I stood there catching my breath. A gush of thoughts were racing in my mind. “You don’t even believe in me,” I sighed to my best friend. “No one does.”
It’s funny how as soon as the words left my mouth, it dawned on me. A metaphorical mirror – a projection of my own reality. I’d hit a wall. Exhausted physically and emotionally from working 100-hour weeks, it was now as clear as day: I had lost my way in believing in me.
This wasn’t about others, it was about my own relationship with myself.
Usually fueled by a quiet confidence, I’d become worn down. Paralysed from making decisions as big as the best way to issue company stock right down to the minutiae of which Instagram filter to use. I was plagued with self doubt. Which was the best way forward? What are all the possible outcomes? Are things succeeding or failing? Who can and will help me?
Some people think they’re awesome. They even outwardly share the sentiment. From a young age, parents coo to them how special they are. Unfortunately, I’ve battled with feeling the opposite for most of my life. Couple this with an energetic drive and you have a delicate tension to balance.
The thing about entrepreneurship is that you’re forever operating outside a box – or known boundaries. That’s why some of the greatest innovators are ignorant to begin with.
“The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.” ~Bertrand Russell
This freedom can be crippling. Your confidence can be built to egocentric levels one day and smashed down to nothing the next. You contemplate how taking a job would feel like a sweet retirement. You are drowning in advice and critical feedback from everyone, and forget what it was like when you were in that position. You look around at everyone’s social media showreels and wonder if they are going through the same.
“Entrepreneurs have struggled silently. There’s a sense that they can’t talk about it, that it’s a weakness.”
It’s only now that publications like Inc. are uncovering tales from founders with articles such as The Psychological Price of Entrepreneurship. While one of the most-loved conferences by web geeks, Brooklyn Beta, created the space to host and share these conversations at this year’s event. Leading startup incubator Y Combinator also recently funded 7 Cups of Tea – a mental health platform that connects you with qualified listeners.
We’re only just beginning to rejoice in what sharing in this area can be like.
With some space, it’s been almost comical to personally reflect on my progress. How our company can be profiled in a national newspaper one day, an incredible co-founder join me the next and our growth be up 50% month/month in November – and still feel this way. Which brings me to:
“Never let the things you want make you forget the things you have.”
It’s natural we want to keep pushing, but it’s important to recall the wins so you can curb any self doubt. One helpful tool is iDoneThis, which will show you what you did rather than your to-do list. The Minimalists discuss in the Costs and Benefits of Awareness how:
“Our standards change whenever we are infected with a new awareness. We scrutinize ourselves more. The more we scrutinize, the more the spotlight brightens, and the more our imperfections stand out.”
In How to Believe in Yourself in the Face of Overwhelming Self-Doubt on Tiny Buddha, Melissa Ng recommends to be careful with who you surround yourself with. When you are rebuilding your belief, keep away from toxic people who will tell you “No” or “You can’t”. I often divide people into two groups – your ‘critics’ and your ‘cheerleaders’. Your critics are crucial for providing awareness that helps you grow, but in times of self-criticism and doubt, devote time to your cheerleaders who will egg you on and boost you up.
Ng also says: “Self-doubt never disappears. Over time, you just get better at dealing with it. It will greet you every time you fall out of your comfort zone and whenever you strive to do something great. But know that it’s not something you have to fear or resent. Your doubts are only thoughts, not your future.”
Now excuse me while I go remember and appreciate I might actually know stuff. :)
Image credit: Simon Pemberton