Today is the second day of the second year of running my own business. It has been an amazing year of discovery, success, and vulnerability. So I thought this an opportune time to share some of my own brain wrangling that I have done this year, to help those who might be on a similar journey.
Something that I have really had to manage this year is a truckload of "Self doubt". Self doubt is all about fear. Fear of being judged, fear of failing, fear of the unknown, and the list goes on. It's that little voice inside our head that says "Are you sure you can do this?!". I am not embarrassed to admit that I have felt this way, nor do I want to cover it up. We need to stop pretending we are ten foot tall and bullet proof and talk about our vulnerability because it is ABSOLUTELY NORMAL.
Whenever we challenge ourselves to do something which stretches us outside our comfort zone, our brain gets triggered and starts questioning us. This is because our brain is obsessed with keeping us safe from anything uncertain or scary. It doesn't consider whether the threat is real, it just wants to make sure we are comfortable and out of harms way. So our lovely brain tries to convince us to stick with what we are familiar with and what makes us feel comfortable. However, success and growth come with a side serve of discomfort and uncertainty and sometimes you just have to eat it.
So for those of you out there who are trying something new, or challenging yourself in ways that you have never done before, here are my:
3 Tips for How to Manage Self Doubt.
1. Welcome the discomfort. Discomfort is how you know that you are stretching yourself to be better than you were yesterday. Every time we stretch and do something for the first time, we lay down new pathways in our brain. This requires effort and this is part of the reason our brain puts in a protest. However, every time we use those new pathways, they will become more and more familiar, and that task will get easier. You have to move through the discomfort to grow and change and be better.
2. Educate yourself. Often one of the biggest fears that contributes to self doubt is that we feel like we don't have the skills or the knowledge required for the task. First of all, you need to figure out if that is actually true. Look back on your experiences and the work you have to done to date and be honest with yourself. If you do find out the answer is "no", then upskill. Read, take an online course, speak to others who have done what you want to do, and read some more. I have found that people are incredibly generous with their time and knowledge and want to see you succeed. Absorb every bit of it. However, there is a danger associated with this, and it is what I call "hiding in learning". It is when we rationalise out our delay to act because we are "learning", because learning is important right? So my advice is to deadline it. Give yourself a set period of time to upskill, then move forward with your goal.
3. It doesn't have to be perfect. Self doubt, perfectionism and procrastination make a lethal cocktail and they often travel in threes. We put an enormous amount of pressure on ourselves to ensure our first try at something is perfect. The problem is, perfection is undefinable and subjective and trying to achieve it is a wild goose chase. One of my favourite quotes comes from software development and it says "if you are not embarassed by your first release, you have held on to it for too long". Your expectations are likely to be way higher than the expectations of your market. My first branding, the first version of my website, my first presentation were all imperfect and it didn't matter. We learn, we improve and we keep moving forward. Striving for perfection is fine but when attaining it is a criteria for moving forward, that is when you get into trouble.