Last fall, my on-demand storage company was selected to participate in a pre-accelerator program here in Detroit. Truth be told, I didn’t know what a pre-accelerator was at the time. But I knew it was an opportunity to help create a strategy for growth and development within the business. So what the heck – I went for it!
The structure for each of the 8 classes was pretty similar – networking with peers and mentors, then a lecture or group discussion about overcoming common startup challenges, and finally, each and every class ended with a business pitch with subsequent feedback from the audience (to which we were not allowed to respond).
That first pitch was a surprise to me, and according to everyone who has ever seen it, that first one was my worst performance of the 8. I was unprepared, off the cuff, and raw. But here’s the thing – I was also natural and confident and REAL. I spoke from my heart about why I loved my company and what value I thought we brought to the marketplace. I closed my little 2-minute speech feeling great!
But that high didn’t last long – the critiques came flying fast and furious. And I couldn’t help but feel personally attacked despite the well-intentioned nature of the feedback. Hearing criticisms on everything from my presentation-style to my business model chipped away at my confidence in both myself AND the business, and left me feeling exposed and insecure. And if there is one characteristic that successful entrepreneurs do not have, it’s insecurity. I would catch myself in a repeating mental loop that perhaps I’m just not cut out for this whole “owning a business” thing. I would find myself dreading each week’s class, telling myself I would probably bomb the pitch like I did all the others. Before I tell you how this story ends, let’s talk a little bit about limiting beliefs and why they are so damning and detrimental to your business.
So, What the Heck Are Limiting Beliefs?
First thing’s first: we should define limiting beliefs because having a solid understanding of what they are and how they work is critical.
A limiting belief is something you believe about yourself that tends to hold you back from being and doing all of the great things you are capable of.
They can be found in the stories you tell yourself – particularly about your personality, abilities, or your life – that you simply BELIEVE to be true, but are not necessarily actually true (in fact, spoiler alert, those negative stories you tell yourself are almost NEVER true!)
Limiting Beliefs Can Ruin Your Business
The trouble with limiting beliefs is that they can sneak into your subconscious, settle in, and start making a mess of things without you even noticing. Any time you’ve told yourself that you “can’t do it” or you’re “just no good” at something, or “that’s just the way it is”, then I’ve got some bad news for you: you’ve fallen victim to limiting beliefs. And this could mean the difference between life and death for your business.
So much of owning a business is quieting the negative self-talk in your head long enough to dig down deep and find the guts to do the thing that you know you were put on this earth to do. Yes, critiques and criticisms are a natural part of life, and certainly a natural part of owning a business. But it’s so so important not to internalize other people’s opinions of who you are and what you’re doing. This is a slippery slope that usually just leads to debilitation and paralysis.So much of owning a business is quieting the negative self-talk in your head long enough to dig down deep and find the guts to do the thing that you know you were put on this earth to do.Click To Tweet
I promise this isn’t just the woo-woo in me talking. Negativity and self-doubt are the first things that have to go when you start a business, and here are 5 key reasons why.
1. Limiting Beliefs Will Blind You to Opportunities and Solutions That Are Right in Front of You
As humans, our brains crave a good problem to solve. And as a small business owner, there will be plenty of problems that need solving. But when you’re feeding yourself a steady diet of “I can’t” or “I’m not good enough” or “this will never work”, you run the risk of sinking so deep into your self-skepticism that you blind yourself to potential opportunities that may be right in front of you. I still find myself experiencing this personally. When things go wrong and I start to panic, the panicking reduces my ability to see my situation clearly. I have to very conscientiously pull myself out of the negativity well and get back on track. So to you, I say: stay focused on the great work you’re doing!
2. People Can Sense When You Don’t Believe in Yourself, and They Won’t Believe In You Either
This one might seem obvious, but I feel like it should be emphasized, particularly because there may come a time when you start to lose faith in your own business idea. If you ever find that you’ve heard the word “no” just 1 or 2 times too many, and you start to doubt that your business has wings, you’ll have to find a way to shove those inner criticisms to the side so that you can keep pounding the (physical or digital) pavement. Because really, how are you going to convince others that your product or service has value when you don’t believe it yourself?
Confidence in your products or services will be even more important when you give your customers your pricing information. If you waffle on your price or offer your services at deeply discounted rates, you’re sending a message that even you aren’t confident in what you have to sell. Constantly remind yourself that what you have to offer has value in the marketplace.
3. Mental Toughness Will Help When Business is Slow
When your phone is constantly ringing, your email constantly chiming with inquiries from prospective clients, and your business checking account is constantly on the rise, it’s easy for your confidence to be through the roof. It’s those pesky dry spells that will have you second-guessing EVERYTHING. And while it’s true that you need to continually check in with current and prospective customers to make sure what you have to offer them suits their needs, ebbs and flows are totally common in the world of business. Stick with it. A no today doesn’t mean a no forever. Remind yourself of that.
4. Limiting Beliefs Will Break Down Thick Skin
As a new business owner, you will find yourself telling everyone you know about what you have to offer. Some people will love your idea and will want to purchase from you right away. Many people will not, unfortunately (their loss!) Nobody likes being told “no,” but it’s a word you may come across your fair share of times as an entrepreneur. But remember: your business will not exist unless you are confident in your abilities to bring it to light. Remind yourself that you have something of value to offer to the world. That notion will get you through times when it seems like nothing is going your way.
5. Those Negative Things You Tell Yourself Are Simply Not True, and the Sooner You Understand That, the Better Off You’ll Be
This one hits really close to home for me because self-esteem is not always my strong suit. So I’ll admit this part of the post is for me as much as it is for you. Lean in, let me tell you a secret: I have been known to tell myself stories about my abilities as a small business owner that I wouldn’t even dream of telling my worst enemy! But in my clear moments (there’s it is again – the importance of clarity!) I remember that none of those negative things are true. And the faster I can remind myself of that, the faster I can move closer to my goals and get back on the path of amazing awesomeness. Remember that, sweet friend. You have SO MUCH to offer the world. There’s no time for self-pity.
Erase All Doubt
Back to the pre-accelerator program… Around week 5 or 6, a new client reached out. She was in a very serious domestic crisis and our unique storage solution fit her needs to a tee. Our ability to turn-on-a-dime and move quickly quite literally rescued her from danger. And while I was very sad for her situation, it felt indescribably good for my service to be the exact solution that someone needed. Once I remembered that my company did indeed bring value to the marketplace, my confidence was restored and pitches from then on were easy-breezy.
Entrepreneurship can be a mentally and emotionally exhausting marathon. But imposing limiting beliefs on your abilities and your propensity for success will only make things worse. They will block you from your success and paralyze you if you let them. To you, fearless entrepreneurial warrior, I say: Stay optimistic. Stay clearheaded. Stay open to unexpected or unlikely solutions. And for goodness sake, get that head trash outta there!
I want to hear from you. Do you find that you have to change your inner narrative to something more positive and uplifting? Or is your self-esteem totally in check? Let me know in the comments. And if this resonated with you, or you know someone who could use this message, I’d love for you to share it!
Cheers to the Journey!