I decided not to post this… but here we are. I told myself it wasn’t good enough. In actuality I was just scared. A reader saved it when she emailed about her own Impostor Syndrome. I sent her this post and she responded with this:

Well, here it goes…

[Update: Since posting this, there have been a ton of people commenting about their experiences with Impostor Syndrome, their stories might be even more helpful than the article itself. Definitely check them out.]

***

I’m a fraud and everyone is about to find out. I feel that every time I am about to share something. I feel that right now writing this: I don’t even have impostor syndrome. That’s how bad my impostor syndrome is. I even think I’m faking that. If it’s part of my life, it’s fake. What is impostor syndrome? It’s feeling like an impostor when you’re not. Like you’re a fraud and the whole world is going to find you out. This makes total sense for undercover agents and people selling snake oil. It doesn’t make so much sense for people who are trying to make the world a little better or to sell something they believe in.

The first step to feeling better about anything is to realize that famous people suffer the same thing. So here are some famous people with Impostor Syndrome:

bossypants-tina-fey“The beauty of the impostor syndrome is you vacillate between extreme egomania and a complete feeling of: ‘I’m a fraud! Oh God, they’re on to me! I’m a fraud!’ So you just try to ride the egomania when it comes and enjoy it, and then slide through the idea of fraud.” – Tina Fey

“There are an awful lot of people out there who think I’m an expert.  How do these people believe all this about me?  I’m so much aware of all the things I don’t know.” Dr. Chan, Chief of the World Health Organization

“I still think people will find out that I’m really not very talented.  I’m really not very good.  It’s all been a big sham.” – Michelle Pfeifer

“Sometimes I wake up in the morning before going off to a shoot, and I think, I can’t do this.  I’m a fraud.” – Kate Winslett

“I have written eleven books, but each time I think, ‘uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.’ “ – Maya Angelou

Emma Watson, Sheryl Sandberg, and Sonia Sotomayor have also admitted to feeling like they’ll be found out for the frauds they are.

impostor lady

But wait, these are all women… Apparently this is mostly a problem for women. I don’t buy that though. I think that guys just won’t talk about it. Or at least that’s the story I’m going with. (I don’t want to be girly.) In searching for famous people with impostor syndrome I did find a couple males. Tom Hanks and Neil Gaiman (artists of course, but they’ll do):

“The first problem of any kind of even limited success is the unshakable conviction that you are getting away with something, and that any moment now they will discover you. It’s Impostor Syndrome, something my wife Amanda christened the Fraud Police.” – Neil Gaiman

Seth Godin wrote in The Icarus Deception that after a dozen best sellers he still feels like a fraud all the time. (I have a sneaking suspicion that Tim Ferriss suffers it too, just saying.) This problem is only getting worse as more of us rely on our online presences. We’re in this weird culture where you’ve got to sell yourself aggressively while remaining “authentic”. You think you need to be perfect but you also need to feel free to fail. You need to be yourself and more! It’s all set up to make you feel like a fraud. At the end of this post I’m going to issue a challenge. If you don’t feel like reading anything else, skip down and do the thing with me! Here are the ways I keep going when I feel like a fraud: i have no idea what im doing

21 Ways To Overcome Impostor Syndrome

1. Come off it. Usually I feel like a fraud when I think I’m more important than I am. When you feel like a fraud it’s in relation to some perfection that never actually existed. Letting go of some of your excess self-importance will go a long way in helping you feel less like a fake.

2. Accept that you have had some role in your successes. We feel like frauds because we are “unable to internalize our successes”. We were given an opportunity that others weren’t. And so nothing we achieve after that opportunity was actually deserved.

John D. Rockefellar’s oldest son suffered that bad. His entire life’s work was giving away money that his dad made. Can you imagine the intense impostor syndrome he must have felt? Holy moly.

There are plenty of people born with a silver spoon that still manage to f*#$ up. They were given every opportunity and never could take advantage of them. Opportunities come to those who expose themselves to them.

It’s not all “fair”, not at all. But you did do something to get where you are. You said yes when you could have said no (or, maybe more challenging, you said no when you could have said yes.)

3. Focus on providing value. I feel like a fraud when I’m concerned about myself. What will they think of me? If I fail they’ll shun me. I don’t know as much as that other guy, I have no right to say anything on the topic. Blah blah blah. The fastest way to get over feeling like a fraud is to genuinely try to help someone else

This is hard because what if they hate you for it? What if they make fun of you for trying to help? What if your sincerity is smashed under the laughter of others? Then OUCH! That hurts bad. Not nearly as bad as it hurts to feel like a shell of yourself though. I remember the first time I wrote vulnerably. I had gone through severe depression and had benefitted from reading about others being depressed. I felt obligated to share my story. I did. It’s a couple years later now and I still get emails telling me how helpful the letter was to them. Not one person made fun of me for that. At least to my face.   humility cs lewis 4. Keep a file of people saying nice things about you. I just started this earlier this year and it’s been amazing. Every time someone writes that I helped them online I take a screenshot and put it in my folder. When I feel like a fraud I can go look through the stories of people I have helped. There is a mom who’s 18 year old boy was shaken out of being stuck because of something I had written. There are a whole series of entrepreneurs who started businesses because of articles I’ve written. There are successful entrepreneurs that were reinvigorated by something I wrote. There are a whole slew of people at rock bottom who have found life worth living again because of something I wrote. Those things keep me putting stuff out there. Because, honestly, it’s easy to forget that writing can do any good. Collect your wins, testimonials, whatever and then visit them when you’re feeling like a fraud. impostor graph 5. Stop comparing yourself to that person. There’s no good reason for you to be reading what I’m writing. There are world class biographies of Warren Buffett, John D. Rockefeller, and Einstein. James Altucher has had more successes than me. Peter Thiel just wrote a book. Tim Ferriss, Paul Graham, Kevin Kelly… these guys blog! But still, I’m writing this because I think I have something to offer. Actually, when I look at my praise file I have proof that I have something to offer.

