Do you find yourself second-guessing your business decisions, even when your instincts are screaming the answer? If so, you’re not alone. Over the years, I’ve battled self-doubt regularly, and even now, with two successful businesses under my belt, I still struggle to fully trust my instincts. The question we all face is, how can we overcome self-doubt as an entrepreneur and learn to trust our inner wisdom?
In this blog post, I’ll draw upon years of entrepreneurial experience to delve into the critical but often overlooked subject of self-doubt and instinctual decision-making. Trust me when I say, there have been times when I’ve ignored that nagging feeling—which I affectionately refer to as ‘the ick’—and have lived to regret it.
But with time and practice, I’ve learned to heed these intuitive warnings, and in doing so, have unlocked greater success and peace of mind in my entrepreneurial journey. This post aims to arm you with actionable insights and real-world experiences that can help you trust your gut, overcome self-doubt as an entrepreneur, and make better-aligned decisions for both your values and your business.
So, let’s dig deep and explore how to transform that inner whisper of doubt into a powerful force propelling your business towards success.
How Self-Doubt Can Sabotage Your Success
While self-doubt may seem like an internal battle that merely affects your peace of mind, its impact often extends much further—potentially undermining the success of your entire enterprise. In the competitive and fast-paced world of entrepreneurship, confidence is key; even the slightest hesitation can be costly.
Whether it’s disregarding red flags from potential clients or second-guessing your hiring choices, succumbing to self-doubt can lead to poor decisions that are not only stressful but can also put your business at risk. Here are some of the myriad ways self-doubt can act as a silent saboteur, hampering growth and clouding judgment.
Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of working with a diverse array of individuals—entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, small business owners, big business managers, innovators, you name it. That’s the beauty of being self-employed; the scope of my work isn’t limited to just one company, but rather a colourful array of projects that keeps me engaged and inspired. However, with such variety comes the inevitable downside: encountering the occasional problematic client.
Accepting Clients Who Give You The Ick
It’s a simple reality that any business, no matter how successful, will cross paths with a difficult client or customer from time to time. The good news is, the longer you’re in business, the more adept you become at recognizing these red flags and steering clear. But here’s the catch—you must be willing to trust your gut instinct, that inner voice that warns you, “This one’s going to be a NIGHTMARE!”
Whether it’s a personality clash, or a sense that they undervalue your offerings, your accumulated experience will make it easier to identify potentially problematic clients. This insight allows you the option to sidestep working with them, whether by respectfully declining their business or by refining your marketing strategy to attract a different clientele. Trusting that inner ick feeling is essential; otherwise, you’ll find yourself in a never-ending cycle of challenges.
You may think, “Of course, I won’t work with clients I suspect will be troublesome,” but you’d be surprised how often entrepreneurs ignore their instincts. Reasons for this vary:
- They’re paying clients, so you think you can’t afford to decline.
- You can’t pinpoint exactly what feels off, so you dismiss it.
- You’re aware something’s wrong but convince yourself you’re overreacting.
- It feels unprofessional to reject work based on a gut feeling.
- You feel a sense of obligation to help anyone who asks.
In doing so, you knowingly set yourself up for future problems. Why? Because you don’t trust your intuition. You disregard the warning signs, propelling yourself off a figurative cliff. Failing to trust the ick, or rather, letting your self-doubt cloud your judgment, can lead you to engage with clients that you intuitively know are not a good match.
Hiring Or Outsourcing To Red Flags
Just like you can have gut reactions to prospective clients, the same holds true when you’re considering hiring or outsourcing work. There’ve been instances where I’ve considered bringing someone onboard for a task or outsourcing a project to a freelancer, only for my intuition to sound the alarm: something isn’t right.
I get the ick.
Over the years, the reasons for this visceral response have varied widely. From offhand sexist comments that raised questions about their ability to respect a female business owner, to pressure tactics like claiming they had limited availability to rush my decision-making process. Other times, they advertised a particular offer but then pulled a bait-and-switch just as I was about to sign up.
When personalities clash, values misalign, or methodologies differ, it’s a sign that the individual may not be the right fit for your business or the task at hand. There have been times when I’ve ignored these instincts, often to my detriment.
