I’m going to discuss something that scares me about my business. (By the way, I am tempted to start out each and every one of my blog posts like this. For the most part, though, I avoid indulging this impulse because (a) no one likes a whiner; (b) everyone is scared about something or another all the time and just UGH; and (c) the “fake it, until you make it” mentality is an indispensible survival tool when you’re starting a business. But I’m going to talk about this because I know I’m not the only one who struggles with this. Besides, it’s almost Halloween, so it seems like a good time to talk about scary stuff.)
So, here’s something that scares me about my business: my work requires A LOT of creativity and I don’t really think of myself as creative.
As a copywriter who owns a business, not only do I have to create tons of different articles and other types of good, original content all the time, I have to be creative in developing my business—how I talk with potential clients, how I say things in email or in conversation, how I solve problems.
I am doing it—all of it. And it all seems to be working well. But it’s still scary because it doesn’t feel like me. I thrive in environments with lots of rules (a trait which doesn’t seem to be all that common among creative people). And owning a business is pretty much the opposite of an environment with lots of rules.
But now notice what it is that scares me:
- It’s not scary that I have to create different kinds of good, original content everyday. I actually find that part of the job to be exhilarating and fun.
- It’s not scary that I have to learn to talk with potential clients or figure out how to solve problems for myself and for others. All of this has been fine too.
- What is scary is that I’m doing these things, but I don’t think of myself as creative.
- What is scary is that often the things I have to do to run and grow my business don’t feel like me.
In other words, I’m spending a lot of time outside of my comfort zone. So of course, it’s going to feel scary. But the work itself is not what’s scary. The scary thing is that I’m surprising myself. Doing the work is not consistent with my self-image.
All of this speaks to how easily we can get wrapped up in a particular perception of ourselves and how easy it is to treat that perception as if it’s a fact. Our perceptions of ourselves as non-creative, as rule-followers, as poor negotiators, as stuck in a dead-end career, as stuck with a person who we don’t love anymore, as whatever…play over and over in our heads like a constant drumbeat.
Since we’ve likely had these perceptions of ourselves for a long time, we can’t change them by hoping or waving a magical wand. But when they prevent us from getting what we want, it’s time to take a hard look and do the hard work of rooting them out.
The first step is realizing that your self-perception is just that. I remember reading a book called Strangers to Ourselves in grad school for a class about moral reasoning. That was when I first considered that my perception of myself is not always (or perhaps ever) accurate. Since then, I’ve had so many experiences that confirm the thesis.
You don’t have to read the book to prove this to yourself; all you have to do is to ask a few friends about their perceptions of you. By the way, we don’t do this kind of thing often enough because if we did, we’d see ourselves differently. If you decide to try this exercise, make sure to ask for examples too. Then write these examples down and come back to them everyday.
Whenever I realize that I’m getting too wrapped up in my self-perception, I force myself to step back and examine the facts:
- Fact: Less than three months ago, I quit a job that made me unhappy, started a business, and I’m not starving (my lifestyle hasn’t changed in any measurable way).
- Fact: Everywhere I look there are people who support me and who want to help me through the rough patches.
- Fact: I just am not the kind of person who drops the ball. I come through and my work is always solid.
- Fact: I’m not afraid to make mistakes. I have made many and I know I’ll make many more.
- Fact: I trust myself.
While these facts don’t add up to my being creative, they do speak to other traits of successful entrepreneurs: determination, risk-taking, confidence, passion, a readiness to learn, a willingness to make mistakes, and adaptability. The good news is that I’m learning these traits make up for a lot of my other shortcomings. Facts can be really comforting.
So, the next time you get scared and start doubting your abilities, cling to the facts like they are your knight in shining armor. Nothing kills your own ability to do what needs to be done, however it needs to be done, faster than your own doubt.
And once you’ve rooted out your own doubt and taught yourself how to cling to the facts, consider whether the messaging on your website is consistent with your new found self-confidence. If it’s not, it might be time to find your voice. I can help with that. Contact me today and let’s get the word out!
Photo credit: julos / 123RF Stock Photo