When I compare myself to these others it’s easy to fall into the trap of “my life sucks compared to that life”. You might as well not even do anything! Your life isn’t the best life! Emerson said, “Envy is ignorance…” and he was right on. You aren’t here to live the life of another person. You’re here to do whatever life you can. Turn Facebook off, get off Instagram, stop reading biographies of “successful” people and learn to respect your own experience. You’re not a fraud, you’re just you.

6. Expose yourself totally. Part of the twisted arrogance that causes impostor syndrome is the (usually unconscious) belief that you have extreme powers that the world couldn’t handle. Or maybe it’s just that you think you are a freak. You certainly have the ability to offer the world something that nobody else can… but really it’s not that wild! You are not nearly as much of a freak as you think you are. Again, come off it, you’re just not that special.

Do this: write for 30 minutes the most insane things about yourself. You will never show anybody this. Write your most ridiculous beliefs, your most terrible thoughts, your biggest fraud! Just write gibberish if you think that is crazy. Push into the deepest taboos you hold. Seeing these on paper doesn’t get rid of them but externalizing things puts them in a more sane perspective.

I have a gay friend. Everyone knew he was gay. He spent years not telling anyone. He spent a huge chunk of his life without expressing himself. If the world knew he was gay everything would be over. “So, I’m gay,” he told me. Big surprise. “Okay,” I told him. The next month I saw him he was living a totally different life. There was some kind of rusty wheel in him that was now spinning freely. His eyes shone with life. He was energetic and positive. All just from letting down his guard for a minute. science girl 7. Treat the thing as a business/experiment. Today there is a whole slew of artist-entrepreneurs. We call part of what we do “content creation”. There has never been a time in history where so many people have a “voice”. No wonder we’re all suffering from impostor syndrome.

Start treating even your art as a business. Not to the point that you start making crap because it’s what people like, but to the point that you are honestly serving the market. In a business, if a product doesn’t sell, you stop making it.

If nobody shares this post or leaves comments then I’ll assume that nobody wants to hear me talk about impostor syndrome—so I’ll stop. I won’t wallow in my failure and think the world hates me.

I’m running a test. Looking at it this way makes it easier to create the thing freely.

8.  Say “It’s Impostor Syndrome” and it immediately becomes a little less terrible.

9. Remember: being wrong doesn’t make you a fake. The best basketball players miss most of the shots they take. The best traders lose money on most trades. Presidents are wrong about stuff all the time. The best football teams inevitably lose.

Losing is just part of the game. Don’t glorify failure, but don’t let it make you feel like you’re not a real contender either.

10.  “Nobody Belongs Here More Than You” <<That’s the title of a book I haven’t read, but I agree with it. Why do we feel we don’t deserve to be in the game? Because we haven’t won it yet? We haven’t even tried! Break people down into what they are: expiring meat sacks.

We are all going to die, we just take different routes to get there. One of the most attractive qualities in a person is acceptance.

Acceptance of themselves and acceptance of you.

Not in the surrendering kind of way, in the “seeing clearly” kind of way. If you can admit that nobody belongs here more than you (while maintaining the belief that you don’t belong here any more than anyone else) you will find yourself making connections with people in powerful ways. imposter heart 11. Realize that when you hold back you’re robbing the world. If you walk around feeling that you should be someone else or that you don’t deserve to be here then all your crappy vibes rub off on other people. Your stunted expression means that you can’t be there for people who need you.

Everyone has doubts, the best gift you can give the world is to move forward regardless of the doubts—because it gives us the permission to move forward as well.

12. You’re going to die. Do you want to be on your deathbed regretting that you spent your entire life stopping yourself because you felt like a fraud? Maybe you can’t shake the feeling that you’re a fraud. You can force yourself to move forward despite the feeling.

13.  Stream-of-conscious writing. I suggested something similar in #1. This is aimless though. Do this: write for 30+ minutes nonstop. You can’t put your pen down. If there is no thought in your head then write “I can’t think of anything” until you do. This will constantly put you in touch with what’s going on inside yourself.

It will show you how silly the impostor syndrome is. It’s awesome.

14. Say what you can. We are often put in the position of “expert”. When this happens people look at you like you should know everything about a topic. We can’t know everything about anything though. If I’m in a situation where there is potential to actually be a fraud—ie bullshit about things I don’t know—I just say what I can instead. People respect this much more. Admit that you don’t yet have the answer but you’ll find it.

Admit that you haven’t found the perfect solution but you’ve come close enough.

i have no idea what im doing

the second time for good measure!

15. Realize that nobody knows what they’re doing. Most startups fail. Even the ones that you hear about raising millions of dollars fail all the time. Nobody knows exactly what’s going on. There are a ton of people who will tell you they know the answers. These people are liars.

The world we live in is the result of a lot of brave people tinkering, failing, and succeeding once in a while. Nobody knows what’s next: some are willing to play ball in the face of uncertainty and some aren’t. You’re not an impostor for trying something that might not work. You’re a hero.

16. Take action. Impostor Syndrome lives in abstraction. It is impossible for it to survive when you’re taking action. Taking action proves that you’re not a fraud. It tests your mettle in the real world.

Impostor Syndrome cannot do damage to the person who consistently takes action. (You still might feel it every once in a while but you won’t let it stop you.)

17. Realize that you are never you. You’re constantly changing. You’re constantly becoming a new person. Your opinions change with new information (I hope). You spend 6 months eating donuts and then you spend 6 months at the gym. Last year you were obsessed with Call of Duty, now you don’t understand video games. Maybe you were in a terrible mood this morning. Maybe you’re a bit brighter now.

