Imposter Syndrome


You go through a range of emotions as a business owner.
But what about those feelings of being an imposter?
That you’re a fake. That someone will ‘find you out’. 

How can you recognise and overcome this?

Do any of the following scenarios sound familiar?

You’ve got a great idea for a new business venture. You’ve got your business plan all worked out.
You’re pretty sure there’s a market. No-one else is out there doing it.
But making that idea a reality?
You couldn’t possibly do it… could you?

Imagine that your current business strategy is going well.
Sales are steady with some promising signs of potential growth over the next twelve months.
But you’ve got a nagging feeling that you’re not where you think you should be.

Or maybe consider a situation where your business isn’t going well and you’re not sure why.
But somehow, you know that it’s your fault.

Sound familiar?

Imposter syndrome can affect business owners, whatever stage of the journey they are at.
We all from time to time experience feelings of being inadequate.
That we’re not good enough. Out of our depth in a meeting or perhaps a belief that we are the least qualified person when called for an interview.
The financial industry is notorious for jargon and acronyms – people would rather make a mental note of them of something they don’t understand and check it later, rather than run the risk of asking what seems like a stupid question. So it’s no surprise then that this syndrome is a by-product of our fear of looking out of our depth.

Some of us are able to shake off these feelings of inadequacy. But what happens to those of us who can’t?


Ever get the feeling you don’t belong?

Firstly, what is imposter syndrome?

Imposter syndrome (IS) can be a strong, even overwhelming, feeling of self-doubt. One which can lead you to self-sabotage your efforts.

Recognise yourself

Research from Dr. Valerie Young (author of ‘The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women’) shows that IS can be broken down into five different character types.


You seek to be the absolute best, no matter the personal or professional cost. Maybe it’s because you’re the first-born child. Similar to the classic ‘perfectionist’ character trait that we are probably most familiar with.

Lone Wolf

You either believe that others can’t meet the level of detail that you expect or you don’t feel confident asking for help meaning that you end up working alone whether you want to, or not.


Similar to the overachiever in that alongside seeking perfection, you set ridiculously high standards for yourself, only to get depressed or upset when you don’t meet them. You may also be clever but get annoyed if you cannot solve what you believe to be are easy problems.

Eternal Student

The Student will keep on seeking to learn and know as much as possible to make up for what they feel are their shortcomings.


You’re addicted to work, meaning you will push yourself above and beyond. Or you may believe that you don’t work as hard as your colleagues are supposedly doing, so you stay later.

How to overcome it

Here are some methods to overcome entrepreneur imposter syndrome, based on which one you think you are.

Don’t give or expect 100%

By all means, give a task your all. But only if it demands it. Running towards every problem applying this method won’t work all the time. It will ultimately burn you out – not great if you’re in charge of a small team and worse if you’re a one-person operation. Similarly, remember you’re not saving lives here – for example, you don’t need to stress

I’m new

You may think that being the newbie is holding you back. If anything, it’s a massive plus. Lack of experience? You can learn your way, however you choose to.
You also don’t come with any baggage nor any pre-conceived expectations. If you don’t like how others are running their businesses, you can do it your way, with those fresh pair of eyes you’ve got. Which puts your competitors at a disadvantage. Boom.

Keep learning

Learning is great. Never stop learning. But the focus should be on the quality of what you learn and not the quantity. It’s great if you want to learn how to do your taxes yourself at first to save money. But someone who is a trained accountant will inevitably be better in the long term.

It’s not just you feeling like this

Imposter syndrome can make you feel like you’re the only fraud in the room, making you believe you got where you are by fluke or error. In fact, you are far from alone with over 60% of workers in the UK having experienced it.
From an entrepreneurial standpoint, the number of Scottish startups continues to grow each year. The number of private businesses increased through 2020-2021 and Scotland has the third highest number of tech startups outside of London and the South. Given that they often begin with an individual or a partnership, that’s a lot of new businesses starting out with the same uncertainty and inexperience as yourself.

Talk to other business owners

We’ve previously mentioned (especially when starting out) how important it is to network with other business owners.
It can get lonely so talking to others will help your mental health, because if anyone is going through a similar situation, it’ll be them!

Find your ‘why’

We mentioned this recently but in the context of making financial resolutions. Ask yourself what’s prompted you to look at starting a business.
Did you spot an opportunity to offer something unique? Was it the chance to work for yourself? Do you have a hobby that you want to turn into a source of income? Once you’ve thought about it, you’ll rekindle that motivation.

Change your mindset

(This is a technique that will take time so patience is key.)
In brief, entrepreneurs such as yourself can be classed as either having a fixed mindset or an open one.
Fixed‘ means you currently believe that anything related to your personality, intelligence or behaviour is already pre-determined and cannot be changed.
Open‘ entrepreneurs believe that personal growth comes with time.

Changing your mindset is no overnight fix, but by doing so you change the way you think into a positive.
Listen to your fixed mindset voice – the one that tells you that change isn’t possible.
Recognise that you have a choice and that you do not have to live or listen to this inner voice.

You may have limited or no experience in establishing a business. And, while working on your own, may struggle to see how you can grow your idea into a success.
But by separating the ‘you’ from your business idea, you remove your own doubts on the potential of the business.

Map it out

As a way around this, try mapping out the vision and business plan for your idea as if it would be done by someone else. Develop a plan for the first year, three years and five years, with ambitious numbers, to give the business an ambitious goal. Then add yourself back into the equation and follow through your plan for success, after following our earlier tips to beat your imposter thoughts.

Following these steps will help you overcome your imposter feelings, allowing you to think, plan and act on your new business venture.