impostor syndrome

You don't have to attain perfection or mastery to be worthy of the success you've achieved.

I know a lot of self-employed people. Some are freelancers and some have employees. It seems that lately the term “impostor syndrome” keeps coming up in conversation with my entrepreneurial friends, and every time I’m relieved to find that I am not alone.

Obviously, I am not a therapist, so I can’t pretend to understand every detail of this disorder. I am, however, a stylist who has hundreds of conversations a year on many different topics, and one thing that I have learned in the two decades I have been talking is that even my most successful clients have sat and thought, “What happens when they find out that I am a fraud?”

Being a business-owner is a wondrous thing. It’s almost like giving birth. One day there is just space and the next day this thing exists! You made something! Others are going to see it and judge it and hopefully throw their hard-earned money at it! GAH!

Even writing that made my hands sweaty and I’ve been self-employed a long time.

Are we frauds? Of course not. We are people who work very hard and put a lot of love and time into what we are creating. Some of us have had to overcome huge setbacks, too, so to say that we’re winging it or have just been lucky is hugely inaccurate. Why do our own voices throw those ideas back at us then? Why do we feel compelled to constantly prepare for the worst?

I chatted with Audrey Mitchell, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and good friend, about this. She says impostor syndrome, at its core, is an issue with self-esteem. She created an email subscription of weekly affirmations to specifically target this. We met because our daughters are both in the local GATE program and they introduced us. When I told her that I often feel something similar to impostor syndrome when comparing myself to other GATE parents, she laughed, but she understood.

As parents, we often second-guess ourselves. Single parents and parents that belong to blended families (like she and I) triple-guess. Or quadruple-guess. Or just stare wistfully at the couples raising their kids together who don’t have to co-parent with numerous others. And then we marvel at how amazing our kids are despite everything and pat ourselves on the back. Good Mommy.

One of my best friends is a Licensed Professional Counselor whose specialties are sports and adolescent counseling. You’ve met Jodi here before. She’s part of my inner core. She’s one of those people who is constantly working and reworking herself. She educates herself daily with books and videos, trade magazines and peer work. She’s truly one of the smartest people I know. Regardless, she told me, “I definitely have times I feel like an impostor. Even with all of my experience, I sometimes wonder, ‘How did I get here and why are these people listening to me?’ Logically I know that I’m a professional, competent adult…but sometimes those fears creep in…It’s not totally a bad thing. Better to be aware that I can still learn and grow than to think that I already know it all.”

And I think that’s the positive part of this oddness – it’s a reminder that we still have more to learn. When you love something like I love being a mother and owning my own business, you always want to be the best version of those things. Wanting to be at the top of our game and then continuously working at it is definitely not a negative. Feeling like you somehow don’t deserve the success you have is.

So, to everyone out there worried that she or he is about to be “found out,” I give you this: Just keep doing the work. Don’t be afraid to put your heart out there. People can say what they will about you, but they’ll never be able to say that you didn’t throw all your love and action into it. When you work that hard, you deserve everything you have.