long-term self-belief.

Know who you are

This is about more than the work environment. I had to focus on understanding, accepting and ultimately feeling confident in who I was. Was I the same as my colleagues or friends? No. And that was a good thing. This process is the one which helps you to stand your ground the next time someone challenges who you are and what you can achieve

Don’t believe everything people say

A senior female MD once told me she didn’t see the value I added. It was a moment which tested that self-belief I had worked hard to regain. The fact was, I was highly rated; my boss, who was also her boss at the time, thought I was doing a good job; I had recently been promoted to the same management team as this individual and I had high manager effectiveness ratings from my team. I added tons of value. I realised that comment was not about me and I let it go over my head. I live by the saying, “the water surrounding the boat doesn’t sink the ship…it’s the water that gets in the boat that sinks the ship.” If you don’t let those lies get in your head…it’s smooth sailing.

Conclusion

The journey to overcome imposter syndrome isn’t easy, but it doesn’t have to define you. As a female CEO and co-founder of a technology company, my previous experiences and challenges give me the confidence to know I can conquer any situation and I am the best person for my role.

I have achieved many of my ambitions and now have the privilege of pouring all of my experience and ability to learn into bringing ground-breaking sensor technology to market with Hyve Dynamics. I am also privileged to understand my responsibility to be a role model to other women; to ensure they see me and avoid feeling the same way I did all those years ago. 

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