Don’t take rejection personally — what you’re selling isn’t right for everyone and that’s okay. When a customer or client says no, it might be that your product or service isn’t the best fit for them, or it might be a no for now. Whenever they say no; it’s a decline for your products and services, they are not rejecting you as a human being.
As a part of our series about “Why We Need More Women Founders”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Helen Hardware.
Helen is the Soulful Confidence Coach, a spiritual hypnotherapist who works with spiritual entrepreneurs around the globe, to heal blocks from their past lives and present life so they can feel deeply worthy of their work at a soul-aligned level. Helen helps her clients to unleash the confidence to get visible in an authentic way so they can make their unique impact in the world without limits.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
My background is a long way from spiritual hypnosis and coaching! I started out my working life as a lawyer, and then worked in financial services. 4 years ago, I burnt out and went through a spiritual re-awakening. As part of that I felt called to start my own business, but when I tried to ‘put myself out there’ online and promote myself I really struggled to overcome my self-limiting beliefs.
I was worried about what people would think if I started talking about my business on social media — I had identified and labelled myself by my career, so I struggled with this new identity shift and imagined that people would think less of me in some way. I also struggled with the idea of selling which felt sleezy and I would ask myself ‘who would want to buy from me?’. I didn’t believe that I was good enough to be successful and eventually I just gave up on the idea.
When I retrained as a hypnotherapist I noticed all the same fears coming up and was determined to get past them. By this point in my life I had done many trainings (including reiki, crystal healing, sound healing) and realised how few of my class mates had ever implemented their plans to create a successful business.
I identified 5 key fears that hold entrepreneurs back from getting visible:
- fear of judgement;
- fear of failure;
- fear of rejection;
- fear of not being good enough; and,
- fear of success.
As I began to strip away the layers of my own fears, I began to uncover my authentic self. By learning to love, like and trust myself I no longer worried about what other people think, or what would happen if I tried and failed. I found my confidence in all that I was. I began to feel comfortable promoting myself and building connections, which naturally began to attract clients who wanted to feel the same way.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
There are so many! Early in my hypnosis career, a client regressed back to a past life in the second world war, seeing a destroyed and bombed city in Europe and then to a between life state where she found herself floating amongst the stars in the universe — I found that fascinating and wanted to learn more so I trained as a past life regression therapist. Since then I’ve been blessed to witness lots of incredible experiences: from a client who experienced a past life as a Spanish soldier and was later able to research the time period and found paintings that matched the clothes and buildings that she had seen; a client who regressed back to being a woman in an African tribal community and later discovered that the tribe really did exist and was able to validate details; to another client who discovered that she was a Galactic being with a part of her on a spaceship in another universe. No two client experiences are ever the same.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I work almost entirely via zoom and always have. It’s really important for me to be able to see my clients and monitor them judge how deeply in trance they are, and make sure they are safe. One of my very first clients wanted help for insomnia. She went quickly into a deep hypnosis and dropped the phone. I spent the rest of the session looking at her lounge carpet! As I was newly qualified I wasn’t sure what to do so I carried on regardless. I’m still not sure if she actually fell asleep in the session. At the time I was worried about what results she might get but she began to sleep 8 hours a night for the first time in her adult life after just one session.
I learned a lot from that experience, firstly to invest time helping clients get set up in the best way; that it would have been OK for me to have brought her out of hypnosis and fix the issue; and lastly, simply to trust that the client is getting exactly what they need.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Rather than 1 person; I have 22! We met on a 6-month mastermind program, and became a very close-knit group. It’s like having your own cheerleading squad, on-tap therapists, mentors and technical support all rolled into one. 13 of us even wrote a book together. We are spread around the world and until recently none of us had ever met in person, but we talk daily via WhatsApp. Even though we are all hypnotherapists we come from all sorts of backgrounds, and specialise in different areas.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. According to this EY report, only about 20 percent of funded companies have women founders. This reflects great historical progress, but it also shows that more work still has to be done to empower women to create companies. In your opinion and experience what is currently holding back women from founding companies?