For instance, I once joined a course because a friend was excited about it. It turned out to be a mere rehash of a course I’d already taken, costing me a wasted £1K. Then there was the employee my boss hired while I was on vacation, who came across as a showboater with no real skills. Despite my reservations, I kept quiet to avoid confrontation. As it turned out, he was not just incompetent but also a legal liability.
I also had an experience with a marketing agency that seemed friendly but inexperienced. That led to attracting the wrong type of clients and a website project that still has lingering issues due to its poor construction. Lastly, there was the service provider who gave me the ick each time I encountered their posts online. Despite my gut feelings, I went ahead because they came highly recommended by someone I respected. The result? A year of extreme stress and entirely unnecessary complications.
In the world of business, where every decision has consequences—good or bad—trusting your gut is more than a luxury; it’s a necessity. Ignoring the “ick” can lead to wasted time, money, and, worst of all, a blow to your business reputation that’s hard to recover from. While it might feel unprofessional or uncomfortable to turn away opportunities based on a gut feeling, experience has taught me that your instincts are a form of data that should not be disregarded. Learning to trust that inner voice can save you from situations that look good on paper but are disastrous in reality. So, the next time your gut tells you something is off—listen. It could be the difference between a fruitful partnership and a lesson painfully learned.
Missing Opportunities Because You Don’t Feel Worthy
Believe it or not, self-doubt doesn’t just steer you toward bad decisions; it can also prevent you from seizing great ones. How many times have you come across an incredible opportunity only to talk yourself out of it? Maybe you told yourself the project was too big, the client too prestigious, or the job too demanding. Essentially, you questioned your worthiness to take on the role, despite your years of experience and proven track record.
The root of the problem? A phenomenon known as “impostor syndrome.” You could be an industry leader, yet still feel like a fraud who’s just one step away from being “found out.” This can cause you to second-guess your skills and value, leading you to pass on opportunities that could elevate your career and your business to unprecedented heights.
Here’s the catch: While you’re wallowing in self-doubt, someone else is taking advantage of the opportunity you’ve passed on—someone who might not even have your level of expertise or your depth of passion. They win not because they are better but because they believe they are worthy of the chance. The opportunity didn’t slip through your fingers; you let it go.
Overcoming this form of self-doubt involves a mental shift. Start by acknowledging your accomplishments—write them down if you have to. Recognize that you didn’t get to where you are by accident. You have worked hard, accumulated experience, and honed your skills over years, and you deserve the new opportunities that come your way as much as anyone else does.
Next time you’re faced with an opportunity that makes you question your worthiness, take a step back and challenge those doubts. Would this opportunity have even come your way if you weren’t capable of handling it? Probably not. So trust yourself, trust your journey, and most importantly, deem yourself worthy. You’ve earned it.
How To Overcome Self-Doubt And Trust Your Instincts
After hearing about my experiences and the obstacles that can arise from ignoring your gut feelings, you might be wondering how to better trust your own instincts. In this section, we’ll delve into concrete steps you can take to overcome self-doubt and make more confident decisions.
Track Your Perceptions, Reactions, And Gut Instincts
Patterns become clearer over time. By systematically cataloguing each client interaction, you can gain valuable insights into what might lead to problematic situations. It’s not just about where your clients are coming from geographically; it’s about identifying the pipelines through which they found you. Which platforms, marketing initiatives, or offers are responsible for bringing both the good and the troublesome to your door?
Years ago, I ran a Google Ads campaign for The Write Copy Girl, which seemed successful initially. However, upon reviewing my client interactions later, I noticed a troubling pattern: all the clients who discovered me through that campaign turned out to be problematic. Needless to say, I haven’t used Google Ads since, and my cluster of issues has dissipated.
But it’s not just about identifying problematic pipelines; sometimes, it’s about recognizing patterns in client behaviour related to specific offers. For instance, I once ran a promotion offering a free blog post to prospective clients. While this campaign yielded some fantastic relationships, it also attracted more than its fair share of difficult clients.
In addition to tracking the origin of clients and the promotions they respond to, consider adding a ‘gut reaction’ column to your client audit. Document your initial impressions and intuitions about each client. Having a tangible record can not only help you maintain a high standard of service but also validate your instincts. If you find that your troublesome clients usually begin with a sense of foreboding while your most rewarding client relationships often start with a positive feeling, that’s empirical evidence that your gut knows what it’s talking about.
