Have you ever felt like a fraud? Have you ever felt that you weren't (insert adjective of choice) enough to build the business of your dreams? Have you ever sabotaged your own growth?
I have. And no one noticed.
I could stay silent about it, but I'm here typing these words because it's easy to hide. It's easy, and alluring even, to show a façade of perfection and great decisions, to develop a business persona, to tell partial truths and allow the spaces in between to be filled by a fantasy view of who we truly are.
But that doesn't serve anyone.
It doesn't serve me, because when I hide my authentic self, my fears creep up. And it doesn't serve you either, because you don't get to learn from what I've done wrong, and because if you believe some people are blessed by a business fairy Godmother and never face any troubles, you may not try to go after your dreams-regardless of the possibility of failure.
In 2015, I learnt my lessons the hard way. My wish is for you not to have to and, for this reason, I'm telling you everything about my mistakes:
1. in 2015, I listened to others more than I listened to myself
At the end of 2014, I was exhausted and confused. I had been working a lot and homeschooling my twin children with special needs at the same time, and my sleep patterns had gotten disturbed.
When January 2015 rolled out, it'd been three months since our children had started attending a most wonderful school. I was barely recovering from the stressful past three years, finalizing old projects and getting the house organized in the little time I had in my free mornings. I realized I needed to make changes in my business, if I didn't want to burn out...but I didn't even know where to start. I had thought that getting my studio started was going to be the hardest part, but once I did and had my first clients, I just didn't know how to grow from there to where I wanted to be.
A scholarship to a wonderful entrepreneurial course gave me the clarity I was looking for. It allowed me to give voice to my true desires and give thought, not only to growth and profit, but to quality of life. It showed me how my business needn't be like any other, and that I could design the business model that suits my lifestyle best. During the program, I was tremendously inspired and felt unstoppable...but when the program ended, my feelings of not enoughness and my fears started to take hold of me and, instead of going within to find the answers to each challenge, I started to massively consume information in search for the right way to grow my business. Perhaps you've been there too?
I became so overwhelmed by everything I was reading and there were so many dissonant voices, that for a while, implementation took a step back. I was listening to everyone, instead of listening to the only person who had the answers: me. And instead of doing the only thing that truly works: testing.
Here's what I discovered: Most people teach what has worked for them. But just because someone is successful using X or Y tactics, it doesn't mean everyone else will. I believe this is especially true when it comes to personal branding, because our personalities do have an impact in how we show up, what comes naturally to us and the clients we attract. An email sequence that works fantastically for the person who created it may sound completely fake coming from someone else. A photograph designed for one person, at X level of her career, may look out of place in someone else's website.
There really is no replacement for the simple act of taking a moment to slow down, and check in with ourselves where we feel called to go.
I discovered that there isn't a single way to reach our destination. That the methods, tactics and strategies we use for our business, should only be the ones that fit our personality, our desired lifestyle and our objectives. And I discovered that when we apply tactics that we're not comfortable with, they never work.
I believe our lives and businesses work in cycles, sometimes we need to retreat and reflect, sometimes we need to implement, work hard, and push things forward. And I believe it's important, for our own well being and that of our businesses, to learn to know the difference.
This year, I'm going back to the course's worksheets, where I poured my heart and where I was able to realize what it is that I truly wanted. I'm making sure I listen to myself first and that I implement only that which feels aligned to my voice. For that, I have developed a structured spiritual practice, that helps me center and ground before starting to work, and which reminds me that silence, meditation, and self-care need to be a part of my business plan.
2. In 2015, I buried my true voice out of fear
Because I let the voices of fear of not enoughness take hold of my brain, I shut down my true voice. The weird part of myself got locked in a room and not allowed out. This became most obvious in the copy of my website.
Here's the thing: I'm not a rebel, I'm not the kind of person who will push your buttons, and I'm not confrontational. I would never instill fear of missing out or lack in you- yet that's how I wrote my copy because I thought that's what I was supposed to do.
But that's just not me, and I cringed every time I read those words.
I wanted to work with my ideal client, but everything in my copy was pushing them away. And because I felt embarrassed and deeply uncomfortable about what I had written, my energy pushed them away too.
Here's the truth: I'm not the friend to get drunk with, I'm the one who bakes you cookies, makes hot chocolate and pats on the couch so you can sit and talk about what worries you.I'm not the person who will tell you you're doing something wrong and you're a loser or a low performer if you don't do X,Y,Z. I'm the one who will encourage you to look at the patterns in your life that have led you astray, and to connect to your heart to find your truth. And I'm also the one who knows that this is your life and your business and your path and that whatever you decide is the right choice for you.I'm the one who will be direct and honest, but never harsh. I believe the world would be better if we were all a lot kinder to each other, so I try to model that. I'm nerdy, and have a nerdy sense of humor.