“There is as much difference between us an ourselves as there is between us and others.” – Michel de Montaigne

You are growing into something different. You are getting better. How? By trying to do something better than you actually can. That’s not a lie, that’s valor. authenticity hoax18. Authenticity is a hoax. What is being authentic? I’m not going to write to my grandma using the same words as I use to write to my sister. I’m not even going to emphasize the same interests I have.

If I’m selling security systems, I’m not going to pitch a Mormon the way I pitch a rock star. It just wouldn’t make sense. There is no person you can be other than you. Ever. The impostor syndrome will have you believe that you are being inauthentic. That you are a liar. If that’s true then where is your true self!?

The impostor syndrome doesn’t give an answer because it doesn’t have one. Tell it to eff off.

19. See credentials for what they are. They don’t mean much. “Expert” means someone decided to call them that. “PhD” doesn’t mean someone knows more than you, it means they spent more time in school about you. (And actually do know way more than you about some uselessly specific topic.)

“As seen in The Wall Street Journal” means they knew how to use HARO. Don’t measure yourself by credentials. It takes the focus away from actually doing good things. And it won’t shut up the impostor syndrome for long either.

20. Find one person you can say, “I feel like a fraud” to. Being able to say that out loud to another person can be a huge help. Especially when they laugh at you for it.

21. Faking things actually does work. Sometimes faking it doesn’t make you a fraud. If you smile your body will be more generous with happy chemicals and actually make you happier. Neuroplasticity means that you can shape your brain by pretending.

When you were a baby you tried to walk and fell down every time. Were you a walking impostor? Who are you to walk!? You can’t even do it! It’s absurd!

Silicon Valley has been built by people trying to do things that probably weren’t going to work. We need them to keep trying. We need you to keep trying. We need you. Whether you feel like an impostor or not. impostor syndrome cartoon

Impostor Syndrome: The Challenge

You have the opportunity right this very instant to overcome your impostor syndrome. This is what we’re going to do. A Blog Confessional of sorts.

Write in the comments one thing you’ve avoided because you feel like a fraud. (If this is too much, you can email me… commenting will be more powerful though.) You can even stay anonymous if you want. Maybe you haven’t started that blog because you feel that you couldn’t do it as well as the people already blogging about a topic. Maybe you haven’t started your business because you don’t think you’re an “entrepreneur”. Maybe you haven’t talked to that pretty girl/guy. I don’t know. There are all sorts of thing. I’ll give you mine in a second.

**BONUS ROUND** Do something about it! If you don’t know what to do, I’ll give you a suggestion. The comment itself will be a huge step for sure. It’ll be even more huge to take the thing head on. grad school impostor

If you’re looking for a guide to take action I put together this awesome course on taking action!

Check out The Action Course – Learning the Art of Doing

Overthinker's guide to taking action

Author

Kyle Eschenroeder

Thanks for taking the time to read this! Let me know what you think - the good, the bad, the ugly - in the comments below.

I'm an entrepreneur (more in the StartupBros About Page) in St. Petersburg, FL

  • Brian says:

    I did #6. I wrote all about how I’m insecure and anxious. About all the bad, undesirable things about me. I let it all out. And it was all true because even though I do my best to put forward a facade, I’m still the same insecure and anxious person.

    It made me feel like even more of a fraud who deceives people with his external persona (and not always succeeding at it).

    • This post just went up a few minutes ago — I’d try to keep going at least for the 30 minutes suggested. Keep writing and writing until you break through.

      It’s not about punishing yourself, it’s not about figuring out new ways you’re bad, it’s simply a record. It’s not an immediate switch that happens. If you try this style writing (#13) for a week I would bet that you begin to see results. (It takes me a solid 7 days in a row to really see serious improvements.)

      The quicker perspective-shifters are in the other numbers.

      • Brian says:

        I meant to say I did the writing on another occasion before I read this article, but you’re right that it wasn’t for 30 minutes (I think…I didn’t keep track). I wrote until I expressed everything I wanted to say about my shortcomings.

        However, I will try your suggestions, thanks.

        • Ahh I gotcha! Definitely try pushing yourself PAST the point of seeing your shortcomings, that’s when they lose power.

          I think it was in Thinking, Fast and Slow that I read about an experiment where people felt GOOD after writing 3 good things about themselves but BAD when they tried to writes 12 or so… because the feeling that “I can’t think of any more good things about myself” itself is painful. What we’re doing, in part, is a kind of reversal of that.

  • Scott says:

    Nice post. Love the emphasis on techniques to just move forward and do it anyway.

    My thing is “I know how to get kids from zero to pretty dang good on the guitar, but I’m no John Mayer so I have no business selling guitar learning products”. Truth is, I should never rest until every little kid who tries my stuff gets just as good as I am on the guitar. Then I can say “that’s all I got man” and I will have added tons of value. It’s funny really that we’d let the lack of having the last piece on the tip top of the iceberg keep us from adding the huge value below that we already can add.

    • Great insights Scott! In the case of teaching I think it’s helpful to remember that teaching/coaching and performing are separate skills. A coach isn’t expected to perform at the same level as the athlete or musician or entrepreneur–the coach has a different skill set.

      Mannn I really want to see these guitar videos!!

  • Taylor says:

    Man, seriously the timing of this is unbelievable. “The fastest way to get over feeling like a fraud is to genuinely try to help someone else.” — duuuude, I’m just saying, if I wake up every day and read that one thing my life will look totally different.

    Today I started working on a product and threw the idea in front of some people and one of them said, “Why would anyone listen to you instead of John Carlton & this and that person.”

    It got me down, pretty bad, I kind of decided he was right and that I didn’t want to finish. Then I read this post and thought about how it could help people. Like I said, perfect timing. Thanks for writing.

    • Thanks Taylor! I do that same thing–stick with a couple quotes that I read every day to remind myself of an important theme.

      Peter Thiel wrote a business book, so have a bunch of other billionaires… it doesn’t mean they are the ONLY books worth reading. If anything, they’re detached from what many people need.

