As an entrepreneur, you can be faced with many difficulties. But self-doubt is often the greatest challenge to conquer. That little voice that says, ‘you can’t do this.’ Or ‘you don’t know enough, you’re not strong enough.’ It begins as a whisper, but gets louder as your business develops. You begin to feel like an imposter in your own life. And that, more than anything else, has the power to cap your business’ potential. And the problem is, it’s a really difficult issue to avoid. Faking self-confidence only intensifies the problem. So, how can you conquer those demons and elevate your self-worth as a business owner?
Overcoming self-doubt as an entrepreneur
Why negative self-talk and self-doubt will cap your business potential
Most of us talk to ourselves all the time. We may not even recognise the fact. But there is an internal monologue guiding most of what we do. And a lot of the time, that monologue is negative. We criticise our own actions. We question our thoughts and behaviour. We mock what we believe to be stupidity in either deed or thought. At its worst, we essentially demoralise ourselves at every available opportunity. And it can be stultifying. So, there’s little surprise that this can have a knock-on effect at work. Because if we don’t have faith in our own decisions, how can we expect others to believe in our vision? Under scrutiny, we buckle. Losing the respect of our employees and the support of our backers.
Taking control of self-doubt isn’t easy. But there are things that you can do to quieten that negativity.
Tips for elevating your self-worth and self-belief as a business owner
Review your achievements
Everyone makes mistakes. And we all put too much emphasis on them. By taking time to think about what you’ve already achieved – both professionally and personally – the good soon starts to outweigh the bad. You’ve had a brilliant idea. You’ve taken steps to realise it. You may even have launched a whole new business – and wow, that’s actually a monumental achievement. You’ve helped other people earn a living – it doesn’t matter if it’s a dozen in-house workers, or a solitary freelancer, it’s still a great thing. You may have done all of that while forming a new relationship, or raising a family. And you’re still managing to shower each day! Seriously, you have achieved a lot worth celebrating. Remember that. And give yourself credit.
Do you know anyone or anything that you could describe as totally perfect? Perfection doesn’t truly exist. Because your idea of perfect will always be different to mine. And mine will be different to the woman who lives next door. Aiming for perfection is setting yourself up for disappointment and failure. Because you will never achieve it. So, your doubt will have no option but to grow.
Take an objective view
Objectivity is always difficult when you’re working on something close to your heart. But it can be a good way to assess whether there’s a genuine reason for your self-doubt. Because sometimes we do all make bad decisions, and things feel wrong for a reason. Taking an objective view and reviewing the issues that are causing your anxiety will reveal whether there’s cause for concern. If there is, then you’ve saved the situation. If not, then you can carry on with reinforced confidence. Starting with the data is always useful.
Ditch the nay-sayers
No one can be positive all the time. But some people take negativity to a whole new level. Many don’t even realise that they’re doing it. But while you can’t constantly surround yourself with people who think you’re great and share your every opinion – and this probably wouldn’t be a good thing anyway, as conflict is a great instigator of creativity – it’s not a good idea to spend too much time with a sower of doubt. Negativity is contagious. So, although it can be good to have someone question your actions from time to time, you don’t need a constant voice of doom and gloom.
Build lasting client relationships
Your clients can do a lot for your confidence. Because if they believe in you, if they trust you to deliver the services they need, then you gain that confidence by proxy. So, rather than simply focusing on the nitty-gritty of your business, invest in customer relationships. Take time to find your niche, research your customers, and get your content in front of the right people. If you know what your customers want from you, building those relationships becomes a lot easier. While taking steps to maintain them can bring continuing gains.
Don’t broadcast your intentions
The quickest way to initiate feelings of doubt is by letting others know your plans. Once you’ve broadcast your ideas – whether it’s launching a business, or implementing a new strategy – you’ve invited other people’s opinions. Not only can these opinions make you question your own. But it can put you under an unnecessary spotlight, heaping on pressure where there was no real need. Until you’re completely confident in what you’re intending to do, keep it under wraps. That way, you can openly discuss your idea when you’re ready to face any potential criticism.
Think of the upside
Lastly, when self-doubt does creep in, try to flip it on its head. Of course, you need to consider the big questions. But that means considering all sides of them. So, what if you can’t find investment? It’s a good, important question, and you need to plot a contingency. But it’s also important to think, what if you can? What will happen if you do get that investment? If backers do believe in you? If you do become a success? Give yourself a chance to dream. Because while there is a place for doubt, there’s also a place for optimism.
Self-doubt is a natural part of being human. We can’t help our negative emotions. They probably had some use from an evolutionary viewpoint, helping to keep our ancestors safe when confronting everyday survival. And to some extent, it’s the same now. But if we let self-doubt govern us, we can never achieve anything. So, listen to your fears – they can help you. But don’t let them get in the way of your success.
Tessah Aihara is an SEO specialist and founder of The SEO Mama.