One of the biggest challenges many entrepreneurs — especially coaches and therapists — share at the beginning of their journey is crippling fear of visibility. The idea of showing up online and at various networking events are endless sources of anxiety. If you’re one of them, read on to learn how to get out of this cycle.
You’d find it hard not to bump into the expression “start before you’re ready” somewhere online or just hear it from a fellow business owner who’s been around the block. Sometimes hearing it over and over ceases to be inspirational and sinks into the graveyard of trivialities of life.
Shame! Especially since there’s truth to it, but we’re more likely to recognise that truth once we have also been around the block a few times.
What does it really mean to start before you’re ready?
I only truly understood the meaning of this saying relatively recently.
When you become an entrepreneur, you’re likely overwhelmed by all the parts of generating business — often without much success — and the different responsibilities you need to assume.
I was afraid of everything: sharing my knowledge, going to networking events, creating written or video content, you name it. Visibility was unfamiliar and felt rather unsafe. Consequently, whenever I heard someone say that I should start before I was ready, I shrugged and pointed out that the idea was an oxymoron. Surely, you don’t want to start before you’re ready, what will you do when you’re challenged? I would ask myself.
The reasoning is that you don’t just run a marathon. You need to strengthen your legs, work on your stamina, change your diet, etc. What I failed to realise was that you start running long before you run a marathon. That’s how you get better at it!
Showing up works exactly in the same way! Your first articles and videos might not be fantastic, nor will you shine in your first few networking events, but if you don’t do them, you’ll never improve.
And that’s the bottom line. If you want to hone your skills and “feel ready” you need to start when you’re not there yet with the clear goal of improving on the journey.
Anxiety can hold you back, or you can beat it
It’s your choice! It really is. How you beat anxiety or the fear of visibility is a different question. You’ll naturally need to work on it with therapy and mindset coaching. Extensively so!
Consistency is key here.
Anxiety is a learned pattern — a fight and flight state rooted in micro-traumas and adverse experiences. The deeper structure of your brain responds to the environment with stress because you perceive more danger around than you would if you had something we call a “regulated nervous system” meaning that you have the ability to calm yourself down easily and you are more likely to perceive a benevolent and supportive world around.
Visibility is a huge source of anxiety! Just imagine yourself happily grazing on the Serengeti; you want to avoid these scenarios:
- have a different colour than your natural habitat
- be left behind by the herd when you’re considered prey by other species
Insted, you want to be as inconspicuous as you can be and in close proximity to your peers. This will seriously increase your chances of survival.
Stress is a survival response: a lion is chasing you, so you go through a number of physiological changes that temporarily enhance your body to either run really fast or fight well.
We don’t live on the Serengeti, but we have the same stress response and the same aversion to visibility as any other species.
That doesn’t mean that you’ll have to live through life in fear. You can overcome the anxiety and the fear of visibility! I definitely did, and so did the people I’ve worked with.
It’s a matter of seeing it as something separate from your sense of self and personality, and then working on it.
A word of caution, self-healing can be a bottomless pit and it’s rather seductive. Don’t let it derail you from working on your business simultaneously.
Work on the anxiety and fears, and start showing up as well. You still need to build those skills. This is an important point, because many entrepreneurs think that they need to do the healing work first and then they’ll show up. I always make sure my clients do the healing in tandem with strategic action because that builds confidence and skill at the same time.
Five steps to beat visibility fears
The best thing you can do is work with a professional, but in the meantime, here are 5 steps you can take today:
- Acknowledge the fear. Change starts with acceptance and awareness. If you’re thinking of joining a networking event, instead of beating yourself up about being afraid of doing it, acknowledge it. This phrase construction comes from EFT, and it’s phenomenally powerful: “Even though I’m afraid of the networking event, I deeply and completely accept myself.” Just say it to yourself a few times and give yourself a big hug. This sentence replaces the inner critic, that voice in your head that puts you down whenever you make a mistake or behave in a way that isn’t aligned with what you expect of yourself.
- Listen to the fear. Stress is being chased by the lion. Anxiety is remembering having been chased by a lion and expecting the lion to come back — in other words you see lions even where there are none. Our fears are connected to life events from the past. What memories come up? What story are you telling yourself? Has it got anything to do with your parent’s comments or maybe even their fears? Are you still that helpless child or maybe an adult in a difficult situation? What comes up? When you’re ready to listen, your mind is ready to reveal what lies behind the fear. Don’t analyse, just listen and witness the thoughts and memories.
- Nurture yourself when afraid. We often want to escape emotions that are in any way challenging, understandably. But having the capacity to stay with the fear for a few minutes is proof of our strength. You want to feel deeply and be able to experience all human emotions. There’s a difference between witnessing your feelings and indulging in them. In the first case, you pay attention to what is going on in your body and you feel compassion and kindness towards yourself. In the second one, you pity yourself and engage in all sorts of stories about situations that you remember or imagine might happen.
- Show up knowing that you’ll make mistakes. Whilst the idea to “fake it until you make it” is deeply flawed, as a business owner, you need to get out there otherwise you’ll remain the best kept secret. So, don’t fake it, go as you are with the fear and all, knowing that your voice might tremble, that you might say silly things, or might not speak much at all. It’s okay! As long as you’re kind and forgiving to yourself, you can do it. It’s usually a nicer experience than we expect it to be. The biggest stress always comes from our thoughts afterwards, get that out of the way and you’ll enjoy what you engage in, as well as the memories of it.
- Focus on getting better. Time is your greatest asset; use it wisely. Instead of spending time on going over and over an inconsequential mistake you made months or years ago, look at it briefly, see what you’ve learned from it and apply that knowledge next time you choose to be visible. Do the same things with what happens right now. Do you feel your blog post isn’t quite what you expected? Did you avoid the pitching part at the virtual networking event? Do you habitually listen to others talk without saying a few words about your business? Focus on getting better at it, little by little. When you notice a pattern, stop, take a deep breath, and do what you’ve been avoiding.
You can do this! You might have only a limited idea about the phenomenal personal power you possess, so buckle up because you’re in for a treat.
You’re ready to start before you’re ready!
Struggling with visibility fears/anxiety in your business or your personal life? Get in touch. Let’s hop on a free discovery call where we can discuss your current experience and what you would like instead. My mission is to help you embrace your potential and transform it into personal power to benefit your life and that of your community through breakthrough therapy and coaching.