Ever been stop dead in your tracks by Imposter Syndrome?
Or, held back by fear of the unknown?
Ever wonder whether starting an online business is right for you?
Or, worry that the resources at your disposal cannot bring you the kind of online success you dream?
You may find answers to your fears in the next paragraphs. It’s a long read but there’s no better way to spend the next 5 minutes.
The point of sharing this is to help you reflect on whatever you think is holding you back from starting or giving your best to your dreams as an aspiring or budding entrepreneur, so I’m not going to share typical tips and trick that may appear too far off, I will simply share my experience and hope you will be able to connect with the point I am trying to make.
Honestly, just the last couple of months, like around late November 2020, I became more particular about building my online presence, perhaps because I was challenged by one of my students sometimes in August 2020. He had said to me, “you teach us all we need to succeed and you push us until we have no choice but to aim for success and achieve it, but there you are, sitting on your talents and your dreams while giving excuses you wouldn’t take from any of us.” That hits me hard, and I had to sit myself down for a deep and honest conversation with myself. Because truly, it has always been my desire to build my online presence and I have been talking about it since 2016. I had enrolled in training programs to obtain the needed knowledge and I have actually taught and helped 100s of entrepreneurs and coaches to build their own online success over the years. So what exactly is holding me back from living my dreams since 2016 when I began nursing them?
After the deep honest conversation I had with myself, I realized all my excuses can be summed up under one word – FEAR. The usual fears all entrepreneurs face and must overcome in order to succeed. Funny enough I had helped my students identify these fears and helped them tackle and conquer them, but somehow, I had this unspoken conviction that I cannot be a victim to such fears.
Fear was my only setback, but before I figured it out, I had called it different names. Fear comes in different shades for entrepreneurs like the fear of failure, fear of being seen as mediocre, fear of getting stuck or running out of content or creativity, fear of acceptance, fear of being sabotaged by lack of finances or whatever; and I had my fair share of these fears.
Well, after a deep inner search I realized there is nothing cogent holding me back really, my excuse of lack of resources was a lame one because I have the knowledge and the basic tools necessary for starting. In fact, I had helped a couple of my students secure the basic tools and gave them the necessary training and they’ve taken off to greater height using the same tools and knowledge, so whatever was holding me back was definitely not a lack of resources.
So how did I face my fears and find the courage to start?
First I had to admit, to be honest, that the only thing that held me bound for nearly 5 years was FEAR and not any of those sweet lies I was telling to myself. The truth is, to be afraid is simply human so I am only being human. Fear is not a weakness and it is not something to be ashamed of. It is something everyone experience and from research, I found that all entrepreneurs experience one fear or the other so I am not alone.
So rather than beat myself for having these fears, I decided to accept them as normal and admit that I must overcome them if I must succeed.
One of the fears I was able to identify was the fear of failing. This is a usual fear for most entrepreneurs but I think it was a little different with me because I didn’t cling to my unfulfilling 9-5 job in the name of safety as most aspiring entrepreneurs do, and I am never afraid to take on a new endeavour once I make up my mind that that is my next move. In fact, I had taken the bold step to start different businesses even when I know it will be a lot of struggle to stand let alone succeed in them but I started them anyway because I know starting is the only way I will know whether the business will succeed or not. So the fear of failing manifested differently for me, but I’ll like to address it alongside another fear I had, which is the fear of been perceived as a mediocre – the fear that I am not good enough.
I feared I wasn’t good enough. My internal sentiment was gnawing at me, saying “you can’t do this yet, learn some more, buy some more tools, observe some more, just do more.” And after achieving a certain milestone, I simply set more milestones and continued feeling ‘not enough’. I thought I needed to learn more, observe more, be behind the scene a little longer, gain more experience and expand my portfolios of trainees so I can brag right when I start my online business, but alas, what I thought was a ‘needed period’ was in fact my reaction to my unknown fear, the fear that I may fall short and fail at this thing I am so passionate about or be perceived a mediocre if I am not perfectly grounded. The fear was so terrible that I had unconsciously judged myself as “not enough.” With that judgement in my head, I embarked on an endless journey of “more education.”
To put it candidly, I was suffering from “imposter syndrome”. I feared I don’t have what it really takes to be successful, and at some point, others may find out that I am not up to the task. This fear caused me to procrastinate, I developed avoidance behaviour. I was overwhelmed for years, and that nearly killed my passion to act. I did nothing, I achieved nothing, and I was always busy doing a lot more learning. The fact that I had trained and helped a lot of people to build their offline and online business success wasn’t enough to motivate me to start because I had failed to see the problem as fear. My conclusion was that I lacked certain resources and knowledge, so I became laidback, waiting to get more resources. I self-sabotaged my desires, sitting on my dreams and talents. I procrastinated about anything and everything and the result was a small, unfulfilling existence. I wasn’t proud of myself.
For me, this is the main reason most people don’t get to start what they so truly desire to do. It is what keeps them on the sidelines, with an intense desire to play the game but without the guts to jump in on it, so they settle to observe the ‘key’ players just a little more and a little more, and a little more until the whole time is gone, then they start feeling wasted and unfulfilled because they failed to live, they merely existed.
