I snuggled up to my fear and impostor syndrome and now it’s my BFF.
I’d love to just scream this from every mountain top, write it across the sky in a big jet plane, and tattoo it on everyone’s forehead in rainbow colored ink:
The fear and impostor syndrome that you have when starting your own business–or anything super challenging, really– becomes your best friend if you just snuggle in with it!
So, I recently celebrated the two-year anniversary of my business as a social media and digital marketing consultant. *Champagne-popping sound here–wooot!*
And I did a bit of soul-digging to see what’s new inside of me that wasn’t there when I got started. That whole starting-off the business bit was basically like driving a convertible off a cliff, Thelma and Louise style, bidding 9-to-5 employment good-bye forever. You can read about it here.
So, looking back on the last two years, I cannot describe what’s happened in any better way than to say starting your own business is a wretchedly self-torturous, yet spiritually exhilarating thrill ride.
You just learn so damn much about yourself in so many nuanced ways.
You are alone with yourself in a hall of mirrors.
Misleading yourself is just too easy–you must be your own guide throughout every single decision.
Of all the reflections, FEAR is the most misleading of all, and next to her, little Miss Impostor Syndrome.
But smashing all these bad reflections away to find your true self is at the core of becoming a good business woman, and it is why personal development often goes hand-and-hand with business development. It’s also the reason why working on your own business can become so fun and addictive!
But how do you just smash fear and impostor syndrome away when it is all so confusing?
Well, here’s the beautiful thing about always facing your fearful reflections so closely, on a near daily basis–you get very use to seeing them.
You start to recognize them in detail, and every little facet of how they appear–shades of procrastination, discomfort, distraction, guilt, stress, negative self-talk, sleeplessness, drunkenness, envy–all of it. And the more you become familiar with it, the more you start to just snuggle into it.
“Oh, it’s just you again. It’s OK. I see you. You’re allowed to be here. Let’s just just get cozy then, shall we?”
It’s literally like this, every time I feel fear now. I recognize the fear in whatever form it is in, and I have learned to adjust my habits to both prevent and deal with it.
Fear is never going to just go away, so we must learn to embrace it.
I met a woman who runs her own successful naturopathy clinic and she told me she still feels like she doesn’t know what she’s doing sometimes–after 15 years in business!
So, here’s what I discovered about fear that helped me permanently befriend it forever:
Fear is the mask of the unknown within us.
If I look at my fear with a sense of wonder at what more of myself has yet to be discovered beyond it, rather than just run from it with loathing, I can approach it gently and pull apart its stitching.
Fear has many forms.
Fear can manifest as laziness, resentment, anger or apathy, but the ONE thread holding it all together is our own unconsciousness of it.
The more I became aware of the forms of my own fear, the more I learned to correct the habits that kept it concealed.
So, for example, I know now that laser FOCUS working on a clear PLAN for daily, weekly, monthly activities, all tied to my big goals, is what sharpens my awareness of my fear. I set a timer to get a specific task done, and if I feel the overwhelming urge to check Facebook or make a cup of coffee while that timer is running, I recognize that as form of procrastinating fear.
With clarity, intention, and focus, there is simply less room for fear to wiggle in and get in the way.
Overwhelm breeds fear.
I discovered through days of trial and error, tests and experiments, that too often, the root of what gets me stuck in a form of fear is poor planning or underestimating the time it takes to do something.
Often, I was simply overwhelmed by everything I needed and wanted to do.
I mean, how exactly are we suppose to know how long it will take to record a video or create a lead magnet–for the first time?!
I learned to study a new and challenging task as much as possible before getting started on it, so that I could plan out each tiny, tiny exact step. Then I doubled the time I estimated it would take do do each step. Suddenly, overwhelm was no longer an issue, because I knew exactly what I needed to do and gave myself plenty of time to do it in. I even scheduled in ‘catch-up’ time, in case it didn’t get done.
And for all the routine work or things I had done before, I created documented systems around each type of task. For example, I have a client on-boarding system, and social media content-creating system.
The more systems, the less overwhelm, and the less overwhelm, the less fear!
By the way, striking out a lot of what isn’t necessary is also important.
The more you feel in control with lots of planning, the less fear can get to you. I think this is true for most things in life–health, money, housework, and relationships. So to do that, you have to be super, crystal clear about what you want to achieve.
Focus defeats fear.
‘Hustle’ means a lot of different things to different people, but funny enough, to me, ‘hustle’ simply means laser focus.
NOT 12-hour days fueled by coffee in the day and wine at night. NOT trying to get too much done and ending up with not getting enough done.
Tried that. Didn’t work. I became a borderline alcoholic and put on extra weight trying to always ‘hustle’ in that way.
The hustle trap is working 12-16 hour days trying to do an impossible number of things.
The truth is, expert productivity coaches advise 4-6 hours of highly focused work with zero distractions. This will help you get far more done in the long run than long days of work with constant distractions.
Secondly, the quality of your work will be better. Here is the method I learned that helped me start blowing my to-do list out of the water everyday. What they say about distractions is extraordinary!
Fear had a LOT less control over me once I started making very SHORT to-do lists.
So, my advice to new business owners is to snuggle in with your fear and impostor syndrome. It’s not going anywhere.
But there is so much you can learn about yourself when you start working with it!