Kindness IS Strategy

There are so many reasons you might have started your own business: freedom over your time, no limits on how much money you can make, laser-focusing your impact to exactly where you know you can make the most difference. Those are all common and great reasons!

Just curious, did getting in the ring with all your fears, doubts and insecurities land on your list? I haven’t met many people who intentionally went into business in order to come face-to-face with the deep and dark parts of themselves; yet, if you’re anything like me, that’s exactly where you’ve found yourself. Hello, plot twist!

If I’m being really honest, building a business has brought up SO MUCH fear for me. Choosing not to go back to my previous career – one where I have a Ph.D. – in order to pursue an entrepreneurial dream when I have absolutely zero business experience, has found me figuring out, embarrassed, how to be a beginner again. I’ve been hard on myself with unfair expectations, frozen by the specter of failure and so worried about appealing to as many people as possible that, in an attempt to improve my chances at getting clients, I’ve watered down my message so it wouldn’t put anyone off. Thoughts like, “Who are you to do this?” and “You should have figured this out by now!” have plagued me in the times when work is slow and the steps forward are unclear.

Between you and me… I’ve even failed to follow up with folks asking me about my business because I was afraid I couldn’t handle it if they thought I was salesy or out of my league.

I probably don’t have to explain how none of this is good for business.

The truth is that whenever you take something that matters to you and put it out there, out where your dream will potentially be judged and rejected, it feels like YOU will be judged and rejected, and that. is. vulnerable.

I’ve learned in these moments when my desire and my fear are both turned up to high volume, that I have to be kind with myself to move forward. That’s contrary to what we’ve been taught. The dominant idea I was exposed to is that I should expect success at a high level, punish myself when I don’t achieve it and dismiss my fears and just barrel through. It hasn’t worked yet, unless success means feeling awful.

Now, I still expect a lot of myself – a lot of kindness. Self kindness is a must-have for your business strategy. Here are some ways it helps get better results.

Accepting where I’m at – for better decision-making

When the going gets tough, my inner dialogue starts reminding me of where I “should” be by now and all the things I “should” be doing to get there that I’m not doing “right.” That part of me is really trying to help. If I were to write down all the “shoulds,” you would probably ask how many people are on my team because no one person could possibly do all that by themselves! (Um, there is no team.)

If I’m willing to take a step back and be honest about where I actually am, I can see that my expectations of myself sometimes aren’t really fair. It also means accepting I may not have as much figured out as I’d like. I may need to take more time than I planned and maybe I’d benefit from help.

It’s hard to admit when I’ve bit off more than I can chew because it makes me feel weak and incompetent. When I have these feelings, I try to allow them space to express what they need to say. (Spoiler alert) It’s not usual for me to actually be weak and incompetent, just disappointed, and disappointment hurts.

When I let myself be honest about what really happened and how I really feel without judgment, it’s easier to clearly see the solid next steps – even if they’re two steps back from where I wanted to be. I’ll make more progress if I address the actual needs I have here and now, rather than trying to solve the problems that I would have if I were farther along.

Watching what I make my nervousness mean – for more successful sales calls

I wonder if I’m the only one who has ever, after someone said, “I’ve thought about working with you.” never followed up. (Anyone?) I don’t know what I’ll say, I’m worried what they’ll say (maybe “No”). I’m nervous!

When I feel nervous, it’s easy to make that mean I must not be ready for this. That I need to take another class, practice my pitch, journal about my pricing. Maybe then I’ll feel “ready.”

But what if, instead, I didn’t judge myself for feeling nervous? What if I reminded myself with kindness that everyone gets nervous when something they care about might not go the way they want? What if I asked myself what I really need to be able to allow my nervousness to come along with me – without calling the shots? Scary things don’t feel so scary when I’m not telling myself I shouldn’t feel scared.

