I have written business plans and designed websites for a number of businesses without ever launching them. Why? Self-doubt. For a long time I let self-sabotaging thoughts like “what if no one likes it?”, “who am I to start a business?”, “there are already so many people out there doing what I do, how will I ever make my business stand out?” stop me from putting myself out there.
Until I realised that I would probably never feel ready to start a business. No matter how many courses I did, business books I read or qualifications I gained. So – on the 1st of January this year (yeah I’m a fan of New Year’s resolutions) – I decided that it was time to stop procrastinating and take action. It hasn’t been easy and I still have days where my self-confidence could do with a little boost. But…I have finally launched my business!
Here are some of the approaches I used to help me overcome self-doubt. Give them a go and start chasing your big business goals too!
Remember that experiencing self-doubt is completely normal and pretty much unavoidable when you are trying something new. Feeling scared and nervous is a sign that you are pushing the boundaries and getting out of your comfort zone. It’s also a sign that you care and feel passionate about what you’re doing. So try to shift your mindset. Look at your feelings of self-doubt as something positive. They are a sign that you are putting yourself out there and that you are doing something that truly matters to you. So embrace it and remember this quote:
“Having the fear is natural. Letting it stop you from going after your dreams is a tragedy”Leo Babauta
Track your “small wins” along the way
It may be the first time that you start a business or the first time you run a live workshop or the first time you are pitching for venture capital. That first time will always feel scary. But rather than focusing on the experience that you don’t yet have, try to remind yourself of all the things you have achieved to get to where you are right now.
One really effective way to do this is by starting a “small wins journal”. I got this idea from Emilie Wapnick’s “How To Be Everything” book and here is how it works:
- Get a small journal (a large one works too, but filling out pages is quite satisfying!).
- At the end of each day or work session, write down things you have achieved and things you are proud of.
- You can include positive feedback or testimonials you have received from clients or colleagues but try to focus on your actions rather than the validation you receive from others. That’s because you can’t control other people’s reactions, all you can control is what you do.
- Every time you can feel your self-doubt demons creeping up and need a little confidence boost, read through your “small wins journal” to remind yourself of how far you’ve come.
Stop comparing yourself to others
One of my biggest barriers when I was struggling to overcome self-doubt was that I kept comparing myself to entrepreneurs who were further along the road. I was scrolling through their shiny websites and perfectly curated social media feeds and I couldn’t help but think: “How will I ever get there??”. I started to believe that I couldn’t put anything out there until it was absolutely perfect.
But what you need to remember is that everyone has to start somewhere. Most successful business owners with “shiny websites and perfectly curated social media feeds” didn’t start there. It’s unrealistic and pointless to compare yourself to someone with more experience and a different background. Instead, try to focus on you and your project. And remember that what will make you successful is likely not going to be your website or social media pages but your uniqueness and your personality. If you keep comparing yourself to others the risk is that you start copying them and that you lose your authenticity.
Build your support network
Self-doubt usually creeps up when you are by yourself. That’s when you start overthinking things and second-guessing yourself. So to overcome self-doubt, try to surround yourself with supportive people who understand the challenges you may be facing and who will be able to provide insightful perspective and advice. One great way to do that is by joining a mastermind group or a entrepreneurs community either online or in-person. Here is an article with useful tips on how to chose a mastermind group.
Taking action is probably the most effective thing you can do to overcome self-doubt. By taking the first step you start moving closer to your goal and your confidence will automatically grow. So ditch your perfectionist mindset, stop tweaking that Facebook ad caption for the 100th time and remember this great quote by Sheryl Sandberg:
“Done is better than perfect”Sheryl Sandberg
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