It’s been nearly 10 years since I first started my own business. I remember walking into the business name registry (back then we had to apply in person) with $120 in hand to secure my business name.
10 years ago, I would spring out of bed, excited about creating and marketing my little business, Mumatopia.
Facebook business pages were thriving marketplaces for small operators back then. It was really easy to sell stuff and everyone was excited about the possibilities.
In the years since, I’ve done pretty much everything from selling my own handmade wares in markets and online to entering and winning a startup competition and running my own content marketing consultancy.
I’ve had a lot of wins but, like many other women in business, I’ve also experienced my fair share of failures. And when I’ve experienced failure, I’ve been particularly hard on myself… harder than anyone else could be.
In fact, in the past year particularly, I’ve taken out the proverbial club and beat myself senseless.
The conversation you have with yourself when you fail
I am in the process of winding up my startup Writally after it became clear that it just wasn’t going to work. The biggest hurdle I ran into was being a solo founder. It’s tough and it puts investors off.
After validating a few new ideas (or not validating, as the case may be), I started work on a new startup in the social innovation space with a brilliant co-founder.
If I’m honest, I felt a great sense of shame and embarrassment at having to close Writally’s doors. I get it happens in the startup world. I get I’m not the only one, but it hurts nonetheless.
Since making that decision I’ve lost my mojo a bit.
Imposter syndrome has been hovering over me as I deal with the fallout from closing my startup.
The conversation I’ve been having with myself about getting out there and doing something new has been pretty nasty.
“You’re a failure. You’ve fucked everything up. Everybody thinks you’re an idiot.”
The story I’ve made up about myself is so unkind and harsh that it is ridiculous. And yet, some days, I treat it like it is real.
In those moments all of my business achievements go out the window.
The impact of listening to your internal dialogue
The impact of indulging my internal dialogue has been pretty huge.
The moment I think about sharing my expertise, I experience this overwhelming sense of panic.
Lately, I haven’t been living into the possibility of being a global changemaker and kickass businesswoman. Instead, I’ve been wallowing and hiding. Mental health is an awkward topic in the startup world.
When I do feel a spark of motivation, I start to play the comparison game. I see other women doing amazing things online and I tell myself “you’re not good enough. You don’t have your shit together. Why would anyone listen to you?” And so I don’t even try… a far cry from the woman who ran 3 Mums’ retreats, spoke at Midwifery conferences and ran a successful local business for years.
As I move through the vicious cycle, I start to feel more anxious, so anxious that some days it paralyses me.
The doctor gave me a prescription for anti-anxiety medication. I haven’t taken it yet but I keep staring at the bottle. I know numbing the pain won’t solve anything.
Reflecting on what I have accomplished
I’ve done so many amazing things in the past 10 years. I have travelled the world, written a bestselling book and won a startup competition. I have won awards and grants and all kinds of accolades and contributed to the success of some amazing organisations.
Yes, I’ve had some massive setbacks, have fucked a few things up and not lived into my potential.
No, that doesn’t mean I’m a failure and that I have nothing to contribute to other human beings.
And so I continue on… searching, growing and dreaming.
Surrounding yourself with believers
I am blessed to have amazing people in my life who look at me way more kindly than I have been looking at myself of late.
They think I’m awesome, kickass, capable and a dynamo but they also know when to hold space and just be with me through the ups and downs.
So, I’m making a commitment to live into the potential others see in me in 2020. No more comparisons, no more wallowing and doubt, no more beating myself up.
Focusing on what matters
Where I have had success this year, it’s mostly boiled down to focusing on what truly matters to me and being intentional.
My cofounder developed a method for keeping us on track and accountable (Given that’s what we want to empower others to do, we thought it was a good idea).
As part of that, I write down what is important to me in every area of life, create what I am out to achieve and what my next steps are.
Here are some of the results from focusing on what is important to me and my life:
- being in an awesome relationship with a loving partner
- raising 3 exceptional kids who have excelled at school and university
- winning the Lord Mayor’s Entrepreneurship Grant and travelling to New York for the first time in my life
- making a huge dent in my credit card debts
- losing 5kg since this time last year and lowering my blood pressure
- reorganising and cleaning my house
- publishing 5 new books on Amazon and creating a merchandise range for my new startup #wityayl (What’s important to you and your life?)
- writing a new book about possibility
- creating a real estate social media marketing course on Teachable
It seems risky to share all this. Risky, because it’s so human and it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. However, I figured that I wasn’t the only one, and if it makes you feel heard and gotten, it was worth sharing.
If you’ve been hard on yourself, had imposter syndrome and experienced failure, I’m right there with you. You will be okay. There are just lessons to be learned and next steps to take.
My first decade in business certainly took me on a rollercoaster ride but I’m still strapped in.
Bring on the next 10 years.