How to Stay Strong When Losing Confidence
As I look forward to 2018, I feel in my gut that this is the year of empowered women. It’s time for us to speak out and speak up; to become visible and to collaborate and to support one another. We’ve waited for generations to come to this moment. To all women business owners, both established and just getting started, I wish you a happy and prosperous 2018.
Historically, women have been held down. We’ve been used and abused. We’ve been under appreciated and over looked. Through my own life, I’ve dealt with many situations where I felt less than for no other reason than I am a woman. I was born in the mid-fifties when it was understood that women were meant to be there for their men and boost their egos. I lived through the 60s and 70s and experienced the rumblings of the modern women’s movement, “bra burnings” and feminism. I watched as more and more women went into working a full-time job and moving up the ladder only to go home at the end of the day and resume the role of chief cook and bottle washer while their “better half” sat in front of the TV and expected to be waited on hand and foot. Many questioned whether or not women could “have it all”. Those women who chose to focus on only one aspect, homemaker vs. career woman, were disparaged for their choice.
We dealt with unwanted advances from men we didn’t know, ignored cat-calls as we walked past construction sites, and were held back for promotions in favor of a male co-worker with fewer qualifications. Many of us were victims of sexual harassment and some were raped and accused of “asking for it” by their actions or mode of dress. They “should have known better”. My personal history goes only to the mid-fifties. Generations of women before me suffered much more insulting and denigrating treatment than I have. And still we continue the fight.
I review all of the above for no other reason than to highlight how far we’ve come. We are strong, creative, resilient and we’ve been waiting for this moment. It’s now our time. Our voices are now not only being heard but listened to. You and I are here at this time in this place to fulfill a plan. Women are about to wake up the world and you and I are lucky enough to be part of it all.
As a woman birthing a business, it’s not easy to start from scratch and build to where you want to go. You will find no end to advice online, in books, in courses, etc. Everyone has the next best thing out there. Each guru will tell you the opposite of what the last one told you. “Do it my way because I’m making lots of money.” So, as someone who not so long ago has been where you are now, I offer the following advice: Don’t follow anyone’s advice.
And now I qualify that piece of advice. It’s always good to inquire. None of us can know everything and when you’re first starting out, you don’t know what you don’t know. I do encourage you to ask questions and learn from people who have gone before you.
Before you do, though, I encourage you to get clear on what you want to achieve. Again, I need to qualify that. In my quest for success in my business, I’ve gone through several iterations and you may as well. If that happens, know that it’s part of the refining process. As I look back through my files, I find my focus went from one thing to another as far as how I was going to present myself to potential clients.
I knew I wanted to work with women. I knew I wanted to do something in some way that would get women to a point where they would feel more confident in how they express themselves. My reason for wanting to do this was that I had spent an entire life time being invisible and denying my abilities because I didn’t feel comfortable expressing myself. I knew there were many women who felt the same way. And I felt it was my calling to work toward changing that.
Initially, I began working with a business coach but I was unsure of how I wanted to proceed and found it difficult to articulate my vision. I reached a point where I was no longer able to afford the coach and so I struck out on my own. I turned to the internet which is where I encountered the gurus and the free advice. I got caught up in the build your own tribe; follow my advice; no, follow mine; 6 figure income tornado. Which is why I caution you on this point.
Before getting sucked into the tornadic vortex, take some time to clarify what it is you want to accomplish. Once your business is up and running and has met the level of success that feels right to you, what will it look like? How might it be structured? How will running a successful business affect your life? How will it affect important relationships in your life? Once you have some clarity on your desired end result, it will be easier to focus more effectively and avoid chasing the next shiny ball.
Looking back, I did learn some valuable lessons from what often felt like chaos. I learned that while there are some people who are sincere in offering free advice because they truly want to help, there are also those who are in it for a quick buck. I also learned that it’s easier than you might think to get caught up in the swirl of making money over providing value. Most importantly, I learned that in the end, it’s much more valuable to believe in your gut instinct than to push aside your own values because someone you don’t know says his or her way is the best way.
In retrospect, if I had stayed with the original coach I began working with, I may have learned these lessons sooner. Then again, I can be hard headed and I tend to learn best by doing. Even if doing means taking the hard road.