When I find a kinder story to tell myself when I feel nervous, I’m much more likely to follow up. This makes me much more likely to practice my selling skills and actually sign clients. Over time, the nervous part of me learns that I’ve got this and starts feeling more confident.

Staying in love with my values – for more powerful messaging

Standing out in a crowded market requires a bold message. For me, making a strong claim usually comes with some sidekick thoughts like, “What will people think?” or “What if I lose a bunch of followers?” or “What if my mom judges me at the next family dinner?”

When I need a dose of courage to share my message, I find it helpful to connect to why I’m doing this in the first place. The truth is, when I share something polarizing, it will turn off some people. It will also attract the folks I’m here for. Telling myself, “I shouldn’t care what people think.” isn’t fair because every human is wired to care what others think. I find it helpful to let it be true that it hurts to face rejection and judgment. At the same time, I remind myself why this matters. A question I like to ask myself is, “What about this matters so much that I’m willing to face judgment for it?”

I can turn to an old client testimonial, think of the example I want to set for my children or empathize with someone whose suffering I could ease if only I said what I need to say. The reason is allowed to be self-centered, too! Wanting to feel independent and proud is powerful motivation for me, so I’ve stopped calling myself “selfish.”

When I’m kind to myself and listen to my heart, the fear of judgment is still there, it’s just less loud than the desire to live my values. My perspective zooms out to a bigger picture where the immediate risks of using my voice feel more right-sized. That makes it easier to put a strong message out there.

Having a soft place to land inside myself – for taking smart risks

Being a business owner is weird when it comes to uncertainty. On the one hand, when you file for an LLC, no one hands you a crystal ball to predict how things will go. (Wouldn’t that be helpful?) On the other hand, as a solopreneur, you’re the only person who can achieve outcomes for your business. In other words, you can’t control how things go, but you’re responsible for how things go. There is a lot of pressure in this awkward truth. I’ve noticed I have a tendency to respond to that pressure by piling on more pressure – telling myself “THIS HAS TO WORK!” I’m trying to uncertainty-proof the thing, but the result of all that pressure is not trying anything I can’t guarantee will work, which therefore means… no growth. That is exactly the opposite of what I want.

Failing hurts. I’ve noticed it hurts more when I tell myself “I was an idiot to try.” “I should’ve known I couldn’t do this.” or simply “I must not be good enough.” Failing hurts less when I am able to be kind to myself: “Wow, I was really invested in that and it is so disappointing how it turned out.” or “A lot of people I admire have made some spectacular screw-ups, maybe this doesn’t have to mean I’m a screw-up. Maybe I could be admirable, too.”

Once I started trusting that I wouldn’t beat myself up and make things feel worse when I don’t like the outcome, I became more likely to take chances. It also meant that when I “failed,” I moved on to learning faster, adjusting, trying again and learning more. I learned that detaching from outcomes ironically made me more responsible in my pursuit of them. I learned that I could handle disappointment, which made me more likely to take strategic risks designed to help me and my business grow.

Look through the advice given to entrepreneurs anywhere and you’ll find that being able to make decisions quickly, making direct offers to potential clients, sharing a bold message and experimenting with new tactics are usually great for business growth. Simply expecting yourself to “Just do it” because that’s what entrepreneurs do – and beating yourself up when it’s hard – isn’t moving things forward. Pushing hard and judging yourself is a recipe for feeling stressed, exhausted and pessimistic: burned-out. Burned-out business owners don’t have momentum.

If you want your business to be sustainable (and I know you do), consider trying to be kinder with yourself when the going gets rough. That’s exactly what gets you to the other side of the rough spots, but now with leveled-up confidence. It’s simply a good strategy.

jean hare
Jean Hare helps women solopreneurs cultivate confidence to be visible for their businesses so they can make an impact they’re proud of. She’s all about cultivating such a deeply compassionate self-relationship that a courageous mindset is a natural side-effect - no repeating unrealistic affirmations here! Hop onto her newsletter list to hear from her monthly(ish).

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