“Imagine your supporters instead of the critics…and feel the shift”

switchandpivot | January 31st, 2020 | Small Business Mindset

3 minute read

It was only 9 months ago that I first posted on social media for Switch & Pivot. I had started taking on clients well before that time but for longer than necessary I resisted publishing anything related to my business on social media.

Up until that point although I had made the bold move to start my own business many people I knew had no idea I had done it. I was torn between wanting and needing to connect with my ideal audience and also wanting to stay as hidden as possible.

Social media is only one piece of the puzzle when it comes to connecting to my audience but I knew at some point I needed to have some level of presence on social platforms. Whenever I tried to take that small step of publishing that first post – too many to count – I remember the fear I felt. Like my feet were stuck in cement preventing me from moving forward. This went on for a while with no sign of the situation changing.

The advice of “just put yourself out there” is talked about so often in the small business space and encouraged over and over by business mentors. Despite this advice what would constantly come to mind when I considered pressing the “share” button and prevent me from making myself seen were those individuals who may have an opinion on what I was doing or how I was doing it.

I’m amused now at how much these imagined opinions and criticisms stopped me from moving forward – not just on social media, but from putting myself out there in any way. This was very confusing for me as I help clients do just that.

These feelings are so common among small business owners I work with. There are countless articles, podcasts and books covering topics on fear, imposter syndrome and perfectionism which can all be part of what’s stopping some of us from taking that step to make ourselves be seen.

But we do need to give ourselves a break as these “imagined” critics aren’t necessarily imagined. I once read that this group of critics in our mind can include specific people from our past, for example workplaces or even high school, and the reason they are a part of that group we imagine is because they were individuals who are known to regularly be critical of others. I believe the fear of judgement also comes from our own judgements we make of others.

Then I experienced a turning point. I thought, “what if I switched it and I imagined all the people who would be supportive of what I’m doing?”. For so long it hadn’t occurred to me at all to do this. All I was imagining were the negative opinions and criticism that may come my way. Isn’t it funny – and ridiculously useless – that we do this? It stops us from exploring what we’re capable of.

I started to compile a list of specific individuals in my life who would cheer me on and get excited that I had taken the risk and had started on my own path. I believe in the benefits of focused visualisation and knew that if I took this exercise seriously, it could possibly change my perspective – not necessarily eliminate fear completely but help me to see things in a different way.

As I went through the list I brought to mind each individual who I believed would be supportive of what I was doing. I imagined each face smiling at me – close friends, distant friends and acquaintances, family members, former work colleagues. The list became a lot longer than I expected. Another surprise was who I ended up including on the list, and not including. To this day it still surprises me who is supportive of what I’m doing and who isn’t. As I slowly moved from one person to the next in my mind, visualising each face individually, each one of them supporting me, a wave of relief came over me. I started putting myself out there more and moving forward with my business. 

This step forward was not in any way a sudden acceleration. I still face challenges today with putting myself out there. I’ve learnt over time a lot of this has to do with being an introvert. Introverts don’t like being in the spotlight but I’m learning how to do this in a way I feel comfortable, and the experience has helped me better understand the hesitations clients feel when it comes the time to be seen. Rather than encouraging them to “just get out there and be brave”, sometimes a different approach that is a little less bold and a little less loud is what’s needed.

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