Fear can rear its ugly head in so many ways, and hold us back in our businesses, but often it can be easy to think you’re the only one thinking or feeling these things. You look on social media and it seems as though everyone is incredibly successful and confident in what they do, they have no nagging doubts or worries.
I can assure that’s not true. Pretty much every person in business questions themselves at some point, so in this post, I’m going to talk about some of the anxieties that have come up for me since I started running my business.
Hopefully you might recognise yourself in some of these, and it’ll help you realise it’s perfectly normal to have doubts, what’s important is recognising them and learning how to handle them.
So, here we go…
Fear 1 – Failure
Probably a pretty obvious one for most people. Nobody sets out to fail, and nobody wants to fail. This is usually where all the ‘what if’ scenarios come into play and it pretty much always starts to look so much easier to just go and get a ‘normal’ job, where all you have to do is keep your head down and make sure you don’t do anything stupid to get yourself fired.
What we often forget though, is to remind ourselves of previous times we or others around us, have taken risks and not failed. Our brains seem to forget about successes and that’s perfectly normal, it’s a built-in natural response to any situation that could be a threat.
I’m not suggesting that we should all go around throwing caution to the wind with absolutely no regard for anything or anyone, but sometimes it’s right to ignore that little voice of self-preservation and do it anyway.
Fear 2 – Success
Who knew this was a thing?! I certainly didn’t until I started my business.
Society teaches us that success is great, it’s what we should all be aiming for, but when that success is all completely down to you, it can look pretty scary.
I had a sudden realisation of what else comes with success – attention, judgement, expectations, criticism, dependence etc. None of these looked too appealing to be honest, but once again, I needed to remember all the good things that can also come with success and that overall, they would far outweigh the slightly scary aspects.
So I jotted down a list of the other side of success – more freedom and choices (location, time, money),
less money worries, I can do things with and for family and friends, I can give more to charity, I can invest in bigger issues that matter to me, I can own my own house, and of course, I can help more people with their businesses, so they can achieve these things too. All great outcomes.
Fear 3 – Not being able to sustain success
Great, so you’ve dealt with your fear of success but now you’ve got it, you worry about it not lasting.
Yep, this one has bitten me on the bum already and I’m not even as successful as others in the industry. But the truth is, you get used to stuff – a certain amount of money and the freedom that gives you, regular clients, not having to constantly hunt for work etc.
I actually don’t think this is a bad fear to have. It means you’re happy (otherwise, why would you want it to continue?) and you like the life you’re creating, but it also means you’re being sensible and don’t want to get caught unprepared.
When you reach a certain level of consistency in a business, you’re likely to make commitments, especially financial ones, like taking on staff, renting office space, or buying your own home. Thinking about potentially not being able to pay those bills is no bad thing, and it gives you a chance to make plans in advance, such as having savings, organising marketing to ensure a steady flow of customers, and keeping an eye on where you are financially so you can foresee any issues.
How we handle our fears will determine where we go with the rest of our lives. To experience adventure or to be limited by the fear of it.
– Judy Blume
Fear 4 – Judgement from others
This was a HUGE one for me, and I probably ignored it for longer than I should have. I could cheerlead for others and tell them how great they are, but when it came to putting myself out there, I just wanted to suck my head back into my shell.
Not a great plan when you’re trying to lead by example, and I started to get really frustrated with myself because I knew what I should be doing but I really struggled to actually do it.
I’d seen a lot of stuff about mindset impacting your life in different ways, and how things we learn and experiences we have growing up, can come back to haunt us as adults, but I never really took the time to look into my own mindset and beliefs. When I did, the fog started to clear and although I wish I’d done it sooner, it feels good to finally be changing those beliefs.
I realised that I’d seen a lot of judgement about people who had money and success – they’re greedy, they only got it through luck, who do they think they are?, they’re getting above their station, why are they trying to be posh?, amongst other things.
Then there were the beliefs about people who put themselves out there, or pursue public careers – they must have a big ego, they’re arrogant, they must have no self-worth if they always seek other people’s attention, they’re showing off, they must be mortified when they make a mistake – none of which are very helpful when you’re trying to be consistent with content.
