These are exciting times for female entrepreneurs and women who own small and micro-businesses. Not only are our numbers growing, we’re also logging bigger and bigger successes.
But there’s something amiss, and it’s holding us back from realising our full potential.
Many of us are refusing to own our ambitions and are underselling ourselves. Now, I’m not talking about a lack of confidence per se. To become an entrepreneur, you need to have a certain level of confidence in yourself and in your ability to succeed.
But all the confidence in the world is useless if you still feel the need to undersell yourself when talking to others. And you may not even realise that you are doing it – most women don’t.
You may find yourself saying things like:
“I work as an IT contractor”, “I am self-employed as an IT professional” or “I work for a company called Girl Tech” – instead of saying “My name is Lucy and I own my own company, called Girl Tech.”
Does this sound like something you’d say?
So many of us are reluctant to tell people that we’re entrepreneurs or that we own our own businesses. Why is this? What is stopping us from owning up to our success?
Isn’t that the goal?
Isn’t that the thing you’ve been dreaming about for years, decades… or your whole life?
I think we need to have a conversation about why we’re under-selling ourselves.
Do you own your business in secret?
I’ve talked to hundreds of female business owners about this subject during my career and I have come to a conclusion:
Women, as a matter of nature, would rather help others than help themselves.
I think we can all agree that there’s the ring of truth to this statement. We see what our mothers, sisters, daughters and friends do for one another and it’s undeniable, women enjoy helping and tend to put others’ needs ahead of their own.
But do we have to choose between ourselves and our customers in business?
No, we don’t!
You simply have to stand back and take in the big picture.
So, what is your big picture? Well, it should look something like this:
“You are a woman who owns a business. You enjoy the independence of it. You like making your own decisions and feel a great sense of accomplishment from this. And most of all, you like relieving people’s pain, helping them to solve their problems and ultimately changing their lives for the better. This is why you get out of bed in the morning. It’s your passion.”
This is the mindset of a successful business owner. The mindset where you carry your passion for helping others over into your business without having to sacrifice your own recognition or sense of accomplishment.
This isn’t the standard mindset for most women – but it could be!
The first step is recognising that there is an issue, and what that issue is.
Three Outside Factors that may be Affecting Your Confidence
Here are 3 things that may be affecting your ability to say “I’m a #bossbabe and I’m proud of it”.
Have you ever heard the term Imposter Syndrome? As an entrepreneur, the chances are that you have come across it at one point or another. Imposter Syndrome is the feeling of inadequacy despite being successful. It’s the idea that you’ve only succeeded due to luck, the feeling that you’re not good enough to fit in with your peers, or the fear that you’re friends and family will think you’re a fraud.
It’s that little but you tack on to your thoughts. Where you’ve just given a presentation in front of a roomful of people and you think to yourself “I just gave my biggest presentation ever, but it’s no big deal, there were only 30 people and they probably weren’t listening anyway”.
But if you do struggle from Imposter Syndrome, or you have in the past, you’re not alone. It’s estimated that around 70% of people experience Imposter Syndrome at some point in their lives. It can affect anyone: men, women, and children of all ages. It’s the inability to internalise success, and while you may think this means that it’s more likely to affect those with low self-esteem or drive to succeed, it’s actually more prominent in successful, confident people.
Your personality and strongest traits may have a significant effect, however. Those that consider themselves perfectionists, experts, natural geniuses, superwomen, or solopreneurs are more likely to suffer from Imposter Syndrome as they push themselves to work harder and meet higher expectations than the average person.Those that consider themselves perfectionists, experts, natural geniuses, superwomen, or #solopreneurs are more likely to suffer from #ImposterSyndrome. #businesswomen Click To Tweet
I’ve also found this great resource to help you out, so if you think you might suffer from Imposter Syndrome but aren’t completely sure, take this quiz by psychologist Pauline Rose Clance.
Overusing the Word “We”
When you start a business, particularly when you’re part of a team, it’s easy to fall into the habit of using the term “we”. And this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s good to show your team off as a cohesive unit and to promote team spirit. But don’t let your own accomplishments disappear entirely. Make your own accomplishments clear and visible by tracking and verbalising your achievements to your team. This is extra important if your team is a mix of men and women as people tend to rely on preconceived notions and stereotypes when they’re unsure, and your personal accomplishments may be overshadowed by your staff or co-workers.
If you’re always telling people it was “a group effort”, you’re not owning your success, which will affect not only your confidence in your abilities but others too.