The moment I figured fear was what was holding me back, I asked myself “what’s the worst thing that can happen?” I decided to face whatever it is head-on and I soon found that the worst thing that can happen is not bad at all. I had to consciously accept that I will never have all the information I want, that I will always have to keep learning. This acceptance is very important. It catapulted me from my laidback position to a place of action.
Another fear I had was the fear that I may not show enough creativity to stand out amidst other entrepreneurs in the online space. I felt I may just blend in with the crowd and that was scary because that is not my goal for my online presence. Somehow, this fear about the potential of my online idea and my personal ability to be creative, build and grow a successful online presence made me to become less proactive, so I did more of talking and less of doing, I talked more about my dreams and plans rather than work on them. For a long time, I kept judging my creativity as “not unique”. I worried that the ideas I have maybe existing somewhere else already so much that I attack my own content as if I’m at war with myself. I had forgotten that there is nothing new under the earth and all I need is originality.
I must say this is a valid fear because I cannot afford to lose touch with creativity once I start building my online presence. The honest truth is, to succeed as an entrepreneur you must be creative. You cannot afford to just transfer skills or style from some leaning sources without adding your personal touch. Your creativity is what will differentiate you from others in your industry because everyone is actually learning from a connected reservoir.
Facing this fear, I realized I may not stay creative by fixating all my attention on my line of business, so I engage in other activities that inspire me outside of my business. It may sound crazy but riding my bicycle more, joining a gym and learning how to twerk has really helped me in overcoming this fear because it exposes me to concept outside my line of business and I found unconsciously myself coming up with creative ideas.
I also experienced the fear of acceptance. This fear made me place a premium on seeking the approval of certain persons (family and friends) and the fact that it’s impossible to secure the approval of the world at large was overwhelming. I’ve always loved to teach, write books and be on stage talking to thousands of people, and making a HUGE impact on their lives, but the fear of being judged kept my ideas locked in my head. I did a lot of sitting on the sideline, wishing, doing the same old things, clinging to comfort, while failing to share my expertise and gifts with the world. Although this is a natural fear because the world is naturally judgmental so we all fear being judged as acceptable or not-acceptable, but I have come to admit to myself that the acceptance that matters is self-acceptance and not the world’s view. I figured I need to accept myself and my abilities before I can put myself in front of anyone else. I decided to believe more in my own abilities and skills, and the more I do that the better I feel from my inside out and the more confident I became about putting things together to build my online presence. The world as well as families and friends have no choice but to adjust to the new me.
Here is My Advice
I found that many of the struggles we glorify as entrepreneurs can be summed under FEAR and these are the usual fears all entrepreneurs face and must overcome in order to succeed. When I realized I was actually resisting taking steps to actualize my dreams because of my fears, I simply highlighted them and I started crossing them out one after the other. The next thing I know, it’s 4 months later and I have a ready website, some blog posts and recorded videos for my YouTube Channel. It’s just insane! I still can’t wrap my head around being able to do so much in 4 months when I couldn’t even come up with a name for my channel in almost 5 years.
Being honest with yourself is 50% of the solutions you need to attack your fears. Until you’re ready to admit your strength and weaknesses just as they are, you will be making plans on bloated egos and things will only flop with that. Actively identifying your flaws and weaknesses and doing something about them is a powerful way to reduce your fears. Please note I said ‘flaws and weaknesses and not ‘faults.’ Finding faults is self-sabotaging, and you need to stop doing that right away.
For any entrepreneur, perfectionism is potentially dangerous, so stop aiming for perfection. Do your research, learn, reflect, and network with experts and mentors, but bear in mind that you cannot be perfect neither can you have all the information and tools you’ll ever need to start with, so start with what you have and stop wasting time. Act on your ideas. Take it one step at a time, but start taking steps! It’s so easy to get stuck in a fear zone but just taking a step, no matter how small, will help you get unstuck.
Let me quickly say this about mentors, it is important to seek support only from those who have been there and done it before, and not aspire to perspire kind of mentors. You need mentors that are doers, not just talkers otherwise, you may end up being fired up to act but without knowing what to do or how to go about it, and that may lead to frustration.
You also need to understand the voices in your head. You can’t get rid of them, they’ll always be there, but you can learn what they mean and how to control them. Learn to trust your guts and stop self-sabotaging yourself.
For what it’s worth, I’d advise you to develop the ability to confront things and manage your fears. Although fear is a natural state for humans/entrepreneurs, the ability to anticipate and manage fear is a vital skill. I have learnt never to ignore my fears but to face them head-on and find ways to manage and overcome them. I dare say it may be difficult to become a successful entrepreneur if you don’t develop the ability to identify your fears and device means to conquer them. Don’t let fear hold you back from starting or growing your business. In the long run, you’d feel better knowing an idea didn’t work out than wondering if the idea would have worked out had you tried it. So face your fears. It will not kill you instead, it will make you feel stronger and more confident.
What fears are holding you back?
What fears have you faced as an entrepreneur?
How did you battle them?
Share with me by leaving a comment below.
Do you need help battling your fears? Send me a personal message and we can get to work on them together.
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