Why Virtual Assistants struggle with imposter syndrome (and 10 things you can do to overcome it!)

Many business owners struggle with imposter syndrome and Virtual Assistants are no different. For many, they’re unsure of why they’re feeling the way they do and acting the way they are, whilst others know – but don’t know how to overcome it.

So what is imposter syndrome and how do you know if you’re struggling with it? If you’ve ever felt that you’re holding yourself back from business success, or have found yourself always trying to constantly prove yourself worthy of being where you are – read on!

What imposter syndrome is

Imposter syndrome is a psychological term referring to a pattern of behaviour where you doubt your accomplishments and persistently fear you’re not suitably qualified – and fear you’ll be found out as a fraud.

At its core, imposter syndrome is a whole range of deep fears and worries around your abilities. You fear you’re not good enough and you worry you don’t know enough to do your job. You overcompensate by either constantly pushing yourself to work harder, or pointing out everything you’re doing wrong and brushing off your accomplishments.

For many sufferers, imposter syndrome is a constant feeling that whatever you do simply isn’t good enough and before long, someone is going to call you out on it. You spend your time feeling stressed and fearful that someone is going to finally catch you out as a fraud – and as a result, everything will either fall apart of be taken away from you.

Why do Virtual Assistants struggle with it?

Virtual Assistants are no different to other business owners. They all have fears and worries about their abilities. However, Virtual Assistants spend their time focusing on supporting others to achieve business success – and this can leave them open to comparing their own business growth to that of their clients.

It’s easy to look at others and see their trajectory of growth as a measure for your own. As a business owner, they may be more qualified than you, or have been in business for a shorter period of time. As a business, they may have experienced a faster level of growth or spent more on marketing – and all this can leave you questioning your own skills and abilities to run a business yourself.

How to identify imposter syndrome

Imposter syndrome has many faces and can show up in different ways. For some, it’s the fear of being found out that drives them forward, whilst others find it holds them back. There’s the person who constantly tries to be superwoman, whilst another person will find themselves acting like a shrinking violet.

Here are the most common symptoms of imposter syndrome:

Perfectionism is the norm

As a perfectionist you’re always micromanaging everything. You feel a need to have everything perfect all the time and struggle to acknowledge your achievements. Instead, you spend your time looking for the problems and bits that weren’t up to standard – you’re never satisfied with your end results.

Doing it all yourself

That need for perfection can also hinder your personal and professional growth in another way – by preventing you from asking for help and advice. Imposter syndrome shows up in your need to try and do everything yourself. You hate delegating to others and feel that it’s better to try and control everything, if you want to reach those perfect ideals you’ve set. You wouldn’t dream of getting a mentor or coach, as asking for help would show weakness and an inability to have all your own answers.

Master of all trades AND master of none?

Imposter syndrome can leave you feeling a deep need to pick up new skills quickly, instantly preferably. However, when you do learn something and find it easy, you then doubt that you’ve done it right! You want to know how to do everything and, If you don’t know how to do something, you feel inferior, stupid or shameful. As for mistakes  – they’re devastating for you, as you see them as a sign that you’re not good enough. Typically, you’ll also have a lot of qualifications and/or achievements under your belt, in your quest to feel qualified enough at something.

Pushing yourself all the time

When you’re struggling with imposter syndrome you will tend to set yourself unrealistically high goals, that are impossible to reach. You’ll work later than everyone you know, get stressed over how hard you work – but still feel that you could do more. There’s a real need to prove how good you are, all the time. But that constant push will affect your mood and your stress levels. You then beat yourself up when you don’t achieve those unrealistic goals or can’t sustain that workload and schedule.

Avoid pushing yourself at all

This is another side of imposter syndrome – the fear of trying anything new, in case you fail. It’s another form of perfectionism and the belief that if you can’t do it right, you’re not going to do it at all, just in case you get it wrong. And if you do try something new and get it wrong – your confidence hits the floor.

