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Do you feel like a fraud? 25 proven tips to overcome the impostor syndrome + a challenge

“I’m a fraud and everyone is about to find out.”

Amazon entrepreneur
Photo credit: andronicusmax

Have you had this thought?

Now, tell me, does it STOP you from building your own business?

Does it make you feel like you don’t DESERVE to be one of those entrepreneurs who can work from wherever they want and have total freedom?

If you haven’t started your own Amazon business yet, it’s probably because you didn’t even try. You thought you couldn’t do it.

“But I tried, Neil! It’s just too hard! I don’t have what it takes…”

YES, you do! Because everyone does. I’ve helped so many people start their own Amazon business that I can absolutely positively say that you DO have what it takes. You just have to stop feeling like a fraud (i.e. overcome your impostor syndrome).

So, today, I want to talk to you about the impostor syndrome because I KNOW that you will not take action and you will not start your business until you overcome this feeling that you are a fraud.

Brace yourself, a pile of New Age Craziness is flying your way!

Just kidding… 😉

25 Proven Tips To Overcome Your Impostor Syndrome

1. Recognize that EVEN successful people feel like a fraud.

For example, Seth Godin, the author of a dozen best-sellers wrote in The Icarus Deception that he still feels like a fraud all the time.

The Rugby League legend, Darren Lockyer, said in an AAP interview a few years ago that he always had the fear of losing or a sense of failure when going to a game.

And my favorite example is Jodie Foster. She brilliantly explained what it feels like to be a fraud. Here’s what she told the host of 60 minutes after winning her Oscar:

“I thought it was a fluke,” she said.

“[It was] the same way when I walked on the campus at Yale. I thought everybody would find out, and they’d take the Oscar back. They’d come to my house, knocking on the door, ‘Excuse me, we meant to give that to someone else. That was going to Meryl Streep.’”

See? Just about everyone is suffering from the impostor syndrome! Being famous or successful doesn’t mean you can’t have it.

2. Notice the failures of people you admire.

We often compare ourselves to successful people and we put them on a pedestal. Doing this only makes you feel that you’re unworthy of the same amount of success and recognition. It makes you feel like a fraud.

The trouble is that you often focus on the amazing things famous entrepreneurs have done. You compare yourself to that perfect image you’ve created in your mind and… The negative self-talk starts:

“I can never do this. I don’t have what it takes. I’m not smart enough. I’m too lazy…”

It looks like you’re being realistic but you aren’t. If you’re looking at other people’s successes, why aren’t you looking at their failures? Reality is both success and failure (and everything in-between).

So, look at the failures of successful people. Look at their first blog posts or first businesses. Research them, if you have to. Realize that they were rookies like you once and they failed a lot until they got where they are now.

Which brings me to my next point:

3. Redefine “failure”.

Failure isn’t a one-time thing. It’s not like you’re going to “launch” this Amazon business and EVERYONE is going to find out that you couldn’t make it.

Amazon is not even in the “real world”! Who would know if you set up a store and made 0 dollars?

Do you think that anyone cares? NO! They only think of themselves, their failures and their successes

So, think of “failure” as a way to learn what doesn’t work. This gets you closer to the things that DO work.

And keep saying this to yourself: “The real failure is when you stop trying!”


4. Recognize the role you had in your successes.

How often do you get “a win” and stop to appreciate it?

A lot of times we pay attention to our failures but we forget to celebrate the successes. That makes you feel like you fail at everything you do. It also makes you think that you succeeded by chance and you don’t deserve it.

So, give yourself credit! You struggled to get where you are. You did things that many other people never even thought of doing.

5. Focus on providing value.

Stop being so obsessed with what others think of you. I mean it…

What if I fail? What will they think of me?

They simply don’t care! But if you do want success and recognition, you should start focusing on helping other people, not on making yourself look good in their eyes.

e.g. You want to open an Amazon store? Perfect. Think of what people want and need. Research. Answer their questions in your listings. Be polite and respectful. I promise this works.

Really, the fastest way to get over feeling like a fraud is to genuinely try to help someone else.

6. Make your own wall of FAME.

Your ego needs to be stroked. It’s a fact.

Believe me, this works. You will get real “dirty” pleasure from looking at your own wall of fame.

Every time someone writes you a positive review or even a nice email, take a screenshot and put it in your fame folder. Collect your wins, testimonials, whatever and revisit them when you’re feeling like a fraud.

So, do I have a fame folder?

