Holly Howard runs Ask Holly How, a small business consulting company based out of Williamsburg, Brooklyn that works with a wide variety of businesses from restaurants to retail to art studios and pretty much everything in between. Her clients report increased income and profit, decreased expenses and a significantly better quality of life. Holly heads up the Small Business Book Club at McNally Jackson Books.
Want valuable insight into how to grow your business? Holly hosts FREE 30 minute strategy sessions at The Yard in Williamsburg. Email her to set up a time firstname.lastname@example.org or to ask a question for the next Ask Holly How.
I feel like I have a brilliant idea for a business, but I am totally afraid to put myself out there. I have major self-doubt that I am any good at what I do, even though the feedback I get about my business is generally positive. I have a deep seated fear of making a mistake and worry that if I don’t get over this, I’ll never be able to create the business I want. Do you have any advice for me on how to get over this crippling self-doubt? I feel like everyone else is so confident in what they do. How can I build my confidence too?
I love this question and bet a whole lot of other people—people you think are so confident—can really relate to this. Everyone deals with self-doubt; some people are just more skilled at working through it, while others tend to bury it, which never works out well.
First, know that building confidence comes from taking action. So the longer you sit with your thoughts and your self-doubt, without taking any action to move forward, the worse the situation will be. You have to dive in at some point and when you do, it’s likely that some of that self-doubt will diminish. You don’t need to overwhelm yourself here. Start with the smallest step you can think of and build on that. At your stage, any action is greater than no action.
Second, surround yourself with supportive friends and colleagues. We tend to feed off of the energy of those closest to us, and if you’re immersed in a group of naysayers, it will be much more challenging to build your confidence. Look around and ask if the people you spend your time with are supportive, or do they bring you down? Do they have an optimistic view of the world or are they judgmental and cynical? The late leadership guru, Jim Rohn said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” The people you choose to surround yourself with matters. When you’re working on building your confidence, put yourself in the presence of people you admire. Seek out events and opportunities that will connect you to these people. It will make a difference.
Third, you mentioned being afraid of making a mistake. No great business was built without mistakes; it’s all about how you deal with them. Think of every person you’ve ever admired, and I’m sure they have a dozen stories for you about the mistakes they’ve made along the way, and how they used those mistakes to improve upon themselves and their business. Look at mistakes as an opportunity to learn and grow. Sometimes it’s helpful to really consider the worst case scenario, because often times the reality of the worst case scenario is not as bad as the drama we tend to fill our minds with. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Just don’t make the same mistake twice.
Good luck! It’s great that you’re aware of this now while you’re starting your business rather than letting it go and get worse. Great businesses start with great leadership and great leadership starts with confidence. Take time to address this now, and you’ll surely have the success you desire and deserve.