Feeling like a fraud

Always willing to learn, but believing you’ll never know enough to warrant being seen as an expert. Because you feel like a fraud you end up acting nervous and unsure of yourself, you’re constantly buying courses, books and training programmes, and you always see yourself as a trainee.

Compliments are brushed away and luck is the key

As you feel like you’re a fraud, anything good that happens to you is put down to good luck. You brush off compliments and achievements quickly and efficiently, either making out they’re nothing, or minimising how much effort when into achieving the results.

Hiding in the shadows

When you’re in the grip of imposter syndrome you spend your time hiding from any limelight. The shadows feel safe, as no one can see you or what you’re doing – so there’s less chance of them calling you out on your actions. This includes shying away from networking, not being visible on social media and even talking potential clients out of working with you!

How to overcome imposter syndrome

Now you know what it is, as well as the typical ways it manifests in your life, it’s time to learn how to overcome imposter syndrome. Here’s ten strategies you can implement to help you get over the symptoms of imposter syndrome:

#1: Stop comparing yourself to others

We’re all unique and so are our journeys. Many may look like they’re on the same path, but they could’ve started at different points, accumulated different experiences and been travelling longer than you. Stop comparing yourself and your journey and instead, focus on where you’re putting your feet!

#2: Set yourself realistic goals

If you struggle to set realistic goals, get a trusted friend to help. It also helps to know how you’re being unrealistic. For example, if you know you underestimate how long something will take you, you can immediately double your first timescale. If you set yourself too many goals per quarter – half them.

#3: Done is better than perfect

When it comes to getting things done, learn to drop the perfectionism. Start before you feel ready and have ‘done is better than perfect’ as your new mantra! It’s also important to remind yourself that you’re always a work in progress too – there isn’t a perfect end destination, you’re never ‘finished’. If it helps, see everything as an experiment, and tell yourself you’re just trying it on for size or simply running something as a trial session.

#4: Acknowledge and celebrate your achievements

Taking time to both acknowledge and celebrate your achievements is an important part of getting over your imposter syndrome. It not only helps you to notice them, it also ramps up the feel good feelings associated with them and reminds you of how far you’ve come.

#5: Specialise in a specific niche

If you’re prone to wanting to know everything, look instead to pick a couple of core competencies and specialise in them. Not only does this help you narrow your focus, it also helps you stand out as an expert in that particular field.

#6: Turn your focus towards being of value to your clients

Imposter syndrome often takes a hold when we’re too focused on yourself. By focusing on how you can be of value to your clients, you’ve got less time to worry about you!

#7: Use affirmations

I am enough, I am perfectly imperfect, I am a work in progress, I am qualified – they’re all great affirmations that you can use to switch your mind away from those fears and worries currently in your head.

#8: Outsource!

Stop doing everything yourself and start outsourcing. Start by making a list of the jobs you don’t like doing in your business – and aim to outsource at least one of them. You could also look to start building your own team of Associates, so you can also outsource clients and cut down on your client workload too.

#9: Put yourself out there

If your imposter syndrome has you hiding from being visible, push yourself to get out there. Set yourself a goal of one social media platform that you’re going to be present on, look to go to one networking event a month, or commit to writing one blog post a week.

#10: Get yourself a mentor or coach

Not only will a mentor or coach give you someone to confidently talk to, they’ll also be able to support you through your imposter syndrome. For many sufferers, a lack of confidence is the route of their symptoms, so a coach or mentor can provide them with validation and cheerleading, where appropriate!

Many Virtual Assistants struggle with imposter syndrome, but it doesn’t need to hold you back. By following the ten strategies above, you can learn how to overcome it and come out stronger, as a result.  An alternative is to work with Amanda, as part of the 1:2:1 Luminary Coaching and Mentoring programme or as part of the VA  Membership, where a large part of the work you will do is based around mindset on being a Business Owner. 

You might want to also have a read of our confidence boosting tips to keep you forward focussed in your VA business.