      Why would anyone read anything besides the BEST? I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately and still can’t figure it out for sure. Nobody would call the bestselling novels the “best” novels. They help in their own way that academics don’t often appreciate.

      People will listen to you over John Carlton because you connect with them in a way that he didn’t. You have a story that’s different than his.

  • Paul says:

    Fantastic article. I felt compelled to leave a comment just to say thanks.

    It really resonated with me and I realise I have been doing this imposter syndrome thing my whole life…

    NOT ANY MORE

  • Sean Herriott says:

    Hey Kyle,
    I found you guys last week while looking for info on importing. I read your post on becoming Antifragile a few days ago, and it’s really stayed with me. One of my favorite Aqib Talib quotes: “Atheists are just modern versions of religious fundamentalists: they both take religion too literally.”

    I was let go from a network radio job four months ago, and it was like the fulfillment of the Impostor Syndrome sufferer’s worst nightmare; you think someone’s going to decide what you do is crap and blow you out–and one day they do. I’ve been frenetically creating content, hoping to get some traction (I’m doing a daily podast on spirituality, and a weekly podcast on geek-centric topics). I’m seeing some good things happen, but not much money. The money part is starting to get really, really important. So it’s pretty much Impostor’s Syndrome all day, every day.

    When I read the post and your call to action, I thought of the piece of content I’ve worked the hardest on, have been the proudest of, and haven’t shown anybody. I finished it three months ago. It’s the first part of a short documentary I’m making about a kid with Asperger’s Syndrome who shot his own Star Trek fan film. Sorry if this seems like a plug; it’s really, truly the first thing that came to mind, because out of everything I’ve done over the past four months-podcasts, animation, video, blogging–it’s the only thing I’ve been hoarding. Very strange. Here’s the link: http://youtu.be/AMBjep626EQ

    I like what you have to say about entrepreneurship, but I LOVE what you have to say about life. Seriously. It’s just what I’ve needed.

    • Kyle says:

      That quote is great!

      A couple general tips on your business (although I’m going to get into this in much more depth in future posts):
      -Focus less on quantity and more on quality and marketing. There is a TON of content being created every day now. You need to make something awesome that will hit people in a new way. Also, you need to spend time marketing the content or nobody will get to it. Focus on providing absurd value.
      -Use your content as an MVP for a possible course or coaching program. Take your best performing piece of content and turn it into a premium course. (This is your best bet to make money quickly without ruining your brand.)

      HELL YES on sharing that video. I loved it… really inspiring!!

      Thanks a ton for posting here Sean. Awesome to have you in the community 🙂

      • Sean Herriott says:

        Thanks, Kyle. I’ve seen some of your posts on marketing, and I’ll spend some time with them. I wrote a post on my blog talking about what you’d written, and about some things I had said in a recent podcast, and I’ve gotten a tremendous response. I’m getting a clear idea of what’s resonating with my podcast audience, and I need to focus on maximizing that. I really appreciate your combination of boots-on-the-ground advice and some really insightful thoughts about life in general.

  • Hi Kyle,

    Great post and glad you decided to publish it.

    All great points but the one that I can relate to the most is…
    9. Remember: being wrong doesn’t make you a fake…

    I allow being wrong and my failures to weigh down on shoulders far to much. But I guess being such a psychotic perfectionist has a little something to do with that too!

    Keeping a praise file is a great idea and I’ll test out the 30 minute writing task to.

    Thanks for sharing your vulnerabilities with us. It’s nice to know industry leaders are human too – I guess we forget about these types of emotions sometimes because it’s to commonly associated with weakness so nobody talks, we forget.

    Buy as soon as someone opens the can, the floods starts and everyone saying “yea bro, me to, know how you feel”

    Naomi

  • Clare Q says:

    Hey Kyle, great article. I constantly feel like a fraud. I have started up a jewellery business, and I handmake sterling silver jewellery. The thing is, I’m self sabotaging myself and not doing anything to expand as I feel that I’m not as good as the other jewellers and what’s the point? I taught myself what I know, which isn’t much, but I definitely don’t have as many skill in silversmithing as hose who studied for 3-4 years. So, while I could be pushing myself forward and building a business, I’ve gone back to ‘day job’ work and have put the business on the sidelines while I try and figure out how to get around the next hurdle… Finding someone/ people I can get to handmake my designs, while bringing work to them and helping their community.

    • Kyle says:

      Clare I love your designs… you better not stop!

      It’s bizarre to me that we can see ourselves self-sabotaging and then still do it! The best-seller is almost never the “best” at something. You have a unique style that others will want. I love the site you have set up. It seems to me like you just need some assistance with branding, motivation, and some technical pieces of growth.

      You might be interested in our coaching program that deals with the details of sourcing products and working with suppliers; setting up distribution channels, marketing, and other requirements with growth.

      You’ve already built an awesome foundation. I really hope you push through this dip.

      • Clare Q says:

        Thanks Kyle,
        It’s so nice to hear that. 🙂
        And yes, absolutely bizarre to keep self sabotaging even though I know I’m doing it. Odd to day the least!
        I would love to know more about the course/ coaching program you mention. Are you able to email me some details please?
        Thanks again, I feel this was a step toward getting more clarity and pulling myself forward.
        Cheers
        Clare

  • Danielle says:

    Thanks Kyle – I am also very glad you published this article as well.
    I have heard of imposter syndrome and while I didn’t think I suffered from it, I realize there’s a variant out there called ‘not good enough’ syndrome with which I am quite familiar.
    Being enough is a work in progress. “Done is better than perfect” is now my motto (any men on here read Lean In?). I like the idea of keeping good testimonials for rainy days. Asking for feedback from people we trust and who like us is a good way to ensure more positive testimonials.
    I heartily agree that comparing oneself to others is a road to hell – it’s like comparing my most miserable self to someone’s most awesome on holiday Facebook self – not a fair comparison, is it? There is probably nobody we know with the same unique mix of talents, challenges, beliefs and experiences that we have, so each of us is unique and incomparable. “Same unique” is oxymoronic as well. And just plain moronic.
    I shall get out my pen and write my beliefs that are not serving me as well as my skills that gave me some awesome testimonials in the first place. Let’s play to our strengths, lovely start-up people! 🙂

    • Kyle says:

      Thanks for the insights on the not-good-enough variant! That seems like something that is especially American currently (thinking of the Bigger Stronger Faster documentary) and I’m not sure it’s all together terrible. That feeling of dissatisfaction can propel us forward. It’s when we let it overtake us/paralyze us that it’s really bad.

