I recently participated in a twitter chat for young women and girls. Within a few minutes of jumping in, I got this question:
What do you think is the biggest challenge facing young women today?
I immediately responded with this:
As an entrepreneur, I’ve had my share of self-doubt. As a woman working in tech, I’ve also had my share of doubts. The thing is, we all do. But the truth is, self-doubt kills. It kills dreams, ambitious and great ideas.
How do we work through it?
n US Startups, less than 2% of funding goes to women-led companies. Many of us are struggling with how to be who we are, raise families, run our businesses and still find funding for the work we do. All of this can lead to extreme self-doubt. I know this story all too well. In January of 2017, I closed the doors on my startup and refocused my energy towards my software development company.
I want to share a few strategies that have helped me along the way.
I do believe there is something you can do about it.
1. Use it as an ally
What are you doubting? Are you wondering if you’re smart enough, vocal enough, CEO enough?
Figure out exactly what you doubt about yourself, and turn it into something you can use as an ally. Ask your doubt to have your back.
What does this look like?: When I performed as a poet, I was often terrified to share my whole story with the audience. Would I be judged? Would I be perceived as weak? Would people want to pay their hard earned money to hear me share my really difficult experiences? The doubt didn’t go away, but my relationship to it did. I started looking to my experiences as a strength instead of a negative.
2. Be jealous with a purpose
Jealousy is a big part of self-doubt. We have to think about the fact that there’s someone else out who’s crushing it or someone who got the promotion that you didn’t get. It sucks! Yes, but what are you going to do about i. Hate them? Fester? Beat yourself up about what you are lacking? You could, and then you’d waste a lot more time and be even less likely to achieve that goal you were jealous of in the first place.
Be jealous with a purpose.
When I was growing up, my sister and I would fight over clothes. One day, we went at it over this really cool yellow shirt. Don’t ask me what brand it was or why we were fighting about it, but I do know that my mother had had enough. An hour or so into our yellow shirt fiasco, my mother sent us to our room, shut the door, and said we couldn’t come out until we had resolved the issue. What the hell was this? My sister and I looked at each other and started laughing. Here we were, middle school girls fighting over some yellow shirt. And, now the shirt was ripped and neither of us could wear it.
After we agreed to makeup, my mother sat us down and gave us these tips
- If you’re going to be jealous, use it to get where you want to go.
- There will always be someone who dresses better, looks prettier or has a better body. If you spend your life comparing yourself, you’ll be miserable.
- But, if someone has something (a skill, a strength) you seem jealous of, only put your energy into being jealous if you can use it to learn from them.
- So, next time you see a CEO killing it much better than you are, take a minute to feel horrible and then learn from them. Read the blogs they write, strike up a conversation at the next startup mixer or just email them and strike up a conversation.
- Learn how they became successful. Want to be more confident? Seek someone out who you feel is confident, use the jealousy to learn from them and that will make it worth your time.
- If you don’t use your jealousy to learn from others, you’ll end up using all this energy to feel shitty about yourself. And, that takes away from the time you already don’t have.
3. Realize that your gifts do not belong to you
Your gifts are not yours to hold back.
That might sound counter-intuitive, but I’ve learned this lesson and want to share it with as many people as I can.
I figured this out in my early twenties. I was working as a professional poet and writing teacher and I was scared to publish my work in anthologies and online publications. I loved giving readings, but I did not know if I could put myself out there even more and publish.
Then I realized that even though this was my work and my words, I was being used to tell a story. I started seeing myself as a “vessel” and understanding that my work in the world was bigger than me and was not really about me. This had a profound shift in my thinking and allowed me to get out there and out of my own way. I still struggle with it, but knowing that I had a higher purpose pushed me to submit my work each and every time.
Worried what people will think of your not so perfect blog post?
Want to publish that book but feeling self-doubt creep in?
Asking myself these questions always helps me put doubt in the rear view:
- Why are you doing your work in the world?
- Are you trying to change the way people do something for the better?
- Do you want to help people get healthy?
- Do you believe there’s a better and smarter way to do something?
- Well, guess what? If you hold back that blog post, comment, book or tweet that supports your mission, you’ll be holding back your mission. And, your talents are meant to be shared so we all learn and grow.
Your life’s work is not yours to hold back.
It may have your name attached or your particular story, but you are out there telling a story for all of us, and we all want to learn from it. Are you writing about lessons learned as an entrepreneur? This is not your story. This is one of many stories in the human tapestry of entrepreneurship. If you don’t share it with the rest of us, we won’t have that information or experience to make better choices in the future.
When you struggle with self-doubt, what helps you move on and get things done?