Looking in the mirror at the end of the day can be a painful endeavor for entrepreneurs. It’s that raw moment when they drop the “fake it till you make it” smile. They let their anxiety seep through their pores, and wonder out loud just exactly how much stress, frustration, life lessons and wrinkles they will physically endure before they hit their target numbers or shake hands with their next investor.
It’s that raw moment when entrepreneurs -- and this may include you -- come face to face with their secrets. These are the secrets you'd prefer no one else discover. And here, you may feel isolated, but you're definitely not alone.
The reason is that everyone keeps secrets, and entrepreneurs are no exception. In fact, there are three specific secrets entrepreneurs share that prevent them from achieving greater success, faster: imposter syndrome, self-criticism fixation and comparison condition. When not addressed, these afflictions truncate success. When they are overcome, however, not only do they unleash potential but help entrepreneurs meet and often exceed their goals.
1. Imposter syndrome
Imposter syndrome occurs when entrepreneurs experience feelings of inadequacy and chronic self-doubt that persist even when a closer look indicates that the opposite is true.
Entrepreneurs often have the internal mantra, “I do not belong here. I’m not worthy of being taken seriously, and everyone will soon discover that I’m a fraud.” Unfortunately, many successful, smart, talented entrepreneurs believe they are neither good enough nor have enough to play in the coveted sandbox of "innovator and game changer.” These entrepreneurs end up behaving poorly in an attempt to cover up their fears.
What's more, those that fear being “caught” may avoid taking risks that could reveal their perceived inadequacies, or they'll settle for less, not believing they deserve better than mediocre results, mediocre talent or average opportunities. Those fears undermine their success by manifesting real-life mistakes and self-induced failures.
When entrepreneurs replace their feelings of inadequacy and paranoia about being discovered a “fraud” with a healthier, more realistic assessment about their strengths and contributions, they build self-confidence. When they focus less on their skill gaps and more on how best to leverage their gifts and talents, they create new value.
How might your own self-doubts be inhibiting your ability to lead?
2. Self-criticism fixation
A self-criticism fixation occurs when entrepreneurs are so hung up on their past transgressions that they can’t believe in their future excellence. Entrepreneurs are notoriously hard on themselves for early mistakes and failures. They often allow their perceived regrettable moments to cripple their potential or truncate their ability to successfully execute their next idea.
These hang-ups influence whom they hire and fire, how and when they make decisions and which relationships and partnerships they prioritize. They define themselves by mistakes instead of assessing the knowledge they have gained from past missteps and identifying how they turned that knowledge into wisdom to avoid subsequent, similar mistakes.
Letting go of resentments and grudges against ourselves is perhaps more difficult than letting go of others’ trespasses against us. Yet, it’s imperative for entrepreneurs to do exactly that. The point is not to avoid accountability, it’s to accept responsibility for the lesson. Once entrepreneurs realize that business and life are long learning curves, they can more readily let go of past mistakes and more expediently and effectively bring fruition to their next big idea.
If you were to love your followers as you love yourself, should your followers be warned?
3. Comparison condition
Comparison condition is one of the worst forms of entrepreneurs' self-abuse. Many entrepreneurs are so busy comparing themselves to other businesses and other entrepreneurs, living in a world of “should haves” and “should bes,” that they lose focus on their own path to success. When entrepreneurs compare themselves this way, they end up taking detours, trying out other people's paths. They dilute their talent and ultimately lose their mojo.
When that happens, they drift too far, often burn out and lose their followers. In contrast, staying on your own path is integral to focus, productivity, performance and results. It’s hard to charge full-steam ahead when you’re always looking sideways.
What have you done when a case of the "shoulds" hits you? How have you adjusted the internal conversation to be healthier and more supportive of your own ideas?
When entrepreneurs are willing to expose the secrets they keep -- if only to themselves, and then work through them -- they can positively and exponentially transform their business success. Oftentimes, entrepreneurs say they pay a high price to chart a new course. And that price may well reflect on the secrets they keep.