      Striking that balance and being content with dissatisfaction–feeling the need to push forward without feeling anxiety about not being further along–is freaking tough, maybe impossible to sustain, but it’s the thing I strive for.

      Cheers!

  • Dave C says:

    [NOTE: I originally wrote an 1150 word reply. Holy Schmoly, right? Well, I copied that to my personal notes and greatly reduced my comment. However, it was a great exercise.]

    Hi, Kyle. Great article; glad you shared. It’s been the discussion for the evening at our house – the follow up of a brief mention of an interview I saw with billionaire businessman, John Hunstman Sr. who said this about business (to the best of my recollection): “It’s all made up. Everything. And that’s OK. As long as everyone else agrees to find value in whatever is made up, it’s good.”

    My wife, Renee, had a conversation earlier today with some friends of hers about similar things, not knowing of your article, at that time. So your article was perfect timing and perfect fodder for our conversation, tonight.

    (As you know, Kyle) I’m producing a moviemaking competition. Yet I know very few in the moviemaking industry. So, I’m going in with this kind of, ‘Build It And They Will Come’ mentality.

    Fortunately, I can look at my skillset as someone who brings people and ideas together and I can take confidence in that. And, I can look at the actual description of the competition and say, “Dang! This is really cool. I want to get involved with this somehow.” Then I get to smile, because I AM involved in it.

    Those are really great perspectives, right?

    But THEN, a voice from the opposite shoulder chimes in: “You don’t have any filmmaker friends. You don’t know anyone to help you get this off the ground; people you can say, ‘Hey guys, let’s do this thing!’ Nope. You’ve opened registration and all you’re hearing are crickets — but even THEY aren’t signing up.”

    And so goes the daily battle. Sometimes once voice wins. Sometimes, the other. I try to keep moving regardless of which voice is winning.
    —Dave

    • Kyle says:

      Hey Dave!

      You just sent me down a Wikipedia hole with the Jon Huntsman quote… so great!!

      I’m still pumped on Trailer Sports. You got to tap the community that is already participating in blitz film fests.

      Creating Trailer Sports is probably the best way to meet those people you need to meet. Talk with them about what they think about it, talk with them about events they’ve run or participated in. Having a venture to discuss instead of just getting coffee or whatever is really helpful!

      I love you you put that at the end: it really doesn’t matter which voice prevails in the end if you take action… because that’s the one thing that really does make a difference.

      You rock. Thanks Dave!!

  • Dave C says:

    By the way, I’m the Mormon you spoke to differently when pitching your vacuum cleaner. Thanks! I appreciate that. But how do you pitch Mormon rock stars? Cuz you KNOW they’ll still be doing their own housework.

    One more aside: At least in the vacuum cleaner business if someone tells you your product sucks it’s easier to choose to see it as a compliment.

  • Richie says:

    Kyle, thank you for the article. It is was interesting and insightful. Your tips were valuable. In my mind the top two were 1) take action and 2) get over yourself.
    Taking action is a consistent message in your work, and many others, and it is simple. However it is sometimes the hardest thing to do, yet most effective. Many great statements involve the same principle (idle hands/devil’s workshop: if you ain’t trying you’re dying; rolling stone…). As I said, it is simple yet most effective and you consistently deliver that message. Kudos!
    The second tip of “get over yourself” is what I call “Tony Soprano’s Mom”. In one episode when Tony Soprano is pleading with his mother about something she looks at home and sneers “What makes you think you’re so special?”. Result was Tony was stopped dead in his tracks. I have brought that sneer to mind many times over the years and it never fails to a) stop me in my tracks and b) make me laugh. The concept ties in with being humble which ultimately leads to being grateful. Again, you have done an outstanding job in this article and others sharing and developing these concepts.
    I will confess that I have been a fan of your work and your company’s online content for sometime now. Like many others probably have, I came across your company’s work while researching eCommerce/importing. I was shocked at the amount of valuable information provided and fascinated with the comments and communication in the Comments sections. Although I cannot prove it, I suspect there a more than a few “silent admirers” of your work out there much like myself.
    I am not of your generation. In fact, I am pretty sure I have kids around your age. I am a 53 year old husband, father of 8, grandfather of 2, retired trial attorney and now an Ecommerce entrepreneur in a family business. Please know that your website and articles played a significant part in getting us to where we are today. I have personally enjoyed your articles and appreciate the depth of your examination and thought. Well done. well done indeed.
    In closing, I hope you remember to place this in your “praise file” as it is well earned in terms of praise and good karma. Thank you again for the article and the hard work. Keep it up!
    Best regards,
    Richie
    Manager | Blu & Red (bluandred.com)

  • Ajay says:

    Great post Kyle! The crux is getting started with what you want from life. Might fail but that is not the end.

    Do you have more articles like these for people who are wanting to take the plunge into entrepreneurship but holding back. Would love to read.

  • Kyle says:

    I’ve got to find that episode of The Sopranos you’re talking about… that made me laugh! Spot on, too.

    Love the “devil’s workshop” expression too.

    Thanks a ton for the kind words–I just took a screenshot for the praise file 🙂

    Most of all, thank you for letting us know that this site has been helpful. It’s easy to see traffic numbers and assume that nobody is putting the stuff to use (except the people in paid programs, I can see what they do!). So to see the business you’re building and knowing that we’ve had a small part in that makes me feel great.

