Why feeling like a fraud can make you a brilliant entrepreneur

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Have you ever felt like a fraud at work, and like any moment now your boss is going to turn around and tell you to quit pretending and get out?

I have, countless times when I worked for someone else. Even though I was qualified, and competent, I couldn’t handle any praise and just didn’t believe people when they said I was good at something. I was constantly paranoid someone would eventually suss me out.

Unfortunately, feeling like a fraud didn’t go away when I quit my job and started a business. In fact, it compounded it ten-fold and really tested my nerve. During my 60-second pitch at a networking event, or after I delivered a workshop, I was waiting for someone to pipe up and say:

Who do you think you are?! What makes you the expert?

And I’m not alone. Every entrepreneur I have come across has felt like they were winging it at one stage or another. In fact, I’d hazard a guess that most people in all walks of life feel like they’re about to get caught out for not actually being that good at what they do.

So how can you turn what on the surface seems like an affliction to success, to a tool that will make you a brilliant entrepreneur? First, lets understand what this feeling really is:

Impostor Syndrome

“Impostor Syndrome is a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalise their accomplishments. Despite external evidence of their competence, those with the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be. Notably, impostor syndrome is particularly common among high-achieving women”

Why it can make you a brilliant entrepreneur 

Although on the surface, Impostor Syndrome seems pretty dire, it can actually make you a great entrepreneur. Here’s why:

1. You are conscientious

The fact that you feel like a fraud is a good thing, because it means you want people to get the best possible service. There are lots of businesses out there ripping people off, and you won’t be one of them because you’ll do everything you can to deliver the best service or product possible.

2. You can use it as fuel for learning

Many people who suffer from impostor syndrome are avid learners. They’re constantly seeking new information and expanding their skill set because they feel like they don’t know enough. This means you’re constantly adding and honing the skills that will serve you well as an entrepreneur and that you can potentially pass on to your clients too. Not everyone is so keen to keep growing and learning, and it means you’ll likely be one step ahead of more arrogant people who assume they know everything and don’t need further training.

3. You are already successful

Impostor syndrome is most commonly found in high-achievers and successful people. It is the people who go for their dreams, push their limits and take risks that feel like a fraud. So give yourself a pat on the back and recognise that your impostor syndrome means you’re much more likely to be successful (and probably are already – youre just not acknowledging it!).

 I have written 11 books, but each time I think, uh oh, theyre going to find out now. Ive run a game on everybody, and theyre going to find me out Maya Angelou


Jen Smith coaches entrepreneurs in social media.

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