Hell, yeah! I save the best fan mail I get. There are a bunch of entrepreneurs who started businesses because of the articles I’ve written. There are successful entrepreneurs that were inspired by the things I wrote. When I’m feeling down, I remind myself of these stories and it always helps.

7. Stop comparing yourself to that person.

You know, there a ton of Amazon entrepreneur blogs. I mean, everyone is teaching other people how to start their own business.

So, why would I blog?

I’m not world-famous. Why would I even bother to publish when there are so many celebrities out there? You could be reading Tim Ferriss, Paul Graham, Kevin Kelly…

But you’re not. And I’m writing this because I think I have something to offer and because I want to help you.

Actually, let me look at my fame folder… Yes! I have proof that I have something to offer.

When you compare yourself to these famous entrepreneurs, it’s easy to fall into the trap of “my life sucks compared to that”. Great… you might as well not do anything at all and end your miserable life!

Quit looking down on yourself. Quit reading, get off Facebook, stop reading biographies of “successful” people.

You’re not a fraud. You’re doing your best. You’ve done so much already.

8. Let yourself out there.

You know, that impostor syndrome is also accompanied with some twisted arrogance. Most of the people suffering from it start to believe (unconsciously) that they have unique super-powers that the world just won’t be able to appreciate. Sometimes they simply believe they are a freak.

If you’ve ever felt this way, you should know that you have the ability to offer the world something that nobody else can… Simply because there is no one exactly like you. BUT there are many people who are just as crazy as you are. So, stop feeling special, weird or a freak. I’m sorry but you don’t have a unique kind of crazy.

What does “letting yourself out there” mean? Be transparent with customers, friends, family. They will appreciate your honesty.

9. Treat everything as an experiment.

Everyone is an entrepreneur today. Everyone blogs and has five-figure profits in the last year. Reading about their successes just makes you feel like you’re never going to make it.

No wonder so many people are suffering from impostor syndrome.

amazon entrepreneur start business

The solution is to start treating everything as an experiment. Did scientists expect to find the Higgs boson the first time they fired up the Hadrone Collider? Of course not! It took them years. And they weren’t certain IF it existed!

Do the same. Treat your business as an experiment. Be happy that you have the opportunity and the courage to do it. Don’t expect it to be super-successful on day one but try to honestly serve the market.

If nobody buys your products, try finding out why it happened. Try looking for better ways to advertise. Don’t beat yourself up thinking you’re a complete failure.

10. Stop trying to be perfect

Impostor syndrome and perfectionism tend to go hand-in-hand. You often assume that if you could just do the work “right”, you would finally be recognized and you will be “allowed” to feel good about your accomplishments. Except that… Things tend to mess up all the time, your plans don’t work out and life happens in the middle of it all.

Nobody expects you to be perfect. You impose this punishment on yourself. People actually notice and appreciate it when you’re doing your best.

I guarantee you that because I keep on publishing what I think is “half-assed” and I keep getting awesome feedback about it.

So, next time you think your new website, or listing, or blog post “isn’t good enough”, just stop and hit publish! You’ll be surprised that people will still praise your “imperfect” work.

11. Remember: Everyone is wrong sometimes.

What’s so bad about saying “I don’t know”? Or “I was wrong”?

Nothing… The best traders lose money all the time. The best football teams lose. The best talk show hosts flop. Presidents make mistakes all the time.

Losing is part of the game. Don’t let failure make you feel like you’re not a worthy of the victory. If you were wrong and that hurt or offended other people, just admit it. They will appreciate your honesty.

12.  You deserve to be successful and happy.

The Impostor Syndrome comes with a bunch of nasty perks like the feeling that you don’t belong and you don’t deserve to be successful. Of course, this also means you think other people deserve it more than you do.

But look around you. Acknowledge that you’re living in a world where EVERYONE is struggling. They screw up all the time. They embarrass themselves. They are the founders of failed startups. They have failed marriages.

And that is absolutely fine. Other people are not perfect. They make mistakes. The same is true about you.

So, if some of these imperfect people “deserve” to make it, then why wouldn’t you be entitled to the same?

You deserve to be happy and successful as much as everyone does. It’s not like some of us are more privileged than others. You just have to be in the game. Enjoy it. Don’t fatalize failure. If you keep on playing, you’ll eventually get things you never had before.

13. Accept who you are.

Let’s expand on the previous point. Not only do you deserve to be successful but you also deserve to be successful while being exactly who you are. And it is, in fact, the only road to success.

Why is that?

When you go around pretending you’re somebody else, you’re just taking on another imperfect personality. You’re not looking “better” in other people’s eyes. You’re just showing a different set of qualities (both good and bad).