    Please feel free to email/comment any time.

    Best wishes,
    Kyle

  • Katy L says:

    Hey Kyle,

    Great post! always love your stuff 🙂

    I’ve avoided starting my own business. Ironically I help young people under 25 start their own business but i haven’t taken the leap myself! I just hadn’t found the thing i wanted to start and now that i have (after some useful tips from yourself and others) i’ve started to think I don’t know what i’m doing, especially not compared to other people out there. The Icarus Deception changed everything for me and i’ve been building up to getting things started. Your post just gave me the final kick i need. No excuses you are right it’s a case of get over yourself and just do it.

    Your post is definitely going to be one i come back to again and again so thanks for sharing it.

    ps i regularly share your stuff with all the start-ups i help so thanks for making my job easier and thanks on behalf of them too 🙂

    • Great Katy! I’m so glad you enjoyed this. None of us really know what we’re doing… most startups that raise millions of dollars still fail… most movies aren’t hits… the highest-paid CEOs can tank companies.

      All we can do is learn as much as we can and keep trying things.

      I love The Icarus Deception, one of my favorite Godin books.

      Thanks so much for sharing this with startups. Sharing is honestly one of the highest compliments we can get. So THANK YOU! I’d love to know what startups you share them with if you’re willing.

      Godspeed! I hope you let us know when you launch your business 🙂

  • Rory says:

    Excellent and helpful article which I shall reread. Now I’ll get on with things.

    Thank you Rory

  • Phil Gerardo says:

    Hi Kyle, I took the Spring 14 StartUpBros online class. Yesterday I read “5 Levels of Entrepreneurship”. Today I took inventory of the 60 items I have purchased and not posted yet on Ebay. I will have my first item posted on Ebay within 3 days. It took a while. Now I’m taking action.
    Thanks,
    Phil Gerardo

  • AMAZING article. Despite having a hugely successful year I have still been feeling TONS of anxiety & fear (even more than the startup phase). This articulates exactly why and now I can work on releasing these unfounded fears and enjoy the successes. Many thanks for writing this article. I’m sure it’s something many of us feel.

    ~E

    • Thank you for the kind words. I’m grateful that you’re here!

      I love your site too, great products! My mom is starting a bag line, it sounds like a similar style to what you’re making. Would you be interested in chatting?

  • Danny says:

    Kyle does it again! Love it, love it. This post and the other about being antifragile r so true. Every day Imposter Syndrome whispers n my ear that I am different, no one is interested n my self employment, the only thing keeping me afloat is luck, I should get a job and b just like everyone else.

  • Love that CS lewis quote.

    Also #4 is insane. I’ve done hat myself since a few days ago, and now you’re writing it. funny

    “Faking things actually does work.”
    — Indeed. Powerposing is for real

  • Eric says:

    “To me ultimately martial arts means honestly expressing yourself.” – Bruce Lee
    “I have no idea what I am suppose to do … I only know what I can do” – Captain Kirk

  • Luke says:

    Jesus, this article was awesome and weird for me to read.

    I know this feeling all too well and could never put it in to words – it’s limited me from going ahead with business ventures all the way to not making posts on forums in fear of being called out and not having any real world experience to back up my posts even if I just wanted to help.

    It’s weird though – number twenty really hit me. I actually said the exact words ‘I feel like a fake’ when in a very emotional argument/conversation with my girl only a week or two ago. And yes, she even laughed at me a couple times for it.

    Weirdly I’ve started doing things – maybe it has something to do with that conversation I had with her.

    But I’ve finally started taking action in my business and although it’s just the start, it’s more action than I’ve taken in a long long time.

    I also started contributing in my forum of choice a couple days ago – albeit only a little, but I’ve been receiving praise by established members for contributing value.

    It’s so weird to stumple upon this article that is something I’d never thought of but can relate to so much. I appreciate this article an incredible amount and will be re-reading when I’m fresh in the morning to make sure I’ve digested it all.

  • Morgan Hancock says:

    Kyle, you need to quit sneaking into my mind and reading my thoughts. One, it’s creeping me out; and two, when you expose my inner most struggles and so many people other people relate, you make me feel like my “issues” are unoriginal — which hurts my pride.

  • Jeromw says:

    This is the first time ever I comment on a blog post.

    I have to say, I needed this article more than anyone here. I’m a self taught video production one man show. I sometimes feel that I’m impostor, and lower my fees seeing that I did not receive any hands on training or certificates like other companies have in their offices.

    You just gave me hope, seeing that I’m not the only one feeling like this.

    I love this article, I’m reading this again.

    Thank you….

    • I’m so glad this is helpful for you.

      Try this experiment: for your next gig, double your price.

      Nobody hires you for your certificate, just for you and the work you make. Kubrick wasn’t trained. Nolan wasn’t trained. Neither did Tarantino… it’s about making badass work.

  • Asif says:

    Wow,
    I literally used to feel the same way but didn’t know what it is called.
    Now I do.
    Excellent tips to overcome it.
    I loved #12. “You’re going to die”
    Whenever the fear stops me from doing something, I say it to myself. It has helped several times.
    *Feeling better that I am not the only one suffering from this. 🙂

  • […] post 21 Proven Ways To Overcome Impostor Syndrome appeared first on […]

  • Peter says:

    I’m in my last year of university right now. I had plans of going into grad school since my dream is to become a university professor – something about engaging people is amazing in my eyes.

    However, I have had major depression since this September, and since I feel like dropping out of school. I am terrified of approaching professors or talking to them about carrying on with academia since I feel like I do not belong here.

    I’m seeing a therapist, and keep a journal. The part about “getting over yourself” and “just acting” are my biggest hurdles right now. You article gives me some hope though.

    • Hey Peter, good luck! I hope you don’t drop out–if that is really the right thing for you to do you can do it later when it’s coming from a place of strength.

