When I transitioned from being a virtual assistant (long before that was an actual thing) to a Micro Business Therapist™ over 10 years ago, one of my first challenges was getting over my Imposter Syndrome (when you feel unworthy of your success or incompetent despite your qualifications). I had spent so many years working with small business owners in a supportive, but acquiescent role. I was not a decision maker and my business model was that of completing contracted administrative and managerial tasks and assignments.
I began to acquire working knowledge of how entrepreneurs start and sustain a business and shared these insights with friends and others who could benefit from their experiences. I In addition, I was formulating my own thoughts on best practices, effective systems and transformative theories. Then I started to create my own processes. It was a hodgepodge of my purpose, principles and all that I had garnered from working so closely with successful and committed entrepreneurs.
At some point, I had to determine not only what my knowledge and experience was worth, but how to go from a supporter to a leader and guider. It was a difficult process because on top of my Imposter Syndrome was the fact that I had no formal education in which to use as a starting point or point of reference for qualifications. I had always been an autodidact. I had college experience, but no degree. I had various certifications and a real estate license. I had owned/operated a transitional living facility. I served on community boards. I had managed restaurants and a remodeling company. I had taken a vast amount of professional development courses and read a lot of books and articles. However, I still felt like something was missing and I needed to be or do more in order to put myself out there as a solid resource for potential clients.
At the end of the day, I found the best way for me to move past my insecurities and take control of what I perceived to be a new business mission aligned with my purpose, was to validate myself, remain open to learning new things and to just be me, authentic me. My need and desire to help entrepreneurs achieve their goals with efficiency and on their terms superseded my feelings of not being qualified or knowing all I needed to know. No one can want your dream more than you want it or drive your mission harder than you. I had to trust my experience, my knowledge base and my purpose.
When we are young, we seek approval from our parents, our teachers, our peers, etc. We assume they validate who we are… until we formulate our own set of ideals and standards. Real independence and self-reliance require that you not only think for yourself but hold yourself accountable for the choices and decisions you make. I had to trust that who I had grown to be was sufficient and of value to a particular market, driven entrepreneurs. I’ve learned I am as good as the people who allow me to help them and who trust and value my opinion. That trust and value supports a level of standard that evolves into strengthened self-confidence
You never want to be the smartest person in the room. My husband told me that many years ago and I refer to it often. I have purposefully placed myself in unknown and uncomfortable arenas for the express purpose of stretching myself and being around people who challenge my thoughts, beliefs and practices. You’d be surprised how open and willing to share people are when you ask questions in earnest and have a thirst for new knowledge. You can’t be afraid to say “I don’t know” or “Could you help me understand?” We are taught not to ask questions for fear of appearing ignorant. But doesn’t it make better sense to ask questions to avoid being ignorant? How else are you going to clarify what you are experiencing or learning? It’s okay not to know everything. No one likes a “know it all” anyway. Elevate your mind, by elevating your network.
You can’t beat the value in authenticity. Most people can spot a fake a mile away. Not only is it an unhealthy way to live your life, it is laborious to pretend to be something you’re not. It takes a lot of negative energy and effort to convince people you are more than what you are perceived to be. When you present the authentic you, you endear people to you. You organically attract people of the same mind. You even gain a certain level of respect from those who disagree with you by holding the line on being true to whom they are. Let your freak flag fly and watch how your tribe appears. People who appreciate you for who you are and value your openness will present themselves. You may be the inspiration someone needs to step out of their comfort zone and expose more of their own authenticity. Lead by example. Authenticity has value. You can trade on it.
Stop comparing yourself to others and your perceived competitors. What theirs is for them. What’s yours if for you. You have strengths they don’t. Use them to your advantage. Learn how to exploit them. I’m a fast learner, I adapt to change easily and I’m a minimalist at heart. Each of these strengths has allowed me to service my clients better, faster and simpler. Compensate for your weaknesses through education and mentors/advisors. Know what you don’t know and continue to educate yourself and hone your professional and personal skill set. Understand what makes you unique and what you have to offer. Get crystal clear about it and know how to convey it verbally and in practice.
At the end of the day, people do business with people they trust. You are the authority on you. You are the expert on what you know. The next time you feel inferior, just remember how much you trained for this moment; your experiences, your knowledge and your skills. You can’t play from the sidelines. Tag yourself in and get in the game.
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Simplicity expert and Micro Business Therapist™ A.Michelle Blakeley is the curator of the online magazine, Micro Business Therapy. She helps new and seasoned entrepreneurs align their purpose, principles, priorities and practices for accelerated growth. Minding the gap between your personal and professional life™ Connect with her on Twitter at @simplicityinc