One in 5 SME owners suffers from imposter syndrome

Self-doubt cripples 20% of entrepreneurs, with nearly half convinced someone else could run their business better

Ever feel that you’re a fraud running your own business?

Then you are not alone. One in five small business feel suffer from so-called “imposter syndrome”, with nearly half convinced someone else could run their business better.

According to research from AXA PPP healthcare, 20 per cent of entrepreneurs fear being exposed as a fraud, being inadequate or a failure despite evidence to the contrary.

And those will low self-esteem acknowledge that they procrastinate (30 per cent) and avoid opportunities (28 per cent), as a result. Nearly one third (31 per cent) admit that imposter syndrome has prevented them from taking their business to the next level.

But self-doubt doesn’t stop there. It affects employees too. Nearly three in 10 (28 per cent) say they experience imposter feelings – which is a concern for managers wanting the best from their team and the best for their business.

Under-confidence looms large with imposter syndrome, the findings suggest. Over half of SME owners affected (52 per cent) admit that low self-esteem led them to feeling like an imposter, with four in 10 (42 per cent) comparing themselves to others and over one in four (27 per cent) doubting their decisions.

Dr Mark Winwood, director of psychological services at AXA PPP healthcare, said: “Starting a business from scratch or taking the reins of a small organisation is a bold move. With this level of responsibility it’s inevitable to have that voice of self-doubt interrupting your decision making from time to time.

“But this negative internal talk can give rise to a heightened – and unreasonable – sense of fear that can hinder your chances of progress and success.

“Imposter syndrome is a widespread but little-known phenomenon so understanding how to overcome fraudulent feelings and nurture a more confident self – and team – will go a long way towards bolstering confidence and performance.”

AXA PPP healthcare surveyed 500 SME owners in June 2018 for its survey.