Imposter syndrome! There’s a much-quoted static from a Hewlett Packard Internal report that found that men apply for a job if they meet only 60% of the qualifications, but women apply only if they meet 100% of them. The same is true in starting a business. Many women think they need to be experts before they can start a business.
Imposter syndrome shows up as self-doubt, a lack of belief in your skills or competence, dismissing success as a fluke or down to someone else’s misplaced judgement in you, berating your performance or fear that you won’t live up to others’ expectations or let them down.
A lot of my clients tell me that they feel like an imposter in their business. The mind naturally wants to keep us safe and away from anything that makes us uncomfortable, and if you look around think that everyone else is doing it better, or discount your success as a fluke, or as someone else’s mistake and feel like you’re waiting to be ‘found out’ for being as good as other people think you are, it can be overwhelming. Imposter syndrome, left unaddressed, increases stress and can create self-sabotage, or even lead to burn out — and I know because I’ve experienced it first-hand.
When we feel like a fraud it can hold us back from wanting to be visible in our business; which is counterproductive. We have to be seen for people to know that we exist and that they want to buy what we have to offer.
Imposter syndrome, of course isn’t really a ‘syndrome’ it’s a mindset. It often gets triggered by starting something new where we perhaps feel out of our comfort zone, and you have to step outside of your comfort zone a lot when starting a new business or launching a new product or service.
Can you help articulate a few things that can be done as individuals, as a society, or by the government, to help overcome those obstacles?
Firstly, as individuals we have to recognize that what we are experiencing is normal, everyone goes through it and it will pass as we become more comfortable with the new things we are doing, and be kind to ourselves.
That’s just a temporary solution though, to really address the underlying cause it’s about self-esteem. Confidence is our belief in our ability to do something specific, whereas self-esteem is about belief in ourselves and knowing that we are good enough full stop.
Social media often paints an unrealistic or even untruthful picture, and it’s easy to fall into the trap of comparing yourself to others and measuring yourself short.
When we know that we are good enough just as we are, the fear of judgement or rejection falls away, because we don’t look to others to give us validation — we can give that to ourself. It also takes away the fear of failure, because we are able to see that just because something doesn’t work out as we hoped or expected, it doesn’t mean that we personally are less worthy. Instead, mistakes are just opportunities to learn to do something differently.
This might be intuitive to you as a woman founder but I think it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you share a few reasons why more women should become founders?
Women bring a different energy and a different perspective to business. For millennia business has been done in a very masculine way, and that has put a lot of women off. There is now a shift in that culture and business opportunities are becoming available in ways that we couldn’t have imagined even 10 years ago.
There’s also a much greater freedom in the flexibility of being self-employed which I think many women find especially attractive, to be able to operate their businesses around their family’s needs.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a founder? Can you explain what you mean?
Firstly, that you have to be an expert in something before you start your business — you only have to be a couple of steps ahead of your customers or clients to be able to help them. By understanding where your customers are right now and how you can help them, you’re already a couple of steps ahead. They are looking for your product or service to solve a problem that they have.
Second, that you have to be willing to work 24 hours, 7 days a week. I know lots of amazing and highly successful women entrepreneurs who work what might traditionally be perceived as ‘part time’ running their business around the needs of their young families. It’s healthy to set boundaries early on in your business, such as not working past a particular time of day, or not replying to messages or emails immediately or at weekends.
Third, that you have to do it all yourself. Lots of founders feel like they have to learn every aspect of their business, but if you are spending lots of time and energy into something which isn’t your natural skillset it can be exhausting and demoralizing. Often founders find that they are the CEO, the marketing department, the graphic design team, the accounts department, the admin team and the social media manager and many more! If there is a particular task that you really hate doing, or something that no matter how hard you try you don’t feel like you are mastering it, it’s OK to get help. There are lots of ways that you can outsource tasks or activities without having to take on full time members of staff.
Is everyone cut out to be a founder? In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful founder and what type of person should perhaps seek a “regular job” as an employee? Can you explain what you mean?
