Growing up in America, Halloween was one of my favourite occasions. It was so much fun to carve pumpkins, watch scary movies, go on a haunted hayride, eat a sickly amount of candy corn, and wear a costume that would be the envy of all my friends!
During my final year of high school, my friend and I dressed up as giant M&Ms and somehow managed to win the prize for “best costume”. Unfortunately the only photographic evidence is at my mother’s house so I can’t share it with you today. You’ll just have to imagine me as a giant blue M&M with white hands and booties!
In honour of Halloween, I thought I’d share an appropriately timed startup confession with you…
sometimes I’m scared senseless
Fear is one of the body’s natural responses to stimuli. If we couldn’t feel fear, our ancestors wouldn’t have survived very long. We wouldn’t evolve. We would live life recklessly. We wouldn’t worry about consequences. Although I accept fear is natural and normal, that doesn’t mean I want to willingly open up my arms to embrace it.
Fear comes before the realisation that there is nothing to be afraid of. Sometimes the adrenaline and the nerves help to move us along, but being scared can also keep us stuck in our businesses. We anticipate all the terrible things that might happen. We become paralysed. We stop moving forward because then that thing that we fear can’t happen.
what are you REALLY scared of?
In my previous startup confession, I told you how “I just want it to work!”. Like me, if you think you’re just afraid your business will fail, you’re not. There’s something more to it. You might be afraid of embarrassment, of letting others down, of having to go back to a job you hate. What is it you REALLY fear?
I’m scared if others don’t believe in me, I won’t make it.
I’m scared people will decide that my corporate experience has no place in small social business.
I’m scared I might waste time developing a program that no one wants.
I’m scared that my husband’s cancer will return and I’ll have to abandon my business dream in order to support us.
I’m scared that after all the effort I’ve put in, I won’t be able to earn a decent living from what I’m doing.
I’m scared if my business doesn’t work, I will be seen as a failure.
how to fight the fear and do it anyway
According to Julia Layton, “most behavioral therapies for fear extinction focus on exposure”. You take small steps, build up your tolerance to the stimuli, and eventually your brain processes the fear in a different way.
This approach may not always be most appealing when starting a business. You may not want your potential clients or sponsors to see you at less than your best, so here are some other tips that may help:
1. Uncover the details. As I have done with my fear “I don’t want to fail”, break your fears down further so you understand what’s behind the big heading. When you know these details, you can then decide how to start tackling them.
2. Talk to lots of people. There are some who have already successfully started businesses and there are others who are currently going through the same startup pains. How can you use your networks to get your fears off your chest, feel reassured, and have a shoulder to lean when times get tough?
3. Think of the small steps. If the big picture causes you to panic, consider what steps you can put in place to make it less scary. If networking with strangers terrifies you, how can you practice describing yourself and your business in a safe and welcoming environment to start with?
4. Look for contradictory evidence. A lot of my fears come from my Inner Pessimist – that nagging voice in my head that points out the terrible things that might happen. I have started to collect evidence that proves my Inner Pessimist is wrong. Every day I write down the things that have gone really well and reflect on those rather than focusing on the things that aren’t going right. What evidence can you start to gather?
Phew…I’ve acknowledged it. I’ve shared it with you. I know it’s there, but I will persevere. Why? Because when I’m not scared senseless I feel REALLY excited!
over to you
As always, I’d love to hear from you. What scares you in your business? How do you fight the fear and do it anyway? Leave a reply below and share with us.
looking for support?
If you’re based in London, come along to my next social sound-off event on Thursday, 14 November. Meet like-minded people over coffee and cake and receive free support for your startup journey. To see more details and RSVP click here.