Overcoming the Odds: Managing Stress, Anxiety & Imposter Syndrome as a Female Founder

imposter syndrome

Feelings of imposter syndrome affect an estimated 82% of female entrepreneurs. This persistent self-doubt can undermine women’s perception of capability and achievement. Combined with pervasive stress and anxiety triggers, these mental health issues pose unique challenges for us women who are launching and growing their businesses.

By recognizing common psychological barriers founders face, implementing science-backed coping strategies, connecting with communities of empowerment, and reframing self-limiting mindsets, we can transform self-doubt into strength. The first step? Equipping yourself with an understanding of the resources available, so you can proactively support mental wellness on your journey.

Exploring Common Mental Health Struggles

Stress and anxiety manifest differently for each female founder but often link to financing woes, solo parenting duties, or fears of failure. Triggers also arise when ventures reach inflection points. Additionally, signs of problematic stress range from fatigue and irritability to frequent headaches or gastrointestinal issues, while anxiety shows up as excessive rumination, panic attacks, or inability to concentrate. Unmanaged, these conditions perpetuate emotional avoidance, loneliness, depression, and founder burnout.

The concept of imposter syndrome, or a belief you don’t deserve success, also looms large. Women who attribute achievements to luck rather than merit end up downplaying their accomplishments. Despite external proof of just how able we are, an inner voice sometimes whispers, “you’re not good enough.” And sadly, this phenomenon exacerbates anxiety and exhaustion, the last thing you need.

Science-Backed Coping Strategies for Imposter Syndrome

Practicing Self-Care

Intentionally structuring self-care helps moderate the body’s stress response. Practices like breathwork, meditation, journaling, or yoga can help curb anxiety. It’s also helpful to build pockets of restoration, where you disengage from work. Additionally, setting boundaries and limiting digital distractions after hours can be a massive help. Pursuing fulfilling hobbies that connect you to a sense of purpose can also be a massive help.

Personal Note: Don’t try to turn those hobbies into something you can monetize. This is something I struggle with frequently. I fell in love with plants and then wanted to start a plant blog. Hobbies should be hobbies and an activity that helps you decompress – never something that stresses you out.

Increasing neuroplasticity through consistent mindfulness practices can also mitigate founder anxieties and feelings of imposter syndrome. Just 8 weeks of meditation physically alters brain connectivity related to focus, distress tolerance, and emotion regulation. Start small by dedicating 10 minutes a day to Headspace or Calm’s guided meditations.

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Click to Download the Full-Size WBD Printable Self-Care Planner

Reframe Negative Narratives to Elimate Imposter Syndrome

It’s also helpful to reframe self-defeating inner narratives through cognitive behavioral therapy techniques. When you feel inadequate, gather contrary evidence. Then review positive feedback from clients, the progress you’ve made towards your goals, and the milestones you’ve reached. Place less emphasis on achieving perfection. Instead, redirect mental focus to solutions rather than ruminating over worst-case scenarios.

Cognitive behavior therapy with a licensed psychologist can also equip you to reframe negative thought patterns before they spiral. By learning to separate irrational fears from intuition, you regain choice in how you respond to challenges.

Make Time to Workout

Working out is probably my least favorite thing to do until I’ve done it, and once I have, I feel 1000% better. Funneling nervous energy into healthy movement helps you feel in charge. The brain associates exercise with mood-lifting endorphins, resulting in a potent anxiety antidote. Make it a habit to incorporate heart-pumping workouts into your busy founder’s schedule. Consider training for charity races to enrich meaning (and motivation) and also provide additional networking opportunities.

Support Communities

Another technique I find really helpful is to surround yourself with supportive communities. This support can play a pivotal role in building resilience when facing self-doubt or imposter syndrome. Female founder peer groups provide perspective when bumps arise along the entrepreneurial journey. Additionally, mentors who overcame similar struggles can impart hard-won wisdom on balancing ambitions with self-care.

You’re not alone. And, you don’t have to go it alone. If you’re in search of a supportive community of female founders and mentors, sign up for Women’s Business Daily’s newsletter.

Reconnecting to Passion and Purpose

Recalling the spark behind your startup reignites intrinsic motivation, helping you push past episodes of anxiety or insecurity. It’s important to reconnect with that passion, as the daily grind can become consuming. And, when that happens, it’s easy to lose sight of the vision that excited you when you first started your entrepreneurial journey.

Revisiting your origin story and core mission can help to realign your work with your values. Rewards from self-actualization are far greater than something a paycheck can match. Have faith in yourself, know you can do it, and trust the journey.

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Emily Sprinkle, also known as Emma Loggins, is a designer, marketer, blogger, and speaker. She is the Editor-In-Chief for Women's Business Daily where she pulls from her experience as the CEO and Director of Strategy for Excite Creative Studios, where she specializes in web development, UI/UX design, social media marketing, and overall strategy for her clients.

Emily has also written for CNN, Autotrader, The Guardian, and is also the Editor-In-Chief for the geek lifestyle site FanBolt.com


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