Knowing that people around me were likely to have these thoughts about me was tough. And it’s tough too when people are quick to tell you that taking risks is stupid, they make fun of your latest IGTV video, they complain about seeing your business on social media ‘all the time’, or they share unhelpful comments on your social posts. And sometimes they don’t even have to directly say or do anything, just being there is enough to make you feel wobbly.
One of the things that held me back for a long time was someone who followed me on social media. I wasn’t her biggest fan and always found her to have quite a negative and critical attitude towards others, and she wasn’t afraid to share those opinions. She would never comment on my posts, or speak to me, but every single day I’d see her name pop up in the list of people watching my IG Stories. Literally just seeing her name made me feel bad – crazy, huh?! It was then that I discovered that the ‘remove follower’ and ‘block’ buttons are there for good reason, and we really need to make use of them. Keeping the peace might seeing like the diplomatic thing to do but when it’s stopping you achieving your goals, it’s not worth it. Knowing she could no longer view my content instantly made me feel braver.
Trying to ignore judgement and criticism is hard, but I’m learning to decide whose opinions really matter, and whose I can and should, ignore. You definitely need to develop a thick skin for online business, but try to remind yourself that often these comments can stem from lack of understanding, fear or jealousy. They’re not a reflection of you, but of the person saying them.
Fear 5 – People thinking I have no clue what I’m talking about
Oh hello, imposter syndrome!
I think you’d be hard pushed to find a person in any career, who hasn’t at some point felt like a fraud and worried that one day they’ll get ‘found out’.
Imposter syndrome is rife amongst entrepreneurs, so don’t beat yourself up if you feel like this. I look at it a bit like an actor feeling nervous before going on stage – you’re nervous because you care, you want it to go well, and you want the audience to have a good time.
It’s exactly the same in a business – you care, you want it to go well, and you want your clients to have a great experience with you.
Nobody wants to make mistakes or give someone the wrong information, but we’re all human, and you will make mistakes. That said, I doubt you suddenly decided to set up a floristry business when all your previous experience was in oil sales and you’ve taken no time at all to learn about flowers before opening said business. We tend to choose businesses in areas we either already have experience in, or at least have taken the time to study or practice, so you shouldn’t have anything to worry about in terms of knowledge.
It’s important to remember too, that there will almost always be someone somewhere who knows more than you and that’s totally okay; because how could you possibly know as much two years into your business, as someone else who has been doing it for 40 years?!
Imposter syndrome can also stem from a fear of not wanting to get things wrong. Kids can be cruel, and when I was at school, I’d often not volunteer answers in class because I’d seen what happened to others – give the wrong answer and there would be a Mexican wave of sniggering that would go around the class, so it was better to keep quiet.
That ploy might work at school but it doesn’t play out so well when you’re running a business and want to do guest speaking slots, training sessions, create your own video content, or release an online course. Nonetheless, those classroom days live on in the back of my mind and I very nearly passed on an amazing opportunity last year, which now in hindsight, I would have been so mad at myself for.
I’d been following business coach, Lisa Johnson, for quite a while and really admired her. To be honest, given the size of her audience, I doubted she even knew I existed but I still happily fangirled over her and tried to restrain myself from buying everything she put out. So, when I got a message from her asking me if I’d do a masterclass about content repurposing, for her mastermind group, to say I was shocked was an understatement!
I called my fiancé and told him (he’d already heard a lot about Lisa) and he said, ‘have you told her you’ll do it then?’ And I hesitated – what if I did it and she thought I was rubbish? What if she laughed at me? What if she told me everything I’d said was wrong? What if the group asked me questions I didn’t know the answer to?
Thankfully, my fiancé made me see that saying no was not an option here, and I did it. Lisa knew it was the first guest slot I’d ever done and she was understanding about my nerves, but it went really well, I got lovely feedback, and I’ve done another dozen or so training sessions for other groups since then.
I have just one final (important) point – it’s okay to say, ‘I don’t know’.
There’s no shame in it, nobody knows absolutely everything about a subject and it’s a better option to be honest, than try to cobble together a made-up answer on the spot. Chances are, people will respect you far more if you simply offer to find the answer for them, or point them in the direction of someone else who can help with their query.