How To Deal With Self-Doubt

Being an entrepreneur is like setting out on an adventure with no clear map, and no one right way to get to where you want to go.

Sure, there are probably books, how-to guides, videos, blogs, and related stuff available on-line —  with billions of webpages out on the internet there’s oceans of data and advice you can try trawling through — but to establish your own particular business, with you at the helm, means that you actually make your map as you progress on your journey.

  • You can study, but you have to learn on your own.
  • You can copy, until you get enough experience to make your own riff, and enough courage to put yourself and your work out there.
  • You can follow, until the times comes for you to break away and  run your business your own way.

And it can be a nerve-wracking process.

The thing is, entrepreneurs are still people, serving people.  And people? Well, we’re a messy bunch. We can be full of doubt as well as dreams, and we often wrestle with ourselves as we go after our own goals. Sometimes, we’re the one’s in our own way.

How Do You Deal With Doubt?
If you’ve seriously considered venturing out into entrepreneurship, or are already on the rough and uncertain path to building your own business, you’ll understand that it’s a frustrating and tiring journey,  to say the least. Some days it can feel like all you’re trying to to is fix one mistake or another, or backtrack and wonder how to correct your course. while anxiously looking for some signs of wheat to do next.

Doubt is natural. Frustration is natural. And one thing you can use to help yourself on your journey is readjusting your mindset on  the difference between and what it would mean for you to fix something, or to empower someone.

Fix over Empower: A New Frame
Refresh your memory: What do entrepreneurs do?

Off the cuff, the answers could be: They provide products or services to their selected market in the particular niche they occupy. As business owners they need to be up-to-scratch on matters like basic business accounting, taxes, licenses, and legal matters.

As  marketers they should know how SEO works, what platforms are the best way to reach their market, and how to test and optimize their sales and marketing strategies. As leaders they should provide the guiding force and direction for their teams, and so on.

Even when you have years under your belt, handling so many things can be a source of stress, and experience won’t insulate you from everything and anything else that life throws at you. Looking outward to others in times of stress is human; we hurt and we don’t want to hurt. We want someone to come fix it for us so we won’t hurt any more.

And when you’re an entrepreneur, you’re essentially trying to make a good living ‘fixing the hurt’ for the people in your market, wherever that may be.  Advice from the experts tell us to use that and mirror it for our customers — using empathy, we present the idea that we have the solution to their problems. We  just get to charge for it. =)

Focusing Outward
How many ways can a ‘fix-it’ focus cause issues for entreps? Well, there’s  focus blindness, perfectionism, and workaholism, just to name a few.

It’s isolating when we think we’re the only ones experiencing this struggle or that thorny issue. It’s like a spotlight effect— we’re so focused on ourselves and how we’re feeling about what we’re doing,  we can lose sight of a balanced, realistic perspective. And this is where the warping slips in.
We think we’re slackers. We beat ourselves up.
We feel bad about feeling bad, and yet keep on.
We try harder and tie ourselves up in knots. And knotted up, we still keep going. And work at a grinding pace can only get you so far before you’re ground down. That’s not fixing it for anyone.

Focusing Inward
Having an entrepreneurial orientation aims people towards fixing things. It’s an outward focus — examine, plan, test, apply, refine and move on to the next issue.  It’s easy to fix things on the outside — you can see them. Internal issues (remember feeling bad and looking outwards to others in times of stress?) are on a different level. You need to learn to fix your own issues while you’re helping other people with theirs — it’s called having a life.

Mistakes are good. They mean we took action, only at those  times, it didn’t quite work out as we planned or expected. The important thing is we keep trying. We learn our limits and capabilities  and by trial-and-error, we eventually expand them.  When you work on refining your business methods and  practices to do better things in a better way, mistakes honestly help you polish that, especially when you take time to learn from them.

If you’re not making mistakes then you’re probably not taking strides to go beyond what you currently know — and that would open upon a whole world of pain. (Which is not the goal of fixing things.) In a competitive environment, if you’re not doing the work to keep up to speed, there’s always someone else willing to outdo you.

Business-wise, though…
Think of how fast information moves in the business world — it’s bewildering, constant, and  presents tons of data no one person can fully understand or put in in full context on their own.  The speed makes us nervous and we want to be keep on top of it or else risk flubbing important decisions because we may miss some crucial bit of data.

Think of big companies, who have entire departments and teams of specialists dedicated to trying to boil down, mind, interpret and understand the data enough to make good forecasts and accurate, reliable plans.

Think of  business owners who are striving to stay on top of their own mountains of data — and have help in the form of advisors, mentors, internal support teams and outsourcing, as well as back-up plans and computer programs.

Flip the Fix-it  On Yourself
There are always new things promising to fix you, improve you, make you a Better You 2.0. You’re a customer  and a buyer– you occupy someone’s market too. When you ease out of that fearfulness that makes you cling to the idea of the One True Answer, the adjustment can feel like a let-down. Of course: what reality can measure up to unconstrained fantasy ?

But the reality you make is anchoring. When you take solid steps towards your goal, even when you make mistakes, those are still steps forward. Can you see the hidden meaning behind the idea of “fix something, or to empower someone?”

It’s breaking out of the fixed-mindset into the growth mindset.

See, when we try to fix ourselves, it works within the mental framework that there is something wrong with us. That we aren’t good enough. When you work on accepting the part of you that worries and channel it, you empower yourself. Quick fixes are an external bandage of sorts. Plastering them over deep hurts that affect our self-esteem and self-image won’t work in the long run.

Creating, growing and nurturing your own particular business, with you at the helm doing things your own particular way, is  an exercise in frustration,  an adventure in learning just how much you can do, and an ongoing experience in learning about and helping other people. When you’re open to that learning, and accept that you, mistakes and all, are doing good no matter what’s going on in your business,  then no matter how you get there, you’ll know that you’ve owned every moment it took you to succeed.


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