I'm Back! How I dealt with Imposter Syndrome to re-start my business

Sarah Liller Fashion Designer

Well, a lot of you may have wondered what happened to me this year, and I am a little embarrassed to say that I had given up on myself and my clothing line. I saw a path to success, and I got scared. Why? Because I didn’t think I could handle it, because I thought, what do I have to offer, who do I think I am to have my own clothing line? I worried that when I achieved success, I wouldn’t be able to handle the pressure, so I quit. I tried to do something less risky (make wedding dresses, which is the craziest idea I’ve ever had), and I decided I should just focus on building a stable life, with a stable job, a husband, and a house (which is nearly impossible in the Bay Area)…and I was miserable!


What could drive a person like me, who by all accounts is smart, hard working, and accomplished, to give up so easily? Imposter Syndrome. This sneaky little beast made me give up on myself because I felt like a big phony. Every opportunity that came my way filled me with fear and the irrational thought, “What if I fail and this time they finally figure out that I’ve been faking it my whole life, that I’m actually a lazy idiot with no talent.”


The final straw for this was when I was chosen to be part of a documentary where a fashion entrepreneur from the US went to China to meet with entrepreneurs there. The night before I left, I had just learned that a woman who I had made a custom wedding dress for, hadn’t worn it on her wedding day and had chosen to wear a different dress. That pushed me over the edge. I panicked, should I cancel this trip? Are they finally going to figure out that I’m not as successful as they think I am, that I’m not as talented, that I know nothing about fashion or my field?!


I met with a dear friend for drinks and told him my thoughts. He said that if I felt this way and was a fake, that there is no hope for the rest of us. He said that people look up to me, and he listed off my accomplishments of the past few years. I felt better, but this affliction kept happening to me, even when I was on my trip in China.


While in China, I met with a number of fashion entrepreneurs there, and I was so inspired by them. Here I was, half way around the world being filmed for a documentary, talking to all these amazing, talented people, and I had the gall to tell myself I wasn’t deserving of it. They were making things happen in China, why couldn’t I make things happen for me in the US?!


I know all the steps to take, I have developed a great product, I have all the skills and drive to make this happen, but I’m holding myself back because I don’t have faith in myself to do it. So, I made a decision, I’m not going to let this define me or run my life anymore. I deserve success, I’m willing to work hard for it, and I need to just do this because it is my calling and what I LOVE to do! And, I can f*ing do it!


So, here is my pledge, and I want you to hold me to it. I pledge to acknowledge my imposter syndrome, accept it, and move on. I pledge to do the hard stuff in my business because I can and I know it’s what I need to do to be successful. I pledge to not let setbacks cripple me and to celebrate every success, no matter how small or inconsequential I tell myself it is. I pledge to take care of myself so I don’t fall into a state of burnout or depression. I pledge to surround myself with positive people and not let the negative ones narrate my life story.  I pledge to talk about my business to everyone I meet and shout it from the rooftops because I make some goddamn awesome clothes! Finally, I pledge to give my business and my work the time and respect it deserves.


There’s a great quote that one of the teachers at the yoga studio I go to (Yoga to the People…it’s fabulous, you should go) often says at the end of class, and she said it the first time I did yoga after my trip:


Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? … Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. …as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. – Marianne Williamson


For more information on Imposter Syndrome and 20 ways to cope with it every day, this website is a great resource.

However, community is the best resource. I would love to hear your story in the comments below.

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  • Erika Hsu

    Transformation happens when we are willing to bring our inner demons to light and then to release them. You are a brace and beautiful soul, Sarah!!! Keep going!!!!!

  • Janette

    Thanks for sharing Sarah. I look forward to more. I love that Marianne Williamson quote and it is much needed. I may find myself soon single and with all my life’s plan out the window. It is a reminder to not live in fear. Who knows…maybe I’ll make my way up to the bay next year? Miss you!

  • E

    Our deepest fear was a framed pictured for Brooks last Christmas present … Thank you for sharing I look forward to watching what happens for SL in 2017
    You have inspired me love you girl

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