Today we’re going to be talking about something I hear at nearly every conference and almost every one-on-one coaching session I start with a new client. And to be honest, it’s something I still work on myself.
At some point in your entrepreneurial career someone has probably come up to you and said how really impressed they are with you. They tell you how they really look up to you and what you’ve done and the fact you’re running a successful business. It’s usually followed by some awkward silence, you respond with a wimpy ‘Thank You’ or a nervous laugh and then in the back of your mind you’re saying to yourself – ‘Lord, if you only knew….’
We fill our minds with self-doubt, negative thoughts and feelings of failure and are secretly praying they don’t figure out that we’re just a fraud. I promise you – there isn’t a successful seller – no matter their net worth, gross sales or years selling – that hasn’t had this feeling at some point in their career. Even after all the success we’ve had in our business, especially in the beginning, I still saw myself as a youth minister doing a little side hustle instead of a successful CEO of an ecommerce company.
The problem is that many of us do not see ourselves the same way others see us. People only see the final production of our months or years of hard work. But only WE know what happens behind the curtain. That for every win there were multiple failures, the bad buys, the non-profitable products, the over leveraged credit cards. And unfortunately, that is all we focus on. People only see our victories, and for the most part we do not share our defeats. So, while everyone else is focusing on our victories and thinking how awesome we are you are only focusing on your defeats and thinking what a fraud you are and seeing yourself as an imposter.
The same thing happens to people who have lost weight really fast. As they look in the mirror, their mind has not caught up with their physical body and their brain cannot process what it’s seeing. No matter how many compliments or OMGs they get – they still see themselves as the overweight person they use to be. It takes a lot of self-reflection and intentional self-improvement to retrain your thought process and allow your mind to catch up with your body.
I can tell you from my own experience working with my own personal coach. Even though we hit every single marker that we had set in measuring success – all I could focus on were the two glaring mistakes that cost us nearly $15,000 and I kept replaying in my head how stupid I was to let that happen. It didn’t matter what other accomplishments I had done or what the balance sheet looked like – all I could see were the failures. Now, in my head I know I’m not a total failure – I’m fun to be around, I do good things. But there is still a big part of me that feels like that awkward middle school kid that is never going to be good enough. Most of us have a similar story and it is human nature to feel that way. It’s also something that most of us must make a conscience decision to not do.
And for some it’s a constant battle. If you’re waiting for you to hit that ‘magic’ goal where you think you’ll suddenly feel confident or that you’ve ‘arrived’ – I’m sorry to say that probably isn’t going to happen.
But confronting this is necessary. I’ve seen successful people allow that self-doubt paralyze them, and it can become like a cancer in their business. If you fail to push through you will try and shrink yourself and your business to fit your narrative instead of reshaping your vision to match the reality of where your business is.
This ‘imposter syndrome’ is especially prevalent as you move to the next level in your business. Whether you’re growing from $5,000 to $20,000 a month in gross sales, or you’re moving from a 6-figure seller to a 7-figure one – it’s the movement from one milestone to the next one where the self-doubt becomes the most prevalent. And the larger the gap between how you see yourself and how others see you, the more awkward and ‘fake’ you feel.
For some, this self-doubt shows up in the feeling of being overwhelmed or out of control. I can tell when I’m about to hit a new level of success because I will feel totally out of control. But when I recheck my numbers they don’t match my out-of-control feeling. This usually creates internal confusion for me until I remind myself – yep – this is my pattern. If I don’t take time to level set I will freak out and then totally self-sabotage my progress.
So, what can you do to help retrain your brain to meet you where you REALLY are and not where you THINK you are? Here are three steps you can do that will help bridge that gap between how you view yourself and how others view you.
1) Set clear objective markers. How do you measure that you are for sure winning? If you don’t have this objective clearly defined you’ll arbitrarily set a goal, reach it and find that it was too easy and ‘kick the can’ a little further…. then a little further…then a little further. You’ll just keep kicking the can and never celebrate accomplishing anything. And then tell yourself if you’ve never accomplished anything how can you be successful. Setting specific and measurable objectives that tell you when you’ve ‘arrived’ is super important, because it sets you up for step #2.
2) Celebrate the wins! Once you’ve reached the goal that you set in step #1 – Celebrate! Give yourself permission to acknowledged what you’ve done and be proud of the accomplishment. Even if it feels insufficient because you don’t feel the goal was a big enough stretch – you still reached it – so celebrate it. And it doesn’t have to be a huge celebration – something as simple as giving yourself a literal pat on the back or taking yourself out for lunch. But take the time to say – YEAH! And then….
3) Keep Score. Successful Project Mangers always conduct a Lessons Learned activity after implementing a large project – it’s an important step in self-improvement. Go back over what went well and what went not-so-well. Because there is no improvement if you don’t reflect on what happened and how you’d do it differently next time. But be careful here – remember you are only keeping score with YOURSELF. Never compare your results to someone else’s because comparison is the thief of happiness. No two stories are the same and you will likely never know the back story of someone else’s results – so comparing your results to theirs simply doesn’t work. It only gives your brain a chance to say ‘See, I’m not that great’. Compare your results against your own – that is where you can get an accurate picture of real growth.
Almost everyone feels like an imposter at some point in their Entrepreneurial journey and the truth is that being an Entrepreneur means you must be comfortable with being uncomfortable. But if you keep focused on doing these 3 things and keep focus on YOUR business and your own progress, you will start to see yourself the same as what everyone else sees – and that you’re AWESOME!