Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.
Are you letting fear cripple your dreams?
Fear is a talented emotion. It contains the potency to either cripple the weak or energize those that have the strength to conquer it. As it pertains to entrepreneurialism, particularly female entrepreneurs, fear stops many ingenious women from capitalizing on their full potential.
In a recent poll, when one thousand women were asked to name their top challenge as an entrepreneur, they answered overcoming the fear of taking the leap into a new business or the next stage of a business. As you can see, fear, in all of its forms, is quite possibly the chief deterrent female entrepreneurs face, particularly during the critical transition periods of commencing and fostering businesses.
But then again, if it were easy to succeed, everyone would do it – right?
Surprisingly, despite the low fear threshold women are said to have, this past decade women have been leading the way in business ownership compared to men. In an American Express OPEN State of Women-Owned Businesses report, it was found that between 1997 and 2011, the number of women-owned firms increased by 50% while male-owned firms only increased by 25%. In 2010, 104 million women, representing more than half the world’s population, started a new business.
However, the fact still remains that American women have less confidence in their entrepreneurial abilities. Though they rank higher in this area than women in other wealthy countries, it’s said that they still rank a great deal lower than American men, 47.7% to 62.1% to be exact. Even more disheartening, is that when it comes to fostering a business, female business owners are less likely to believe they’ll develop into a high-growth business (adding 20 or more workers) than men.
According to another study, mom entrepreneurs struggle with not only fear of failing in their business endeavors, but fear of financial instability, fear of being unable to find quality childcare, fear of financial obligations, fear of experiencing guilt, fear of change and fear of success. But let’s just face it – most of us women are born fearful and spend our lives learning how to master the art of combating and capitalizing on it.
With so much fear manipulating our bodies, it’s hard to imagine it’s possible to overcome the emotions and use it to our advantage to launch and foster businesses – but we can. Here are two of the most common, prevalent fears and how to prevail over them.
The Fear of Financial Instability
This is a big one – because without financial stability, obviously, we can’t properly care for our families. That’s why it’s so important to devotedly prepare for a transition to entrepreneurship. How you do so depends on your own personal situation – do you need to work? Does your husband make most of the money? Are you a single mom? Do your kids have insurance? And so on and so forth.
Before launching Sweet Peas & Stilettos, an online resource for moms, Alisa Ahlstone Lewis worked as an assistant vice president for a national insurance company while she was also a mom to her new son. Lewis’ biggest fear was financial instability.
“The number one thing holding me back from transitioning was that I simply did not want to give up my steady paycheck,” said Lewis, who knew starting her online business required capital and lots of time before she could start generating revenue.
Lewis, who worked way over 40 hours per week and was tasked with regular traveling, decided her first step was to transition to a contract position at a large technology company closer to her home where she was able to work closer to 40 hours a week.
“It was nice to slow down from my more demanding job,” said Lewis. “Finding a job where I was able to work from home a few days a week gave me a little extra time to work on my business rather than spending those hours in a car or on an airplane. Also, the luxury of starting an online business is that there is a lot of work that can be done in the evenings and on weekends, which I did many nights from 9 PM until midnight.”
She also found ways to simplify life and spend less money to make her transition feasible until she was able to make an income comparable to her corporate gig, and recommends that other moms do the same. But remember, there’s always ways to supplement income.
In the worst case scenario, if worries become reality and you find yourself occasionally struggling to make enough income to survive, you can always supplement your business income with a side job, contract or part-time employment.
The Fear of Failing
Ever since we were small children, we never wanted to fail in the eyes of our parents. The funny thing is – we never did – because our parents loved us unconditionally. It’s the same for each of us personally – when we love ourselves unconditionally, we avoid all fear of failure because we’re confident in our abilities and know the amazing women we are.
In addition to loving and believing in yourself, you must always remain focused on your ultimate goal and realize that you will never know success until you try. “Throughout the transition, I remained focused on my dream of flexibility in my life and career. Every day, that focus motivates me,” said Lewis.
You should also surround yourself with a community of mentors. However, in a country where our acclaimed entrepreneurial role models are mostly men, it may be hard to find peer support.
According to CNN contributor, Donna Kelley, women are less likely to know a fellow entrepreneur because our inner circle of advisors is smaller and less diverse than males. So as a women entrepreneur, it’s important to join forces with other women, through channels such as the Female Entrepreneur Association, Women’s Small Business Association and Women 2.0.
How to Overcome the Fear Within
As mothers, we consistently overcome obstacles. Whether it’s balancing family and work, serving as family psychologist, managing financial hurdles or raising a disabled child to his or her fullest potential, we thrive under pressure. We, as mothers, have the strength to overcome things that many other people would cave under.
In reality, anyone with the strength, courage, preparation and ingenuity can taste success. And, as mothers, we own these characteristics and should have no problem letting our fears serve as catalysts rather than executioners.
Now to You
So I challenge you – with the idea that fear is our number one challenge – to learn how to exploit this emotion to reach your entrepreneurial dreams.
What gets in your way? What intentional ways have you overcome your fears to pursue your goals?