Overcoming your Fears of Entrepreneurship
When deciding to either open your own business or enduring the challenges of running a small business, you may encounter various obstacles and challenges. While some of those challenges you can control (employee issues, client relations, organizational processes, office management), there will be many things completely out of your control (the economy, global pandemics, consumer trends, rising costs of doing business).
When faced with a challenge, we have two choices … persevere or surrender. While many business owners were faced with no other choice but to close their business’ doors during the pandemic, I was also inspired to hear of many business owners facing impossible situations, who persevered, pivoted and found ingenious work-arounds those pandemic challenges. There were also incredible ideas that were born in a post-pandemic or mid-pandemic world, and innovative businesses created despite this volatile and pending-recession economy.
“I believe anything is possible. I see opportunity when others see impossibility. I take risks. I’m focused. I hustle. I know that nothing is unrealistic. I feel overwhelming love. I embrace my childlike wonder and curiosity. I take flying leaps into the unknown. I contribute to something bigger than myself. I create. I learn. I grow. I do. I believe it’s never too late to start living a dream. I am an Entrepreneur.”– Anonymous
Entrepreneurs are those who take the chance of opening their own business after dreaming about it for years, even if the circumstances may not be ideal and the risks may seem like mountainous obstacles. And entrepreneurs are those who survive and thrive despite impossible circumstances that threaten their business’ success. What is the difference from those who build and withstand the economic storms and those who are driven by fear and uncertainty despite their dreams of owning their own business?
Often, it’s a state of mind rather than a set of circumstances – a state of mind that is driven by self-confidence, positivity and an optimism that can reason with and at times silence that nagging inner voice, which some experts call their Inner Critic.
“The inner critic tells you all the reasons you are not good enough. It is formed from painful early life experiences when we might have witnessed or experienced hurtful attitudes toward ourselves or those close to us. We unconsciously adopt and integrate this pattern of thought toward ourselves and others as we age.”– Choosing Therapy
That critical inner voice is a nagging presence inside your head that tells you are not good enough, that you can’t do this, that people are criticizing you, and that you should just give up. While those messages are not productive, the inner critic is there for a reason, to protect you, to prevent you from humiliating yourself and to keep you safe, but sometimes the voice of the inner critic becomes so loud even reason and logic cannot put it in it’s place and it can overpower our inner nurturer and paralyze us.
How does our reaction to our inner critic determine our success as a business owner? How can we learn to control the volume of the inner critic and give it a proper place in our decision-making and confidence-building efforts?
How Can the Inner Critic affect your Business
Running a business is about taking risks, about promoting ourselves and our brand with confidence, about believing in oneself to overcome, endure and succeed.
“I’m convinced that about half of what separates successful entrepreneurs from the unsuccessful ones is pure perseverance.” – Steve Jobs
If your Inner Critic is given unmonitored freedom to make decisions for you, then you will never find the confidence or motivation to take that risk to turn that great idea and build it into your dream business. And if you are an existing business owner with an Inner Critic who is given the freedom to drive your decisions, then at the first sign of trouble (economic downturn, staff issues, product failure, customer conflict, personal or health issues, or global pandemic), your inner voice will tell you all hope is lost and it’s time to wave the white flag of surrender.
Here are ways the Inner Critic can impair your Entrepreneurial Journey:
- You are unable to take risks. ‘Don’t put yourself out there or you will humiliate yourself,’ says the inner voice. That voice inside you is telling you can’t possibly succeed at this new thing, or that you are not doing what is right and safe and controlled, so you fail to make any progress.
- You are unable to make decisions. ‘That’s a big decision, too big for you to make, just ask someone else or just wait to make it,’ says the inner voice. Your inner voice is telling you not to trust your gut or that you do not have the experience or know-how to make this big decision, so you prolong making a choice, let others make it for you, or allow so much time pass the decision is no longer a choice to be made.
- You are paralyzed by procrastination. ‘You can’t do it all,’ the voice tells you, ‘so its easier to just go back to bed, pull the blankets over your head, and hide away, instead of facing the day.’ You doubt your skills, experience and ability to get what is needed done, so why try? Since you can’t do it all and do it perfectly, you feel defeated before you begin, so you push it off for another day.
- You feel defeated by comparison. ‘Look at what they have achieved, look at the awards and accolades they’ve received, look at their extensive portfolio, or how beautiful they are, you just can’t compare to them,’ says your inner voice. When you compare yourself to your competitors or anyone for that matter, your inner critic wants you to only see your faults and their successes. After browsing on social media, you feel exhausted, defeated and as if all your efforts thus far have been a huge waste of time.
If you relate to any of the above, and feel as if these tendencies to think negatively have become insurmountable obstacles, you need to know:
- First, you are not alone. Even the greatest success stories in history, Meryl Streep, Viola Davis, Sheryl Sandberg and even former First Lady Michelle Obama and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor have admitted feeling ‘imposter syndrome’ or allowing the inner critic to convince them they have not deserved their accolades.
- Second, you can overcome them. Like any bad habit or ingrained thought pattern, you can work to conquer them. It can take time, some estimate it can take anywhere from 21 to 90 days to form a habit, and breaking a habit can take a bit longer.
