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ADHD, Entrepreneurship And Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

If you’ve ever felt like you don’t belong somewhere, that people will find out you shouldn’t be where you are, you’ve likely experienced imposter syndrome.

There are of course moments when we really don’t belong somewhere—we walk into the wrong place at the wrong time, there’s an awkward silence, and we slowly back out.

Imposter syndrome refers to times when we’re in the right place, but still feel out of place. We deserve our position in the company, we’ve earned the adulation or praise, yet we feel like a fraud.

It’s a demoralising and debilitating experience, and it can persist in the face of good evidence and reason. It can affect anyone, and some evidence suggests that up to 82% of people experience it at some point.

Not only does this cause us a great deal of mental strife and lower self-esteem, it can also make us reluctant to pursue new opportunities and take risks from a fear of failure, turn us into perfectionists with unreasonably high standards, and inhibit our ability to grow and improve.

Why is it so difficult to recognise our own abilities and feel confident and self-assured when we deserve to? Why is it common to find people with both ADHD and imposter syndrome? And, what can we do about it?

Why We Experience Imposter Syndrome

Imposter syndrome is a common problem that can burden anyone—and research suggests it burdens many of us. This can happen for a number of different reasons, but 3 significant factors are:

Social Comparison

Constantly comparing ourselves to others can convince us that we don’t fit in and can exacerbate feelings of inadequacy, especially if we perceive others as more organised, focused, or successful.

You might think everything comes easy to them and it should be easy for you too, but when you struggle you think you must not be good enough.

Perfectionist Tendencies

Setting unrealistically high standards for ourselves can lead to burnout, never finishing our projects, and leaving us feeling like we’re not good enough when we fall short of our lofty expectations.

We might also avoid new opportunities for growth and development if we feel we won’t be able to completely master them.

Attribution Style

Some people tend to attribute their successes to external factors like luck or circumstance, while attributing their failures to internal factors like lack of ability or intelligence.

This means writing off all the positive results while getting hung up on the negative events, and this form of attribution has strong ties to depression.

ADHD and Entrepreneurship

For those with ADHD and imposter syndrome, social comparison is likely a big culprit. When you feel that your mind operates differently from those around you, it’s hard not to make comparisons and to think you don’t fit in.

And, if you feel like you’re not as good as those around you, it’s all the more likely you’ll feel you have to work harder for longer just to keep up, which can lead you down the path of perfectionism, snowballing into a deep sense of imposter syndrome.

For those with ADHD in the entrepreneurial realm, perfectionism can get in the way of taking necessary risks, as well as releasing projects on time or at all. You can’t get stuck on one task when a successful business means juggling many, you need to know when to release something or move on.

There’s also the chance that as an entrepreneur you think you need to do everything on your own, to shun the help of others. When this doesn’t work, of course, you only have yourself to blame.

We all make mistakes and fall short sometimes, if you don’t then you’re not aiming high enough. But you need to make sure you don’t let those few failures get so far under your skin that you undervalue the successes, the growth, and the hard work you put in.

Thankfully, there are ways to get unstuck from this situation, to learn to see ourselves as deserving of the successes we earn, and to see failures as what they really are—learning opportunities.

Managing Imposter Syndrome

1. Identify It

It’s essential to acknowledge that your feelings of self-doubt don’t align with reality or how others really think of you.

It’s common to know rationally that we are in our position for a reason, yet still feel emotionally out of place, and unfortunately the emotional side often gets the better of us.

Yet the first step is to rationally acknowledge it, and then find ways to convince the emotional side.

2. Don’t Compare Yourself to Others

It’s often the case that we don’t see all the hard work, struggles and failures, that others put in, so we assume they’re naturally good at what they’re doing, while we’re not.

Remember that behind even the most competent people there are difficulties we don’t see.

Likewise, you should treat yourself with the same kindness and understanding that you offer to other colleagues or friends facing similar challenges. We’re usually our own worst critics, so it’s important to develop self-compassion.

3. Self-Improvement

Embrace a growth mindset and commit to continuous learning. Spend time acquiring new knowledge and skills, and invest in your personal and professional development.

Do be careful to avoid setting excessively high or unrealistic goals that set you up for disappointment. However, when mistakes happen or you do fall short of your goals, recognise them as a natural part of learning and growth, they are new opportunities to learn and improve.

Also, when you achieve a goal or succeed in some manner, celebrate your accomplishment. No matter how small they may seem, give yourself credit for the work you put in.

4. Track Your Progress

Keep a record of your achievements, milestones, and any positive feedback from colleagues, clients, friends or anyone else.

Keep it all in a place that you can easily look through, and periodically read it to remind yourself of your competence. When you have self-defeating thoughts, challenge them with this evidence of your accomplishments and abilities.

5. Find Support

Sometimes we just need someone there to guide us, offer support, and have our back against that inner critic when they pop up.

There are a number of routes to getting social support, from a simple conversation with a trusted friend, to regular meetings with a psychologist, or finding a group of like-minded entrepreneurs or an ADHD business coach that can help you on your journey.

Imposter syndrome involves feelings of being out of place, like we don’t belong, but when we have the right people beside us telling us the opposite, and taking an interest in our development, it’s difficult to justify that feeling.

Where Do You Belong?

ADHD and entrepreneurship are more than compatible, in fact, research suggests it can be an advantageous combination. But both ADHD and entrepreneurship can highlight our differences with the people around us.

Running a successful business is difficult enough without feelings of isolation, or failures seeming like reflections of our inherent inadequacy. We need to steel ourselves in the face of difficulties and find ways to boost our confidence and self-conception.

The truth of imposter syndrome is that our perception rarely reflects reality, so we need to change our perception.

Investing in your self-improvement, tracking your progress and celebrating achievements, not taking failures too personally or getting caught up in social comparison, while getting valuable advice and support from others, are together sure to aid in convincing you of how good you really are.

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