Three tips for overcoming imposter syndrome

The statistics behind female entrepreneurship don’t paint a positive picture. Women in the US own 36 per cent of companies in the country, they tend to earn less and, in the startup sector, they own less than 10 per cent of new businesses.

So when Jeany Ngo, artist and Designer at Airbnb, spoke on imposter syndrome - the phenomenon that high-achieving individuals fear being exposed as a ‘fraud’ because they don’t feel that they deserve their success - at The Next Web and shared her advice for overcoming it, people listened. Here's what she had to say about conquering it and taking on the (business) world:

1. Realise there’s no such thing as perfect

The first thing is to concede perfection. Perfection is really unreachable and really unattainable. The imposter comes from this expectation that there is a perfect version of what we can be and we hold that expectation for ourselves. Then when we look at ourselves and compare us to that expectation it doesn't match up, and that's why we feel like a fraud. 

But the thing is we have to realise that perfection isn't real and it’s a moving target. As you grow and succeed, there's always going to be something that you need to learn, there's always going to be something that you can grow or develop in.

Who wants to be perfect anyway? Because being perfect lacks humility, it kind of admits that you have nowhere else to grow so you have to admit that there’s no such thing as being perfect.

2. What success means to you

Define what success means for you and know that your success isn’t relative to anyone else’s'. We often compare ourselves to other people and say 'they did so good' or 'they've achieved so much, what does that say about me?’. You measure yourself based on other people, but you have to look at where you are and measure your success based on what you've done, what you've overcome and the experiences you've had.

I went to some talks and I compared myself [to those speakers] but I can't compare myself to them, because my topic is entirely different, [and] there's so many other variables. It doesn't feel good to compare yourself. Looking at where I am, I just gave a huge talk at a conference that was one of the biggest conferences I've ever talked at, so that's success of my own. 

3. Failure isn’t a bad thing

The third thing is to consider failure as a means to success. There's stigmatisation around failure; we always feel like failing is such a bad thing and that if you fail you're going to lose so much, especially when you start a new job or when you are starting a new project. When you see how you can fail and you're scared about it, [know that] failure is not a bad thing, it's just a label that we put on an event that happened differently to what we expected it to.

We reprimand it, I think, in society and I think we need to stop fearing it. One of the things I quoted in my slides was my mentor Steve Johnson, VP of Netflix, who said to me, failure is always an option. And sometimes the best option, because the growth that you gain from failing and learning from it can be greater than succeeding in the first place. 


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