I did not see this coming. Two weeks ago, I released my company “flagship video” and videos for each of my leadership development modules. (I’m not linking here because that’s not the point). This was my first foray into actively marketing my business and I was damn proud to have material out there that does right by my clients, business, and family.
But the second I uploaded the videos to my website and shared on LinkedIn, I was filled with angst and wavering self-worth. My confidence – which had been high moments earlier – started to leak. I was entirely caught off-guard by the emotions that hit me.
I was supposed to feel a sense of accomplishment, even excitement for what client/prospect consideration the videos would produce. And here I was feeling the weight of judgement by those who would view my videos. It was as if viewers were literally standing in front of me and deciding whether they would hire me or refer me to potential clients. I was consumed by those whose judgement would not be in my favor. I couldn’t even bring myself to think about those who would attaboy my effort.
I spent the next two hours staring out the window of the coffee shop I was working from. I put my computer away and just sat with the feelings I had.
First, I tried to talk myself out of feeling vulnerable. Then, I checked my website metrics, which was plain and simple a terrible idea for how I was feeling. I sank back into the unexpected fear derived from the (seemingly) innocuous act of marketing my business. Thankfully, my mind turned to “why” I was feeling this way.
I had paid an agency to produce three videos. The act of hiring the agency meant I was placing a bet on myself. It was win or lose. There was no grey here, just black and white – win or lose. It wasn’t clear to me at first, but I had written a significant check, which made it really real. Yeah, I could have shot the videos myself and then had an excuse when the final product was amateurish and underwhelming. But now I had no such excuse.
I had set expectations for the videos with those I met over the previous months. Mind you, I didn’t set expectations high. I even filled my comments with sincere self-deprecation and honest critique of my “performance” as “talent.” I had directed many executives on their video performance, but my experience didn’t translate into the belief that I could personally perform well.
I came to realize that the videos were one-way communication. Sure, plenty of people said nice things on LinkedIn and even sent the videos out to their networks. But I felt the act of others sharing my work was obligatory or just to be kind. I wanted to earn shares and the congratulatory emails some sent, but had no way of knowing the motivation of those who shared praise. Imagine that, thinking about motives for those doing you a great favor. I was embarrassed by my thought process, but there it was.
Then another wave washed over me. The great majority of work I’ve done has come through referrals. I realized something. With referrals, the risk for confidence drop is less because it’s just you, the person you’re referred to, and the person who referred you. There are only three people in the equation, and only two people to do right by. In other words, referrals produce small-scale vulnerability, with which I’ve managed to deal. Heck, the low-level emotional exposure I’ve felt was even a motivator because I’m serious about my clients and business.
A wise friend once said to me, “if you keep it in your head, you keep it from everyone else.” That thought bounced around my brain for a few weeks as I decided whether to share my feelings with the world. I could keep them to myself, but I’d miss out on the conversation surely to start from putting myself out there. Vulnerabilities and all.
So, here I am – feeling confident about my business and absolutely loving what I do. At the same time, I feel the weight of judgement and question whether promotion is worth the emotional toll. I’m just glad I’ve come to grips with the idea that confidence and vulnerability can exist simultaneously. As an entrepreneur, I actually don’t want one without the other.
Man, the human brain is full of contradictions, in life and business.
That’s my truth. What’s yours?