I think everyone has the ability to choose to be a founder, but to be successful a growth mindset is essential — whether you are a founder or an employee. Everyone can learn to develop a growth mindset (and if your natural reaction is that it’s just something you are born with, it’s a big red flag for a fixed mindset!). A growth mindset helps improve resilience, adaptability, creativity and curiosity — all of which are essential traits for an entrepreneur. That can be developed through being willing to question your thoughts and responses, and ask yourself how you might see experiences differently. Look for positives, reframe mistakes or failures as learning opportunities and believe in yourself.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your opinion and experience, what are the “Five Things You Need To Thrive and Succeed as a Woman Founder?” (Please share a story or example for each.)
1. Self-belief — if you don’t believe in yourself how can you expect your clients or customers to believe in what you are selling? You are enough exactly as you are. You always have been and you always will be. Once you know that at a deep soul level any fears about being seen for who you are will naturally fade away.
2. Be visible as your authentic self — Firstly your customers have to be aware of you and how you, your product or service can help them so you have to be visible. That can be intimidating, and if you don’t have self-belief, it can be tempting to wear a mask or pretend to be someone you aren’t. Customers can smell inauthenticity and it’s a big turn off. Being authentic is naturally magnetic and will draw the right people to you, because they feel like they are connecting with the real you.
3. Don’t take rejection personally — what you’re selling isn’t right for everyone and that’s okay. When a customer or client says no, it might be that your product or service isn’t the best fit for them, or it might be a no for now. Whenever they say no; it’s a decline for your products and services, they are not rejecting you as a human being.
4. Step outside of your comfort zone — it’s called that for a reason! Anything outside of that can be uncomfortable, but that’s how we learn, grow, stretch and create opportunities. Your mind’s number one job is to simply keep you safe and alive for as long as possible, so it looks for opportunities to avoid what it perceives as possibly dangerous. But the mind’s definition of dangerous is anything that makes us feel uncomfortable. The mind naturally tries avoid anything that will create potential exposure to rejection, judgement or failure because they don’t feel nice. Next time you need to take an action that feels uncomfortable remind yourself of all the things that can go right, and that you are safe to take that step. The comfort zone is like an elastic band, stretch it too much in one go and it will snap and be painful. If you take small incremental steps to stretch one bit at a time, it will gradually stretch and get bigger.
5. Embrace failing. Just because something didn’t turn out as you had hoped or anticipated firstly you are not a failure — let go of any personal association with the thing that didn’t work out and don’t allow circumstances to define who you are. Secondly recognize that these are opportunities to learn and try again differently. When Thomas Eddison invented the light bulb he ‘failed’ over 10,000 times to make a successful bulb — his response was “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”. We can all learn from that.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
There is a ripple effect. My client’s transformations create the confidence and self-belief to get visible in their business, and create greater success but they often tell me that their relationships with their family improve, as they are more present and patient with others.
When we heal blocks from our own childhood, we can use the knowledge and wisdom we gained from that process to help others around us.
As many of my client’s are spiritual entrepreneurs, they are also spreading high vibration energy and love that is creating a greater harmony through the client’s that they in turn serve.
I was recently able to donate a 4-figure sum to a women’s refuge charity recently as a result of a book I was involved with, which meant a lot to all of the writers.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
So many of us don’t follow our dreams because we don’t feel good enough to create success, so we settle for an easy option even if it’s uncomfortable. I want women all over the world to know that they are good enough just as they are, and empower themselves to follow their heart, listen to the tug of their soul and create whatever they are being called to do — whether that is a business, art or something else entirely.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
It would have to be Oprah Winfrey, I highly respect her mindset, drive and success, but also the way that she’s brought spirituality out of the closet and into the mainstream. When I was first waking up spiritually, I would listen to her Soul Sunday podcast and feel like I wasn’t going crazy and I wasn’t alone; there was a whole community out there who thought and felt like I did. I would buy and read the books her guests had written and it opened up my mind to a whole new world of possibilities and opportunities.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.