“What if I told you that I felt like a failure even after selling Twitch for a billion dollars?”
This tweet from Twitch co-founder Justin Kan illustrates a challenging reality faced by many founders. It’s called imposter syndrome, and unfortunately in many cases, it rarely goes away entirely (even with objectively huge success).
That’s because founding a company can be lonely and difficult. It can bring about inner challenges for even the mentally toughest among us.
There is some comfort in the fact that so many founders face imposter syndrome. It might as well be considered par for the course of being an entrepreneur, similar to funding, hiring talent, developing a product, etc.
Imposter syndrome often creeps in without us noticing.
Either that, or it’s been ingrained in us from when we were young. Some of us, of course, are more prone to it than others. But as entrepreneurs, we expose ourselves to a lifestyle in which this psychological phenomenon can easily thrive.
Justin Kan explained that information asymmetry has a lot to do with this.
“You’re always seeing examples of the good news; everyone else is only showing positive stuff,” he tweeted. “Meanwhile, you are observing the full range of your own experiences. Some are good, some are bad.”
We’re only human, and so we compare ourselves to others. But our bad experiences have no visible comparison online. Therefore, we get the sense that we’re failing harder than anyone else.
Worse yet, it’s easier than ever to project oneself as an “expert” online without truly knowing much more than the average person about a topic. These experts appear vastly more knowledgeable than us. This leads us to the illogical fallacy that we’re constantly running behind. That we’re constantly inferior.
There are ways to manage imposter syndrome.
At Valerian, we spend our days chatting with founders. The entrepreneurial spirit is what drives us to build the best possible platform to help fund growing startups through revenue-based financing. By no means do we call ourselves experts, but being in this position has allowed us to understand some of the psychology behind founding a company and overcoming struggles associated with imposter syndrome.
Surround yourself with people you can open up to.
Whether it’s sparring partners in a business context, or people who have little to no connection to your professional life, it’s important that you have a crew of people you trust. Imposter syndrome thrives in your own head, and the act of opening up to others will diminish its presence in your life.
Alumni networks are great for this reason. Social media can be of help in this realm, but only if done strategically. If you can find and join groups and networks in which founders share real world experiences and insights, this will help to drown out the oftentimes deafening noise of sugar-coated success that fills our feeds.
This brings us to our next point about digital habits.
Be honest about social media’s role in your life.
How many times do we see founders posting about their struggles? Insomnia, failed meetings and strained relationships are mysteriously absent from online startup storytelling.
Compare that to the constant barrage of LinkedIn fanfare about funding rounds, product launches, and pats on the back for partnerships – it’s easy to understand why founders experience a sense of loneliness or failure after social media exposure.
Countless studies and documentaries have shown the addictive and influential power of social media giants on our psyche, behavior and lifestyle (Netflix’s The Social Dilemma comes to mind as a good example).
If your socials are bringing too much negativity, consider taking a break. Have someone else run your company’s channels (if that’s a concern for you). Mental health should never be put in the backseat, and doing so may end up hurting your company’s overall productivity in the long run.
Remind yourself why you started your entrepreneurial journey.
Once you’re in the thick of day-to-day life as a founder, it’s easy to get caught up in the mundane or the negative. That’s why it’s imperative that you center yourself on a regular basis, and find joy in your daily work.
Remind yourself – perhaps through expressions of gratitude, mindfulness or meditation – why you started your journey as a founder. Sifting through the noise becomes easier when you realize that what truly matters are your own goals and growth. Being present in the moment helps you work past anxiety and dive deeper into your mission as a founder.