Imposter Syndrome

15 September 2022 Martin Cheetham

Impostor syndrome, as defined by Wikipedia, is a psychological occurrence in which an individual doubts their skills, talents, or accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a fraud.

And I’m here to tell you it’s ok.

Being a relatively risk-averse person by nature, I really struggle with stepping into the unknown. Confidently telling people I could do something, while inside completely unsure of how exactly to do it. This becomes amplified when I’m in a position of teaching others. We all have these doubts at various times in our careers, businesses and lives. But the point is to control and overcome it. Don’t let it rule you.

There will always be people that know more than you or have more experience in a specific area, but on the flip side, there are also people who know far less or nothing at all.

It brings to mind the comic character Shazam (or Captain Marvel depending on how geeky you are and possibly how old you are;). The idea of a kid in the body of a superhero, who makes decisions and takes action with a child’s mind and perspective, regardless of the opinions and expectations of others.

Imposter syndrome applies to individuals and businesses – you are a direct influence on your business. In fact, your business is you. So if you have a fear of failure or a scarcity mindset, so will your business. If you think you can’t do it, your business mimics your thinking, and it can’t do it either.  When I refer to your business I’m meaning all of its moving parts. Your employees, your processes, your systems.


Less talk, more rock!

One of the biggest traits of an entrepreneur is that they learn by doing. It’s also one of the core principles of design thinking. It’s less about discussion in a boardroom and more about getting out there and trying something. You either win or learn. The only failure is not trying.

Children are a beautiful reflection of our best characteristics. They lack the fear that paralyzes us. They are always willing to try something new (except that unfamiliar vegetable), without knowing what the result may possibly be. Maybe it’s that innate not-knowing that helps them try new things. One of the things I’m realising as an adult is that there are a lot of traits we have as children that get ‘schooled’ out of us, and we actually need to re-learn them.

There’s a great talk by Sir Ken Robinson about how schools kill creativity, and I believe it applies to other skills as well. If you haven’t seen it, please check out his Ted talk – it’s phenomenal.


Analysis paralysis

The fear of the unknown and the risks associated with it often lead to over-analysing, which leads to inaction. That comfort zone starts looking even more attractive, and it becomes easier to sit back, say it’s too risky, and do nothing. Sometimes you just need to take a leap of faith. Even if that leap is only a single step…

The only impossible journey is the one you never begin – Tony Robbins

Imposter syndrome is good in my books. As long as you can recognize it for what it is, and don’t let it stop you from taking action. Because It means you’re doing something new. It means you’re doing something scary. It means you’re learning. Which means you’re out of your comfort zone… and that’s where the magic happens.