Confidence is key in business.
As any entrepreneur's Instagram feed or Pinterest boards, any business blog or bestseller will tell you, when it comes to achieving astounding success, you need to take risks— and often, it is the greatest risks that reap the greatest rewards. Fear is the enemy.
This can be a little overwhelming if you're not a fearless risk-taker by nature. Are I doomed for mediocrity?
Of course not! Like so many things on the internet, these bite-size bits of motivation do hold a nugget of truth, but there are also other factors that you need to take into account:
- A little fear is a good thing. Practical, even. Risks can be good, but measured, strategic risks are even better.
- Some people may be born confident and courageous, but most of us go through life with a measure of uncertainly and hesitance; something ingrained in us as a survival instinct. The good news is that confidence and courage are mostly habit— mental muscles that can be flexed and strengthened through practice, but just like growing any other muscle first you have to work them to the point of failure.
- It's the realization that you can fail and recover that is the hallmark of a successful entrepreneur. Success doesn't occur in a straight line, and it's those who suffer setbacks and use those setbacks as meaningful feedback— who develop resilience and perseverance— that ultimately come out ahead.
All that said, there are two scenarios that tend to be confidence killers, particularly in women entrepreneurs: analysis paralysis and imposter syndrome. Let's break those down and work through how to overcome them, so they don't become obstacles to our success.
What it is
You're ready to start your website, approach a new client, launch your business, but you want to do a little research first. And this other thing. And also this. The ideal date to do all this by is x/x/xx but you don't manage to get everything done in time, so you set a new date, but by then you've discovered a new set of problems or another skill you want to master first. Or, you've accumulated so much information you simply can't decide.
Another scenario: maybe you're working on a post or project but you can't get it quite right. You keep adding, tweaking, perfecting, but you still don't think it's ready to publish or send out.
How analysis paralysis impacts success
Can you say failure to launch? Even if you do manage to make a choice or get started, you can't help but feel like you didn't do it “right.” Every major decision is fraught with anxiety, and you come out of each one not at all confident that you made the correct call. Because of this you're always second guessing yourself, feeling stuck and not mentally ready to move on to the next project.
How to overcome analysis paralysis
Embrace imperfection: Understand there is almost never going to be a decision to make that is 100% obvious and perfect. There will always be pros and cons to consider, and tradeoffs to be made. When you realize that any decision is imperfect, it becomes easier to let go.
Set deadlines: Not just for final decisions— set small deadlines for every step of the way. Limit the amount of time you spend researching or working on any one element of a project. Making a series of easier decisions can build decision making momentum, is much less mentally taxing than pulling the trigger on one big decision and is overall just good practice.
Talk it out: Over-analysis is often a symptom of too much time spent in your own headspace. Even if the person you're talking to isn't familiar with the intimate details of your decision, while you are explaining your process you may hear yourself clarifying the best answer.
Just jump: When all else fails, flip a coin. If you immediately, intensely feel the coin did you wrong, then you have your answer right there. But sometimes you just need to force yourself to make the decision and be prepared to work through any resulting difficulties. It's by going through this process over and over again, and surviving and learning each time, that decisions become easier and you grow more confident in your abilities.
What it is
Look at you! You've acquired enough expertise and achieved enough experience in your field that you took the step of starting your own business. In spite of this fact, you're convinced that at any moment you could fail. You might secretly believe that it was just a series of lucky moments that got you this far, or that you've been putting on a good show but those around you will figure out soon enough that you're not as smart or competent as they thought you were.
Imposter syndrome often occurs in high achievers who put pressure on themselves to perform to self-inflicted high standards. They're then deeply affected when they can't reach those standards, even if— sometimes especially if— those around them are more than content with the results. They don't feel that they deserve praise for the success achieved because the work wasn't done as well as it could have been, and they worry about being “found out” and exposed.
How imposter syndrome impacts success
Besides the ever-constant stress of believing yourself to be deceitful and the fear of being found out, imposter syndrome can drive entrepreneurs to work harder and harder until they burn out. Their undermined self-confidence can keep them from trying for new clients, starting new projects, or selling their strengths.
Never being satisfied with the results of what you do take on and not attempting the risks that can bring about new successes because you fear failure can turn into a downward spiral towards a self-fulfilling prophecy.
How to overcome imposter syndrome
Make lists: List the accomplishments you make, as you make them, so that you can refer to them as needed— whether to a prospective client or for an ego boost. This objective historical evidence will offset the feeling of “making things up” that can occur in the spur of the moment, and provide much-needed perspective of the things you've achieved and the progress you've made.
Collect testimonials: Whenever someone has praise for your work, add that praise to a file. Surely, so many people can't be wrong! Make recognizing, accepting and revisiting external approval, and then internalizing that a new habit. (It will become easier with practice.)
Don't make comparisons: Keep your eyes on your own paper! Everyone is at a different place with their businesses, and working within their own set of circumstances. Don't worry about your credentials and experience and whether they align with someone else's in your field. We all bring different things to different people, and your expertise will be best for your audience.
Get out of your own head: Remember that you are your own worst critic, and that everybody else suffers from self doubt too. Don't dwell on past mistakes. Rest assured that no one else is thinking as long and hard about the gap between your expectations and your results as you are— they're too busy considering their own flaws. And stay busy: when you keep moving forward, it gives you less time to overthink.
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Now get out there and do epic things
In the end, the biggest risk you can take is being cautious to the point of doing nothing.
Get out there and take on new things: it's only by giving yourself the option of failure that you can achieve new successes and build confidence. Remember that the brain has difficulty distinguishing between actual confidence and projected confidence, so smile, stand tall and act confident until it's your natural stance (ah yes, the ol' fake it 'til you make it!).