3 minutes

How to Overcome Impostor Syndrome

April 23, 2024

Have you ever been afraid that others might 'discover' how bad you are? That despite all your achievements, deep down, you're an incompetent person who can't meet the challenges you're facing? If so, you're probably experiencing impostor syndrome.

Impostor syndrome is a feeling of doubt and fear of being exposed as a fraud, despite your accomplishments. It's common among entrepreneurs and can manifest in various ways. In this article, I'll share my experience with impostor syndrome and different ways to handle it.

In 2019, I was invited to my first Y-Combinator demo day. I was excited. I had dreamed of being in that space for a long time, and after many years of work and planning, I had invested in my first three YC startups.

When I arrived at the event, I felt like I had crashed a party. I didn't have a VC fund worth millions of dollars at that time, nor did I have a hypergrowth startup. It seemed like everyone else at the event had one or both.

I tried to isolate myself from people. When talking to investors, I was afraid they would "discover" that I wasn't a significant investor at the event. This made me nervously talk about what I had done as if I had to justify my invitation.

When talking to entrepreneurs, I felt guilty because I thought they should be talking to "real investors." This led to short and superficial interactions with them. Eventually, I overcame the feeling and felt better. However, I kept thinking about what I could have done differently to minimize the impact of impostor syndrome on me that day.

Here are my reflections on the matter:

  • Preparation: I would have mentally prepared myself by reviewing the reasons why I deserved to be in that place. I would have also thought about the interactions I would have that day with investors and entrepreneurs. This preparation and self-care time gives you resilience against that internal voice that tells us we're not good enough.
  • Internal dialogue: My internal dialogue at that moment was based on fear and guilt. By shifting to an internal dialogue based on strength and merit, my thoughts would have been different. For example, instead of comparing myself to investors and the amount of capital they manage, I would have focused on how I could help them with founder referrals, connecting with local entrepreneurs, and talent recruitment. By steering conversations toward your strengths, you can spend more time adding value from a position of power.
  • External dialogue: Trying to justify my presence showed insecurity, which reinforces the feeling of isolation. Sometimes, we think we have to explain our actions or why we're in a certain place or position of power. Often, explanations are unnecessary, and attempting to justify ourselves makes us appear insecure.

Impostor syndrome doesn't define who you are or what you're capable of achieving. We all have moments when that inner voice tries to convince us that we don't belong. Trust yourself and your abilities by reminding yourself of what you've accomplished and how far you've come. This will give you more confidence and acceptance of your journey. In the end, you'll find that these feelings fade away on their own, and you'll enjoy and flow in situations that used to make you feel insignificant.