,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’d 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, become paralysed and 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?
- that if others don’t believe in me, I won’t make it.
- people will decide that my corporate experience has no place in small social business.
- I might waste time developing a program that no one wants.
- that after all the effort I’ve put in, I won’t be able to earn a decent living from what I’m doing.
- 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, I am 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.
florence norman says
I love this post Danielle. I think so much power comes from being honest about our fears and I have to say I felt empowered just by reading yours so thank you.
So I guess mine are similar in essence:
1) I’m afraid I won’t be able to find a balance between the social side and the commercial side, and that therefore we will need to rely on donations.
2) I’m afraid that ultimately my business will fail because as a designer my work isn’t good enough, and our products will be rejected by the market place.
3) I’m afraid of missing deadlines and not getting enough done in a day.
4) I’m afraid of letting down the people I work with.
I’m sure I have plenty more but that’s all I can reach right now!
Florence – thank you for reading and for sharing. Sometimes I wonder how honest to be with my readers, but just writing this post and putting it all out there was quite cathartic for me.
Corrina Gordon-Barnes says
Your honesty is refreshing, Danielle. Your fear re: your husband’s cancer really touched me – we don’t often hear those “other life” fears and reflect on how our business hopes and dreams are caught up in dreams for our relationship and our family as well.
My fears? The bigger my business gets, the bigger my team, the bigger our community – the bigger the responsibility. People look to me for wages, for support. Like you, wanting my business to stay strong enough to support both me and my partner, if we want it to.
How I handle these fears? I take them into Connection (prayer/meditation). I remember that this business happens through me and that I am supported by a force far greater than me. I let go of trying to do it all myself and trust in my team and lean into my support network – I remember not to carry the weight on my shoulders.
Corinna – it’s refreshing to know that even the experts are scared sometimes. 🙂 Thank you for sharing.
Fi Macmillan says
Thank you for your vulnerability, Danielle. It helps us all.
I am scared that people will think I am rubbish at what I do. I am scared that my business experience has no place in big corporates. I am scared I will become tongue tied at the point I need to say something intelligent. I am scared that I will be in a situation I can’t handle – and look stupid. I am scared that ….. well, nothing else really. I am just pretty excited – except today I am tired and excited..
BTW the website field above doesn’t like my web address even though it is the real one it rejects it ‘www.withflyingcolours.com’.
Fi – thanks for allowing yourself to be vulnerable too.
I think you need to include the http:// to pull in your website properly.
Fi Macmillan says
I have come back again because I am really curious about this thing you mention about your corporate background not being welcome in smaller social enterprises. I have exactly the same thing in reverse where I feel really comfortable in the smaller dynamic businesses, but want to work in the heart of corporate land, and feel that my entrepreneurial experience won’t be so valuable. Like it isn’t so ‘proper’. I will sit with this. I feel there is something in it.
You’re welcome to reach out after you’ve sat with this for a little bit. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.
Hi fearful sister 🙂
Thank’s for your bravery writing this post. Funnily enough, my latest post was on the very same subject, and even though it was incredibly scary to write and publish it, it somehow helped me to let go of a lot of fear. Like, if I tell it to the world I’m scared, I cannot get caught 😉 I also think one of the most generous and helpful things we can do to eachother is to admit that we too are afraid sometimes. It’s so easy to look around and see the brave surfaces of other people and think were the only one struggeling, when, in reality, the fearless are very few (it’s just very different what scares us )
The most important thing I learned about fear is that we cannot wait for it to go away before we can start acting, but we have to find ways to be able to move in spite of fear.
I think my favourite tool to handle fear is to reduce the danger level – to find the smallest step possible to take, and thus, by exposure, getting more and more confortable.
And to have support – it’s amazing how things can get less scary when you have someone holding your hand 🙂 But sometimes I really need a BIG challenge to get me going, I do big things without feeling prepared at all. I call it “mental bungyjumping” – it’s incredible scary but works like shock therapy. Knowing I did some of those things and SURVIVED really helps me in other situations.
Fear is still my constant follower, but I’ve started to learn how to deal with it, and hope it will gradually melt away
Ann-Sofi, you are so right about sometimes needing a big challenge to get going. Something about that extra pressure sometimes helps to motivate me! I love that your look back at some of those “mental bungyjumping” moments to help you in other situations.
Mo Cleary says
I love the energy of your post Danielle- you are so direct, honest, courageous and vulnerable. It is a combination that immediately puts your readers at ease and draws them in. The content, of course, is great too!
Claudia Goldblatt says
Danielle, thank you so much for your honesty and authenticity in this post – it’s sparked off such great comments too, and I’m grateful to read what others have shared.
I’m scared that my vision cannot become a reality – that everyone can see that it will never work and I’m blind to it. I’m scared that this makes me look like a fool. I’m also scared that I won’t be able to make an income from the business in order to support myself. I’m also scared that I’ve wasted the last year working on this and that I might have to give it up to get a ‘real’ job.
Throwing myself into big projects has helped, because when they work out I have strong evidence to show my ‘inner saboteur” to try shut her up!
Some people say faith is the antidote to fear, and that really helps me as I have a sense that my social enterprise is what I’m meant to be doing. Marianne Williamson says love is the antidote, so I try to be loving towards myself, and talk to myself as I would talk to my best friend or loved one.
Josie Diep says
Wonderful post and written with such honesty that you are likely to draw your community to you like a magnet. I notice that when I am about to embark on something completely new and outside of my comfort zone it’s like a raging war of internal battles and fear want’s to conquer. Fear can overwhelm, freeze us, make us retreat and yet when we do things despite our fear we realise how strong and powerful we can be. When I become fearful I ask myself is this fear real? Or is it what I perceive what might happen? If the worst case scenario did happen, how would I handle it? I also bring myself back to love that exists within us and around us.