After two months of learning how to run and market an online business, there's one thing I know for certain: this shit is not for the faint of heart.
Showing up at my desk every day when I’m likely to be met by unknowns and undones, takes some serious perseverance.
Some days are better than others. Some days completely blow. Some days I’m racked by insecurities and fear, and I want to throw in the towel.
Some days I’m not even asking the question, “WHAT IF I Suck?” because I’m pretty certain I DO suck.
The truth is, though, that quitting after only two months is just not something I'm going to do.
So, what do you do when Self Doubt is threatening to stop you in your tracks? Read on for my top 5 tips to get yourself out of "the pit of despair", so you, too, can keep on keepin’ on.
Tip #1: Step Away From The Computer
This is always the first thing I do when I start to feel myself sliding into the black hole of doubt. When you’re already there or on your way, nothing good will come from staring at your computer screen, that is for certain.
And, if you’ve been looking at other people’s work and comparing yourself, stop right now!
Pick yourself up off your chair. Turn your computer off, and walk away. It doesn’t matter how far you go or what you do. Just walk away.
If you’ve forgotten to eat, go get a healthy snack. Get outside and sit in the sun. Go down the street and get a cup of coffee.
When I do this, I remember that my office is not the center of the universe. It reminds me that there are other people out there and other things happening. I usually realize that I am more than just a solo designer struggling to get somebody to acknowledge my existence with my little blog and social media posts.
Probably the best thing you can do to get yourself back on track, is to exercise or do yoga. You'll get the added boost of the happy hormones our bodies produce, which is a win win for brain and body!
Tip #2: Talk to A Friend
Having a Biz Bestie can be really helpful in times like this.
If you're like me, you might be thinking things like:
“I’m afraid that I just don't have the chops to pull this off."
"I don't know what I’m doing."
"I have nothing new or interesting to say."
"I'll never get any clients.”
Sometimes, just saying those things out loud helps to diffuse them. Bottling them up, on the other hand, usually allows them to build.
If your Biz Bestie is like mine, she’ll probably know exactly how you feel and can help you see your way through the fog. She'll probably be more objective than you are at the moment. She might even make you laugh at yourself and remind you that you've only been at it for a short time and to stop being so damn impatient, already!
Tip #3: Reach Out To Members of a FB Group You’re In
If you don’t have a Biz Bestie, post that you’re feeling low in a Facebook Group you’re in. I've done this before, and I got a ton of encouraging responses and felt much better.
Even though it can be scary to put yourself out there to a bunch of people you don’t know that well, I truly believe that allowing yourself to be human and vulnerable is a powerful strategy for making connections and building relationships with other people like you.
Even though you might feel completely alone in loser land, the reality is that you're not. Most creatives who are on this path have felt exactly the same way before. Even the hugely successful ones have been there, so don't be afraid to reach out to others!
Tip #4: Meditate and/or Consciously Think Positive Thoughts
Sometimes, just sitting quietly and clearing your head is the best thing you can do to get unstuck.
I go to my core breathing exercises when I’m really hurting. I set a timer for 3 minutes and breathe in and out for four counts each. I breathe deeply and slowly and focus on the air as it goes in and out of my nostrils.
At a minimum, it helps clear the negativity out and make room for different, hopefully positive, thoughts and ideas to come in.
If you can consciously turn your mind to those positive thoughts once you’ve cleared out the gunk, you’ll be back on your feet in no time.
Try making a gratitude list, or write down everything you HAVE accomplished so far. Or, tell yourself over and over, “I can do this.”
Tip #5: Face The Fear Head On
I’m a firm believer in facing fears and negative thoughts straight on. Usually I find that what I’m so desperately afraid of isn’t really that scary after all.
What if I do suck? What if I don’t have anything new to say? What if I don’t ever get noticed by my ideal clients?
What if I fail at this? Will the sky fall in? Unlikely.
Will I starve? No.
Might I have to change direction and try something else? Yes, but will that be so bad?
Will the naysayers jump up and say, “I Told You So.”? Maybe, but I don’t have to listen to them.
Will I survive? Yes, and I know this because I’ve survived other tough situations.
One of my worst fears EVER came true when I was about 30. I had spent 2.5 more years beyond my BA getting a teaching credential.
I got my dream job teaching at Aspen High School, but it was turning out to be less than dreamy. The principal didn’t like me much (I think he had a thing about women). I looked about the same age as my students, and I struggled with classroom management.
It was a tough year, and for most of it, I feared that I wouldn’t be asked back. In May, my worst fear did indeed come true, and my contract was not renewed.
It was the worst failure of my life. It was painful and gut-wrenching and downright depressing, because I’d fallen in love with Aspen and didn’t want to leave.
It took a while to get over it, but in retrospect, it was the best thing that ever happened to me. You see, I didn’t’ exactly suck at teaching, but I did suck at some aspects of it, and it wasn’t my calling.
Losing my teaching position spurred me to get a different job that eventually led me to graphic design. In the end, I more than survived and now feel blessed for what I thought was a monumental failure.
The Moral of The Story?
You're not alone. We all succumb to self doubt from time-to-time, but you don't need to be a slave to it. There are things you can do right this minute to move past it. So, if you're reading this right now because you are, indeed, stuck in the pit of despair, try some of the things I've suggested above.