It still happens to me.
I get a new email. It’s from someone “important.” Maybe it’s the client I’ve been wanting to land but never hoped of getting. Maybe it’s someone I really admire who’s looking for some advice. Maybe it’s a big company who’s doing cool stuff that wants to showcase my work.
I get excited.
Then I open it, read it, and proceed to panic.
That panic–and all the nagging negative voices that accompany it–that’s the Impostor Complex.
I can’t tell you how many great business opportunities I’ve missed out on due to the Complex.
And while it does still happen, I am now more skilled at recognizing the signs, implementing the tools I have, and moving forward. I’ve identified 5 ways that Impostor Complex has reared its ugly head in my own business and the businesses I work with on a regular basis.
Which sounds the most familiar to you?
1) You don’t ask for the help you need.
If you were good enough, smart enough, or talented enough, you wouldn’t need help, right? Asking for help is like admitting that the nagging voice in your head is correct. Oh boy, have I felt that before.
But it’s just not true. I find confident, capable people are the very best at asking for help. Knowing what you need and asking for it is a sign you really mean business.
The times I’ve been able to beat back my own Impostor Complex have been the times that I felt best about asking for help—and received the most help, as well. When you ask for help, you’re not signaling to anyone that you’re incapable. You’re owning the fact that great things require the support of a team.
When you ask for help, you get the support and feedback you need to create real growth in your business. You’re not a one (wo)man-shop, no matter how hard you try to be. Think proactively about building a team of support through your asks.
2) You don’t share what you’re doing with influencers (the media, potential mentors, etc…).
There are whole media outlets devoted to the news of companies that haven’t produced a single product yet. But when it comes to sharing your work of brilliance, you bristle.
Been there, done that. I’ve had the experience of having many people I admire tell me to let them know when I put out something new or ask how they can help promote my work. In the past, I never took them up on it.
I told myself I was waiting for something worthy of their attention. I was waiting to be worthy of their attention, regardless of the fact that I already was.
When I stopped waiting and started sharing, wonderful things happened. Testimonials came in. Programs got shared. Connections were made.
Every business needs influencers to help it spread its message. Whether it’s a big-time blogger, a magazine, a TV show, or a mover & shaker in your industry those stamps of approval help you get from one level to the next. And getting that approval is completely within your control.
3) You play small with your product development.
I’m all for iteration and bit-by-bit development. But what I see all to often is business owners playing small with their ideas. They’re following patterns that others have established because their Impostor Complex keeps them from imagining anything else.
I did this for years. I released tiny product after tiny product, burning myself out on launches and promotion. Once I was able to beat back Impostor Complex, I could create a business model that allowed for a bigger vision of what my business could become. I created a community that became a receptacle for my creative drive. I created a coaching program that is the foundation of a certification program.
Your ideas deserve to come to their full fruition and your business growth depends on it.
Which leads me to the next point.
4) You don’t plan ahead.
When you think of yourself as a fraud, you can’t plan very far ahead. If every day is just another chance for someone to call you out on your ability, why consider what your business will look like 12 or 24 months down the line?
In the years I listened to that awful nagging voice, I was only trying to stay afloat. I’d plan out the next 3 months of my business, max. That meant I was constantly reinventing the wheel instead of working on the systems that would support my longevity. It was a frustrating and exhausting place to be.
Planning ahead lets you stack success upon success. And it also lessens the pain of failures or mistakes when they inevitably happen. You owe it to your future self and your future business to plan ahead now.
5) You don’t communicate regularly with your community.
The last thing… and maybe the most simple, is that you don’t communicate regularly with your community when your Impostor Complex is telling you that you have nothing useful, entertaining, or profound to say.
This problem might be fairly simple but it’s devastating to your business. Business development is, at the heart of it, communication. It’s talking with your customers, your team, and others in your industry. If you’re not regularly in dialogue with your community, you’re missing out on a lot of opportunities to learn, sell, and grow.
This might take the form of not sending out emails (clearly, I don’t have a problem with that). It might take the form of not asking customers for feedback for fear you’ve failed them (you’re an impostor after all, aren’t you?). It might mean not showing up at industry events like conferences or meet ups (my own Impostor Complex has made networking difficult).
Regular communication is a key way to get the feedback you crave, the customers you need, and the praise that inspires you so that you can take steps forward in your business.
The Way Forward
Impostor Complex is not something you combat on your own. I’ve had a steady group of entrepreneur friends who’ve helped me, as well as a coach who specializes in beating back the Complex. That coach is Tanya Geisler, who has helped me reverse more internal scripts than I care to think about right now.
If you’re ready to beat back Impostor Complex so that you can surge ahead with your business, those are the two steps I recommend: get friends who support you in this and get a coach who can really keep you accountable to your progress.