I think I can, I think I can …

im·pos·tor (noun): one that assumes false identity or title for the purpose of deception

Can I do it? Do I know what I am doing? Can they see that I’m nervous? What if they find out that maybe I don’t know everything I should know!

Ever feel like that?

Being a new business owner I’ve experienced that feeling more than once. It’s a feeling of overwhelm, a feeling that maybe I don’t really know what I am doing.

I had an experience several months ago where I had pitched some business and when they called and actually hired me (gasp!) all of a sudden I wasn’t so sure. I was telling a good friend of mine how I was feeling and she barked at me (‘cause she talks in “bark” sometimes): “Hepburn, you know your sh**, you’ve done this before … you’re just gonna have to fake it ‘til you make it.”

For me, it was so powerful having someone else say that I could do it because at that moment I knew exactly what I needed to do and went out and rocked it.

Ever heard of “Impostor Syndrome”? Valerie Young, a public speaker with a doctorate in education, is a specialist in helping individuals overcome their feelings of professional inadequacy, has defined Impostor Syndrome as follows:

Despite evidence of your accomplishments, you continually discount your success, thinking instead that you must be fooling everyone and thus in constant danger of being unmasked

She has put together a quiz that looks at how you handle mistakes, or your approach to challenges and your perception of those around you (clients, colleagues, competitors). At a certain point, a lack of confidence in yourself will hold you back and Young coaches people of how to manage those feelings.

In exploring the idea of “Impostor Syndrome” I decided to talk to other business owners and see if they had ever experienced the feelings of doubt that I periodically did (or if I was just really a complete headcase – shh don’t tell my clients!).

I started with my dear husband, Brad. He’s a Chartered Accountant and partner in a local accounting firm, and far more reasonable than me at times. He said that one of the things that he has learned over the years is that he can’t possibly know everything off the top of his head – particularly as it relates to the ins and outs of tax etc. He’s learned to be upfront with clients in these cases and get back to them with the answer.

My friend Jane, who owns her own consulting company, The Reeves Group, pointed out that the whole idea of “Impostor Syndrome” or “Faking it ‘Til you Make it” is really just the stories you tell yourself in your head – it’s all made up. She also pointed out that the minute you don’t feel nervous about a new client meeting or a project you probably aren’t caring enough about your work.

So … with all this in mind, how do I overcome perceived feelings of inadequacy and boost my own confidence?

Prepare, prepare, prepare

This includes knowing the client, knowing the scope of work and making sure I have a buttoned up list of exploratory questions if I am meeting someone for the first time

Follow up and follow through

Always immediately follow up after a meeting and always follow through on what you said you’d do – setting client expectations gives me confidence to do my job because I know that we are all on the same page and are working towards the same goal

Dress the part

Pull the outfit together ahead of time, walk with confidence, hold that head high and for gosh darn sakes clean your shoes and ladies, apply the lipstick

So, now that you all know I am not always the ballsy confident woman you might have thought I was … how do you boost your confidence when you know your stuff but just need a little help convincing yourself?

All images via here

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About Sarah

Sarah is constantly ReDesigning things. From ReDesigning spaces for others or ReDesigning herself from corporate operations whiz into interior decorator and blogger – it’s all about ReDesign.

Posted on June 21, 2011, in Blog Posts and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. oh my gosh, Sarah. thank you for sharing this. i can relate on so many levels. i’m also lucky to have supportive friends and family…..they always pump me up. but, the one that really counts is me. that annoying voice in my head that critiques everything i do with a slightly skeptical slant. honestly, i just try to fill my head with more encouraging words. sometimes i’ll make a list of everything i’ve already accomplished, all the risks I’ve taken, the changes i’ve made (even the little ones). i also read a book of daily insights from Melody Beattie, “Journey to the Heart.” it’s written specifically for creative types, to build confidence and have faith in yourself. it’s done wonders. (but it’s taken years for some if to sink in;) I think it’s a lifelong project. so slow down, count your blessings and go for it. you’re right where you should be.

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