If I had taken the time to focus on my vision for my business, I may not have taken as long as I did to really find my niche. However, having taken that time, I ended up developing a firm foundation on which to build. You’ll want to consider your personal learning style in deciding which road to take. Whichever you choose, be sure it aligns with your personal values.
And so I say all that to bring you to this point. One day, you’ll question why you started this journey and whether it’s worth it to continue. You may not run into the same circumstances I encountered. But that questioning is pretty much a stop along the way that most business owners reach at some point. Know that it’s only a rest stop and not the end of the line. At the risk of contradicting everything I just wrote here about taking advice, I am about to offer you some guidelines on how to keep going when you want to quit.
First, stop working. Yes, that’s counter-intuitive. But here’s why I say it. When you’re working hard to start or maintain a business, you tend to forget to take time to relax and have fun. That’s an essential part of life. I highly recommend anything that makes you laugh.
Many entrepreneurs continue working a full-time job in order to pay the bills while growing the business. And if you’re a woman with children, or if you’re taking care of aging parents, you have even more strain on your time. At some point, you have to allow yourself some down time.
Your brain needs to rest. How much time you take is up to you. Sometimes even a few hours are enough to recharge your batteries. Tune into what you’re feeling. Focus on your body part by part and notice where you may be carrying some tension. If you find some, that’s your body talking to you and asking for a break.
If you find you’re unable to concentrate on what to write or how to accomplish a certain task, that’s your brain asking for a break. Give yourself and your body some down time. Go out in nature if possible. I write this as I look out on snow so use your judgement on that going out part. When you take some time to get away from work, you’ll find ideas flow more easily and work gets done with less effort when you go back.
Second, trust yourself and set some boundaries. You’re creating your business because you feel called to do it. Whatever form it takes, you have a vision and a passion for what you want to do with it. Engage in some mindfulness practices. Build them into a daily routine and follow your instincts. Those little inspirations are your higher self, guiding you to your best purpose. In addition, set some boundaries around what you will and will not allow into your life. There are people who thrive on drama and they enjoy an audience. What will you tolerate? What are you willing to say no to? Honor yourself.
Third, DO NOT compare yourself to anyone else’s progress. I don’t care if you started your business at the same time as someone else and you see her off and running while you’re still at the starting gate. Her business is not yours and yours is not hers. She is not you and you are not her. Put your best effort into what you do. Make choices that honor your vision for your business and continue to follow your path. I believe in Divine timing. When it’s time for you to step into the light, you’ll be ready because you focused your efforts on developing your business. In the meantime, create a solid foundation on which to build.
Fourth, use discretion while using social media. Like I mentioned, there are a lot of good hearted people out there who want to help and there are others who want to take your money. And sometimes it’s very hard to tell the difference. Be open to advice from people who have gone before you but don’t try to follow all of it. Consider how that advice resonates with your personal vision and values. Follow your gut instincts and use discernment before implementing.
Fifth, don’t go it alone. There are a lot of people standing by in the background here to assist you in pretty much any area you may need. Jen Cochrane has assembled a large group of caring entrepreneurs who have been where you are now. We’re all experienced in different areas and you’ll be meeting us all as time goes by through articles, courses and other activities. You’ll find experts in areas such as branding, mindfulness practice, bookkeeping, technology, marketing, personal development, etc.
This is a safe space to gather information, ask questions and continue learning. Each of us is here because we want to support your journey into your preferred level of success. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you need anything. Regardless of where you are on your journey, you may at some point feel like giving up or you’ll wonder how much longer it will take to reach your goal. It helps to be able to connect with someone who’s been there and got through it. Keep your focus on your vision and know you’ll get where you want to go. And the timing will be just right.
Finally, as I mentioned in the beginning of this article, this is the year that women will begin to be heard along with being seen. We are more than ornamental or utilitarian. You’re starting a business because you know that and you want to provide a product or service to benefit others. You know who you are and what you’re capable of. It’s time for us to get to know you and what you have to offer. Thank you for putting the effort into creating your business. You have much to offer this world. Stay strong and reach out when you feel yourself starting to wobble.