Eliminate the Fear of ‘Imposter Syndrome’ [video]

Tired woman at computer

Not surprisingly, imposter syndrome is common among entrepreneurs.

How did I get this job? How did I trick these people into hiring me? What’s going to happen when they realize that I don’t know what I’m doing?

Imposter syndrome affects a wide swath of the population, leaving successful, accomplished individuals feeling as if they are not deserving of their achievements and in persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud.” In their view, any success they enjoy in life is little more than luck or good timing, not the result of any skills or intelligence they might possess.

Author John Steinbeck suffered from it, writing in his diary in 1938: “I am not a writer. I’ve been fooling myself and other people.” So has Oscar-winning actress Jodie Foster, telling an audience in 2007, “I always feel like something of an imposter. I don’t know what I’m doing.” According to researchers, more than 70 percent of the population shares these sorts of feelings about themselves.

Not surprisingly, the world of entrepreneurship is rife with stories of imposter syndrome. It’s unstructured, it’s high stress, and it can be isolating. It’s the exact sort of environment where self-doubt and insecurities can run wild.

But, argues Kauffman Fellow, Carl Fritjofsson, principal with venture capital firm Creandum, imposter syndrome doesn’t have to hold entrepreneurs back. In fact, embracing these thoughts and feelings can help founders motivate themselves to do their best work, eliminating their fear of not succeeding and opening them up to real, lasting growth.

Jeff HarbachEntrepreneur LogoThis story was a guest column by Kauffman Fellows CEO Jeff Harbach in Entrepreneur. Jeff Harbach (Class 16) is president and chief executive of Kauffman Fellows. He tweets @jeffharbach.