Those of you who have met me will find this difficult to believe but when I launched my business I found myself lost for words.
My mission was to write an ‘about me’ page for my website and three Instagram posts but every time I tried to organise and make sense of my ideas I would break into a sweat. I desperately wanted to get it right and write something clear, concise and professional but after hours of agonising I wound up with a big fat zero.
Like many of you I became self-employed to do my own thing, my way. I’ve had lots of different jobs over the years and I had perfected the art of representing the ideas of other people, companies and organisations. Why couldn’t I do it for my own business? The stakes felt high and I felt anxious. I had invested time, money and an enormous amount of energy into bringing this business to life and I was scared stiff that I was going to mess it up! The worry got worse and worse and stopped me completing what should have been a simple task.
The truth was I wasn’t familiar with my own story. I wanted to be authentic but I was also worried I’d look like an imposter. Somewhere in the back of my head there was a critical voice that told me that the personal and professional should never meet. This worried me because my story was personal and I was afraid it wasn’t enough.
Tara Mohr described my problem perfectly in her book Playing Big. In her chapter on Hiding she explained that I (like many women) had spent years focused on curating the stories of others. It had become part of my ‘good girl’ conditioning. Looking further into my feminist roots I realised I had in fact been doing this all my life. At school I wrote essays which came from researching books written by men. In further education I learnt that my opinion was always secondary to the ‘evidence’ provided by others. In work I learnt that my expert opinion (or even the facts I had produced) were always secondary to the instinct of my boss, who was - you’ve guessed it, a man. I, and the teams of brilliant women I worked alongside learnt how to fit in, please male authority figures and do as we were told.
It’s not just me, my clients also find it difficult to centre themselves in their own businesses and that can bring up some big emotions. It’s not that they don’t have the skills, the knowledge or the story, they simply don’t believe it is enough. Sometimes their story is so rich they don’t know where to start or which parts would be useful to include and which to leave aside for now.
So, what can you do?
If you have no idea where to start with your own story, then I’ve got just the tool for you. One thing I’ve learnt about fear is that it hates being outed - it prefers to stay secret and hidden inside. Getting your thoughts and feelings out in the open could be just what you need for a fresh perspective shift.
I’m delighted to share with you my favourite tool for moving past doubt and sharing your own story.
Mindmap - take a fresh sheet of paper, write the words MY STORY in the middle and brain dump, get all your thoughts and feelings out. Write down everything that comes up, even the bits you’re not sure about, leave nothing out. Use two sheets if necessary 😉
Notice - take a look at all your scribblings. What do you notice? Are there any patterns or themes? It’s at this point that I love to get out the crayons. I colour the bits that feel like they link together and if that works for you, go for it. I also recommend writing down the things you notice for reference later.
Rate - What part feels most important to focus on right now? Go to each section and rate out of 10 for importance, 10 mega, 0 not so meh.
Share - Which part was a 10? Congratulations! This is where you start! How? Time to put the brave pants on and pick a place that feels the easiest to try. Here are some suggestions, social media post, live chat, networking, blog post, at the shops, with a neighbour, record yourself on your phone, or with the support of a fabulous PR consultant.
I hope this technique helps you to get started telling your story and gets you believing that it is enough. Outing your fears by writing down your thoughts is a really useful tool you can use again and again as you grow your business to help you move past those sticky places. This tool is also available as a worksheet.
Lisa Townsend, Change Your Badge is a Business Strategist and helps women entrepreneurs to focus, plan and feel in control. She lives in a tiny village on the wilds of the Cornish moorland with her family and dog Bertie. One of her favourite ways to manage overwhelm is to make a massive mind-map with crayons.