      • Richie says:

        Peter, I read your comment and wanted to tell you that it will get better. I cannot give you exact details of what has happened in my life but one thing that has helped me tremendously is “the next 15 minutes”. What I mean is when my focus is not where it is supposed to be – on myself. in the past or in the future – I give myself a “brain slap” (think 3 Stooges) and simply figure out what I am going to do in the next 15 minutes and get started on whatever it is immediately. Sometimes I will reset that “next 15 minutes” every 5 minutes until I get moving. Eventually I do move and I do get things done. “Semper Ad Meliora” (Always Towards Better Things) is the last tattoo I got to remind me that it will get better – and it does!
        As I said, hang in there and it will get better. I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers.

    • Peter I think it’s amazing that you are receiving the help you need instead of complaining about your depression but not doing anything about it.

      I understand why you’ve been held from your achievements but what’s the worst that could happened – at least you would of tried. I’m sure the professors you’re are afraid to approach felt just like you at some point. Consider reading up on the history of the professors you admire the most – You’ll soon find a vulnerable side that you don’t see everyday, but that you can connect with.

      Lastly, why would you feel you don’t belong? It’s your dream and you deserve it just as much as anyone else. It sounds like you a have a fear of success. Wikipedia can explain it better than I can…http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonah_complex

      I hope this helps

      Good luck

      Naomi

  • […] This post originally appeared on StartupBros. […]

  • […] piece on this phenomenon, posted recently on Facebook, came with this Brad(ford) Veley […]

  • Simon says:

    I’ve had three jobs since I graduated back in 2012 and at all three places I’ve suffered from imposter syndrome. I feel like I don’t belong and that I don’t know what the hell I am doing. This article is definitely an inspiration and it’s comforting to know that there are others out there who go through the same thing!

  • Chris Stewart says:

    What a great article. So often I compare my work to others who appear more successful than I. A friend at work would often remind me that NO ONE knows what the hell they’re doing and we’re all just making it up as we go along! Just focus on your successes and learn from your failures.

  • Ross says:

    I spent 20 years working for the same company, worked my way up from a computer operator, to an entry level programmer position and eventually managed a team of 10 software engineers. The entire time I felt like an impostor. I didn’t have a degree like so many others and I knew that didn’t hold me back. I was respected by my staff, by my management team, but I never let myself enjoy the success I had. I was an impostor. Someday “they” would realize that I was a fraud. When that day came and our positions were eliminated in favor of outsourcing, how that little demon delighted in telling me “I told you that some day they would figure out that you didn’t belong.”

  • Kt says:

    It’s so easy for us to tell ourselves that we don’t know things, but of course we do! This blog post came into my life as an affirmation of feelings stirring within me. Thank you for sharing!

  • […] 21 Proven Ways to Overcome Imposter Syndrome (StartupBros) […]

  • James says:

    What of the people who move forward in their respective fields to the detriment of others? People who actively cheat, lie, and scam their way to the top? Surely, that doesn’t apply here right?
    One easy example is when an artist traces art and presents this work as their own in professional portfolios. Or a developer who present slightly tweaked premade templates in their portfolio.
    When I bring this topic of “impostor syndrome” and how some people feel it’s okay to fake it to the detriment of others, I can’t find myself excusing THESE specific situations. I love this article and would like to know what you think of situations like this where people move ahead in a toxic way.

    • Hey James,

      I pointed to this with the psychologist cartoon. I don’t want to make too much of a moral judgment here. We are all delusional to some extent about our capabilities–there is no way to know the upper limit of our potential. We have to believe in something that doesn’t currently exist in order to create the future.

      You’re not talking about that though, you’re talking about the assholes. And yeah, they are the ones that SHOULD feel like impostors… and maybe they do, they’re just comfortable feeling that way.

      When you mention portfolios I think you get into fuzzy territory (I’m assuming the artist change it in some large way). “Great artists steal”, Bob Dylan’s first album was full of covers, and everything is a remix: http://everythingisaremix.info/watch-the-series/

      Basically, unless you are DIRECTLY harming another, I think it’s safe to steal stuff and make it your own. That’s what you do even if you don’t notice it. That being said, I like to say where the ideas are coming from that I’m stealing.

      Again, the lines get blurry. The 80/20 rule will take us far here–if we’re not obviously an impostor then we should free ourselves from feeling like one. We should trust ourselves to be good.

  • Throughout my whole life, I have loved writing. I always wanted to be an author or even a journalist – but never went through with it because (this is what I told myself) there is no place for these occupations in South Africa.

    At this precise moment, I realized that I have been lying to myself. If I became an author or a journalist, I’m sure I would have been able to find work. I just suffered from the impostor syndrome as well as the fear of failing and not being good enough.

    I can’t believe it took me so long to realize this.

  • john says:

    Damn, didn’t even know impostor syndrome was a thing! Every point resonated with me and gave some perspective, Great article thats given me a great start to the day!

    Half the time I avoid just being myself because I do not want to let me parents down!

  • luthien says:

    I haven’t started my own freelance writing company, because I feel like I can’t. Because I feel like I can’t write for sh*t and my spelling is absolutely appalling (I had to look up that word in order to know how to spell it). I feel like I can’t make it with my own freelance business, because I just can’t and get rejections everywhere I try to send a pitch to. So to me this feels like ‘surely there must be something wrong with me… rigth?!’