But while you’re pretending you’re wasting your energy. It’s exhausting and demoralizing.

Instead, you can simply accept that you are who you are with all your good and bad qualities and think of ways you can best leverage these qualities.

14. You’re going to die.

Newsflash! And also, you don’t know how soon it’s going to happen.

So, do you want to be one of those people who regret they spent their whole life NOT even trying to do the things they wanted to do? Missing opportunities tastes bitter than failure, I assure you.

And feeling like a fraud is making you miss opportunities.

It’s stopping you from taking action. It’s stopping you from starting a business. It’s stopping you from growing your existing business. And it’s stopping you from gaining the freedom you want.

But you can force yourself to move forward despite this feeling. Because it’s only just a feeling. It isn’t real.

15.  Try stream-of-conscious writing.

Try this: write for 30+ minutes nonstop. Put down everything you’re thinking of right now. If you’re not thinking of anything, write “I can’t think of anything”.

This simple exercise will show you what is really holding you back. A lot of times, you’ll find the things standing on your way are ridiculous. They are usually fears and ungrounded beliefs.

Stream-of-conscious writing will help you get in touch with what’s going inside your mind and it will convince you how silly the impostor syndrome is.

16. There are always people who know less than you do.

The impostor syndrome often makes you focus on thoughts like “I’m not qualified enough.” or  “I’m  not experienced enough.”

Okay, first of all, define “enough”. And second, have you thought about the ton of people who know less than you do about running a business, for example?

Think about your friend who doesn’t know what an online store is. Think about the times you explained to this friend what an internet business is, what you tried doing, etc.

Another example: Even reading this one post about overcoming the impostor syndrome makes you more knowledgeable than all of the people who know nothing about it.

There are many people who have more knowledge and experience than you do. But there many more who know less than you do. So, give yourself credit. You’re an “expert” in only in comparison to someone else and you choose who to compare yourself to.

17. Focus on what you can do.

When you’re feeling like a fraud, your brain is focusing on the things you can’t do. It’s just trying to find more evidence that you are really a fraud.

Silly, right?

So, every time you are put in the position of an “expert”, you start thinking about the things you don’t know. You feel like everyone is looking at you, thinking you should know everything about a topic.

Well, nobody knows everything. So, don’t worry. You’re not alone in this.

But if you’re in a situation where there is potential to actually be a fraud and talk about things you don’t know, admit it try talking about the things you do know instead. Admit that you’re not prepared to answer the question. People respect this much more.

18. Realize that nobody knows what they’re doing.

Most startups fail at the very stage of conception. Most pop stars disappear after their first hit. Million dollar companies go down in debt.

Why does it happen?

There are a ton of people who will tell you they know how to start a business and run it. They will pretend they know all the answers.

These people are liars.

Nobody knows exactly what they’re doing. Nobody is insured against failure. Even the most brilliant minds.

The truth is that it takes a lot of tinkering, failing, and only succeeding once in a while. You have to develop the courage to go through all that in order to build the life you want.

start an amazon business
Photo credit: Next TwentyEight

You’re not an impostor for trying something that might not work. You’re just trying to do your best, like everyone else.

19. Work on your personal development

If you read carefully so far, you must… have a lot of time because it’s one hell of a long post.

No, seriously, if you read carefully so far, you must have noticed that the impostor syndrome is closely connected to starting and running a business.

It’s because the feeling of being a fraud is stopping you from taking action. It’s making you feel afraid that you’re going to fail and everyone is going to point a finger at you. It’s making you feel you don’t deserve success and you don’t have what it takes to realize your dreams.

That’s why overcoming the impostor syndrome will open many doors for you.

So, really, work on your personal development. It’s not some overrated New Age stuff. Your attitude towards life and work determines what you will get out of both. It all starts within you.

20. Stop waiting to feel ready.

Are you waiting to feel ready to start a business? Are you looking to gain enough knowledge first?

That’s another way the impostor syndrome is stopping you. It keeps whispering in your ear that you need more time to prepare, more money, more experience, etc, etc.

Get this: You will NEVER be ready. I wasn’t. My friends weren’t. Nobody has been.

You can read all about starting an Amazon business and you will still not feel ready. You will not wake up one morning thinking “Yes! I know everything I needed to know! I can now start a business.”

The solution? Stop reading and start doing. There will be ups and downs. You will make mistakes. But you will also make huge breakthroughs.

