Fear is one the most dominant factors preventing women from either starting a business or experiencing success due to quitting within the first 2 years.
First thing you need to know about fear is that it’s your mind simply letting you know that something is unfamiliar to it. It’s the ‘threat’ of the unknown or of you entering unknown space, that’s all.
Entrepreneurship is risky, challenging and uncomfortable. No one goes into business with a guarantee of success, so uncertainty is a given.
Therefore, it’s a good idea to get more comfortable with feeling fear and get yourself into a habit of continuing to take focused action despite it.
The fears in your way
Fear of failure. This is of course, the first and most obvious one. This tends to top the list of obstacles in the way of women launching a business or causing them to give up.
Fear of success. This is a less obvious one as it’s more subconscious, but it’s a huge block to achieving success. This is the ‘other side’ of the unknown. That success you dream of is so new and unfamiliar to your mind with all its previous memorised experiences and ‘programming’, that it considers this a ‘system error’ and will alert you to it – in the form of fear.
It’s trying to warn you that something doesn’t fit with your current ‘setting’ – and this might show up as doubts around your ability to cope with such success, how it might affect your lifestyle or quality of your relationships, and perhaps most importantly, discomfort around this ‘new person’ you would have to become as you step into a bigger role in your life, leaving your ‘old self’ behind who you’ve identified with for such a long time until now.
Fear of rejection. This is from those you see as your ideal clients or customers, as well as potential business partners. You might doubt they will want to buy from you, invest in you or work with you, and you might feel insecurity around pitches, sales or having money conversations.
Fear of judgment. These ‘others’ can be not only your potential ideal clients, partners or investors, but also people you know or who are in your circle – whether friends, family, colleagues etc.
You might dread putting yourself or your business out there in the public eye or on social media, feel uncomfortable being seen in your business role by those who know you, or fear how people surrounding you will perceive you if things don’t go as planned, especially if they were sceptical of your capability to succeed.
Fear of learning. This one is very often overlooked but it can be detrimental to your business. Running a business is a continuous learning and developing experience. Especially if you are only starting out, there will be many aspects of business, skills and tools you’ll need to learn.
Even if you’re already established, as tech, marketing and the world around us change and evolve, you will need to constantly update and upgrade your knowledge & skills.
Some limiting beliefs that might be driving this kind of fear might tell you that it will be too difficult, take too much effort or time; that it’s too late for you; you’re too old; you’re not good at it or it’s just not for you.
Fear of change. Social, cultural shifts as well as advancement in tech is constantly changing business landscapes. This is true for both how you present your business to the outside world as well as how you run it on the inside.
What has worked for your business in the past may not work well for you now or into the future. So sticking to what you know, not being willing to let things go and not adapting to change can be very damaging.
So what can you do to overcome or minimise fear?
Develop a positive, growth mindset. Building a business isn’t an easy ride. You’re going to face lots of challenges, you’ll have to experiment & take risks. Sometimes you won’t get the results you want. You have to accept that as a given.
So make a commitment to continue on, no matter what, with grit and an open & curious mind. Identify and clear any beliefs that might be in your way.
Top-performers aren’t held back by perfectionism and they don’t relate to the word ‘failure’ – only to the ongoing process of learning & development. In fact, many entrepreneurs started out with a business idea that didn’t work. But they didn’t stop there. They went on to the next, better idea which has brought them success.
Remind yourself that fear is a sign of potential for big growth. You’re stretching & moving beyond where you are now and what you’re familiar with – that’s what your mind is signalling to you. In fact, if you’re not feeling fear or discomfort at all when setting your goals – it might actually mean you’re not aiming high enough.
So begin seeing fear as a positive driving force.
Remind yourself often of your ‘What’. This is what your motivation is, your values, your mission, your dream, and what success will do for you or the world around you.
Do this daily. This creates a higher motivation state for your mind, and in order for the mind to go for the unknown despite the risk, it has to be highly motivated.
Use affirmations & visualisations regularly. Almost all high-achievers learn to use this success-habit properly.
There are many advantages to doing this on a regular basis, but in terms of fear, what this repetition does is it makes your future vision more familiar to your mind so it no longer perceives them as a threat.
Your mind is then able to it more easily as a true outcome and it will allow you to access more positive resources & feelings around it. Your mind will begin to produce ‘output’ that corresponds to that expected experience.
Use the power of language. The words you use literally programme your mind on a subconscious level. Your inner conversation determines the way you experience the outer world. So use language that empowers you.
Here are a couple of simple adjustments that might sound insignificant, but that can make a huge difference:
- Change ‘I’m afraid’ to ‘I feel fear’. The first phrase creates attachment & identification with the fear. It creates a feeling that it’s a part of you and therefore that it would be difficult if at all possible to change.
But when you tell yourself that you ‘feel fear’, your mind understands that it’s simply an emotion passing through your experience. Like any other emotion, it’s destined to shift and move; it’s not permanent. So you’re far less attached to it, and as a result, it’s far easier to let it be and consequently drop it, have it move on its way or take action despite it.
- Reframe the word ‘fear’. Some people like to use the word ‘excited’ instead, but if that feels like too much of a stretch, you can use ‘I wonder / I’m curious whether’.
For example, instead of saying ‘I’m afraid this won’t work’ you might say ‘I wonder / I’m curious how / whether this might work’.
Remember that fear is about the unknown. So using these words, you’re simply acknowledging this in a neutral and more open way without the associated limitations of fear.
Remind yourself it’s all in your imagination. In this present moment, whatever you feel fear around is only in your head. You’re projecting imaginary scenarios onto the future, usually based on your past. You’re focused on worst case scenarios.
The truth is most of your fears will never come true (when taking constructive action despite it). But you tend to create a very imbalanced view of future possibilities, which are truly endless and can go either way.
So instead of only imagining the worst outcome (which you can still allow yourself to do), use your imagination to explore the best case scenario too. This will balance both of these two possibilities in your mind. It’ll help to neutralise the fear and give you a far more ‘objective’ perspective around the potential experience.
Over time, doing this repeatedly, this more neutral feeling will become your mind’s habit pattern, you’ll be far less affected by future uncertainties and you’ll also get more control over your thinking in other areas too.
Get support. Top-achievers know that getting help where or when they need it is a strength rather than weakness. They know it empowers them and allows them to make better decisions and take stronger actions.
In fact, most high-performers tend to seek out coaches & mentors very early on as they want to put support structures in place to move them forward in the easiest way.
Maya Zack is a peak performance specialist and expert mindset coach & hypnotherapist for women entrepreneurs. Based in the UK, she works internationally and has been coaching individuals and teams since 2007.
She helps aspiring or already established entrepreneurs dissolve overwhelm, self-doubt, fear, resistance or other inner obstacles & distractions and instead create the empowering beliefs and emotional resources to support them on their business journey. She helps them build & maintain the mindset they need in order to achieve their goals, transforming their relationship to themselves, money and success on the deepest, subconscious level so that new ways of thinking, feeling & behaving quickly become automatic and effortless.