I stood there catching my breath. Thoughts were gushing in my mind. “You don’t even believe in me,” I sighed to my best friend. “No one does.”
As soon as the words left my mouth, it dawned on me. This was a metaphorical mirror — a projection of my own reality. I’d hit a wall. Exhausted physically and emotionally from working 100-hour weeks, it was now as clear as day: I had lost my way in believing in me.
This wasn’t about others, it was about my own relationship with myself.
Usually fueled by a quiet confidence, I’d become worn down, paralysed from making decisions as big as the best way to issue company stock right down to the minutiae of which Instagram filter to use. I was plagued with self-doubt. Which was the best way forward? What are all the possible outcomes? Are things succeeding or failing? Who can and will help me?
The Entrepreneur’s Confidence Rollercoaster
Some people think they’re awesome. They even outwardly share the sentiment. From a young age, parents coo to them how special they are. Unfortunately, I’ve battled with feeling the opposite for most of my life. Couple this with an energetic drive and you have a delicate tension to balance.
The thing about entrepreneurship is that you’re forever operating outside a box or known boundaries. That’s why some of the greatest innovators are ignorant to begin with.
The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.
This freedom can be crippling. Your confidence can be built to egocentric levels one day and smashed down to nothing the next. You contemplate how taking a job would feel like a sweet retirement. You are drowning in advice and critical feedback from everyone, and forget what it was like when you were in that position. You look around at everyone’s social media showreels and wonder if they are going through the same.
It’s only now that publications like Inc. are uncovering tales from founders with articles such as The Psychological Price of Entrepreneurship:
Entrepreneurs have struggled silently. There’s a sense that they can’t talk about it, that it’s a weakness.
One of the most-loved conferences by web geeks, Brooklyn Beta, created a space to host and share these conversations in 2013. Leading startup incubator Y Combinator also recently funded 7 Cups of Tea, a mental health platform that connects you with qualified listeners.
We’re only just beginning to rejoice in what sharing in this area can be like.
Overcoming Doubt with Gratitude and Perspective
With some space, it’s been almost comical to personally reflect on my progress. How our company can be profiled in a national newspaper one day, an incredible co-founder join me the next, and our growth be up 50% month/month in November — and still feel this way.
Never let the things you want make you forget the things you have.
It’s natural we want to keep pushing, but it’s important to recall the wins so you can curb any self-doubt. One helpful practice is keeping a done list, which will show you what you did rather than your to-do list. Ryan Nicodemus discusses in the “Costs and Benefits of Awareness” the cost of failing to shift your perspective to recall your wins:
Our standards change whenever we are infected with a new awareness. We scrutinize ourselves more. The more we scrutinize, the more the spotlight brightens, and the more our imperfections stand out.
Tiny Buddha’s Melissa Ng recommends being careful with who you surround yourself with. When you are rebuilding your belief, keep away from toxic people who will tell you “No” or “You can’t”. I often divide people into two groups: critics and cheerleaders. Your critics are crucial for providing awareness that helps you grow, but in times of self-criticism and doubt, devote time to your cheerleaders who will egg you on and boost you up.
Ng also reminds us that:
Self-doubt never disappears. Over time, you just get better at dealing with it. It will greet you every time you fall out of your comfort zone and whenever you strive to do something great. But know that it’s not something you have to fear or resent. Your doubts are only thoughts, not your future.
Now excuse me while I go remember and appreciate I might actually know stuff.
This article originally appeared on Kate’s blog and has been edited.
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