THE OVERCONFIDENT AND THE IMPOSTER

I give coaching sessions to creative and impact-driven entrepreneurs. I love the one on one we share, focused on moving them and their project forward.

By spending time accompanying purpose-driven individuals on their path, I realized the critical role our personality plays in defining our successes and failures.

Indeed, as entrepreneurs, when we work on our own projects, we often believe others and external factors to be what is obstructing our progress and our own greatness to be the sole reason for our victories. The truth is that we are responsible all through both for our success and our failures. At the same time, luck or lack of thereof play an equal part in our ups and downs.

In entrepreneurship, the normal is uncertainty, inconsistency, and void. We have to forge our path, with no manual or boss to tell us what to do, we have to adapt to the constant change in our environment, we need to fill in our self-defined plans with what is the most beneficial use of our time.

My expertise lies in social and digital innovation, bootstrapped entrepreneurship, strategy, communication, marketing, and community building. Therefore, a lot of the work I encourage my coachees to pursue request them to put themselves out there.

Observing the reaction of the people I support to the idea of stepping in the spotlight to build thought leadership and advance their mission is fascinating. I have noticed that they usually fall into one of the following categories: the overconfident and the imposter.

Just as it sounds, the overconfident is too confident. For example, when recommended to write articles and guest posts online to get backlinks and build both awareness and authority, it is easy for her to point at the most prominent, most authoritative publication. This is a great ambition and an absence of self-limitation that deserves to be recognized and applauded. However, it does not make it a realistic enterprise. Indeed, many such high-level outlets righteously have requirements of demonstrated expertise to consider pitches. Investing energy and resources in an application would not be a good use of time, and the rejection could prove discouraging for the overconfident. On the other end, leveraging this go-getter and fearless attitude and taming it a bit by using a sense of humility, objectivity, and self-awareness is a winning combination. Indeed it is only by understanding and recognizing that to write in a top expert magazine we first need to earn the coveted status through our work and results that one can hope to get there. It is through our willingness to start at the bottom that we will reach the summit when the time has come. At the same time, it is crucial to remember that there would be other publications, more modest ones, that would already accept our pitch. This is where to start, how to invest our time and start building our tribe and authority. To shoot for the stars, we first need to build our rocket.

The imposter, on the other hand, might be keeping herself from engaging in something new by fear of not being deserving to be heard. “Who am I to speak about this?”. Almost inevitably, when encountering some measures of success, we as entrepreneurs are being approached by all sorts of people and opportunities. Whether it is media appearances, speaking or publishing opportunities, an invitation to closed groups and events, and more, it is not uncommon to wonder, “why me?”. This imposter syndrome is a classic of the innovator and creator path. I don’t think that these interrogations ever really disappear as unless you are at the top of the world; there are always greater opportunities to seize.

However, we can learn not to let this daunting and strange feeling stop us. We can instead choose to ignore what is another kind of self-limitation and explore the chance we are given. This is easier to do when the invitation comes from someone else. After all, if they ask us, it is because they believe we can bring value, that we have something to contribute. Honestly, who are we to disagree? The funny thing is that, in my own experience, it always proves right. No matter how impressive the opportunity, if someone identifies us as a valuable contributor while participating, we realize that they were right. It is more complicated when it comes to pursuing opportunities on our self-drive and initiative. Why would they add me to the speaker rooster? Why would they want my advice? We wonder. In such a case, we need to remember that if we are equipped to provide value and can build an objective case of why we should be heard, then we should share our story and offer our help. There is often nothing to lose, after all, quite the contrary.

The truth is that, most likely, all of us are or have been guilty of both accounts. Whether it is across time or areas, we might oscillate from overconfident to imposter and back. Our experience or lack thereof shapes our perception of our own capacity. Understanding where we stand is essential to our ability to envision the right course of action for our endeavors. A crucial step on the entrepreneurial journey is to learn to recognize our states of minds so we can adjust accordingly and reach the right balance between excess of confidence and self-limitation. Self-awareness is an understated quality in entrepreneurship. However, it might be one of our most significant assets. Indeed, it is only when we can analyze our reaction to a situation that we can build and adopt the right mindsets and habits to advance our mission in the best possible way.

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Hi! I am an entrepreneur, social innovator, sustainability advocate, tech4good practitioner, as well as a speaker and advisor. I have chosen to dedicate my life to making a positive impact by inventing solutions to our biggest challenges and helping others be successful at achieving their mission. I love tech & innovation and work to build a fairer and more sustainable world. You can follow me on twitter at Valeria Duflot (@DuflotValeria), connect on Linkedin and learn more about me and my work at: valeriaduflot.com

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