Introduction – Overcoming Self-Doubt

You’re an amazing entrepreneur. You have a great way with people, you’re passionate about what you’re doing, and your customer reviews rave about you. But do you really think that’s going to help your small business take off?

Okay, stop for a second. We’re not really being serious here – at least not in that last sentence. But answer to yourself honestly: did you focus on all the great comments we had about you at the beginning of the paragraph, or just the one niggling bit of negativity at the end? (And, by the way, that wasn’t even a negative comment, just a negative and somewhat leading question!)

One of the reasons why negativity triggers our self-doubt is the fact that many of us naturally focus on the bad things people say. For example, you often hear about actors who don’t listen to reviews about themselves because even if they hear 10 great reviews and one bad, they’ll focus solely on the bad.

Maybe some psychologist knows why it happens this way. We certainly don’t. But what we do know is how to combat those negative feelings.

Here are eight ways you can stop self-doubt from killing your small business:

  1. Celebrate your achievements – publicly AND privately.
  2. Surround yourself with cheerleaders.
  3. Stop comparing yourself to other successful people.
  4. Give yourself permission to risk failure.
  5. Stop trying to be perfect.
  6. Don’t give in to negativity.
  7. Turn your what-ifs around.
  8. Give yourself a shot of negativity every now and again.

The Eight Ways to Stop Self-Doubt from Killing Your Small Business

1. Celebrate your achievements – publicly AND privately.
How to fight self-doubt: Celebrate your achievements – publicly AND privately.

Nothing sweeps away self-doubt like celebrating the successes of your small business. Did you just open your doors? Celebrate with friends and family! Have a new product or service? Launch it with the fanfare it deserves to your customers and clients. Reach a particular milestone? Talk it up on social media and send out a press release.

We often spend too much time solving problems to celebrate the challenges we’ve already overcome. Troubleshooting is great, but when we focus only on problems, then problems are the only things we see.

You’re accomplishing something every single day your doors are open. Celebrate!

2. Surround yourself with cheerleaders.
How to fight self-doubt: Surround yourself with cheerleaders.

Having people around you for advice is important. But so is having a community of cheerleaders. These should be the people who tell you only the good, no matter what. Your Mom could be one of them. Your spouse/significant other and your closest friends. Even some hand-picked customers and clients who will support you through good times and bad.

These aren’t the people you’ll rely on for the truth. These are the people who will keep your spirits – and your motivation – up, no matter what comes your way. Surrounding yourself with these positive people will help you stay focused as well.

Just as negativity can be infectious, so can positivity.

3. Stop comparing yourself to other successful people.
How to fight self-doubt: Stop comparing yourself to other successful people.

We all want to be the next Chef Gordon Ramsay or motivational speaker Tony Robbins or (add the current top performer of your particular industry here). Hey, it’s a great ideal to shoot for!

The problem is, too often we see anything less than this as utter and complete failure. You find out Tony Robbins is worth $600 million, and you wonder how you’re ever going to compete against that!

The good news is, you don’t have to. It’s much more productive to compare the now-you to the future-you. Think about where you want to be in a year, in five years, in ten years. Do you see yourself growing? Most definitely!

But if you constantly compare your level of success, money, and fame to a Tony Robbins, you’ll get discouraged awfully quickly. (Besides, if you only make $500 million, would that be okay?)

Be the best “you” you can be. Let Tony Robbins worry about being Tony Robbins.

4. Give yourself permission to risk failure.

How to fight self-doubt: Give yourself permission to risk failure.Note: this isn’t “let yourself fail.” Letting yourself risk failure is a much different thing.

Nobody likes to fail, which is why we spend so much time trying to avoid it. But here’s the thing: if we own a small business, we can’t avoid it. Not completely. Something is always going to go wrong. On the flip side, there’s almost always a way to fix it, too.

Another thing to remember is that the act of avoiding failure can actually bring on failure of different kinds, such as failure to grow. (We talked in our last post about actually investing in new, potentially risky ventures just to try them out.) It’s also true that you learn more from your failures than from your successes. So embrace it!

Acknowledging that you may fail can be extremely liberating. It gives you permission to try new things and try old things in new ways. It also helps you become fearless – if you lose your fear of failure, you’re much more likely to explore new horizons. Even if that journey ends with you falling down, simply pick yourself up and try again.

And getting back up, as every small business owner knows, is the heart of the entrepreneurial spirit.

5. Stop trying to be perfect.

How to fight self-doubt: Stop trying to be perfect.This is a close cousin to the fear of failure, above. You can endlessly tweak something, thinking you’re making it better. Sometimes you are, though it may only be incrementally. Sometimes they are meaningless changes. Sometimes your tweaks actually make it worse, sort of like over-kneading bread dough.

