As a female founder, I’ve been constantly labeled by others — some labels I slap on proudly, others, not so much. And some labels I’ve even given to myself over the years. One of my least favorite? Impostor. Because I, like countless other qualified and talented women, have suffered from imposter syndrome. As much as I hated those nagging feelings of “not good enough,” I thought one day, after a few more years of proving myself, I’d wake up and all feelings of doubt would miraculously be gone: I’d have the opposite of imposter syndrome — a shiny new label of confidence and competence. A true expert!
Turns out there’s already a fancy term for the opposite of imposter syndrome — and I learned that I really don’t want that either! It’s called the “Dunning-Kruger Effect.” Essentially this happens when you’re bursting with confidence, yet your skills don’t quite match up with how great you think you are. At this point, I was feeling pretty sick of labels, so I set out to create my own.
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What’s In A Label, Anyway?
The more I started to think about how to replace the labels I didn’t want, the more I realized that no extreme of any kind felt like me. I no longer suffer from impostor syndrome like I once did, but with some incredible skills under my belt, I didn’t suffer from the opposite of impostor syndrome, either. So, I wondered: Where’s the label for that middle ground, when you’re still figuring stuff out every day, but also getting better at it every day? Essentially, what do we call that phase when we’re stepping out of our “newbie” shoes, and starting to feel like we have more to offer — but we aren’t so overconfident that we’ve lost sight of the fact that we still have a lot to learn?
After a lot of reflection and talking to others in my shoes, I had an epiphany: Maybe it’s time we stopped clinging to all the labels: bossy, insecure, genius, too loud, having imposter syndrome, or my misunderstood goal of wanting the opposite of imposter syndrome… Perhaps these labels that we’ve spent so many years clinging to actually don’t fit us at all. And with that realization, I felt my confidence grow just a little bit.
Embracing A Life As A Consummate Learner
Picture this: You’re among fellow female founders, perhaps at a networking event chatting about revenue, marketing efforts, fundraising, or myriad other things. Then, you start to feel that all-too-familiar anxiousness of “Maybe I’m over my head.” Does that instantly make you a fraud? I used to think so. But now I believe what’s happening is that you’re actually just having an internal acknowledgment that you’re still learning. Being around seasoned pros is an incredible chance to soak up wisdom — not to feel bad about where you are now. It can be uncomfortable, but it can also be an amazing opportunity to learn and grow.
Essentially, that feeling of being out of your depth among other talented professionals isn’t fraudulence — rather, it’s a recognition of continual growth. Perhaps hearing the label of impostor syndrome repeated incessantly over the last decade or so has misled many of us into thinking we’re fake, when, in reality, we’re merely acknowledging that we have room to become even better. And that’s a beautiful thing.
Uncertainty Can Be Our Friend
Unless you actually have the opposite of impostor syndrome and the misguided over-confidence that comes with it, you understand feelings of uncertainty and how they manifest. You know what it feels like to stumble, rebound, and make bold strides forward.
For female founders, it’s not about having it all figured out from day one. Starting a business is messy! You’re always evolving, growing, and changing, sometimes all in one day. So, instead of trying to squeeze ourselves into neat little boxes that have all the uncertainty stripped out of them, let’s instead resolve to celebrate all the messy bits, the lessons we unearth in the chaos.
As we march forward, let’s forget about labels. Let’s focus on our resilience, boldness, and our stubbornness to rewrite the rules. Because in entrepreneurship, it’s not the labels we flaunt, rather it’s the paths we create despite them. Let’s be discerning about the labels we give ourselves on this rollercoaster ride, and proudly embody what true female founders are made of — grit, grace, and an unyielding dose of hustle.
About the Author: Leeanna Gantt is the founder and CEO of tooktake dosage reminder labels, a company that originated from her own battle with breast cancer. With products now available in CVS and Walmart stores nationwide, she’s a testament to the journey from small-scale beginnings to national success.
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