There are times when it can be hard to imagine what it would like if something you’ve been dreaming of were to actually happen to you. Instead, you end up looking at it through rose tinted glasses because the positives are the only things you ever hear or read about. And as a result, when it does happen the reality can come as a bit of a shock.
This is exactly what happened when I started my business, and I know a lot of the women I’ve worked with have had the same experience too.
Before I started it, all I could really imagine was what it would be like to deliver my services (because that would be similar to what I was doing in my job), having the ability to make my own decisions and pursue the ideas I was really passionate about without having to jump through hoops first, and being able to go out for lunch during the week without having to rush back. So basically doing what I was already doing, only with a lot more freedom and flexibility….oh, and no commute.
But whilst elements of that are true, there is a lot more to running a business than I could ever have imagined, and the journey itself is far from being a straight forward one.
The truth is it’s hard to really understand what is involved in starting a business, or the challenges or potential pitfalls you could face, until you actually get going.
But of all the unexpected challenges, the thing I struggled with the most when I transitioned from corporate to the entrepreneurial world was that I could no longer hide behind a persona.
I don’t know about you, but when I was still working in corporate still I often felt like I was two completely different people, one person at work, and another at home.
At work I would put on a professional facade. I was able to communicate with confidence because I’d done my research and was always well prepared. And I knew how to influence people and win around even those who were initially resistant or sceptical. But there were certain sides of my personality that I rarely showed at work, and there were very few who knew much about my private life.
Home was where my personality really shone through. It’s where I let my hair down and did the things I loved doing. And it’s where I got to unleash the creativity I mostly kept under wraps in the workplace. It was my safe space where I could withdraw from the wider world, somewhere that my introverted self could relax and unwind.
But when I stepped out in my new business I discovered that was all about to change, that there was no more hiding behind a persona, and that my private life was no longer going to be sacred.
You see, when you’re in business, your brand is infused by your personality to some extent. For some it is reflected more in the style and tone, but for others, like me, being visible and reflecting your true self is what is going to help you attract your customers.
The thing is, people buy from people and they want to get to know you so they can decide whether they like and trust you. And here’s the really tricky bit for introverts like me…just showcasing your expertise is not enough. They want to know about you! They want to see your personality shine through, AND they want to glimpse behind the scenes.
I have to be honest, I found it really scary to start with and felt extremely exposed and vulnerable in a way I had never felt before.
And I also realised I’d been hiding behind personas and conforming to other peoples’ expectations for such a long time I no longer knew who I really was…
What did I want?
Who did I want to be?
What did I want to do?
What did I want to achieve?
How did I want to dress?
How did I want to look?
What did I want to be known for?
What was important to me?
What did I believe in?
What do I stand for?
And what I was I doing merely because it was ‘expected’ of me?
It made me question everything I thought I knew about both myself and the trappings I’d surrounded myself with.
And so began a journey of self-discovery...
As well as learning about what it takes to actually run a business, I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few years on self-development. I’ve read countless books, taken courses, and hired coaches. But that alone isn’t enough. The real insights have come through taking the time to reflect on all the questions I had around who I am and what I want moving forward.
I’ve found Vision boards really useful. I’ve created them to help me focus on what I want from life, my business goals, my brand, new projects, and even for developing my style.
As well as helping you to visualise what you’re working towards, which incidentally acts as a great motivator, your vision board(s) can help give you a better understanding of the whole picture…of what makes you tick.
Writing, both in the form of journaling and creating content for marketing purposes, has also given me an outlet that’s helped me find myself.
I was really resistant to journaling at the beginning, but I’ve found that once you start the words just flow. The whole process seemed to unlock parts of me that had been filed away in the deepest, darkest depths of my mind.
When I look back at the content I was creating for my business at the beginning, it very much reflected where I’d come from, the corporate world. It was factual and professional but with very little personality flowing through it. But the more I wrote, the more I started to relax and started to write as I talk.
But the thing that catapulted me forwards the quickest was to keep pushing myself outside my comfort zone and get visible.
Whilst our natural instinct tends to be to shrink away from things that scare us, pushing forward regardless is what helps you grow.
Taking action, getting visible, learning to speak your truth and getting comfortably showing the real you and allowing complete strangers to see glimpses of your private life is the quickest way to grow in confidence.
So rather than wasting your time worrying about becoming visible, jump straight in and start doing it.
And don’t be afraid to be YOU!
If you’re ready to step out from behind your corporate façade and find the real you again, book your Build Your Business strategy session here.