My fiancé was laughing at me.
I had just declared my foray into entrepreneurialism a bust and he was laughing.
“Who says “throwin’ in the towel’ anyway?”
“You’re not throwing in the towel.”
“Yes, I am. I’m not cut out for this. I was wrong. This was stupid. It’s over.”
He was laughing because this was about the 17th time this month I was “throwin’ in the towel” (I have a drawl when I’m self-pitying).
Because the part they don’t tell you about building a business is that you’re forced to come face-to-face with your inadequacies every. single. day.
Maybe you’re not a design person or you’re not great at writing or you hate how you look on camera? Whatever your Achilles’ heel, your business will punch you in the face with it.
So, it makes sense that your natural reaction is to be scared out of your mind and assume the worst.
In psychology, they call it “catastrophizing.” It’s when all you can see (and feel) is the negative outcome. And that outcome, in your mind, isn’t just any negative outcome. It’s a friggin’ catastrophe.
The earth will crumble. You will wake up tomorrow and the sun will not rise. Or worse – everyone will hate you and think your website is stupid and ugly and they’ll laugh at you behind your back. Just like that girl you know who started a blog, but the blog sucks. YOU’RE GOING TO BE SUCKY BLOG GIRL!!
Yea, it’s not rational. And it makes no sense when you read it (or when you make the mistake of sharing this logic with your spouse). But it’s how you feel.
It’s how all of us feel when we’re starting out.
When you are doing the real work of building something bigger than yourself, $%^& gets real.
And it sucks.
I really wanted to write this with “4 Action Steps To Get You Out of the Horrible-Spiraling-into-Self-Doubt Phase,” but everything was trite.
And that’s because the solution isn’t as simple as “Go for a run!” or “Stop over thinking!” or “Just do you!”
The problem has to do with this very particular breed of fear.
This fear is like a neurotoxin. It gets in your brain and makes it go, “I can’t do this. I am not cut out for this. I have no idea what I am doing.” And then it paralyzes you so you can’t do anything because you’re too busy affirming of all the ways you suck over and over again in your mind.
While I don’t have 4 simple solutions as to what to do, I can tell you why this happens. It’s the “fundamental attribution error” (FAE).
The FAE says that we attribute people’s behavior to who they are rather than the situation they are in. For example, let’s say Ralph takes a test and he fails. His teacher commits an FAE if he determines that Ralph is probably stupid and not that the test was bad or difficult or maybe Ralph was hungover?
There are many reasons besides being stupid that Ralph might’ve failed, but the teacher can’t seem them. The teacher’s made an FAE.
When it comes to your business, you’re committing an FAE on yourself.
You’re assuming you’re the one who isn’t cut out for this, when really it’s the situation.
The FAE makes your brain tell you the reason your competitors have 6k followers and you have 157 is because (and I quote), “You’re an idiot. Go home. You have no idea what you are doing and you will get Chlamydia and you will die.”
See the problem?
Your brain is lying.
It’s wrong and, like your friend who won’t leave her douche boyfriend who treats her poorly, is only seeing what it wants to see. (Because it’s scared.)
All too often we believe the stories our brain tells us about how sucky we are because we are also scared and it seems to make sense when we are in it. We believe that we’re doomed to fail because of our faulty makeup (technical term “disposition”).
The nice thing about brain fails (like FAE) is that as soon as you become aware of them, they lose their power.
When you catch yourself catastrophizing, see if you can call bullshit on your brain.
“Hey Brain, I know you’re my brain controlling all these important things, but right now you’re being a jerk. Obviously, I don’t know what I’m doing. But that doesn’t mean I’m not cut out for this. So thanks for your vote of confidence. I am just getting started and this is how business works. You test things out. You try things. You look stupid a few times until you work out all the kinks. That’s the game.
It’s hard. And this thing you’re catastrophizing over is one of those hard things that there is a learning curve for and you need to let me get there. So chill the f$%^ out for two seconds, please. Cut me some slack and let me get good at this. Sincerely, Margo.”
And then don’t throw in the towel.
Take the towel and fold it nicely and put it back on the shelf.