Today I am putting out a post that will probably touch on personal but through many of the conversations I have with new and old friends, I think it is something worth talking (writing/waffling) about. Fear is a tiny word that can have a huge affect on people and when you are launching/running your own business it can be debilitating.
N.B. I am talking about the kind of internal fear that affects your confidence and ability to make yourself visible - not the kind that engulfs you if you come face to face with a shark or lion so PLEASE GOD do not try and fight that fear - run for your lives (or whatever else Bear Grylls types recommend for these kinds of incidents.)
Three (ish) years ago I packed in my job as a supervisor at a high-end fashion store in Notting Hill wanting to set up a stationery business. And I choked. Big time. I spent a year ‘freelancing’ on the surface but inside I was freaking the eff out frequently. I spent days sleeping and crying with frustrating not knowing what I wanted to do or how to get where I wanted to be… Over this time I slowly went through my savings and basically did nothing, and it was embarrassing. I was embarrassed that I wasn't supporting myself and living off my boyfriend and I was embarrassed that I had no drive at all left in me, the drive that had got me through school, college and university had disappeared and I had no idea how to get it back.
The overwhelm took over me and the fear was uncontrollable. I didn't think I was good enough, I didn't think anyone else would think I was good enough and I certainly had no clue where to start. Even stuff like who to use for printing and on what paper - sent me into a total panic because it was so just too overwhelming. My natural response to feeling any kind of stressful emotion - sadness, anxiety, overwhelm - is to sleep soooooo as you can imagine not much gets done. I pushed away everyone that was trying to help me because I was ashamed and scared of how I was feeling. Yep, that's right - scared of the fear. HOW DOES THAT EVEN WORK GODDAMN. Way too many emotions.
As I am writing this I am sat on a train going up to the midlands to teach at The Handmade Fair for three days. Over the past year, I have taught over 100 people in groups of 10-20 and I love it, I get such a buzz from it, something that shocked me as I am naturally quite shy with people that I don't know. However this weekend I am teaching 100 people IN ONE GO, on three occasions, and I am absolutely terrified. It hasn't been helped by an overly stressful week but I have the hugest knot in my stomach and I am so so so scared that I am going to get up there in front of all these people and freeze. So how do I deal with this? By just doing it, at this point I don't really have a choice anyway I can't back out, but I have to trust my knowledge and my experience and just get up there and teach like I would any other time.
Fear is an emotion that happens to everyone, it's scary but what it does is release the hormone adrenaline which induces the ‘Fight or Flight’ instinct in us so we have options - we can either run away from it (for me this includes curling in a ball and going to sleep) OR we can fight it. Take that fear by the balls and say NO you will not control me I am going to kick your butt (please refer to my note above and please don't do this to an angry shark…swim for your life my friend SWIM).
It has taken me a really really long time to get to the latter - but after I had my son I had this new found determination, I didn't want or need to do this just for me I needed to do it for him too and it clicked. That is not to say that the fear went away - putting myself out there was still excruciatingly terrifying but I knew that I just had to do it, so I took that fear by the balls put a website out there and released my baby into the world (business baby not real baby that would be terrible parenting). When it comes to business in my opinion and small amount of experience things are rarely as terrible as you think, and my website and brand was greeted by waves of enthusiasm from friends, industry peoples and potential clients. No one laughed at me, no one said are you being serious, no one asked me if it was a joke and no one turned around and said that I was awful and would never make it. All the things I was terrified about didn't happen, and why? Because generally the stuff we get ‘the fear’ about is usually made up in our heads.
Fear will always play a huge part in my life, I know that, especially the kind of anxiety led fear that I get which can stop me wanting to leave the house. But I have realised that when it comes to my business I cannot let it rule me and my decisions because I would never do anything. I get pangs of fear when someone asks me to do something I haven't done before, but then I ask myself why? They are asking me to do something related to my job i.e./ calligraphy not to lead open heart surgery. So WHY am I scared? I have always been able to work things out before and if I can’t I am part of an amazing community and usually at least one superstar in there can help me figure it out.
It’s the unknown that gets the fear amped up but we have to believe that we are a lot more capable than we give ourselves credit for. Whether you have run a business before or not (I haven’t) you will have a wealth of experience to draw on just from doing life. For me I worked in a designer store for four years - I have a huge amount of experience in client communication and giving clients an amazing sales experience, going from a store supervisor to calligrapher might not seem like the most related jump but I draw on this experience daily and I fully believe that it makes me better at my job.
So to tie this up - as these posts get so long and I really don't want to bore you all to death….
- Fear is a natural response to the unknown and we don't have to be scared/ashamed of the fact we are feeling it.
- Fear can be run away from or faced head on. Do the latter in business, the first if faced with a man-eating beast.
- The things we are scared of very rarely happen because we have built them up in our heads.
- Ask yourself WHY your scared…if the answer is ‘because people might hate it’ slap yourself and get on with it. People WON’T hate it and if they do then they are dicks and aren't your market.
- We are much more capable than we give ourselves credit for.
- YOU are enough and what you do is amazing so say F you to the fear and get yourself out there.
I hope that maybe this post is in the least bit helpful!
Note - I am posting this after the handmade fair which was GREAT! After I got over the horrendous nerves it was absolutely fine and nothing awful happened like I had imagined and I just got on with doing the same thing I do every time I teach. The sense of achievement afterwards was amazing and I felt so proud of myself for doing it. So the proof is in the pudding - the reward for facing the fear can be so rewarding!