Having been in business for almost two years now, it never ceases to amaze me how learning, growing and up-leveling continues to happen on a regular basis. And it's a good thing. It reminds me that I'm consistently opening myself up to opportunities and taking on larger projects. As a result, the challenges I face during the process results in incredibly valuable lessons.
Case in point -- my blog in The Huffington Post Canada last week caused quite a stir. I spoke from my heart, shared exactly what I thought and I was absolutely, unapologetically myself. Interestingly, the comments section was awash with backlash and the response on my other social media channels -- from people I know and love, I might add -- was not for the faint of heart. There were also people who wholeheartedly agreed with the piece. And it was brilliant! It showed that I was standing strong in my message and causing a polarizing reaction. I would take that any day over no reaction at all.
I'm not going to lie. When I read each hurtful comment, I did feel as though I had been punched in the gut. But only for a millisecond. Immediately after that, I defaulted to the lessons I've learned in seasons prior -- when someone spews hate, it says very little about their target and more about the person saying those cruel words. Here's what else.
There truly is a certain power that comes from the ability to read a negative comment about yourself, glance over it and just move on with your life. It's empowering as all hell. And as a solo entrepreneur with a personal brand, it's great for your business, too. Here's why.
It makes branding easier
It's tough to brand your business when you're constantly thinking about how you "have to" sound. What about if your brand was just who you are? What a radical concept. Making decisions on photography, logos and messaging becomes immensely easier when all you have to do is choose what best represents you as a human being. Now -- you may have to do a sh*t load of coaching and therapy and general soul-searching to find out who you are. That's what I did and it was time well spent.
It draws your audience to you
I'm sure you've heard the phrase, "Your vibe attracts your tribe." When I started out in business, I tried cringingly hard to figure out exactly who this tribe of mine was and I looked far and wide for where they might be lurking. Couldn't find 'em anywhere, for love nor money. The reality now is that I have a strong group of advocates and they have found me without too much effort on my part, and this happened the very moment I stopped being a wuss and I shared who I was as a person.
I published incredibly personal blogs here on The Huffington Post Canada. I posted my truth on social media. I stopped censoring myself. And in they came. Because when you are unapologetically yourself, the people you attract come to you with ease and they love you for who you genuinely are, without you having to force or construct a tribe.
It unleashes who you are truly meant to be
You know all those corny phrases like, "What would you do if you were not afraid or if failure wasn't an option?" Ask yourself the same question prefaced with, "Who would I be...?" You would be yourself. Your true, raw, ballsy, imperfect, amazing self. That's exactly who you should be, in every aspect of your life including your professional life. I receive a reminder of this fact whenever old photos of myself from my corporate days pop up in my Facebook memories. I honestly have no idea who that woman was, but she wasn't me. She was pretty much a watered down, sanitized, vanilla Cheryl because that's who I thought I had to be to survive in corporate. No fun.
Your confidence skyrockets
I can't talk confidence without mentioning my personal girl crush, Beyoncé. Do you think the immensely successful artist would have the same fan base if she shuffled shyly onto the stage wearing a conservative outfit as she warbled a sweet lullaby? I think not. And what about her song name that caused such a stir -- would it have the same impact if Queen Bey titled the tune, "Bow Down Ladies." No. If she had titled the song that way, it probably wouldn't be my jam, either. Beyoncé's confidence is at an all-time high because she is being herself and not giving a f*ck who doesn't like it. The irony? She has legions of fans who love her. And by my fangirling here, you would be absolutely correct in assuming I'm one of them.
If I was Beyonce, I would drop the mic right about now.
But I'm not Bey -- I'm myself. Flaws and all.
So saving the mic drop, I will close by reiterating -- be yourself. Your business will thank you for it.
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When you're in a stressful situation that triggers many emotions and in which you don't feel so confident (such as meeting your future in-laws), ask yourself what's the worst thing that can happen, suggests Shirin Khamisa, founder of Careers By Design in Toronto. "If you can come to terms with what the worst possible thing that can happen is -- which is usually not the end of the world -- then you can come to terms with it and you won't feel as stressed."
Before facing the situation you're feeling unsure about, get out of your own head, says Khamisa. Go for a walk outside or practice some deep breathing. When you stop contemplating and obsessing over every detail, getting out of your head allows you to relax and speak from the heart, the career coach says.
Taking a careful look at where your lack of confidence stems from is the key to formulating a plan to address it. "Often, your fears may not be rooted in reality," says Khamisa, noting she once had a client who'd held onto her insecurity from being an inexperienced entry-level employee, even though she's risen through the ranks and was more than capable in her current upper management position. You can discover where your fears stem from in many different ways. Consider asking colleagues for feedback, says Khamisa, or working with a career coach, as they can give you an outsider's perspective.
Focus on your strengths and they'll take the lead when it comes to your confidence, says psychologist Andrew Shaul. "Perhaps you're a good storyteller and you're funny. Play up those characteristics and you'll feel good -- rather than focusing on how to overcome your negative attributes," says Shaul. This will out you in a better place emotionally, as you'll be less anxious and less sensitive about what you're not good at, he adds.
"Rather than punishing yourself for the things you are not, accept that there are things you're not good at rather than hiding them, and it'll allow your strengths to come through," says Shaul, who works in private practice in Toronto. If you focus on limitations, you could overcompensate for what you're lacking and it'll shake your confidence. But acknowledging that you have areas that need work doesn't mean admitting defeat. When you accept your limitations, you can work on improving them, says Shaul, who uses the example of a tennis player with a bad backhand swing to illustrate. "If you don't accept your bad backhand, and you tell yourself 'I don't want the ball going anywhere near my backhand,' how can you work on it if you don't even want to face it?" he says. Avoiding or denying your weak spot might make you feel better in the short run, but in the long-term, your backhand problem remains. But understanding that it's a weak spot and working on it will help improve both your swing and your self-esteem.
Being well-prepared and well versed in whatever situation you're faced with is a sure-fire way to quell insecurity. This holds true whether it's a job interview you want to nail or you're getting quotes for a home renovation. There are few situations as nerve-wracking a job interview, but doing some thorough research on a potential employer (including the company and the interviewer if you know who it will be) can set your mind at ease by arming you with information to answer the tough questions. As well, researching the types of questions asked in interviews can help you prepare your responses. Employers are impressed with candidates who know their stuff. And candidates who know their stuff are often confident candidates. Similarly, doing some research into the home project you want to tackle will help you ask your contractors informed questions and will let them know you're not a client they can mess around with. Your knowledge skews the balance of power in your favour. And in turn, you'll enjoy safe and secure home renovations you can be confident in for the long run.
Knowing yourself is the first key to boosting your confidence, so don't be afraid to take a magnifying glass to yourself and really get to know your strengths as well as your limits - everyone has both and there is a wealth of resources out there that can help you build on your best bits and improve the parts you'd like to change. So get started! An utterly stellar and radiantly confident version of yourself awaits.
Follow Cheryl Muir on Twitter: www.twitter.com/cheryljmuir