Little Book of Confusables

How to kick self-doubt to the curb and become your biggest cheerleader

When was the last time you went outside your comfort zone? I mean, really? Or do you – like many freelancers and small business owners – shy away from opportunities for fear of messing up or looking daft?

It’s a common problem – and it’s holding you back.

Many years ago, I watched a Derren Brown show about luck. His point was that people who thought they were unlucky were closed off to opportunities. Like stepping over a stray £20 note on the pavement, they simply didn’t see them. Meanwhile, those who thought they were lucky spotted opportunities All. The. Time.

I decided there and then that I wanted to fall into the second category.

And it works. It really does.


Opportunity knocks

When you open your eyes – and your mind – opportunities are all around you. Whether you grasp them with both hands and use them to develop your skills, your network and your career depends on your mindset.

Perhaps there’s a chance to collaborate with another business owner on Instagram, you’re invited to take part in a live event, or there’s a niche that’s begging for an online course that’s just your speciality.

Without the right mindset, these opportunities will pass you by.


Because of fear, self-doubt and imposter syndrome.

You know imposter syndrome. It’s that nagging feeling that you’re inadequate, incompetent, and generally undeserving of success – and it runs deep in the world of self-employment.

Sometimes imposter syndrome shows up as a mean voice in your head: “You think you can succeed in business? Who are you kidding?” or “You can’t charge that! Who do you think you are?!”.

Sometimes it’s the crippling anxiety that accompanies the start of a project for a new client. The fear of failure, of disappointing people, and of not being good enough.

Sometimes it’s a feeling that you’ve been faking it and you’ll be exposed as a fraud at any moment. That you don’t deserve success, and you’ve only got where you are today by sheer guts and chance.

Imposter syndrome and self-doubt stem from a fear of being found out or not measuring up – despite evidence to the contrary.

Of course you know what you’re doing. On a good day, you might even admit you’re damn good at it. Yet still they lurk around the corner, waiting to stop you in your tracks when you least expect it.

If you’re not careful, these powerful feelings will keep you stuck.

They position you firmly in your comfort zone, stops you taking risks, and prevent you from doing those things that are good for business.

The perfection connection

Imposter syndrome’s big sister is perfectionism. As Winston Churchill once said, “Perfection is the enemy of progress,” – and it’s easy to see why.

You can always spend more time polishing that presentation, faffing with that website or sharpening that course content but remember – done is better than perfect.

Whatever it is that’s getting in your way, remember – it doesn’t have to be life-changing or world-class or revolutionary. There will never be a perfect time, and you’ll never be truly ready.

Sometimes you just need to put your big girl pants on and put it out there into the big wide world. Because only when it’s out there can you get feedback, improve, rinse and repeat.

So just do it.

“But what if I fail?”

Here’s a thing – what if you don’t? You can’t make a success of self-employment without taking risks. You may fail big, you may fail often… but failure is how we develop as both individuals and business owners.

We fail, we learn, we grow.

Make fear work for you

It’s easy to feel the fear and freeze, like a rabbit in headlamps – but the flurry of butterflies that descends when we step outside our comfort zone reminds us we’re alive.

Any time you have to do something brave and uncomfortable, like a talk or presentation, remember that being nervous and being excited feel just the same.

Tell your brain you’re excited to be doing something new – something bold – and you’re more likely to enjoy it, and to do well.

Show that fear who’s boss

Being aware of the situations and circumstances that trigger self-doubt can help you feel more equipped to deal with them. A few simple strategies – described in detail in Survival Skills for Freelancers – can help you keep self-doubt and imposter syndrome in check:

  • Accept mistakes
  • Stop comparing yourself
  • Keep negative self-talk in check… and keep talking
  • Reward yourself for taking risks
  • List the things you’re good at
  • Celebrate your successes

You’re not alone

It’s easy to feel like you’re alone with these fears but you’re not. There are hundreds of thousands of small biz owners out there just like you. The secret to facing – and embracing – them is to find those likeminded people.

And when you find them? Reach out, connect, learn, support, collaborate and grow.

You’ve got this.

This post first appeared as a guest blog for the female entrepreneur community, Found & Flourish.

Photo of the bestselling guide to self-employment, Survival Skills for Freelancers, by Sarah Townsend

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