At one point in your life, you’ve probably experienced imposter syndrome. You felt like your success at something isn’t “all that”. You felt like everyone was exaggerating, and your success was “luck”. If you didn’t know, these pangs of doubt are called “Imposter Syndrome”.

What is Imposter Syndrome?

The Harvard Business Review (HBR) defines it as “a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success.”

To understand this mind-boggling feeling from the perspective of a Nigerian entrepreneur, we spoke to Olabanke Subair, a participant of the Orange Corners 2019 Cohort, and Founder of Cyrus45, an art-inclined, eco-interior furnishing company.

Olabanke has been featured on BBC World, Financial Times UK, Guardian and several other media outlets. She is the winner of the 2020 JCI Top Outstanding Young Persons Awards in Business, Entrepreneurship and Economy. In 2018, Cyrus45 bagged the AceAward for the Best Eco-friendly product.

She describes imposter syndrome as self-doubt. “It almost feels like you’re not confident in yourself. Despite the accomplishments, achievements and visible track record, you feel like you’re a fraud because you doubt your abilities”, she says.  “Basically, it feels like being a fraudster”, her sentence drifting to an end with a chuckle. “Even when I get awards for things I’ve visibly succeeded at, I find myself asking questions like— Did I really deserve this award? Could I have done better?”      

How to Overcome Imposter Syndrome as a Nigerian Female Entrepreneur

“As an entrepreneur, I remember when I first started. My business was a unique one at that time, so I started questioning myself and asking why everyone was interested in my art, person, and creative skills.”

Olabanke detected this feeling of imposter syndrome early in her entrepreneurial journey by asking herself why she felt she wasn’t good enough. She did some research, and found the terminology ‘imposter syndrome. For her, it was easy to say, “how can I deal with it? How can I fight this terrible feeling that deprives me of achieving my full authentic potential?”

She was able to surmount this feeling by doing these: 

  • Accepting and acknowledging her feelings

Acknowledging that you feel unsure about your abilities is the first way to conquer imposter syndrome. When you acknowledge something, it means that you recognise it and you’re committed to finding ways to tackle it head-on.

  • Celebrating small wins/victories

Celebrate the littlest thing! Even if it’s getting up from bed or checking off something from your to-do list, celebrate that. Olabanke would be very excited when she’s able to finish things on her to-do list, even if it entailed calling someone, or posting on social media. When you celebrate these things, it gives you a level of confidence that you’re able to achieve something.

  • Confiding in people

Confide in trusted friends. Tell them, “This is how I feel; this is what I’m going through.” Good company gives you good advice and helps with the support you need. They echo good things you already know about yourself but aren’t so sure of. Last year, a client wanted Olabanke to do a wall mirror for her house. She stalled for a long time because she lacked confidence in the sketch’s first draft. In fact, she almost backed out. But her friend and husband motivated her to share the sketch with the client, which she unenthusiastically did. To her utmost disbelief, the client loved the sketch.

  • Saying yes to new opportunities

One thing that people who deal with imposter syndrome tend to do is decline new opportunities. This isn’t because they’re incapable, but because they’re scared of not doing well enough, despite evident track record. Ignore this feeling. Close your eyes and do it afraid.

  • Letting Go of Perfectionism

Most people that suffer from imposter syndrome also suffer from the “perfectionism” syndrome. Try not to believe that everything has to be perfect. Tell yourself that perfectionism is a façade. Nothing can be perfect. Just do it afraid and release. What you deem imperfect, someone else will find perfect. Whatever you’re working on, don’t hold back from releasing it. Do it first, then receive feedback before concluding it’s not good enough.

Overcoming imposter syndrome is never easy. It takes a lot of work and self-determination to cripple these nagging thoughts that make you feel so small. But, as long as you choose to keep believing in yourself daily, you’ll definitely overcome.