21. Realize that you are constantly changing.

You’re a different person every day. You consume a lot of information which changes your opinions, your worldviews, your goals…

You have experiences which shape a new version of you every time. Last year you might have been obsessed with pizza and this year you might have switched to vegan. Next year you might be on the paleo diet or back eating pizza. Does this make you a fraud?

No. In your life and in your work you’re trying out new things to become a better version of yourself. That’s not a lie. But if you’re not trying, you’ll never more from where you are right now.

22. Redefine “success”.

What is success?

A house, a car, a small business, a lot of money in the bank, being famous, a startup, a happy family…

None of these.

You’ll be disappointed and forever chasing this imaginary “success” if you keep on thinking it’s a thing or a set of things.

It’s not. You’re not going to wake up one day and start feeling happy because you achieved one of these things on your list.

You’ll just keep on scratching items off the list and… you’ll keep on looking for the next big thing. Because there’s always something missing. There’s always this new, bigger and shinier thing you want. And THIS is making you miserable.

What if, instead, “success” was something very very small? What if “success” = “I published a blog post”?

Appreciate these small wins every day. You will feel better. You will feel happier and more accomplished. And you will have more energy to pursue your bigger goals.

Redefine “success” and give yourself permission to feel this way.

23. Authenticity doesn’t exist.

The impostor syndrome makes you feel you’re a liar. It makes you believe you’re being inauthentic.

But what is authenticity anyway?

You’re not treating everyone the same way or using the same language to them. Does that make you a fraud?

For example, try explaining to your spouse why you should start eating healthy. Will you use the same words to explain it to your child? Of course not. You’re not even going to emphasize the same points.

Another example: Imagine selling handmade postcards. Will you pitch a bride-to-be the same way as her grandmother? It doesn’t make sense. You’re not being inauthentic in these cases. You’re just trying to do your best to communicate with a specific audience.

24. Understand how credentials work.

They don’t mean much. For example, someone could be a “PhD”. It doesn’t make them “smarter” than you. It just means they know more than you about some ultra-specific topic.

You can even “create” credentials for yourself if you want to. Call a few friends, speak at a local event in front of 20 people and you’re allowed to call yourself a “speaker”.

Credentials can’t be a true measure. Use yours to make people trust you but don’t fret too much about them. It takes the focus away from actually doing good things.

25. Find one person you can say “I feel like a fraud” to.

It can be huge help. And you’ll be surprised when they laugh at you.

It’s okay to feel scared and to doubt yourself from time to time. But don’t let these feelings of self-doubt and unworthiness go unchecked. It will get you deeper into impostor hell. It’ll create negative self-talk that will make you sabotage your work until you prove to yourself that you are not worthy of success.

If you can’t find a friend to talk to, try looking for a mentor.. You could look close to here (ME!) for instance 🙂

You need to learn that you aren’t alone in feeling like a fraud. This will make it easier on you and it will give you the reality check you need. If you feel like an impostor, acknowledge it so that you can start working on it.

Bonus: Fake it till you make become it.

The thing is that, when you’re just starting out, you’ll have a hard time getting customers. That’s because people don’t know if they can trust you.

It’s a bit of a chicken and egg problem… How are you going to get your first customer then?

Just make it look like you’ve got experience and then do your absolute best to make your first customer fall in love with you. That’s the only way, I’m sorry.

If you’ve got an Amazon store, you can, for example, get some 5-star reviews from your friends or family. This will attract some customers.

That’s faking it but not in the way that real frauds do. Your goal is not to lie to people or steal their money. If your customers are unhappy, they can always request a refund.

So, you’ve got nothing to lose. Start faking it. Dig up credentials, social proof and do your best to make your clients happy.

Everyone started this way. Nobody knew what they’re doing. Years in business, many people admit they still don’t know what they’re doing. It’s not just you.

Your challenge: Do this 30 days, 5 minutes a day

This is the best way to fight the impostor syndrome that I’ve ever heard of.

And it’s DEAD simple!

Do this:

  1. Set aside a small notebook.
  2. Every night before you go to bed, write 3 nice things you did today. Tip: Don’t try to think of some huuuge accomplishments. “I remembered to water the flowers.” is perfect.
  3. Do this every day for 30 days.

“Neil… What the hell!?!?”

Yes, it sounds ridiculous, I know. The secret sauce isn’t WHAT you’re writing, it’s the ACTION of writing it down. This teaches your brain to start noticing what you like about yourself. The exercise will help you see yourself in a better light. That’s why it’s awesome for overcoming the impostor syndrome.

Now that you’ve read this post, tell me, what does the impostor syndrome mean to you?

Does it stop you from pursuing your dreams?

Let me know in the comments below


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