“Research summarily discredits the ‘21-day rule’. A senior researcher at University College London, published a study that found it actually takes an average of 66 days — more than two months – to form a habit. Research from 2012 looking at habit formation suggests 10 weeks, or about 2.5 months, is a more realistic estimate for most people.”– Healthline.com
Now let’s discuss some effective ways to squash that Inner Critic.
How to Quiet your Inner Critic
Before you begin a new business or before you give up on an existing one, let’s find ways to turn down the volume or even mute that critic.
Define the Inner Critic. “Your inner critic is a combination of past expectations and other people who were critical of you.” – Urban Balance Therapy. Whether your inner critic was developed from some abusive relationship or some past tragic experience, you have the power to prove your critics (internally and externally) wrong and rid yourself of the negativity they’ve sown in you. Just as you can block negative people from your life, you can weed out that voice inside you. It’s also beneficial and empowering to realize the inner critic is NOT you talking but someone or something from your past.
Talk back to the Inner Critic. Challenge the negative talk inside your head, with positive affirmations. Tell it: “I can do this.” … “I don’t have time for your negativity right now.” … “What is the worst that can happen? … And then what?” … “I’ve been through worse and survived.” … “I am stronger than you think I am.” Once you challenge it and reason with it, you’ll realize the criticism is based not in reality but on fear. It’s based on your past mistakes, whether that was who you chose as close associates or bad decisions that led to painful consequences. Remember mistakes are how you learn valuable lessons, how you become stronger, and how you learn to navigate through the storms. You are still here, you are surviving despite your past, that is a reason to stand taller and tell that Inner Critic to shut up.
Remind yourself of your Accomplishments. As an entrepreneur, you have accomplished great things, you have overcome your doubts, you have built a small business that benefits your customers and serves your community. If you are thinking of opening a business, you have a great idea, you have the inspiration to make your dreams come true, and you are passionate about your entrepreneurial goals. Don’t downplay all that you have accomplished to get here. Be proud of who you are, how you serve others, the jobs you created, and the opportunities to build relationships with customers, colleagues, vendors, partners, subcontractors and your community. The more you count all the reasons you have to be thankful, the less power you give to the inner critic.
Give yourself a break. We all make mistakes, face obstacles out of our control, chose the wrong people to trust, make bad decisions, hired the wrong person, pushed ourselves too hard, expected too much too soon, and failed to meet deadlines. So what? Did you learn a valued lesson? Did facing the failure and overcome it make you stronger? Indeed. It’s okay to take a moment to shed some tears, feel regret, and be angry at yourself. Those are necessary stages of overcoming disappointments, but don’t wallow in it or allow the failure to weaken your resolve to get up, dust yourself off and carry on.
Overcome self-doubt and procrastination. Feeling like you can’t be superwoman (or superman) today? Fine, that’s okay. Take your to-do list and choose just one or two items, instead of the whole list and get ‘er done (as they say in the South). And tomorrow make your to-do list shorter, with realistic expectations of what you can do in a day. When you knock out that more realistic list, you will feel like a champion and ready to take on tomorrow. As you build more confidence, over the days and weeks, you can make the list a little longer because you know you have the potential to accomplish great things.
Show Sympathy instead of Criticism. Don’t look at all the unchecked items of your to-do list, but look at the item or items you did accomplish. Remember all the unexpected monkey wrenches that got thrown at your during the day that you juggled and handled like a pro, instead of what you couldn’t get done. It’s okay to say, ‘you had a bad day but you survived.’ And if you feel unfulfilled at the end of your day, quoting Scarlett O’Hara, “I will think about that tomorrow. After all, tomorrow is another day.”
Refuse to Compare Yourself to Others. Whether it’s your business’ growth, your expertise, your education, your experience, the level of your clientele, even your appearance or body image, comparing yourself to others is DANGEROUS and empowers that inner critic. Get off social media and put on your blinders when it comes to your competitors and naysayers. Do your thing, as only you can do it. Your uniqueness, your individualized experience, and your particular brand is exactly what your target audience is looking for. Don’t dare lower yourself to imitate others. And get off social media as it only increases the feeling of FOMO. Don’t compare your behind-the-scenes with someone else’s highlight reel.
Be Kind to yourself and others. When you show kindness, charity and understanding towards others, you not only feel good about yourself, but you are more apt to show that kindness towards yourself. Those who are overly critical and impatient with others are usually the same way to themselves, which only gives the Inner Critic more power. If you need a mental health day, take it. If you need a nap, take it. Eat healthy, exercise, get quality sleep of least 8 hours a night, fill your mind with positive thoughts, limit your social media and negative news viewing, and surround yourself with positive people. All of this will help squash the power of your Inner Critic and improve your overall mood.
As a business owner, you are going to make mistakes, you are going to feel loss, you are going to feel unsure about which choice to make, you may even feel not good enough … but persevere, despite whatever that voice inside your head says. And when you get to the other side of the present challenge feeling victorious, that inner critic will speak a little quieter next time and you’ll feel more confident and ready to take on the next challenge. It’ll take time to really silence it, but continue to challenge it and convince yourself it has no power over you.
Violet follows Violet Morton, a 32-year old film executive who is living her life listening to her fear (“The Voice”). The best portrayal of someone paralyzed by their Inner Critic and a great example of finally challenging it by asking “And then what?