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4 Practices That Have Helped Me Overcome Imposter Syndrome as a Business Owner

Like many small business owners, Diana Sofia Tabatabai almost let imposter syndrome hold her back. Learn the tools that helped her move past it.

Mar 6, 2024 5 min readFlow
Photo of Diana Sofia Tabatabai
Diana Sofia Tabatabai

Founder of Diana Sofia Coaching

Many people battle with imposter syndrome—mine was compounded by the fact that I dreamed of starting my own coaching company in my non-native language. 

I was born and raised in Peru, and even though I attended a bilingual school from the age of five, the idea of taking the plunge of building a business in my non-native language filled me with fear and discomfort.

But I also wanted to change a lot of people’s lives, and I felt deep inside me that launching the business in English would allow me to reach and impact more people.

Everything changed one day when I broke down and shared these feelings of fear with some coaching friends. One of them told me that what makes a great coach is the decision to be a great coach. It’s a mindset, a decision.

Everything clicked in that moment, and I decided to push past my mental blocks and relaunch my business in English, conquering my fear of public speaking and showing up on social media despite my inevitable pronunciation and grammar errors. 

In my first year, I was able to generate close to $50,000 in revenue, which replaced the income from my former job and set me off on a successful entrepreneurial journey.

I know I’m not the only business owner who has let imposter syndrome and fear get in their way. While the advice from that other coach was a turning point, it took a lot of inner work and mindset shifts to actually overcome my imposter syndrome and get to where I am today. Here are four steps that helped me.

1. I made a long list of my talents and skills 

My journey to overcome imposter syndrome literally started with a list titled “100 reasons why I am a highly capable, amazing human who can accomplish anything,” and it’s something I recommend all of my clients do to this day. 

I filled it with everything from skills and talents to past challenges I had overcome and business accomplishments. Even qualities that felt unrelated made the list, like moving to another country. Adding it to the list helped me recognize that, if I had the guts to do that, I could do scary things in my business, too.

The list also helped me start seeing some aspects of myself in a more positive light. For instance, whereas I had previously felt like speaking English as a second language was a downside, I recognized that a lot of people only speak one language, and the fact that I speak two is really amazing. 

Think of it almost like a gratitude list, but about yourself, training your brain to actively recognize all the things you bring to the table of your business. 

Action step: Start your own list of skills, talents, and positive qualities that make you a strong business owner. Even if you can’t make it to 100 yet (I haven’t!), celebrate as many aspects of yourself as you can now, and make it a regular practice to return to.

2. I reframed “failures” as valuable learning experiences

Next, I worked on reframing past failures that were mentally weighing me down as valuable experiences that have helped me get where I am today. 

For example, my first business failed, and that fact always added to my impostor syndrome and self-doubt about starting a new one. Instead of wallowing in that feeling, I asked myself: What did I learn from that experience? What wouldn’t be possible for me right now if I didn’t go through that? 

This line of questioning helped me identify the positive outcomes I gained from that failure: a mindset of perseverance, practice at the important process of tweaking and iterating in the face of failure, more expertise in skills like marketing and sales. I’m not sure I could have gleaned these critical lessons, growth opportunities, and wisdom otherwise.

This helped me go from feeling like I was a failure to identifying how isolated instances of failure actually made me a stronger entrepreneur. 

Action step: If there’s a past failure that’s dragging down your self-confidence, write down some positive things that came from that experience. You may be surprised to realize the ways that “failure” actually made you a stronger business leader.

3. I practiced challenging my negative self-talk

Thanks to the two activities above, I started to have an impressive bank of evidence of the ways I was pretty amazing and capable. With this in my back pocket, it became easier to challenge negative self-talk when it inevitably arose.

For instance, I had a common self-criticism that I was not creative. For so long, this held me back from experimenting with new social media ideas and showing up consistently online for my business. 

So, I started challenging this thought every time it came up. I asked myself: Is that even true? I looked at my list for experiences that demonstrated my creativity: I ran social media for someone else and crushed it. Looking at the evidence helped me realize that this idea wasn’t a fact, but an intrusive thought that I could ignore. 

This continuous process of catching myself whenever self doubt is happening and challenging what my mind is telling me hasn’t stopped these thoughts altogether, but it has helped me move past them more productively.

Action step: Anytime self-doubt creeps in, try to challenge the thought and stop it in its tracks. Ask yourself if that idea about yourself is actually true, looking for qualities or past wins on your list that counter the idea. 

4. I learned to see imposter syndrome as a sign of growth

I wish I could say that, with all of these steps, my imposter syndrome completely disappeared. But we all know that’s unlikely to ever happen. As we set our sights higher and higher as entrepreneurs, some self-doubt is almost certainly going to creep in.

And I realize that that’s okay. Now, when I start feeling imposter syndrome, I remind myself that it means I’m stretching myself in ways that are going to push my business forward. I remind myself of the times I have successfully learned something new in the past, and that these feelings were a natural part of that scary process. And then, I return to my toolbox of ways to move through those feelings.

Being a small business owner requires so much bravery. When I first started out, I didn’t have the mindsets I needed to persevere through the ups and downs that are inevitable in any entrepreneurial journey. Now, thanks to the strategies above, I know how to work with my self-doubt instead of letting it stop me from succeeding.

Action step: Feeling imposter syndrome doesn’t mean you're not cut out to build the business of your dreams—unless you let it. Instead of hoping you’ll never feel self-doubt again, find the tools that work for you to push past the feeling and do the scary work anyway.

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