It wouldn’t be an adventure if it wasn’t scary.
Fear is a fundamental part of human psychology. Our brains are wired to feel fear because it helps us avoid calamity; it keeps us safe.
But fear can also hold us back — if we let it. Fear feeds on fear, meaning the more we try to avoid something we’re afraid of, the bigger and deeper our anxiety grows. To overcome this, we must face our deep-seated misgivings and worries. We have to acknowledge our fears and find ways to move beyond them.
There are many common fears that entrepreneurs face. If we don’t confront those challenges, the fears will ultimately consume us. Whatever your fears are, now is the time to take them on and overcome what would otherwise keep you from succeeding.
1. Fear of change.
Change of any sort can be frightening. In fact, our brains are preprogrammed to avoid change. It’s natural to seek a comfortable, secure existence. We resist change because it poses a threat to our status quo. But complacency can keep us from taking action and moving forward.
Fear of change makes us anxious about the future, and this will certainly lead to a closed mindset in which we fail to make adjustments or anticipate what’s coming next. You can’t avoid change forever. No matter what stage you’re at with your business, you’ll have to find ways to embrace and harness innovation and advancement.
2. Fear of failure.
Failure often seems like the worst of all possibilities. When we think of failure, we think of unbearable embarrassment and the anguish of losing everything. But fear of failure is often rooted in pride.
If we fail, we believe that all those who doubted us will have been right. Instead, ask yourself these two things: 10 years from now, will you regret not taking this opportunity? And if you do fail, what will happen?
Developing a plan B will give you the confidence to forge ahead. Reframe the possibility of failure as the opportunity to try something new. If it doesn’t work out, it’s a chance to try something else.
3. Fear that you don’t know enough.
It may sound silly, but you don’t know what you don’t know. We all have gaps in our knowledge, or blind spots in our business acumen. Being aware of helps you take steps to mitigate those gaps. If you’re worried you’re missing areas of information or expertise, start working to rectify the situation.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Find mentors and resources to help fill in your blind spots. Seek feedback from others at each step of the way. But don’t allow fear to cause you to constantly second-guess yourself. Have confidence in yourself and trust your gut instinct.
4. Fear of the unknown.
Uncertainty registers in our brain like a blaring alarm. We often avoid the unknown because we fear change. We’re afraid of losing control and being unable to manage potential outcomes. Allowing ourselves to take a massive leap into the unknown is terrifying because we have no guarantees of how things will turn out.
The unknown will certainly lead to change of some kind. It might lead to success, but could just as easily lead to failure. When you understand what drives success in your business and you feel confident in your business model and prep work, you’ll feel more assured when you step into unknown territory.
5. Fear of committing to business expenses.
It’s one thing to dream big, develop a business plan and set goals and objectives. It’s another to put your finances or savings on the line and incur large business expenses. But here’s the thing: there’s almost no way you can move your business forward without putting money into it.
Even a low-overhead, low-cost business will eventually need an infusion of funds so you can market yourself, develop a professional-looking website or invest in office equipment such as a new computer. Yes, committing to expenses is a risk (see below) but unless you’re willing to invest in your dream, your business will quickly plateau.
6. Fear of taking risks.
Every time we take a risk on something, we’re putting ourselves, our business and our reputation on the line. A risk can pay off with amazing success, or it can lead to a downward spiral and failure. But there is an important difference between dangerous, unmitigated risk and thoughtful, calculated risk.
Dangerous risk takers are like gamblers, betting it all on something that isn’t proven. With a calculated risk, you have strategized each step of the way. You move incrementally toward your goal, carefully assessing your level of investment and overhead until you’re assured your business will support more. Calculated risks are key to every success.
7. Fear of disappointing others.
No one wants to let their people down. Who doesn’t want to impress their friends, colleagues or loved ones? We want to live up to expectations and make sure we’ve met everyone’s requests. But as an entrepreneur, you’re going to have to carve your own path.
You have to focus your time and energy on the things that matter to you. If you don’t go after your dreams, pursue your goals and build a life you are passionate about, you’re letting yourself down. Decide what your purpose is and go after it. Don’t push aside your own ambitions in a quest to keep everyone else happy.
8. Fear of being pushed into uncomfortable situations.
Many people fear public speaking more than death. Just the thought of it puts us on edge and makes us anxious — because public speaking can be incredibly nerve-racking. With practice, however, we can become comfortable pushing ourselves outside our comfort zones. But it won’t happen without getting into the right mindset and prepping to take on this challenge.
Just like climbing a mountain or going skydiving, you wouldn’t do it without working yourself up to it. You can start by taking small steps and doing things just outside of your comfort zone. Allow yourself to become familiar with discomfort, and before long you’ll be able to embrace new situations without dread and distress.
9. Fear of being wrong.
Most entrepreneurs are competitive by nature, so it makes sense that many of us would fear making mistakes or seeming less than perfect. Overcoming this fear requires you to tackle your ingrained sense of perfectionism and learn to be comfortable with the fact that everyone, even you, will get it wrong sometimes.
It’s important to recognize that mistakes happen because we did something, we took action, we made a leap. Maybe it was a misstep, but making a mistake is better than doing nothing at all — that only leads to indecision and stagnation. So don’t beat yourself up when you make a mistake. Recalculate and keep pressing on.
10. Fear that you’re not good enough.
Self-doubt can be a mountain to overcome. We know our flaws and our shortcomings better than anyone. Sometimes a dark fear lingers in the back of our minds: “What if I’m not good enough?”
For some people, this becomes a deeply embedded fear that they’re not as competent as everyone else believes they are, and they feel that no matter how hard they work, they’ll always be inadequate.
This is called the imposter syndrome. This hot mess of harmful anxiety can set up a vicious cycle of questioning your abilities and constantly striving for unattainable levels of perfectionism. Take steps to move past these feelings. Don’t let the internal fears hold you back from pursuing your goals.
11. Fear of saying no.
It’s tempting to take every project and every job, and pursue every lead that comes your way. And when you’re just getting your business off the ground, any amount of income is a good thing. But there comes a time when you’re going to need to say no to some things. If you continue to stretch yourself too thin and take on too much, you won’t do any of it well.
As an entrepreneur, make sure the work you’re taking on is helping you build something bigger. Are you taking on projects that are in keeping with your core mission and your larger goals? Or are you accepting a lot of one-off projects that aren’t really helping your reputation? It’s OK to say no to some things, so you can say yes to the right things.