As most people starting a business do, I try to gather as much information as I can, reading books and listening to podcasts like How I Built This. One of the reasons I love this one so much is that successful entrepreneurs share their founding stories and often touch on how scary and overwhelming the process was for them. They express moments of self doubt, fear and panic, which I think are fairly common. People know that it takes grit, sacrifice and a lot of hard work to be successful, and, even that isn’t always a guarantee, but I found that what people aren’t always talking about is the inner battle that takes place. Or, at least that I found takes place in a lot of female founders, especially me.
In conversations with some other female business owners, some who are thinking of starting out on their own and and others who are farther along, we voiced similar struggles with self doubt and criticism. With their feelings resonating inside of me, to each of these women, I’d respond with or think, “You are so smart, so talented and there is absolutely no reason why you should ever doubt yourself.” But, they could easily say the same thing back to me, and it’s of no use unless I believe it, and they believe it.
“Somewhere ingrained deep in you is the idea that you’re not good enough,” is what one of my teachers said to me when I mentioned the voices of doubt and fear constantly creeping into my thoughts. While I knew that starting a business would be hard, the surprise for me was that the emotional work was, and continues to be, the most difficult part of it. I found that this process exposed core issues that are holding me back, and probably have been for most of my life. I realized that if I wanted to succeed, I needed to heal myself and stop getting in my own way.
For the first few months of working on LokaPack before it was actually a clickable thing, there were days when I crawled into my bed in broad daylight, curled into a ball and covered myself with a blanket. The thoughts of, what am I doing, is this even a good idea, do I actually know what I’m talking about, and whoa, there is so much I don’t know, were too much. This process is a very lonely one, and I let the fear take over and paralyze me instead of driving me into action.
This isn’t new for me. I was a ridiculously anxious kid. Starting at about two years old, I would twirl my hair around my finger and then yank it out in chunks. My mom was so scared I was going to go bald that she cut my hair to a boys length until I was about four. I remember waking up in college, thinking about everything that I had to do and then spending the next hour in bed so overwhelmed and anxious that I didn’t do anything.
Recognizing that I didn’t want to be this anxious, unhappy person, I took up yoga, which spoke to me and provided me with a path to explore meditation and to understand myself. But this process pushed me farther than I had ever been pushed before, and I felt like I was at square one again.
One of the many things that I’ve learned this year is that I came from a household where I was irrationally praised* and never had a sense of stability. It’s not a question of whether my parents loved me or not, I know they did and do, and I had a very fortunate childhood, but it was the learned behavior that was problematic. Instead of trusting myself, I looked to other people to praise me and used those responses to gauge my worth. You receive a lot of No’s and a lot of expressed doubt from people when you start a business. I started seeing my self worth as the feedback they gave me and let it crush me instead of making me fight harder to prove them wrong. I couldn’t hide behind a cool job or an interesting column, and I had to take stock of my sense of self, and it was pretty sad.
I can be really mean to myself. Always judging, criticizing and worrying, never affirming or praising — again, probably from my childhood where there was a lot of negativity. I know that I would never talk to one of my friends the way that I talk to myself, so why did I do it? Why did I think it was okay to treat the little girl in me like that and put her down? I don’t want to do it anymore. I want to pick her up, hold her close and tell her that I will love her no matter what choices she makes, whether or not she makes a lot of money or what she looks like.
So when those thoughts of fear and panic start to bubble up again, I comfort the little girl in me who is scared about this new way of life, the risks and the unknown ahead, and who begs me to return to my old, self-limiting ways and a stable job and predictable life. And I know I have a long road ahead.
My work is two-fold. One, I need to bring in a whole lot of self love and confidence. I need to trust and know that I’m smart enough, good enough and deserve it. There’s a difference between self love and ego, which I’ve come to learn.
Second, I have to fake it until I make it. Even if there is a small part of me that doesn’t believe I can do this and lets the negative/fear-based thoughts come in, I need to push past it and keep making steps forward.
To all the smart and talented women out there plagued with thoughts of self doubt and worry, you are good enough, you can do it and you are not alone.
If any of you want to talk more about it or if I can help in anyway, please reach out with the contact form our about page.
Please share some love for the ladies below who are out there running their own businesses and helping each other out along the way.
CookDrop Personal chef and meal delivery service
Dai Sustainable, elegant performance wear for women
Potluck with Ali Culinary videos and recipes
Sweet Whistle Curated gift boxes
*This Goop articles touches on what it’s like to be from an unstable household