We are in the era of social expressionism, when publicly expressing our inner knowing and emotional experiences is more acceptable. Entrepreneurship itself is a form of social expression; small businesses are an extension of their owners. More and more experienced workers are now breaking away from office careers or employers that let them down, launching an enterprise, and following their dreams.
This is fantastic! That said, if you are a middle-aged minority (like me), having a clear voice and confident business presence may not yet come naturally. For many women and other minorities, leaning in, speaking up, and stepping out feels vulnerable — but doing it anyway is the mightiest form of empowerment. Use the safety of your own business entity to exercise your voice and courage because it will lessen the feeling of social suppression, not only for yourself but for others. (If not you, then who? If not now, then when?)
My entire journey as an entrepreneur has been about breaking through personal barriers. I came from a background where I learned invisibility and silence. Expressing myself in business has become the most fulfilling experience of my life because it has revealed my courage and expanded my potential. It has given the real me a public voice — and it feels so freeing!
Freeing, yes. Easy, not so much.
I am in the joy-making business. I encourage play as a powerful portal for fulfillment and opportunity, and yet I still have to mindfully manage personal and professional relationships that could replicate the dysfunction of my past and derail me. I might be happy and fulfilled and expanded now, but there are days when I still feel confused about my place in the world. For example, I could be triggered by the unsettling behavior of a network partner, or a dysfunctional family gathering over the weekend.
Struggling with insecurities doesn’t make me any less of a successful entrepreneur and professional. On the contrary, the parts of me that may be described as weaknesses are powerfully captivating morsels of daring in disguise.
Here are five tips any business owner can use to tap into their daring when doubts start lurking.
1. Know Your Emotional Whereabouts: Your reality, good or bad, is created by your perception — and here is where your hope lies. Changing your perception (which no one but you can control) will change your reality. Be honest with yourself so that you can become fully aware of your current emotional state. Ask yourself how you are really feeling, then go to a private place and say it aloud. When I am dealing with an uncertainty I may say, “I am scared right now.” Realizing my emotional whereabouts sets into motion a desire to find my way out. Saying it out loud diffuses the statement, and hearing it repositions me as the Viewer, which puts distance between me and that feeling. I am psychologically already on my way to a different state of mind.
If I am still in a funk, I may go on to consider worst case scenarios — not for the sake of being a fatalist, but because it can suck the power out of the negative thought. Worse case scenarios can actually turn out to be not so bad.
Respond as the person you are in the present moment to regain your sense of security. Ask yourself, “Am I okay at this very moment?” and your soul will invariably answer yes. Don’t use the past to assume the future. If a situation has the earmark of a previous experience, it is an opportunity to change the tide, break a cycle, and step in as the person you are designed to be!
2. Don’t Make Decisions from a Place of Weakness — No Matter the Pressure: Feeling weak or confused is a sign that something has taken you off course. All decisions should be made from your place of truth and knowing; otherwise you are at risk of making decisions that are not best for you or your business. Do not fall prey to confusion.
I am an innovator. I use resources in creative ways, and I have to deal with the pressures of network partners wanting to have immediate access to my ideas. I struggle with being a caregiver, a strategic business owner, a fair network partner, an innovative artist, a revenue generator — and even personal roles, such as echoes of being a good daughter, may bounce around!
The more confusion I have about a decision, the more time I need to make it. I have learned to resist offering answers, to ask for more time to clear my thoughts, and to sleep on it. It always requires time and doing something that brings me unrelated joy, because love and joy are great defoggers. If it’s not time-sensitive, I will hold the pressures at a distance so I can hear my own wisdom, which comes from my heart and is never wrong. Your inner guidance requires your leadership.
3. Use Your Emotions: When was the last time you had a good cry or punched a pillow? Emotional suppression prolongs misery. The etymology of the word emotion is to move out, move away. The good, the bad, and the ugly within us are not static. Let them out and let them roll.
Expressing your emotions is an exercise in physical, mental, and spiritual health. You are not a bad person if you feel anger or resentment. You are having a physiological reaction, and your body deserves to speak. Inflated emotions may indicate acute suppression, so let those out, too. Let your body talk. Your emotions are truthful bits of information that are helpful if you take notice.
Emotions can indicate change or personal expansion. There is a difference between feeling danger and feeling discomfort. One may be a helpful warning to redirect, while the other may be an indicator of growth. Excitement and joy can serve as clues to your best route, or may indicate that you are exactly where you are supposed to be.
My joy helps me determine my business tactics. Regardless of what other businesses in my industries are doing, what brings me the most joy is what I do more of. For instance, I enjoyed using video before it was as popular as it is now. I used it to amplify my messages even when it seemed no one was listening. I have become an expert at using video for personal, business, and creative expansion.
4. Go Outside and Play: The Information Highway does hold has many truths as the Great Outdoors. The Great Outdoors is the great equalizer because any problem you may have is, by comparison, offset. If you are feeling pressure or constraint, go outside and look up. Your mind and soul will see and feel that you have no ceiling, and your perspective will expand. Nature will help you realize that a personal or business problem is not your entire world but part of something that is very big and very good.
Not only that, nature has found a solution to every problem you encounter, so use it as your mentor. Look to nature on how to create healthy working relationships, or what color palette to use, or how to handle a barrier. When I am stuck, I will hang out by a tree. Being next to a tree just feels good. It draws my attention, and before long, I become engaged with looking at the details of the trunk or leaves or the balanced distribution of its branches. I can feel my energy increase, my mind open, and solutions and fresh ideas usually start to drop in. I am refreshed.
While you are outside benefiting from the wisdom of nature, up level the gain by feeling joy through play. Play for pure fun. Don’t think about the outcome. When we feel weak or worried, we fall into survival mode — a place that breeds bad politics and life-is-war behavior. Play will return you to a joyful state of openness. It will engage your entire body within your happy place. While you play, let your body talk. Let it dance or shimmy, let your soul make sounds through your mouth and set your imagination free. Enter the zone of pure joy through play and, I guarantee, you will become supercharged with renewed hope and ideas.
Your power is in who you really are. Play is the most powerful way to bypass your mind to access your real self so that your signature secret sauce can flow.
5. Use the Experience: You are always the captain, never the victim, and dissatisfaction is an asset. Feeling powerless is only a moment in time, alongside feeling powerful. The best revenge to powerlessness is to use it to make you powerful again!
Shortly after I launched my business, I remember a particular encounter: I was at a business convention where I displayed my products in order to get constructive feedback. One attendee carefully examined my wares. I smiled and asked him if he had any questions. He methodically and firmly began to chide my products. He was physically tall and large and leaned far over the table towards me. He looked at me squarely and began to criticize everything from the design to the price. I was stunned and went silent, which was my default — to become invisible. I dutifully fell into line with his suppression with knee-jerk speed. I will never forget that, and I use that moment to hone my skills.
At the time I was devastated, but I have since reframed it and use it now as an opportunity for my expansion. I am better prepared against people who try to undermine my immovable truth. As a matter of fact, I now interpret destructive feedback as an indicator that I am touching a nerve and being effective. My business will not permit me to be silent or invisible.
I used to see my weaknesses as barriers to fulfilling my destiny, but I have grown to realize that the word weak is a bit of a misnomer. It implies that there is a lack of power, which is not really true. Weakness is a helpful magic bean. From it grows a bigger, more powerful version of you.