There is an invisible barrier that is hurting the population of women entrepreneurs everywhere. It is not often talked about openly when it comes to launching our own business, getting new clients, making more money, giving birth to new ideas and playing at a higher level. As a result, we suffer in silence; we put on a brave face, and keep to ourselves unable to talk about the real issue that so many of us struggle with.
The issue: Confidence.
In the past week alone, I’ve had several private conversations with women entrepreneurs who were incredibly talented, passionate about their work, and had impressive accomplishments that still bump up against bouts of self-doubt when it came to their business.
So often as women entrepreneurs, we pour so much of ourselves into our dream business to make it work. Many of us have taken huge risks and made great sacrifices in order to create and do what we love. To some, a business may mean a chance to align with our purpose, build a legacy, make a difference, solve a problem or help others. Naturally, we can become susceptible to voices of doubt and insecurity that cause us to unknowingly fall into traps that undermine our self-confidence. I have done things in my own business that cause me to hold back and play small so when I see it in other women, I know it all too well. Here are some of the ways I see women entrepreneurs hold themselves back and what we can do about it.
1. Shy away from self-promotion. Many women loathe being self-promotional. I get it. A lot of this comes from conditioning we learned when we were little girls that it’s not polite to gloat or toot your own horn. We worry about coming off self-serving and that we will put people off. Mothers aren’t worried about this when they talk about their children so why then should we not hold that same pride and enthusiasm when it comes to our business creations. When you share genuinely, it will not come from ego so don’t worry about turning people off.
What to do about it: Consider any biases you may have around self-promotion. What does it mean for you to own your accomplishments and share them with others? What proud results have you achieved in business do you not bring up in conversation with clients to avoid being self-promotional?
2. Questioning their readiness. I put off submitting my articles to editors for years because I didn’t think I was “ready” to call myself a writer. I convinced myself I needed to have more articles under my belt in order to be taken seriously. Often I hear women say I need more education, more training, more research, more information, a website, business cards, etc etc. When we want to take our business to the next level, we will undoubtedly always feel unready. Left to our own devices we’ll fill our time with countless activities to feel “more prepared” but underneath they just serve as distractions. In some instances maybe you will need additional training but in most cases, your voice of doubt may be sneaking in.
What to do about it: Question the voice that says you’re not ready. Focus on what makes you prepared right now.
3. We box ourselves in. When I was younger, I used to always copy what my big brother was doing. I followed him around and wanted to play with the big kids and do what they were doing. As entrepreneurs, we often do the same thing. We look to what other key players in our industry are doing and we emulate them. Sometimes in following other people’s creativity we stifle our own. While it is wise to learn and follow in the footsteps of others more successful than you, be careful not to box yourself in. What may work for them will not necessarily work for you. You have to find your own way to stand out and dare to be different. Entrepreneurship is a great vehicle for creativity and authentic self-expression. People will buy from you based on what you uniquely bring to the table.
What to do about it: Find where you might be putting yourself in a box based on industry standards. Where can you add a bit more creativity to how you do business?
4. Self-comparing our success to others. I see this so many times and it still creeps in for me from time to time; self-comparison. Social media also plays a major factor as scroll through our feeds to see confident women crushing it in business that causes us to questioning our own progress. First of all social media presents a curated stream of success that does not represent the whole picture, just the highlights. Every woman who’s reached a high level of success had a beginning and a middle in their journey that didn’t look as glamorous. As long as we define ourselves by what others have achieved we always find ourselves falling short.
What to do about it: Search for and define your own definition of success for your business. Make it something that inspires you. Is it the number of followers you have (totally fine if that is your gauge)? Is it the people you inspire even if it’s just one person? Is it consistently hitting your sales goals? Make your success personal. This way despite what you may see other people doing, you can stay focused hitting your own targets in a meaningful way.
5. Blending in or hiding behind our work. Sometimes we can get so comfortable behind our laptops or even for those of us who do one-on-one work with clients, this can be the best place to hide. Yet many of us want to be seen and heard, to bring more visibility to the work we do and be a voice in our industry to reach and empower the masses. We must be willing to put ourselves on panels, in front of audiences, and at the head of wild ideas. To speak up and speak out about the problems we are here to solve through truth and conviction. In doing so we learn to become the leaders we secretly desire to be and lead the way not only for our clients but also for the next generation.
What to do about it: Inventory the time you spend in your business. What percentage of the time are you working solo or privately with clients? On social media promoting your business? Take an honest account of how you might be hiding in your business.
Remember, it’s not about reaching pinnacle levels of confidence and being confident all the time. Inevitably you will confront challenges that threaten to rob you of your confidence. But what we can do is practice seeing where we might be guilty of stealing our own confidence and giving our power away.
Where do you see yourself in the list above? What other ways do you see yourself undermining your confidence?