Validating Your Gut
Listening to my gut made my entrepreneurial journey less fraught with stress and more harmonious. However, this awareness didn’t come without challenges. I recall being on the verge of subscribing to a service that would set me back several thousand pounds per month. Despite the internal alarm bells and the ick I felt during my initial consultation with the person in question, I was torn. I felt both an obligation to proceed and a dismissal of my reservations as unwarranted or exaggerated. I questioned whether my hesitations were just self-imposed limitations, blocking me from levelling up.
Luckily, I had a resource at hand: Denise Duffield Thomas’ Money Bootcamp, a supportive community that has served as an invaluable sounding board for me. I posed my dilemma to the group: Was I overreacting due to a mental block about spending, or were the red flags real? The unanimous advice was to trust my instincts; the red flags were not to be ignored.
This is where the power of community comes into play. Just as tracking client interactions can provide empirical evidence for your gut feelings, consulting trusted peers can serve as an additional layer of validation. Overcoming internal voices of doubt becomes easier when your instincts are corroborated by others who have been in similar situations. The more you validate your gut instincts, the less you’ll grapple with self-doubt when making critical business decisions.
Breaking Out Of Your Comfort Zone
So, picture this. The BBC gets in touch with me about doing a collab. Yeah, that BBC! They had stumbled upon an article I wrote for The Huffington Post about bipolar disorder and wanted me to lend my voice to a video project aimed at raising awareness. Flattering, right? But my initial reaction was anything but excitement. Instead, I was swamped with a tidal wave of imposter syndrome, thinking, “They can’t possibly want me. They’ve made a mistake.”
It would’ve been so easy to back out, to stay in my cosy comfort zone. But I pushed through that crippling self-doubt and said yes. Why? Because this was a moment to stretch myself and to practice what I’d been preaching to my clients about seizing opportunities.
And, wow, am I glad I did. The project didn’t just help raise awareness for a cause close to my heart; it opened up a whole new realm of possibilities for me. You see, it gave me the confidence to start vlogging regularly—a move I’d been advising my clients to make for ages. Deep down, I knew vlogging could catapult my visibility and SEO game to new heights. But I’d been holding back because of my own insecurities, mostly around my appearance and weight.
But guess what happened when I finally took the plunge? My income tripled in six months. Yeah, you read that right. Tripled. It was the kind of proof-of-concept moment that left me not only validated but also a bit sheepish for not having listened to my own advice sooner.
Fast forward to today, vlogging is now at the heart of my signature content marketing strategy, Divine Blogging. It’s a game-changing service that has empowered my clients to dramatically increase their visibility, rake in consistent leads, and build up streams of passive income. And guess what? It even inspired a book, and there’s an e-course in the pipeline.
The moral of the story? Trust your capabilities, even when self-doubt wants to be the loudest voice in the room. What you know and what you can offer is often more than enough. And sometimes, stepping out of your comfort zone not only validates your professional advice but can launch you into new avenues of success you hadn’t even allowed yourself to imagine.
In the digital age, social proof often comes in the form of online reviews. We scour these meticulously, hoping to glean insights into whether a product or service will meet our expectations. Bad reviews are like warning signs flashing before our eyes, urging us to rethink our choices. Yet, sometimes we ignore them, driven by our desires or whims. More often than not, we’re left with a purchase that fulfils none of its promises and confirms every red flag those reviews raised.
Ignoring your gut is remarkably similar. That intuitive voice inside you serves as your personal review system, cautioning you when something’s amiss. The danger lies in how much easier it is to disregard our instincts than it is to overlook external advice. For some inexplicable reason, many of us find it easier to trust a stranger’s judgment over our own.
Yet, as we’ve journeyed through personal and professional examples, it’s abundantly clear that your instincts often know what’s best for you. They can discern red flags in potential hires, sniff out problematic clients, and even push you towards opportunities that could fundamentally shift your career trajectory. Ignoring this inner wisdom is not just an act of self-doubt; it’s an act of self-sabotage.
So, the next time you find yourself on the fence—whether it’s about a significant investment, a new hire, or even an exciting collaboration—pause for a moment. Remember that your gut instinct is the most personalized review you’ll ever get. Listen to it. Trust it. Act on it. You’ll be surprised how often it leads you not just away from what’s bad, but towards what’s extraordinarily good for you.
And if you’d like to have a free read of that book I was talking about, fill in the form below…