It crops up at the worst times (usually, when something has gone wrong). It’s that chatter between your ears, judging and criticizing you.
“My top challenge is believing in myself,” Amanda Curtis of Nineteenth Amendment told us via our 1,000 Stories project. “All other problems, money, consumers, technology can be solved with outside resources. Believing in oneself must come from within.” Another entrepreneur, Elaine Wherry of Meebo (now owned by Google), said her confidence was constantly tested building a startup. “Learning to be OK with that sinking stomach, out on a limb, what the heck am I doing?! feeling is my top challenge.”
I wish I knew how to “fix” this because it plagues so many women! There is an amazing book that was written in the 50’s by Dr David J Schwartz called The Magic of Thinking Big. One gold nugget of wisdom has always stood out for me. Dr. Schwartz interviewed thousands of business owners, those who had started thriving business and those who had failed. What he realized is that the successful business owners had one common denominator between them that the other group did not. It had nothing to do with education level, or demographics. Nor did it have anything to do with race or gender. Years of experience and number of investors was also a non-issue. The ONLY thing that separated the successful ones was belief in their business and belief in themselves (confidence). Those who failed always had a similar story of “I was not surprised it didn’t work out, going into it I had many doubts” (lack of confidence). The ones that had succeeded all had great belief from the very first day that they “would succeed.”
Felena Hanson, Hera Hub, @felenahanson
Everyone has self-doubt. We all get struck by that “imposter syndrome,” which makes us wonder if we are frauds, fooling everyone else but ourselves, waiting for the other shoe to drop. This feeling is your worst — though most common — enemy. Stop it right now. Remember: This isn’t just your special unique problem. Get over yourself and your need for approval. There is too much at stake in your new venture and too many people relying on you for you to wallow in adolescent angst and self-pity. This is one I think is best handled with tough love, so here it is: Grow up and run your business.
James Waldinger, Artivest, @artivest
Remind yourself that self-doubt disempowers you and slows you down, whereas confidence empowers you and makes you more productive. Plus if you doubt your ideas and potential, then you can’t expect others (a new client, employee, employer…) to buy what you’re offering or asking for. The insecurity comes through so you’re taking away your own power when you doubt yourself. My favorite mantra is “we can only become what we believe.” Believe in yourself and what you want, work hard and be creative in obtaining it knowing storms will need to be weathered and never EVER give up.
Self-doubt for me is like a moving target. As soon as I feel as if I have mastered it in one area of my business, then another area crops up. It is like trying to tame a wild beast — you need a variety of tools. What has worked for me is self-help books, therapy, daily meditation, good friends and Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday!
The best way to eliminate self-doubt is to become clear as to where it stems from. Most people self-sabotage themselves with self-doubt without even realizing it. Self-doubt is just another form of fear. And as we know, fear stands for “false evidence appearing real.” Our fears are usually around fear of failure, rejection or not being good enough. Most doubt for entrepreneurs begins with thinking “Why me?” or “Why would I be the one to do….(fill in the blank).” Whenever I feel those moments creep into my life, I embrace the moment to grow and get more powerful, and flip that doubt to “Why not me?”
Take any steps necessary to address specific gaps in your knowledge or skills (e.g., take a class, read a book, meet with someone who understands the issue). But beyond that, know that self-doubt is inherent in running your own business because of the varied challenges involved.
Confidence requires a growth mindset (a concept credited to Carol Dweck), a mind that allows us to see everything as an adventure, rather than another chance to fail. It is believing that you can improve. It means not avoiding or giving up on something because it’s hard for you to learn, but to keep working on it. As you take actions, risks and step outside your comfort zone, you build mastery—a major driver of confidence. This means showing up, raising your hand, and applying for opportunities in a way that is authentic for you. To start boosting your confidence right now, commit to countering every negative automatic thought you have with a positive one.
Starting a business will bring up ALL your issues! For most women, it’s the first time in their lives that instead of investing their time or energy into another company, another leader, another situation… they are now banking on themselves. Whoa.
And the No. 1 self-limiting belief I see with women—one that they are often NOT aware of at ALL—is that they feel they are not qualified or experienced enough to go for what they want. This “impostor syndrome” affects women even at the highest levels of leadership. Beliefs are assumptions that we hold as truths. There are people in this world who go to war and die for their beliefs—that is how strong they are. So you can realize how much our self-limiting beliefs affect our day-to-day decisions and our ultimate potential. How to get over it? This is the biggest reason we get coaches or mentors. It takes constant monitoring, consistent encouragement and learning to just “go for it” anyway. For me personally, I say to myself, “Well, this may feel scary now, but how would I feel if I DON’T go for this?” and then I know the answer… I move ahead and do it even if I fail fabulously.
Ali Brown, AliBrown.com, @alibrown