A recent study found that 75% of female executives – smart, powerful and successful women – have suffered from imposter syndrome during their careers. Digital marketing agency director Ellen Mackenzie is no different, but here she shares how she’s conquering the dreaded epidemic.
I sat on the phone with the woman who had the potential to be my biggest client yet. I was two months deep into my side hustle and was a bundle of nerves.
“Who am I to think I could run my own business? I’ve just fooled this person into a discovery call, they’ll never say yes…”
These were thoughts rushing through my mind – I felt like a complete imposter. Until, this client said something that changed everything.
“You’re the expert here, what do you think about my Instagram strategy?”
I was so shocked it took me a moment to reply. Wait, she thinks I’M an expert?! It was on that phone call that I learned something that changed the game for my business.
Strangers on the internet believed more in myself than I did. These people saw me as an expert while I was quivering in the corner worried I was about to be “found out” as a fraud.
It was that shift in stripping back imposter syndrome and tackling my fear that truly accelerated my business growth. That month I tripled my revenue in my side hustle and finally realised that I could turn it into a thriving full time gig.
There are countless people out there with great business ideas and all the potential in the world, but they’re success is shot down by the feeling that they’re not good enough.
The imposter syndrome epidemic is robbing so many people of success and opportunity. It’s the killer of businesses and dreams and we need to do something about it.
In a study by Forbes, they found women in particular struggle with imposter syndrome with 75% of executive females saying they experienced it at various points in their career.
Even the icon that is JLo can relate to this feeling, saying in an interview, “Even though I had sold 70 million albums, there I was feeling like, I’m no good at this.”
JLo. JLO, for God’s sake!
Whether it’s starting a business, deciding what to charge customers, asking for that pay rise at work or applying for that new job, the haunting feeling of “I’m not good enough” is quite literally costing you thousands of dollars.
So, what’s the secret to breaking this cycle? The first step I took was sitting with myself down for an argument. Yes, you read that right, I scheduled an argument with myself.
My grandmother is Irish and there’s no doubt I’ve inherited her feisty attitude and love of a good argument.
And as silly as it sounds, it works. When you verbalise your negative thoughts or write them down on paper, it gives you clarity. Suddenly you can see the flaws in your argument and how irrational your thinking can be.
I’m not good enough? Well, what about that client who loved my work last month and referred me to their friend. I suck at my job? Well, I show up every day and the customers love my energy.
If you’d never say those words to a colleague or friend, don’t say them to yourself. Just like you’d do anything to help a friend who’s feeling down and low on confidence, you now need to do that for yourself.
The next step definitely sounds like a cheesy saying that’s been printed in a Christmas cracker before but it’s a cliche for a reason. The answer to your imposter syndrome is to feel the fear and do it anyway.
While I’ve done a lot of work on my imposter syndrome and credit this to my success, I still suffer from it. The truth is, the fear never really goes away. But if we learn to recognise the irrational thoughts, focus on positivity and push through the fear, imposter syndrome will no longer have the strength like before.
I get scared every week in my business. Seriously, there’s always a new challenge, a new speaking gig, a new client or a new course to promote that I’m not sure if people will like. And even when my fears come true and I fail (my first coaching program was a flop and made me $0), I just pick up and keep moving.
Fear has too much control over our lives and we need to take it back. What’s the worst that can happen? You may not succeed the first time round, but you learn and you try again.
I believe the more we talk about imposter syndrome, the more we spend time hyping each other up as women, the more we will see females succeed in this world.
Ellen Mackenzie is a former journalist who launched her own digital marketing agency in 2019. She has worked with hundreds of clients and students all around the world and has been featured in Stuff, Thrive, Hello Giggles and the Vanessa Lau podcast. You can follow her journey on Instagram @ellenmackenziee or check out her website here.