Don’t be afraid to share your struggles
For the first few years of running my business, I was a total liar.
I wasn’t lying intentionally, illegally or in a malicious way. I hate to break it to you, but you might be a liar too. Actually, if you’re a female entrepreneur who has a blog or social media presence, you most likely are.
From the moment I launched my business, I wanted to show the world that I was the redheaded version of Superwoman. I could do everything and be everything! I could dream up incredible ideas, execute all of them and lead my team to amazing things. I could conceptualize, write, edit and promote everything. I could write a book while juggling my usual workload and traveling. In first class.
That’s what I showed the world, and here’s where the lying part comes in: I broadcast my polished, perfect-looking business life — professionally-shot photos and edited weekly videos; Instagram updates from all over the world; bon mots on Twitter. What I didn’t broadcast was just how many people and how much work goes into keeping our businesses — which I am often the face of — running smoothly and growing.
I didn’t broadcast snapshots of those 2:00 a.m. writing sessions in my pajamas struggling to meet a deadline, or the days I cried my way through because of a legal situation that was affecting my entire company, or that one time the police raided my hotel room when I didn’t respond to an alarm going off for 15 minutes — because I was dead asleep after three long days of non-stop travel. True story.
I didn’t want anyone to know this stuff because I was afraid of what others might think. If I mentioned the police raiding my hotel room, would people assume I’d done something wrong for that to happen? Trust me, I was confused as to why they went to this extreme over an alarm going off too, but I later learned they were following protocol because they thought it could have been a suicide.
One day it hit me that I was lying by only showing people such a perfectly curated version of my life and business, and letting them believe that I was indeed the redhead Superwoman who could do it all.
I stopped lying and started sharing the things I thought no one would care to see. And then something interesting happened: when I got a lot more honest with my community and my clients about all stuff they weren’t seeing on my social media feeds, my business took off like never before.
Getting honest starts with knowing exactly who you are. The first step in my process was discovering my Conqueror Archetype (I’ve written about how to do this in my latest book, The Conquer Kit). When you find your archetype and decide if you’re a Queen, Revolutionary, Creator, Dreamer, Builder, Messenger, Commander or Contributor everything in your professional life will shift into focus.
What do those titles mean? They define how you navigate business, how you manage a team, and even where you find inspiration and what you do with it. The Queen has no trouble seeing her goals to completion, but she might struggle with being a bit egocentric at times. The Dreamer has game-changing ideas three times a day but doesn’t always follow through with them. The Contributor is a big-hearted philanthropist, but when she feels like her work isn’t saving the world, she can lose steam. When you know who you are, you’ll know who to hire, which tasks to delegate and which projects you should just abandon altogether.
When I was honest with myself about what I’m great at, I could truthfully share what I’m not so great at with my team so they could fill in for my weaknesses. I could outsource my struggles and do the work that lights me up. My business became more stable and more sustainable. I was happier, my team was happier and my bank account was happier.
Connecting with community
Another thing that happened when I got honest about my own business struggles: I connected with readers and clients in a totally new way.
Perfection is intimidating and boring; I also happen to think it’s a little bit untrustworthy. We want to hire and work people we know, like and trust — and it’s hard to know, like and trust people who seem like airbrushed robots.
When I opened up about my struggles — tweaking my business to accommodate new interests, the challenges of maintaining my health while traveling constantly, for instance — my readers responded. “Yes!” “Me too!” “I was wondering how you managed!” they said. Being open and vulnerable with them took my business to a whole new level and allowed me to connect with my community more deeply than I could have imagined.
So, my fellow female entrepreneurs, I beg you: be a little bit more honest with yourself and with your followers and friends. Own up to who you really are in business, whether that’s a behind-the-scenes Contributor or a luxury-loving Queen. Own up to where you’re stuck or struggling and acknowledge that you can’t do everything yourself. Your readers will relate to and love you for it.
An easier, more open life and business are waiting for you. Take a deep breath and get honest.
Natalie MacNeil is an Emmy Award-winning media entrepreneur, creator of SheTakesOnTheWorld.com, and author of The Conquer Kit (Tarcher-Perigee 2015).
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organisation comprising the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship programme that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.
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