Being an entrepreneur is exciting. You get to be your own boss, set your own hours, pursue your passions for profit and learn things about yourself you didn’t know you were capable of. Being an entrepreneur can also be incredibly scary.

You’re setting out on your own, taking on things you’ve never done before, taking risks with your finances and trading in a comfortable, salaried job with good benefits for an idea. It can be a terrifying prospect and a lot of responsibility to shoulder – and if things don’t go precisely to plan it’s easy to give in to the entrepreneur’s biggest enemy: self-doubt.

Self-doubt

When you’re first starting out you’ll most likely be on your own. Without the usual bustle of a busy office it’s easy for self-doubt to find you.

Now here’s the thing about self-doubt; it can be an incredibly powerful motivator if you master it. If you give in to it then that’s when the real trouble starts because it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Self-doubt taunts you into inaction and empty distraction; it wants you to fail and the easy way to fail is to do nothing or to do something that isn’t going to help you succeed.

Self-doubt is an important thing to have. It’s a great leveller and in small doses can help keep the successful from the perils of hubris. Every great entrepreneur has self-doubt, moments of indecision and even regrets. It is human nature to second-guess your decisions, talents and ideas. The trick is to use your self-doubt to be more productive.

Master your fears

Self-doubt is a saboteur that wins by convincing you that you are the problem and everyone else finds it easy. Everyone has doubts. Knowing you are not alone is the first step towards mastering your self-doubt.

The second step is to stop comparing yourself with others. It is easy to benchmark yourself against those whose accomplishments make you feel inadequate. Stop wasting energy chasing shadows and start focusing on what you have achieved and what you hope to achieve.

Set yourself short-term, easily attainable goals as well as long-term goals. Ambition is a powerful motivator but winning is a habit. Set yourself small goals and start racking up regular wins.

Step three is to lower your expectations of what you should be. We are all our own harshest critics so create a more realistic image of yourself now as well as of the future you. Failing to live up to unrealistically high expectations is a sure-fire way to let self-doubt control you. Allow yourself to make mistakes without beating yourself up. Forgive your blunders and learn from them.

Positive distraction

Empty distractions are the lifeblood of self-doubt. Writing a blog you didn’t plan to, reading a book for inspiration, trawling social media for validation or ‘taking a break from it all’ are distractions that feed self-doubt. They are ways to stop you from focusing.

That is not to say all distraction is bad. Sometimes we do need to get away from it all to centre ourselves. Self-doubt is a great breeder of negative thoughts and pessimism. Positive distraction is a worthwhile endeavour to combat this. Try exercising, going for a walk, just sitting on a bench eating ice-cream, starting a different project or attending a networking event. Find something to do that either benefits your business or your physical or mental wellbeing.

Remove the negative

Surround yourself with the right people and remove the negative from your life. You don’t want everyone in your life to be a Pollyanna who tells you everything is awesome and all of your ideas are sensational but you also don’t need to keep naysayers close.

Focus more on positive feedback and take the time to remember and appreciate all of your achievements. Positivity is a mindset – get into it.
Don’t be afraid of failure – not all failure is negative. Self-doubt is a human response to all of life’s obstacles but it doesn’t have to hinder you from reaching your goals. Use your self-doubt to challenge yourself, test your limitations and achieve more.