Beyond Shame & Imposter Syndrome: Your Strength

“Face your deficiencies and acknowledge them; let them teach you patience, sweetness, insight. But do not let them master you.”

– Helen Keller

This powerful reminder from Helen Keller resonates deeply with the path we’re on as women entrepreneurs.

I recently attended a workshop by Natalie Bell with Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) Los Angeles, focusing on Managing Shame and Impostor Syndrome where we explored the nuances of managing shame and impostor syndrome—challenges that many of us encounter but can certainly overcome with grace and inner strength.

What is Imposter Syndrome?

Do you ever think: “What gives me the right to be here?”

If so, you’re having a moment of Imposter Syndrome: thoughts of inadequacy, not being good enough, or not belonging. 

As women in business, it’s common to feel doubts about yourself. Recognize these moments, as they’re the first step to overcoming them, but first, let’s dig deeper.

Impostor Syndrome: Understanding the Shadow of Doubt

Impostor Syndrome is a psychological pattern where individuals doubt their accomplishments, often feeling like a ‘fraud’ despite evidence of their competence. 

Those experiencing it may attribute their success to luck rather than ability and fear that others will eventually unmask them as a fraud.

Key characteristics of impostor syndrome include:

  1. Chronic Self-Doubt: A persistent feeling of inadequacy, despite being skilled, capable, and successful.
  2. Attributing Success to External Factors: Believing success is due to luck, timing, or deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent or competent than they believe themselves to be.
  3. Fear of Exposure: Constant worry that others will discover they are not as knowledgeable or capable as they appear.
  4. Setting Unachievable Goals: Often setting excessively high goals and feeling disappointed when failing to reach them.
  5. Difficulty in Accepting Praise: Feeling uncomfortable with recognition and praise, fearing they don’t deserve it.

Shame: The Hidden Emotional Weight

Shame is a complex emotion that involves feeling unworthy, embarrassed, or humiliated. 

Unlike guilt, which is about feeling bad for something you’ve done, shame is about feeling bad about who you are. 

It can be deeply rooted and is often linked to our deepest fears about ourselves.

Characteristics and manifestations of shame include:

  1. Feeling Flawed: A deep sense that one is fundamentally wrong or defective.
  2. Avoidance of Exposure: Hiding one’s perceived flaws from others to avoid judgment or rejection.
  3. Withdrawal: Pulling away from others or activities due to feelings of shame.
  4. Physical Reactions: Physical cues such as blushing, sweating, or averted gaze.
  5. Impact on Self-Esteem: Shame can severely affect an individual’s self-esteem and sense of self-worth.

Both impostor syndrome and shame can be paralyzing, particularly in high-pressure environments like running a business. 

Understanding these feelings is the first step toward addressing them. 

Through self-compassion, mindfulness, and seeking support, you can begin to dismantle these harmful patterns and build a healthier, more positive self-image.

Self-Compassion: Your Tool for Resilience

Self-Compassion is essential for entrepreneurs.

 It involves mindfulness, recognizing that everyone struggles (it’s universal), and treating yourself with kindness. 

How Do I Treat a Friend Who is Struggling?

Think about how you respond to a friend who’s struggling. You’re likely kind, supportive, and empathetic.

Now, how do you treat yourself in similar situations? 

Often, we’re harsher on ourselves. 

It’s time to extend that same kindness to ourselves when we feel like we’re an imposter.

It’s time we treat ourselves like we would a friend.

Mindfulness of Shame

Recognizing how shame manifests in you is key. As mentioned above, it could be physical cues like a tightness in your throat or mental signs like thoughts of inadequacy.

Acknowledging these signs helps in addressing them.

Using Fierce Self-Compassion to Stand Up to Shame

Imagine a scenario where you feel judged or shamed. You can use physical gestures like stretching out an arm or crossing your arms over your chest, combined with affirmative words like “No more harm!” or “This ends here!” to build a mental barrier against these negative feelings.

Reflecting on Your Strength

Think of past challenges where you’ve overcome self-doubt or shame. What did you learn? How did you feel afterward? Use these reflections to empower yourself in current challenges.

Overcoming Current Challenges with Self-Compassion

Identify a current challenge and apply a gesture of fierce self-compassion. Pair it with empowering words like “You’ve got this” or “Go for it.”

Create a Fierce Self Compassion Habit for yourself using these gestures and words to activate self-compassion in challenging moments.

Remember, each step you take, no matter how small, is a leap towards embracing your true potential.

As women entrepreneurs, our journey is not just about the destination but also about growing through challenges and the resilience, strength, and compassion we find within ourselves.

You are unique. You are valuable.

Embrace all your experiences, with fierce self-compassion and resilience.

You’ve got this!
Kalika Yap