I had been doing CrossFit for only 6 months when I convinced my boyfriend of 2 months to entertain buying our gym with me.
Yeah, I know… What a terrible idea that was going to be, right?
Fortunately, it turned out to be one of the best things that happened to us. But I won’t say any of it was easy.
I was completely out of my element, both in my budding relationship with Lee and at the gym, where I was still figuring out what “WOD” stood for.
Let me break that down for you.
We engaged in a pretty hefty legal agreement mere months into our relationship, unknowingly committing to working through the journey of both our personal relationship and business partnership simultaneously.
To add insult to injury, I’m a mighty introvert, completely comfortable keeping to myself. So to a pretty established group of members at our gym, the thought of the two of us taking over the gym as brand new gym owners probably seemed like a train wreck waiting to happen. I won’t lie.
What these circumstances aggravated, though, was one of the biggest things I struggled with as a gym owner: impostor syndrome.
The feeling that I didn’t deserve to be here.
Whether or not you’ve experienced it yourself, impostor syndrome is real.
It’s so real that I’ve asked multiple business owners how they handle it. We’ll get to those insightful answers later.
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What is impostor syndrome?
In the book The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women, the authors explain that impostor syndrome is when people have a “persistent belief in their lack of intelligence, skills, or competence. They are convinced that other people’s praise and recognition of their accomplishments is undeserved, chalking up their achievements to chance, charm, connections, and other external factors. Unable to internalize or feel deserving of their success, they continually doubt their ability to repeat past successes.”
Although the book title is directed toward women, impostor syndrome affects both men and women. Feeling like a “fraud” is not specific to a gender.
Why do we get impostor syndrome?
Many people of different backgrounds experience impostor syndrome, but these feelings are commonly associated with “introversion, trait anxiety, a need to look smart to others, a propensity to shame, and a conflictual and non-supportive family background.”
Regardless of where it comes from, many of us deal with impostor syndrome. Here are some personality types that go hand-in-hand with impostor syndrome, outlined in the previously mentioned book:
- Natural genius
- Soloists (people used to operating without help)
Oh, you mean everything most gym owners are? Yup.
If you come from a background of success and high expectations, and you have continued to place those high expectations on yourself, there’s a good chance you’re at-risk for experiencing impostor feelings from time to time.
Why is the recognition of impostor syndrome important?
One of the most heart-breaking things to see as a business owner is when other business owners fail. There are a number of reasons this can happen. On top of any external factors business owners have to battle with, they also have the internal hurdles they have to overcome.
There are almost 23 million Google results for “entrepreneur mindset” and for good reason. A small business owner’s mindset is equally important to his/her success as everything else.
Dealing with impostor syndrome as a business owner, or really anyone trying to be successful in life, can be debilitating. It can hinder the success you achieve, and, as a Forbes article mentions, leads “to professional isolation, a demoralized spirit and missed opportunities.”
Fundamentally, if you’re grappling with impostor syndrome, you don’t believe in yourself. Recognizing that you’re dealing with a psychological challenge that may not accurately reflect reality (read: you’ve got more to offer than you give yourself credit for) will allow you to overcome impostor syndrome – not let it overcome YOU.
What can you do to alleviate impostor syndrome (and start having more success)?
1. Take Action
When I posed this question to a fellow gym owner, and a pretty successful one at that, he responded with this:
“Just do it anyway. You’ll quickly figure out that you have every reason to be there and that most people aren’t even attempting what you’re doing.”
I am inclined to agree. Anytime I was worried about my ability to do something, I found that actually doing it was way easier than dealing with my fears prior to it. Dealing with impostor feelings and overcoming them by taking action can make taking action seem like a cakewalk compared to how badly you thought it was going to be. How’s that for a silver lining?
In fact, I’ve gotten to the point where if I’m fearful of something, I already know it will certainly not be as bad as my imagination predicts.
Being in a constant state of doing is a great way to stay agile, giving you the confidence to get back in the arena, again and again. This confidence will minimize any latent impostor feelings you’re hiding.
2. Accept Imperfection
My good friend and fellow entrepreneur said something to me when I was getting Almost Elite launched, “Done is better than perfect,” and it has stuck with me ever since.
Oftentimes perfection is the enemy of good enough. You have to trust that although you do not know everything and will probably do something imperfectly, EVERYTHING WILL BE OK!
You will survive. And more likely than not, you’ll do a little better than just “done” and actually do well.
This is another great lesson I took away from my conversation with the successful gym owner I mentioned. In line with dealing with self-doubt when executing, he said, “So what if it doesn’t work out? So what if you reach a dead end? Pivot. Keep pivoting. Don’t give up or stop. Adjust and keep moving.”
The biggest difference between those who are successful and those who aren’t is that unsuccessful people stop.
Successful people don’t not fail. They just adjust, then they keep moving forward.
As you keep pivoting, you will eventually figure out what works and you will find success. And as you continue to accumulate success, you will gain confidence in yourself and grow a track record of reasons why your impostor feelings are flat out lying to you.