The “Female Stereotype”
Despite our push for equality in the workplace, women are still held to different standards than their male counterparts. In most corporate settings, a man who speaks his mind and flaunts his accomplishments is seen as “ambitious and confident” while a woman who does the same is usually labelled as “a bossy, overconfident b***ch”.
Don’t believe me?
In 2016, a survey of more than 30,000 employees found that women who negotiated for promotions were 30% more likely than men to be labelled as bossy, intimidating, and aggressive.
It’s an unfortunately common stereotype that has been perpetuated in TV and in movies.
From a young age, boys and girls are taught to uphold different societal values. Women are taught to be meek and humble, to downplay our success and defer to our male counterparts, while men are pushed to stand out and to ask questions. And since these stereotypes and values have become so ingrained in our culture, you may not even recognise when it’s impacting your thoughts and actions. This need to stay “humble” and appear “unthreatening” may be impacting your ability to celebrate and promote your success.
You may have already been aware of “the female stereotype”, but are you aware of how much it subconsciously affects your actions and self-confidence? If you’re curious whether gender plays a role in your mind, you can take Project Implicit’s test to find out.
Why You Need to Start OWNING your Success!
Do you feel like if you spend more time promoting yourself as the owner of the business, talking about your why and your story, that you will be taking some of that joy away from your customers?
You fear that the business will suddenly be all about you and that the shift of the spotlight will leave your customers unsatisfied or in the dark.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
In fact, by promoting your passion and your story, you will be making your business more visible to the customers who need you most. You will be enabling yourself to help more people, in bigger ways.By promoting your passion and your story, you will be making your business more visible to the #customers who need you most. #Fempreneurs Click To Tweet
So really, when you OWN your ambition and really OWN your business, you’re giving your customers more.
By “secretly” owning your business, rather than broadcasting that it’s yours, you are short-changing your customers. You’re not giving them the opportunity to get to know the real you—the one who cares so much about their well-being and their success.
You’re limiting your potential, and theirs too.
Things to Remember as You Learn to OWN Your Business
This is a big shift in thinking for most women, and it can take some practice. Here are some tips I have found helpful in learning to really OWN your business, rather than always underselling yourself.
- Tell your story more often, and to more people.
You can feel better about doing this by avoiding the standard, dry bio. Instead, talk about how you developed a love for helping others in your own, unique way. Or focus on your passions and trials, whatever you feel comfortable with. People want to connect with you, not with a stale, dry brand.
- Ask for feedback about you and your business from your most loyal customers.
It can be easier for a woman to accept praise than to talk about her own accomplishments (and it’s usually better-received, too). It’s also a massive confidence boost. If you struggle to internalise your own praise, try remembering what others say about you. If someone else is willing to say kind things about you, why can’t you say them about yourself (at least internally)?
- Hire a PR Firm or Specialist.
If you’re super uncomfortable about promoting yourself, don’t let that keep you from showing the world how awesome you are. You can always hire a Public Relations firm or specialist to aid in getting the word out about your business.
- Compete for industry awards.
They not only provide great press, they can also “speak” alongside you and vouch for your expertise. This is more outside validation that will help you feel more confident in owning your success. Try hanging them on a wall near your desk as a reminder that you are capable, and that you deserve your success.
- Find a female support group.
Band together with other successful women and support one another. Brag about each other so you don’t always have to tout your own accomplishments. It’s easier to start building that confidence in your achievements when you’re surrounded by other like-minded, successful women.
- Start calling yourself a business owner.
You are a business owner – start acting like it. If you call yourself a contractor or employee, you’ll start to feel like that’s all you are. Tell yourself “I am a business owner”. Look at yourself in the mirror and say it every morning, then start introducing yourself that way. If you say it enough, you’ll eventually start to believe it.
You are Capable of Breaking the Mould!
I would never ask you to change or disguise your own nature. You can still be humble and easygoing if that’s who you truly are. But don’t let the feeling of inadequacy or what others might think, make you undersell yourself.
You need to start owning your own ambitions. Because they are YOURS, after all. That’s all that matters.
Be true to yourself – Shout it from the rooftops if you want to.
You are a business owner and girl, that alone makes you AH-MAZ-ING!
Did this article resonate with you? Let us know in the comments below. xox
Marnie LeFevre is the Founder of Fempire. She is also a #1 bestselling author and marketing expert who has made it her mission to support women to achieve the success they deserve and to lead with confidence. She believes women can achieve anything with the right support and a sisterhood to back them up.