Human beings are complex. When we don’t feel like we deserve or can entirely handle the responsibility that comes with reaching any level of success, we panic. We feel like frauds who have somehow managed to sneak past security and fool everyone into thinking we belong there. We feel unsure of our professional abilities and skill level.
There’s a name for this feeling when it occurs consistently: Imposter syndrome. A lot of entrepreneurs struggle with it, and there are a few reasons why. Some personality traits or lifestyle factors can predict imposter syndrome in entrepreneurs.
4 Factors That Predict Imposter Syndrome
1. Overestimating others’ abilities
Imposter syndrome in entrepreneurs and other groups seems to stem from underlying feelings of inadequacy and uncertainty, but more importantly, it also develops from a habit of overestimating the abilities of others in your profession, age group, family, etc.
At the heart of imposter syndrome in entrepreneurs is faulty comparison. Comparing an underestimated version of your own performance and abilities to an imaginary idea of a person who is doing everything right is inaccurate, damaging, and discouraging.
Habitually assuming that others are more talented, skilled, or qualified than you is actually more harmful than feeling uncertain about your own skill level or ability. It’s normal to feel inadequate and sometimes lost when you’re in a new role or position that challenges you or presents new, unfamiliar obstacles. But you’ll never feel comfortable and deserving of your role if you’re consistently comparing yourself to impossible, idealized versions of others and how skilled and confident they must be.
The reality is that everyone has professional insecurities at times, and everyone has dealt with imposter syndrome or feelings of inadequacy in some way. To imagine otherwise – that other people make no mistakes, always say the right thing, find hard work easy to do, and that they never feel insecure – could be an indicator that you may be dealing with imposter syndrome.
2. Life-long perfectionism
If you’re a perfectionist, you know that your attention to detail, frustration with mistakes, and drive to be the best are usually very useful traits. They’ve probably won you a lot of competitions, good grades, and promotions.
But perfectionist traits may have also interfered with your best interests at times – for example, in the face of intimidating new opportunities that you privately worried would be too much of a challenge or in times of failure when you felt sure that you weren’t good enough.
When only the best is acceptable to you, it’s easy to fall short. Being a perfectionist can mean you’re more likely to consider yourself an imposter in your career. Perfectionism makes failing or falling short of a goal feel like it’s indicative of your abilities and worth, when truthfully, our failures are not what defines us.
3. Cares about what people think
Referring again to concepts from the study of psychology, in general, there are two types of people: High self monitors and low self monitors. Imposter syndrome in entrepreneurs is seen more often in high self monitors than low self monitors.
If you have ever “walked on eggshells” to keep from upsetting someone, lied about a personal preference in order to be tactful, or decided against something you want because of other’s opinions, you’re a high self monitor.
If you’re more likely to stand up for what you believe in, no matter what or who is around, consider yourself a deeply principled person, and would rather make enemies than not be 100% yourself, you’re a low self monitor.
HSMs see the ‘success’ of social interactions as being more important than their own principles alone. LSMs see the defense of strongly held principles as more important than the overall success of the social interaction.
High self-monitors are more likely to be susceptible to imposter syndrome because they can begin to feel that they’re more skilled at fooling others than they are at actually doing their job well (an irrational belief, in almost every case).
4. Skeptical of praise
If you’ve found yourself feeling distrustful of compliments and praise, you might be more likely to struggle with imposter syndrome. Being skeptical of praise can stem from several things, including being praised and rewarded in childhood for performance you felt was undeserved or simply not receiving praise and positive feedback very often.
Thinking twice before accepting a compliment or being wary of praise and recognition naturally has important implications for how someone will feel, act, and come across to others in the workplace. If someone regularly feels skeptical of praise, others begin to notice it and slowly stop giving compliments. That only contributes to the feeling of being ineffective and unremarkable in your job, intensifying the grip of imposter syndrome.
Of course, not every over-estimator, perfectionist, high self-monitor, and skeptic entrepreneur will struggle with imposter syndrome, but if you meet 3 or more of these criteria, you might be at a higher risk.
Dealing with imposter syndrome
Imposter syndrome in entrepreneurs can be a limiting factor to your long-term success. Don’t let irrational beliefs and feelings trap you in a downward spiral or steal your thunder. You’ve worked hard and deserve all the success that comes your way.
Here are ideas for dealing with imposter syndrome in entrepreneurs and feeling more secure in your abilities:
- Find a mentor you trust to share insight and be objective about your performance
- Consciously try to remain objective and fair when evaluating your own performance
- Consider talking to a therapist about imposter syndrome and how it’s affecting you
- Shift your focus away from comparisons of others’ performance to your own