As children, we all want to fit in. We copy our peers and live in fear that someone will notice that we’re weird or different, because if someone notices there is a real risk of a mob of teasing and bullying to follow. At least, that’s what our brain tells us after hundreds of years wired to desire human connection for survival.
Hiding in the shadows is completely safe and totally natural. But safe won’t serve you if you’re trying to grow your business.
As entrepreneurs in the digital age, the lifeblood of our business is making connections with new people and showing up to stay top of mind. We are expected to run our business and live our lives in the public eye more than any generation of business builders that came before us.
Gone are the days of a publicity team vetting every published piece of content or email, training the company spokesperson to stay on message through mock interviews. Now, we ‘go live’ and try to appear *almost* flawless so that we can be seen as authoritative – yet approachable.
I don’t know about you, but stepping into the spotlight can paralyze me with fear. I tend to over-analyze every email and every post before publishing, and more often than not I save what I have to say in a ‘drafts’ folder never to see the light of day.
Have you ever typed a comment on social media and deleted it before pushing publish? Yeah, me too.
What I’m trying to say here is that although I may have a little more experience with speaking up and although I’m able to put on the brave and confident face when I share some of the dialogue going on in my hear, I’m feeling the fear just as much as (if not more than) everyone else.
The following 5 points are not just for you. They are something that I’m putting out there so that the next time I want to bury my head under the pillow or my finger hovers over the publish/go live button, not sure whether I can handle actually clicking it, I have something to refer back to.
1. Share your opinion, even if it may change.
This is a biggy for me. I worry constantly about voicing an opinion in case I later change my mind and get called out for it. I’ve seen it happen to so many other entrepreneurs online. The truth to remember here is that you can only speak to the information and experiences you have had until this point in your life, and that information is entirely relevant and worth sharing. We all grow as people, and we all change the way we think about different topics. The worst thing that can happen is that we will have to be mature enough to say “I’ve changed my position on this topic and this is why” in the future.
2. You have no reason to
Living a ‘public’ life often means sharing photos and videos of you, your family, your work, your home. I think there are more business owners who are scared of going on video or posting photos than we can ever know, and I think they hold back because they don’t like how they look or they are ashamed that they don’t have the Instagram worthy office. I’m here to say that there is NOTHING wrong with how you look or what your workspace looks like. It’s a snapshot of where you are right now, and it’s part of your journey and your story (whether you want to admit it or not).
3. Accept that you feel fear, even though you are safe.
Studies show that many people are more afraid of public speaking than of death. DEATH, people. And while we can all say how crazy that sounds, the truth is that our brains are wired to keep us from standing out from the crowd. Rationally, we know that nobody is going to jump out of our smartphone screen to murder us, but it doesn’t stop the irrational part of our brain and body from going into fight or flight mode. The trick here is not to fight the fear, but to acknowledge and accept it. It’s here to keep you safe, and you can choose to let it control you or empower you.
If you want more on this topic, I highly recommend you read Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. You have to be open to it for it to work its magic. I should know, it took me a couple tries to really get into it.
4. Now is the perfect time to make mistakes.
Chances are, if you keep at this entrepreneurial journey for long you will amass a larger and larger audience. In other words, right now you are the least known that you will ever be again in your career. Give yourself permission to make a mess of things. Test assumptions, and be prepared to laugh at yourself if you get it wrong. Because you will. And so does everyone else. While we *can* learn from other people’s mistakes and failures, it’s not until you get off the bench and actually try to do something that you can know what works and what doesn’t. Don’t expect perfection from yourself.
Bonus point: Don’t expect perfection from other people, either. Make an effort to connect with other *imperfect* people who don’t make you feel like an idiot for not knowing how to do everything right.
5. Someone out there REALLY needs to hear what you have to say.
Right now, there is someone feeling lost, confused, embarrassed or stressed out – and you can help them. You might be able to guide them, empower them, or even help them laugh at themselves. What you have to say might be exactly what they need to hear, and more importantly, you might be exactly who they need to hear it from. Even in the early stages when you feel like you are speaking to nobody, the messages you put out now might help someone months or years down the road so START SPEAKING. They can’t get the message if you never make the call.
I’ve shared some opinions above that not everyone will agree with. The simple act of putting your thoughts out there opens you up to criticism, and for some of us, that can be heart-wrenching. Yet if I can help just one person gain the confidence to open up and share their message, I feel like it is all worth it.
Has anything above resonated with you? Please let me know. You can comment publicly below this post, share it with your network, or send me an email to hello [at] jessicawicks.ca if you’d rather keep it private.