Break Through Imposter Syndrome & Step Into Your Power

A study ‘How imposter syndrome and fears hinder women entrepreneurs’ business growth, published by Business Horizons, in Volume 62, Issue 5, 2019 sheds significant insights in to why this might be more prevalent for women entrepreneurs. The authors Kimberly Eddleston, Jamie Ladge and Keimei Sugiyama state “One reason why it’s easy for women entrepreneurs to suffer from the imposter syndrome is that “entrepreneurship” is typically depicted in masculine terms: “captain of industry,” “trailblazer,” “pioneer” and others.

While the attributes of a successful entrepreneur have historically focused on masculine-sounding traits (ambitious, aggressive, risk-taking and natural born leader), women have been socialized to be nurturing, selfless and collaborative.  And despite women’s gains in business, society still sees the business world in masculine terms.”

Let us start by understanding Imposter Syndrome

Melanie Benson, Authority Amplifier for Expert-preneurs and host of Amplify Your Success Podcast explains: “When you convince yourself you aren’t good enough you then hold yourself back from being consistently visible in your market. It’s so common that it’s  the  number one hidden belief that causes really talented people to unconsciously sabotage their progress and stay stuck in “busy work” that doesn’t produce results.”

More significantly, Melanie suggests that one may not even realize that  Imposter  Syndrome  has taken over one’s decision making — until an expert, coach or advisor points it out.

What women entrepreneurs need is real and practical advice and first hand tips, tools and recommendations on how to move beyond self doubts, feeling of inadequacy and fears.

We invite three highly successful and dynamic women leadership coaches and mentors to answer our questions.

Our participating experts are:

Melanie Benson

Melanie Benson is an Authority Amplifier for Expert-preneurs and host of Amplify Your Success Podcast. She is author of Rewired for Wealth, co-author of the best-selling Voices of the 21st Century and’s Start Up Guide to Starting an Information Marketing Business, Melanie serves on the Women Speaker’s Association Executive Team and has been featured in Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Woman’s Day, and Parenting.

Nathalie Greg

Nathalie Greg is an Adjunct Professor, a Leadership Coach and a public Speaker. Nathalie is a women’s leadership and empowerment strategist. She is host of #LeadLoudly which is regularly featured among the most impactful leadership chats on twitter.

Nima Abu Wardeh

Nima Abu Wardeh is an award winning former  BBC World presenter, broadcaster and a highly sought after trainer for the corporate C-suite and global events. She is Founder of  S.H.E. Strategy (SHE equals to Seen. Heard. Empowered). Nima is also the Founder of Raise Your Profile incubator, an action led safe space where she coaches and trains women to raise their profile & showcase their brilliance.

Question number one: Are women entrepreneurs more likely to feel and face imposter syndrome?

Here is what our experts say:

Melanie Benson:

Women in business admit more to experiencing imposter syndrome than men. Imposter Syndrome disguises itself as fear, a belief you can’t do something or thinking that you just aren’t ready. Most often, the biggest barrier from Imposter Syndrome is the female entrepreneur doesn’t take action on their dreams and goals because they compare their progress or quality of work to other influential business leaders — and when they don’t measure up in their own minds they take that as a sign they will not be good enough.

Nathalie Greg:

Imposter syndrome is a challenge for women entrepreneurs indeed. Statistics tells us that women experience imposter syndrome very differently than our male counterparts.  We must identify it and rally support from our mentors, support network and allies. 

Nima Abu Wardeh:

Let us take a step back before we use terms like ‘Imposter Syndrome’ because it means different things to different people. My main message about imposter syndrome is that it is time to stop using this term for women entrepreneurs. In reality, women are up against an entire system. If women entrepreneurs feel restricted, then it is not their fault.

My main message is to stop using labels and identify the feeling – Being uncomfortable may be but not suffering with Imposter Syndrome.

Question number 2:  What are the best “action steps” for women entrepreneurs to manage self doubts and still grow their business?

Here is what our experts say:

Melanie Benson:

When self-doubt kicks in, take my three step approach.

The first step is to reflect: is this the absolute truth or MY version of the truth? Often women entrepreneurs make up a limiting story that they don’t know how or are not capable, when really they just need guidance and direction from a mentor or coach.

    Second, look for the reasons your goal will work, instead of all the reasons it won’t. This gives more confidence to continue.

 Third, surround yourself with people who believe in you and challenge you to accomplish more than you believe you can. A mastermind, an online coaching group or work with a mentor and a coach.

Nathalie Greg:

Realize that doubt is a part of the process. Don’t be afraid to be transparent and make it a part of your story. Remember these three things about your personal story! 

Your personal story is going to attract and repel. Embrace them both!!

Know your strengths! Leverage them!

Know what you love and show up that way everyday!

Nima Abu Wardeh:

These terms are overused, bandied round and create a label especially for women. It is so easy to use to put yourself and others down without defining the feelings and what you or other people can do about it.

Let us use actual words that define that actual feeling e.g. – you feel uncomfortable doing this – don’t you?

Women entrepreneurs need a practical action led toolbox and a safe space to experiment and ‘be’. Women need to feel comfortable at being, and keep “being” and be comfortable doing it. Action led approach is the key.

Identify the real feeling or emotion. Maybe you are feeling uncomfortable about unknown or entering a new situation or fear on being a speaker or take up a senior management job and not be buried under labels like imposter syndrome.

Think, how do I move beyond low self worth, self doubts and fears.

As women mentors, we need to provide tools to women. Let us enable them to stay on the path, where their ability and ambition lie and build a sustainable system they can use to really shine.

Question number 3: Share a personal experience of Imposter Syndrome and how did you handle it.

Here is what our experts say:

Melanie Benson:

Ten years ago, after a decade of massive success, I hit a bump in the road and what I had done successfully to create a 7 figure business stopped working. I lost my confidence and experienced a deep, profound sense of doubt that I could go on.

By following the steps I laid out, and deciding to be 100% in on my business, I was able to pivot my brand and reboot my success. It took a lot of mindset work, constantly reframing every negative feeling and fear, but I was able to find my way back to confidence by creating a personal brand based on my business

Nathalie Greg:

I am currently in middle of expansion of my business, impact and also experiencing imposter syndrome. I am taking some huge leaps and expanding the #LeadLoudly brand and the experience! 

As the first action step I have curated an amazing team to guide me. These are experts, coaches and peers whom I trust and who are committed to push me out of my comfort zone.

Secondly I have decided that I would talk about the process instead of waiting until it is completed.

Third action I have taken is to make this process a part of my story , being authentic and sharing my learning and steps with my audience. For example sharing my experience in this article is one of the ways I connect and show women entrepreneurs that we can face it and still keep growing. 

Nima Abu Wardeh:

I know something shifted in me when I decided I want to go inclusive and start working with individuals, women especially. My career has been working with some of the biggest corporate and working with men; CEO’s and decision makers, almost 90% of my time.

Did I feel able to do this? Yes absolutely as I have a vast experience and learning and I know I am perfectly capable of sharing my experience.

Did I feel uncomfortable? Yes.  What I felt was that I was uncomfortable with going direct to women and saying “I can help you so join my program”

Is that Imposter syndrome? Lots of people say it will. What I say it is only feeling uncomfortable with unknown

Instead of ‘oh I have Imposter Syndrome’ and label myself, I identified that particular feeling – of being uncomfortable going to a new audience’.

Being able to stay on my path in a credible consistent and comfortable way led me to launch my ‘Raise Your Profile’ incubator.

Author: Anu Bhatagnar