  • Memjay says:

    Wow.
    I have just read this post off the back of spending my lunch break crying to my partner on the phone, about how I feel as though everything in my life is fake, that I don’t deserve anything, and that it’s all going to get ripped out from under me at any second when I get “found out” for god knows what. And now, after reading it, I am sitting here reflecting on all the times in my life (past and present) that I have fallen prey to Imposter Syndrome (also feeling like a fake for writing that, but I digress). I was recently given a part in a musical after 7 years out of the game, and in my mind it was because I’m friends with the pianist, not because I earned it out of 100 other people auditioning; I have been running my own business for the last 18 months, and keep thinking that someone is going to come and get me, and expose me as a big fake/fraud, and lock me up or something; Feeling that my parter doesn’t actually love me, because he has “no reason to” or only loves an idea of me that I’m actually not; Going to meditation, and sharing an experience, all the while thinking that I must have just made it up, and that I’m faking receiving some kind of enlightenment; Feeling that the only reason why my partner is with me, is because it’s the easy option, and I pursued him, like he’s settling with me; Not answering business enquiries, because I’m not good enough to be in business, let alone take people’s money, and someone will expose me soon; Feeling the need to change my name on here, because what if someone finds this, and exposes my imposter syndrome, and then I’m caught out – then subsequently feeling as thought I’m faking having imposter syndrome, and that I’m just after some sort of attention; Not finishing my degree, because I think I’m not that smart, and that I would be caught out if I tried; Having an anxiety attack at the prospect of going back to Tafe, because I might fail; Not answering enquiries to an ad I HAD LISTED MYSELF to start a band, because these people are so much more talented than me, and my ad was all bravado, and I’ll be exposed as crap if we actually meet up to jam.

    There are countless other instances, but these are just the ones that have swam into my head now.

    I don’t know if I feel better, or feel sick (or feel like I’m faking feeling sick) now that I know that there is actually some sort of name to how I feel EVERYDAY (or am I exaggerating there???)

    But at least the knot in my chest seems to be dissipating, and I feel as though the crazy is receding, ever so slightly.

    I guess acknowledgement is the first step to getting better.

    Thank you.

  • Rob Kornblum says:

    Kyle- This is terrific. Imposter syndrome is so pervasive.

    I just interviewed a Silicon Valley CEO, incredible success story, for a book I’m writing. His first company ended up being worth almost $400 million, and while it was growing, he kept feeling like he wasn’t capable of running it, to the point that he brought in another CEO to run the company.

    Second time around, he stayed running the company. It just filed to go public for over $1B.
    My takeaways- learning and experience do help; you’re better than your brain wants to give you credit for, life does offer “do-overs.”

  • Rhett says:

    Awesome article, pretty much sums up most of my short-term thoughts and temporary blocks.

    I have trouble with the whole “I shouldn’t blog or continue forward because other people are already doing it and DOING IT BETTER than I ever could” syndrome. This can also relate to the not deserving “piece of the pie” disillusion example. Where someone might think that there is no pie left for them or they have no business to be there in the first place as a member of the whole pie (industry, art, product market, lemonade stand, ect.)

    Also, one of the BIGGEST negative scripts that I keep running through, especially after working for a few larger companies (Hilton, Disney) is that there must be some level of “officialness” or proven processes in order to do something. It’s almost like I’ve lost my childhood senses of exploration or ability to build new or trust safety nets that are not yet there, weak/unfinished, not even necessary in the first place.

    For example, I need to have an official folder or document for where we will list potential clients or leads. Then, they must be entered into the CRM or project management system a certain way. Shortly thereafter, we must contact them to sign a specific form in order to get access to their login credentials, ect. We must send over reports of our work in this particular fashion.

    I could go on and on from this example, however in the end I have learned that it is a mild case of OCD or “The Product is Never Good Enough” that holds back the whole operation.

    F### It, Ship It.

    I think that an entire article can be written about just these incompetencies or mental blockers that others feel. Thank you for allowing me the time and forum to let out some internal thoughts my friends 🙂

    -Rhett

  • Mark K says:

    Thank you. Helped verbalize stuff that’s been in my head, sort between my bs and others’ bs. I will need to return to this again for some consecutive days I imagine.

  • […] articles – 21 Proven Ways To Overcome Impostor Syndrome – Killing the 7 Motivation Murderers – How To Start a Successful Business with […]

  • richard says:

    i feel like a fraud because i want to build my own web app from scratch i have to quadruple check every fact and relearn the same basic code over and over, i will build and release my app but i didn’t earn the right because i cant be recognized like a person with a degree

  • […] can often be blind to our own competencies. Severe versions of this leads to the impostor syndrome. You are blind to what is most natural to you and things feel natural because you’re good at […]

  • Kat says:

    I have avoided graduating from grad school and have worked minimum wage jobs while a lot of my peers have jobs with more responsibility that I would also like to have. I feel like I will never have a career that is meaningful, although I will likely be graduating at the top of my class at a top 19 school in a graduate program. I feel like I don’t know how to do anything and at times, this has led me to severe depression and feelings of disempowerment. I am recognizing this and telling myself that I am capable– and then am going to apply for my dream jobs. I would love to be a journalist, entrepreneur, writer, and healer– somehow melding all of these areas… but I don’t know how to start. I must not be afraid to start somewhere.

  • Jasmin says:

    Your article really cheered me up. I can’t count the number of times that I’ve chalked up my success to me getting lucky or people giving me a break. There are a lot of things I should have celebrated but never have because I didn’t think I earned them. I’ve held back on doing many things because I think I’ll fail or people will realize that I have no idea what I’m doing. Even in relationships I fear the people I care about most will wake up and see me for who I really am and leave. No one should live thinking like that, so I’m going to give your 21 steps a try starting with what I’ve avoided. The biggest thing I have avoided is taking risks and going outside my comfort zone. I always feel like a fake when I try to do something that’s completely different from my character or interests. I tell myself that I shouldn’t be doing “x” because I’ve never done it, so I have no business doing it. This doesn’t happen with every new thing I do, only with some things. Anyway, I’m going to do something that’s outside my comfort zone, and I will stick with it. I’m really glad I found this article. I think it even inspired me to get writing again. 🙂 Thanks.

  • […] artigo da StartupBros você encontra famosos comentando suas experiências com essa síndrome, mas o mais importante, […]