Do you sometimes feel like a fraud? Like one day someone is going to discover that you have no idea what you’re doing?
The feeling of imposter syndrome is universal. We have all been through it.
If you want to be successful, you need to train your brain to focus on what’s important. Through focus, you can learn to manage your imposter syndrome.
In this article, I will share with you the methods and mental exercises I’ve used to build my business with confidence and intention.
The Dreadful Feeling of Questioning Whether You’re Needed or Not
Have you ever been at a job where you were convinced you are on the verge of getting fired? Or questioned whether you are needed or not?
I know I have. This feeling of uneasiness might cause you to behave in ways that are counter productive.
For instance, you might start overcompensating by trying to fill your time with work that seems important. You say yes to completing meaningless small tasks, or you might knock on your boss’ door and ask if there is anything you can do to help.
That feeling doubt and uncertainty is the essence of imposter syndrome. It’s a terrible feeling. It lives in the pit of your stomach and forces you to question your value.
This feeling is bad enough when you are working at a job and collecting a paycheck, but it’s even worse when you’re the owner of a business. When you’re an entrepreneur, you have to make all the decisions. How do you make good decisions when you’re always questioning yourself and doubting your own ability to do the work you’ve been hired to do?
Suddenly, you’re losing sleep and you’re dreading any interaction with your clients and customers.
I know this feeling well, because I have been there.
The Solution to Imposter Syndrome
Before we go any further, please take a minute to watch this video.
In the video, I use my marketing agency as an example of focusing on “the one thing that matters.” That’s not a lesson that magically popped into my head one day. The reason that I came to this conclusion was because I was sick and tired of feeling terrified whenever I needed to talk to my clients.
I remember feeling nervous and anxious any time a client would reach out to me. The client may have been asking me a simple question, yet the anxiety I would feel would be crippling.
That feeling went away when I built up the courage to look directly at the facts and hold myself accountable to the results that really matter.
The reason why you may feel like a fraud is because you never picked a specific aim and measured your success directly against what matters most.
Impostures don’t have the courage to hold themselves accountable to specific metrics and results. Impostures find ways to create perceived value and that’s why they constantly have to argue for their position.
The best way to prove competence to yourself and to other people is to be specific and deliberate about what your objective is and then focus all your attention on achieving that one objective.
That’s why imposters are always looking for ways to be helpful. They want to “add value” wherever they can, because they don’t believe in themselves enough to generate the results that matter most.
Professionals don’t need to navigate through this uncertainty. Professionals can look at the results and put a plan together to achieve a specific outcome. They can sit back and demand their place in the world, because there’s nothing for them to prove that they haven’t already proven with their actions.
Here is a simple example
Let’s imagine you’re training for a 5k race. You’re not a fast runner, but you have an aim of completing the race.
You train for weeks. You watch YouTube videos on how to improve your form and you practice running every day. You’ve committed to a stretching routine after every one of your runs and you’ve even created a meal plan that helps you fuel up to get the most out of your body.
The big day comes. You go into the 5k feeling confident and excited. You run your race, you get to the finish line, and you finish at an 11 minute mile. An 11 minute mile is a relatively slow pace and you were one of the last people to finish.
Do you feel like an imposter? Do you feel like a “fraud at running?” Of course not, how could you? You did what you set out to do.
Let’s look at another scenario.
Let’s imagine you have a goal of running an 8 minute mile. You finish the race and you don’t quite hit your goal and you run an 8:10 minute mile. What about then? Do you feel like a running fraud?
You may be disappointed and you may feel like you didn’t hit your goal, but you certainly don’t feel like a fraud.
It’s impossible for you to be a fraud because you knew what you were aiming for. You may have come up short in terms of hitting your goal, but that doesn’t mean that your training was fake, or fraudulent, or phony.
The same is true for entrepreneurship or success in general. You can only perceive yourself as an imposter if you aren’t intentional about what it is you are trying to do.
The feeling of inadequacy comes from lack of specificity. The randomness of success can trick you into thinking that you don’t deserve it. But if you are deliberate in your actions, then there is no way you could possibly be a fraud because you are doing exactly what you set out to do.
The Difference Between a Goal and an Aim
Your aim isn’t a goal. Goals are binary, aim is not. Even if you miss your target, the mere fact that you were aiming at a target makes your actions intentional. Failure is always part of the process. It’s impossible for you to achieve any objective without hitting many points of failure along the way.
However, when your focus and your actions are aimed specifically at a certain objective, then imposter syndrome goes out the window. You know, win or lose, that your actions are pure and intentional.
The Targets I am Aiming At
To show you that I use this technique myself, I will list out how I have set specific aims and objectives for my own work.
1. TimStodz – My aim is to build a newsletter that maintains a 40% open rate. In the future, my revenues will be determined by my open rate, so I’ve decided early on that the most important metric to measure my success against is open rate.
The subscribers will come in time, but if I focus on my open rate, I know that I am creating a valuable newsletter and advertisers will pay me top dollar to feature their product or service in front of my audience.
You can see below that I am aiming at the target.
2. Copyblogger – I only care about two metrics for Copyblogger. First, I want to generate sales for our membership program. Second, I want to generate leads for our agency. I don’t focus much on traffic (although that is important) because high traffic with no sales is not my objective. I want sales and leads.
Once again, the traffic will continue to grow in time as long as we maintain our process. But there is no value in a website that generates lots of traffic and no revenue.
The truth is scary, especially on months when we have lower than expected numbers. But by aiming at the right target, we always are able to recalibrate and adjust quickly.
3. Stodzy – As I already mentioned in the video, our only objective is to generate phone calls for our clients. That’s all we care about. We don’t send our clients detailed reports of social media shares, likes, or even traffic. We send our clients reports on phone calls and make connections to which pages or lead sources those phone calls were generated from.
We prove our value by focusing on the only metric that matters. If we continue to focus all our attention on phone calls, our business will continue to scale.
4. Muay Thai Training – I want to be able to do an all out, fully intense, 45 minute flow session with my trainer, without needing to take a break. This is my only aim, because I know if I can do this, it means I am improving my conditioning and my technique at the same time.
Instead of Being Helpful, Instead Focus on Being Valuable
Living with imposter syndrome is painful. The feeling of insecurity can be crippling.
Building up accountability is also painful. It is very difficult to measure your value with truth and honesty. But confronting the truth is less painful than running from it.
Once you cross that line from imposter to pro, the world opens up to you. People know when they are dealing with experts and once you cross that threshold, you no longer have to prove to the world that you know what you’re doing.
Being “the helpful person at work” will only get you so far. The best thing you can do for yourself, and for the people you serve, is to stay completely focused on your aim. The most helpful action you can take is to generate the results you’re expected to generate.
This is true in every aspect of life. It’s true in relationships, business, fitness, and health.
Before my grandfather died, he left me with a quote. It was one of the last things he ever said to me, and I’ve tattooed the quote on my arm.
“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s own courage.”Anais Nin
The antidote to imposter syndrome is accountability, and holding yourself accountable takes courage.
Living with accountability and courage is hard, but living in fear and insecurity is harder.