Hi! I’m Ashlee Livingstone, fellow fempreneur, coffee lover, mom and experienced self-doubter. For most of my life, self doubt has been the nagging gremlin on my shoulder that whispers in my ear the most unhelpful of things.
It ranges but often sounds like this:
“Are you sure you want to do that?”, “What will they think?”, “That’s not how so and so does it”
“I think you are going to be embarrassed by that”, “They aren’t going to (like, respect, listen to) you”
“Can you actually call yourself an expert?”
Really, I could go on and on, but I know you get my point.
As I’ve come to recognize this whisper as self doubt, I’ve had more success at not listening to it. And the more I’ve worked on my personal growth, mindset and developing deeper self trust to move my life and small business forward, the more that whisper is fading.
In my journey to learn more about self doubt and how it holds us back I’ve used my personal experience and that of my clients, who tend to mostly be woman-owned business owners, to get clear on a few key points:
- Self Doubt is a feeling, not fact.
- It is rooted in fear.
- and it a protector we have developed to keep us safe from failure and embarrassment.
Three of the most common ways I see self doubt show up include: Perfectionism, Impostor Syndrome, Decision Paralysis
Let’s break this down with some examples for those of you who are thinking…. “Nah, perfectionism is great it pushes me to be the best”, or “everyone has impostor syndrome and I like asking other people to make decisions for me – its’ helpful” …. I see you and I’ve heard it all before!
Keep reading friends!
The need to be and do everything perfectly stems from a rooted fear that if you don’t perform, prepare, deliver, or look perfect then others will judge you, think less about you, criticize you and so on – it’s fear of failure. As a female business owner you may believe “my clients will go to someone better” or “I don’t want to be embarrassed or judged by others”, “they are paying me, so I need to wow them”.
Perfectionism is self doubt dressed up as achievement, expectations, and the gold stars. Which is why in this form it is hard to shake – because it can look like something we “should” want. Perfectionism is doubting that what you have done, your expertise, your value, your worth, your service, you being you is enough. Perfectionism is the fear of not being good enough. Even good enough isn’t enough… the goal is perfect. In your commitment towards perfection, self doubt fuels the fear and pushes you, questions you, judges you and makes you believe you are not good enough, so you keep pushing, editing, re-doing, stressing, over-delivering, and over-committing.
So why is this a problem? I hear all the time that TIME is a limited resource to many solopreneurs and women in business and perfectionism is a HUGE time leak. You spend way more time on projects, emails, social media, proposals, etc. You triple check, you question, you nit pick every detail multiple times. Instead of trusting in your ability you believe you’ve likely missed something, so you spend more time than you have.
As a leader it may show up like: “if you want something done right, then you should just do it yourself”, having unrealistic expectations, constantly editing or changing your team’s work/goals/expectations – not because it is wrong, but because it’s just not perfect or the way you would do it. Perhaps this is why you have not yet hired or why you cannot keep team members on board. In these cases, perfectionism is holding you back from business growth and sustainability.
By definition it is doubting your expertise, accomplishments, worth and value. Feeling like a fraud even though everyone else can see your experience and trusts you…. You don’t trust you and you worry it just a matter of time before you are “discovered”.
Just yesterday, I was talking to a woman in her 60s who was sought out and recruited for a promotion in her company. I asked her how it was going, and she said: “I hate it. Ever since I got the new role, I’ve been waking up in the middle of the night worrying that I’m going to mess up and they are all going to realize I’m not qualified to do this job”. Now, this woman is exhausted because she isn’t sleeping well, she’s spending a ton more time triple checking her work, over delivering to prove herself and heavy with anxious feelings.
As women in business when we are asked to speak, share our expert opinion, do an IG live in someone’s community, even when we are selling to clients – impostor syndrome can hold us back from seizing these opportunities and making the most out of them. When we doubt ourselves, it shows up to others as a lack of confidence – and it does indeed make it harder for others to trust us when we don’t even trust us.
As women we make so many decisions each day and this can 100% be overwhelming. But there is a difference between “I’m tired of making decisions” and “I don’t think I should make this decision”. One is energy and the other is doubt. When you rely on others to constantly help you make decisions, weigh your pros and cons, take a quick look at something for you, this is a pretty good sign you don’t trust your own opinion, and you doubt yourself. Again (there’s a pattern here) it is wasting your time, energy and confidence. As women in business, we need to own our time, our energy and develop the trust and confidence that we do in fact have the answers and know what we are doing!! Cause we do!!!
So now that I’ve dropped some truth bombs, let’s chat about ways you CAN ditch self doubt and develop deep self trust and confidence.
- Developing Emotional Awareness: Start by taking time and space each day to check in with yourself, reflect on how you are feeling, what triggers you may be experiencing and observing patterns in how you respond. Journalling can be a very helpful tool, as well as labelling your emotions (name how you are feeling) and recognizing the signals your body is giving you in different situations. Can you start to recognize doubt, fear, and how you feel when these protectors are running the show?
- Mindfulness Practices: This is time to connect with yourself and as a breathwork facilitator, I’m partial to breathwork practices for mindset but you can also use meditation, walking in nature, etc. What I love about breathwork is it has helped me and many of my clients to unlock the subconscious and learn on a deeper level about your fears, doubt and why those parts developed. We store all our experiences from childhood and throughout our lives which if deemed “unsafe” develops protectors to keep us safe from real or perceived danger. So, if for instance, as a child your parent/teacher/classmate judged or commented on how you were not up to the standard or didn’t do something good enough and this caused you pain, sadness, or activated fear, you likely developed a coping strategy to never let this happen again. Breathwork can help understand the root cause of your beliefs, release these learnings, coping strategies and old beliefs and create new healthy ones.
- Challenge your beliefs: I’m a huge fan (now) of reframing and challenging my beliefs. I often ask: “is this something I believe to be true or was I told this was true?”, I ask: “Is this my story or someone else’s?” Getting clarity on where a belief comes from has helped me set many of them free! Another great tool is The Work of Byron Katie and her One Belief at a Time worksheet
- Accountability: Finding support to work on your mindset, ditch your doubt and develop deep self trust to help you become a more productive, confident, and trusted women in business isn’t something you need to do alone. This is another place where doubt holds us back….. we tend to not ask for help because we are afraid of judgement, comparison, and failure. Being a part of a supportive group or accountability partnership where someone lovingly helps you follow through, challenges your beliefs (with you), and helps you reframe, reflect, and dig deeper is so important for truly ditching self doubt!
Believe me when I say this… you are not alone in your doubt, perfectionism, impostor syndrome and decision paralysis – most people have a relationship with doubt.
I know I did and still do at times – I just know now how to recognize it, move forward despite it, and be curious about what it’s trying to teach me. With this, its grip has loosened.
I trust whoever needed to read this today got value, some golden nuggets of insight and a strategy or two that can be applied to help ditch the doubt and start your journey towards a deeper self trust and a more confident, productive, enjoyable business (and life).
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Mom, wife, fempreneur and lover of a good hike. As a breathwork facilitator and personal growth coach Ashlee helps service-based business owners ditch the hustle-and-grind culture for good so they can avoid burnout and feel massively confident as the leaders of their lives and businesses. Ashlee believes that all great strategy is only as effective as the mindset behind it and works with her clients on mastering their mindset and then implementing the strategy!