Other times, perfectionism is just an excuse fear uses. Watch out for this one! You may tell yourself your idea is not ready to launch, that it needs to be better, that it needs improvement. But is that really true? Is it possible that the idea you want to launch is ready, but you are not?

Regardless of where your perfectionism comes from – fear or too high standards or something else – launch your idea*. Regardless of the flaws. Regardless of your fears. There will be changes and tweaks along the way – you are always improving, and that’s a good thing.

When you launch, it means you’re successfully making something happen now.

*This doesn’t mean launch a half-baked idea. It just means don’t polish it within an inch of its life before you launch.

6. Don’t give in to negativity.

Don’t give in to negativity.This is almost one of those impossible pieces of advice that drives us nuts. It’s almost like saying, “Don’t give in to hunger.” It’s almost inevitable that you’ll let negativity get you down at some point.

That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try though. Here’s a hint: it’s much easier to avoid listening to negativity than to put it out of your mind after you’ve heard it. So the next time you run into someone who wants to give you unsolicited advice about the dangers of your entrepreneurial venture:

  • Politely stop them before they say too much
  • Thank them for their concern
  • Realize privately that they are wrong
  • Move on to another topic of conversation

This can be difficult, but it’s vitally important. It helps to think of it this way: as well-meaning as they are, they can’t see into the future. What they’re saying could be absolutely false. If they want to see only the potential pitfalls in the way, let them. But you don’t have to let them show you, too.

The people most likely to succeed in this world are those who see the destination, not the what-ifs along the road.

7. Turn your what-ifs around.
How to fight self-doubt: Turn your what-ifs around.

Which leads us to the next point: turning your what-ifs around. So instead of, “What if my small business fails?” you can ask, “What if my small business succeeds?” Instead of, “What if I’m left broke?” think, “What if I’m fabulously wealthy and need to find a new house?”

Every single negative “what if” can be turned around into a positive. It’s like the advice your driving instructor gave you – look to where you want the car to go, not at the thing you want to avoid.

Besides, thinking about wealth and happiness is a much more fun thing to do!

8. Give yourself a shot of negativity every now and again.

How to fight self-doubt: Give yourself a shot of negativity every now and again.A small amount of negativity can be very motivating for some small business owners. That taste of failure can keep us hungry and fighting for better. Sitting on your laurels is never a recipe for greater success!

One way you can manage this small amount of negativity is through something Jia Jiang calls rejection therapy. Jia spent 100 days trying to get rejected in 100 different ways. In fact, he launched a whole small business around rejection therapy – ironic since it simply started as a tool to overcome his own self-doubts about launching a small business.

“I am on a journey to become a great entrepreneur, drinking the smoothie blended with Steve Job’s charisma, Chris Gardner’s tenacity, Paul Graham’s judgment, Bill Gate’s ruthlessness, Warren Buffett’s longevity, and Marc Zuckerberg’s vision (or luck),” Jia writes.  “However, since I’m not born with most of these traits, I need to acquire them through exercise, one-by-one.”

Here’s his TED Talk on the subject:

The great thing about rejection therapy is that you can choose to get negativity about stuff that isn’t directly related to your small business. It’s almost like vaccinating yourself against negativity, helping you thicken your skin. And when some self-doubt about your small business does start creeping in, it won’t be as intense or last for as long.

A Special Note for Women Entrepreneurs…

How to fight self-doubt: A Special Note for Women Entrepreneurs...The sad truth is that we women may be more susceptible to self-doubt. Journalists Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, authors of “The Confidence Code,” identified what they call the confidence gap – the amount of confidence an average man has versus an average woman.

We’re not going to speculate on how scientific or even how true this is. But if you feel that this may be true for you, it might be worth spending some time investigating why that is and what you can do. You can learn more on their website here:

You can also find their book on Amazon:

A Bonus 9th Tip – and A Surprising Revelation

How to fight self-doubt: You might be surprised to learn that even Warren Buffett famously questions his abilities from time to time.Self-doubt is a normal thing. It means you’re human. You might be surprised to learn that even Warren Buffett famously questions his abilities from time to time.

We humans also have a choice on how we handle self-doubt. If perhaps the best stock trader in history can suffer from – and overcome – self-doubt, so can you.

Here’s a bonus ninth way you can help overcome self-doubt: get help for the things you’re not good at so you can focus on the things you are. When you spend too much time doing things you’re unfamiliar with or even hate to do, it drags you down. Marketing, office tasks, and other minutiae – as important as they are to the success of your business – can bring self-doubt on you in waves. So why not delegate those tasks to the professionals who can do it right?

Contact Elite Office Solutions to find out how we can help take some of those things off your plate. You’ll be amazed at how much more creative, productive, and motivated you can be!