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Managing your finances is about mindset as much as it is about knowledge.  It’s really important for all of us to figure out ways of keeping negative mindsets like self-doubt in check, but it’s especially important for entrepreneurs.  Negative thoughts can be like an echo chamber when you don’t have coworkers or a safe place to discuss them. You can’t let negativity ruin you.  

Image credit: Derek Halpern

Have you ever found yourself in this vicious cycle? You’re feeling down (not good enough, discouraged, frustrated etc.), so your brain automatically looks for patterns in information — or more likely — social media feeds that prove these doubts to be true.  Finding these “facts” lead you to be further convinced that you can’t trust yourself or your abilities or that you’re not as rich, successful, or prepared as “so-and-so”.

This kind of self-doubt, is also known “imposter syndrome” — when we fear that people may find out we’re not as good as we let on. Knowing more about it, and recognizing that everyone experiences it, actually reduces its power.

But that doesn’t mean the process is easy.

I think as entrepreneurs we have to take special steps to train our brain to get through the tough times.  Here are some methods that have worked for me. 

The Power of Gratitude

When you get caught in a cycle of negativity, it is easy to forget about the positive things that are worth celebrating. Humans are hard-wired to remember the negative more than the positive out of self protection, and studies show it takes at least three (if not five) positive thoughts to overturn one negative thought. Thinking about what you’re grateful for, especially if you jot it down on paper can be both cathartic and productive.

So, start by writing down one or two aspects of your life that you’re grateful for — whether it’s your morning cup of coffee, the beautiful walk you took over the weekend, or a great mentor in your life. One of the best ways to push negativity out of your brain is to replace it with positivity.

Once you start thinking (or writing) about one or two aspects of your life that you are grateful for, you’ll find it easier to think of more things. Those one or two things will easily balloon into a half a page or a full page of things you’re grateful for. 

Keep Track of Your Wins

Reminding yourself of your personal or business successes is another great way of shaking off self-doubt.  It’s really easy to minimize a success when there’s so much more left on our entrepreneurial to-do list.  When you have a busy schedule, it’s not always easy to find the time.

Setting up a scheduled reminder to write down recent or long-term successes can provide a much-needed boost to morale on a regular basis. It doesn’t even have to be the BIG successes.  The small successes should be celebrated too.  If you acquired a new client, received some good feedback, or finished a project on time this week, put it in an email for yourself, or simply write it down.  I like to do this weekly and I call it my “weekly wins” email to myself.  My peers and I share our wins with each other during study group time because we don’t want to let the negative ruin our meetings.   We’re allowed to share one loss for every three wins we share, and it works great!

Once you have a list going, you have a body of evidence showing all of your accomplishments in one place, making it much easier to remember that you’ve done some awesome things even when you hit a bump in the road or are feeling a lot of self-doubt. 

Surround Yourself with Positive People

It is really easy to doubt your abilities when you feel like you’re on your own. A group of like-minded peers will help you realize that everyone experiences doubt, and everyone feels like they’re not good enough at times. Just by discussing your doubts, fears, and problems with people who are going through similar situations, you give these concerns less power.

Having a study group — ideally connecting with people who are your peers – can be a great outlet.   You can learn a lot from people who are on the same journey as you.

While many people are apprehensive of becoming close with their “competition,” it is actually one of the best ways to solve challenges.  Chances are you’ll specialize in a specific area, specific type of client or geography that differs from your peers. You can even deliberately seek out people serving a slightly different client base to you to protect you, but also learn how other people have been successful or overcome challenges.

These three things have helped me be much truer to myself and move past those moments where I’m in self-doubt mode. I’m more able to acknowledge the good things and I don’t forget them so easily when the negative stuff comes my way.

The road to success as an entrepreneur is always going to have ups and downs as well as times when things just seem to be stagnant. Remembering that this is normal and that other people go through it can be super helpful. Some of these techniques can help get you out of negativity and keep you moving forward.

Do you struggle with self-doubt as an entrepreneur? Tell us about your experiences and how you’ve overcome it. 

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