I once did a runner from a presentation in Sixth Form. Not because I’d rather have been in town with mates. Not because I hadn’t prepared (far from it – I’d done nothing but prepare for weeks beforehand). Simply because I didn’t feel like I was good enough.
Low self-esteem is something I’ve struggled with for as long as I can remember. From not wanting to go out with friends because I didn’t feel pretty enough, to trying to bail out of Graduate Fashion Week at uni because I felt like my collection didn’t hit high enough standards.
‘Not good enough’ has basically been my life mantra, (along with ‘If in doubt, find the nearest Primark.’).
It genuinely didn’t matter how many people told me that I was a great designer/a wonderful friend/really bloody good at making dinosaur-shaped pancakes for the kids – I just couldn’t see it.
It wasn’t until some time after having kids that I decided enough was enough. True to form, I felt like a failure as a Mum and didn’t want my self-deprecating habits to wear off on my small humans. So I sought help, was officially diagnosed with low self-esteem and offered Cognitive Behavioural Therapy – something people had suggested to me for years.
I jumped at the opportunity, and it was fantastic. It didn’t ‘fix’ me so to speak, (and I’m not sure I want to be ‘fixed’ because that would imply that I’m broken). What it did was empower me with tools to use to challenge my negative self-perception and see myself in a more positive (and realistic) light.
The low self-esteem is much improved. I no longer fall into spirals of self-hatred and despair. I’m still an introvert, and hell will freeze over before you catch me jumping up to grab the karaoke mic, (which is probably best for all concerned), and that’s part of my character. I still often feel that my knowledge doesn’t match that of my peers, or that I’ve somehow landed in this business world through sheer luck and will get discovered and ousted at any minute.
Imposter Syndrome in Business
And it’s not just me. Imposter Syndrome is very real, very common, and very prevalent in the online business industry.
Which brings me to my next point; how on earth can you set up your own business, put your face out there for all to see and *shudder* sell yourself, when you’d rather eat flies than make yourself the centre of attention?
Here’s the good news. Not only is it possible to be a successful business owner as an introvert, but you can actually use it to your advantage. Yes, that’s right. You absolutely do not have to be an all-out baller with the confidence (and mouth) of Katie Price, to be successful in business. And here’s why.
People with lower confidence are often more willing to accept constructive feedback, reflect on their own practice and make necessary improvements. Their lack of self-belief means they shy away from the ‘fake it till you make it’ school of businessing and make sure their service is grounded in concrete, high-level skill. People who don’t relish the limelight will shine in their own genuine and gentle way. They refine their art repeatedly until it is ready to present to the outside world in all its glory, and when that time comes it will sure as hell be authentic.
What Can I do About Imposter Syndrome?
As hugely successful entrepreneur and CEO Mike Cannon-Brookes put it in his wonderful Ted Talk, (which if you haven’t watched, you should), “…this isn't sort of pop-psychology BS about conquering impostor syndrome for me. It's merely about being aware of it.”
But how do you get to the point of being able to show up and sell yourself when the mere thought of putting your face on social media makes you sick in your mouth? Here are my three juiciest tips for getting yourself out there, as an introvert.
Give your company a name that isn’t your own name. For some reason, I don’t struggle as much showing up for ‘Apex VA’, as I do showing up as Hannah. I can justify lip-syncing to Justin Bieber on a reel, (although I will never, ever justify dancing when a camera is within 10 feet), because it’s all in the name of business.
Be aware of your internal dialogue and the power this holds. If you find yourself falling into self-deprecating comments or telling yourself off under your breath, try to step back and be kind do yourself. Speak to yourself the way you would a best friend or a toddler who was having a hard time.
When imposter syndrome sets in and you feel like a failure or fraud, pause. Remind yourself that those are just feelings, not facts. Then counteract them by noting down concrete facts about your achievements to date, from getting a promotion at work to swimming once a week for a year or raising wonderful children. Better still, keep a ‘positive data log’ (that’s my CBT talking), and keep a running record of all of your achievements, however insignificant they may seem.
Imposter Syndrome in the Virtual Assistant World
One of the most common issues I hear from aspiring Virtual Assistants is that, having delved into the vast and hugely supportive community forums and groups, they feel completely out of their depth, don’t understand the jargon and want to stop before they’ve started.
What I tell them is this: None of those VA’s popped out of the womb knowing how to filter emails and proofread a presentation. They all started at nothing. The Virtual Assistant industry didn’t even exist 20 years ago.
So the next time you’re browsing Virtual Assistant forums and talking yourself out of the career because you wouldn’t know a CRM if it came up and bit you on the bum, remember; the chances are that most of those kickass Virtual Assistants, with all their beautiful social media and long lists of happy clients, felt the same as you at one point.
Then remind yourself about the time you calmed down a tantrumming toddler because their food was too green/small/dinosaur-shaped, (showing the wonderfully resilient and patient person you are), take a deep breath, and continue with your journey.
If you're interested in starting up as a Virtual Assistant and want an idea of what services you could offer, get my FREE list here.