And I'm very spiritual- of the woo kind...I go daily to a nearby park to hug trees, I feel the energy of gemstones, practice reiki healing, channel messages, and can communicate with the dead.
Yet I felt it was not "professional" to be any of those things- so I remained quiet, and silent about them. I stopped myself from writing so many blog posts because I thought what I felt called to share, was not what I was supposed to write about.
In 2015 I learned, the hard way, that when we don't speak with our true voice, we can't resonate with the right people.
Every time I tried to blog, I felt blocked and this is why I didn't write. For some crazy reason that contradicts everything I've always fought for in my life, I thought I should be, in those pages, someone I'm not. My true voice only came forth in my podcast, Cult of Hybrid, because, since it was recorded live, I was talking to a great friend, and we were recording at midnight, Cyprus time, allowed me to let down my barriers, and my fears.
This year, I'm committing to speaking my truth in everything, and, lucky me, I have my friend and podcast partner Marbel Canseco to keep me accountable. And I'm re-writing my copy and my sales pages to be what I truly want them to be: an invitation to work together, if you feel called. I got started by finding my Ikigai- an exercise designed by the always inspiring Sara Bobkoff that I highly recommend you do too.
3. In 2015, I became invisible
No, not in the super hero/cloak of invisibility way. In the marketing way. I was almost nowhere to be found and my marketing was...erratic, to say the least.
But how could it be otherwise, when I was hiding who I truly am, when I was speaking with a voice that is not mine?
When we're proud of who we are and proud of the work we do, we are able to shout it from the rooftops. When be believe the false voice of fear, and buy into our inadequacy, we grow increasingly uncomfortable with visibility. That is exactly what happened to me.
I'm turning 40 in less than 3 months, an age I always looked forward to. And, for the first time, I'm now ready to truly step into my power and do what I feel truly driven to do, to do work that makes me happy. So I'm creating tiny habits and developing systems to support this determination. Systems help us trump the ugly voices in our head.
This year, I decided to invest in the tools and trainings that can help me learn what I need to make my business become visible, consistently and strategically, in the way I want, and without spending tons of hours glued to the computer. I took a course on social media strategy by Kimberly Jimenez (she has amazing free material too), signed up for Co-schedule (I'm wondering how could I live without it all these years!) and signed up for Canva for work because, yes, I can design in Photoshop the graphics I need, but Canva's magic re-sizing tool saves me a ton of time- time that I prefer to spend shooting and creating resources for my readers.
If you have something that's blocking you from taking action, don't hesitate to invest in the tools and resources that can get you out of the rut. The investment will be recouped quickly.
4. In 2015, I stopped creating
There's no bigger creativity block than fear.
When we question the Muse, we stop hearing her calling. She's still there, but we can't see her.
During 2015 I kept wondering what I should create, instead of getting out of my mind, connecting to my heart and birthing whatever I felt passionate about. I felt I was not "expert enough" or "talented enough" and I forgot all the times when I had busted glass ceilings before and done things that seemed impossible. I forgot I got started in photography thanks to my children, as a way to create and play with them, and that the key to growth and improvement had been not judging what I was creating, but simply putting it out there and allowing it to fly on its own.
Living in my head is not good for me. It's what I did for most of my life, because I was praised for my mind and being intellectual was my way of being a good girl and doing what I thought was expected of me. I bought love with grades- or so I thought. But it didn't make me happy. I'm at my happiest and most joyful when I'm a vessel for creativity and love to pour through me and reach others. That's when I'm at my best.
So this year, I made a commitment to create more, experiment more, play more, without judgment or perfectionism.
I've had photos in my head for 18 months, that I'm dying to bring to life, and this is the year I finally will. And because money is energy, I invested in a wacom tablet, to be able to play in Photoshop with composites like I want to. I've also started a 30 day creativity program by Brooke Shaden and blocked time in my calendar to nurture my right brain.
5. In 2015, I didn't take good care of my body
You may think this is not a business mistake, but it is, because when we don't take care of our bodies, we don't have the energy, the focus or the stamina to perform at our best.
My children have never been great sleepers and, still to this date, they may wake up several times at night. A disrupted sleep for 8 years sent my hormones into chaos in 2015 and I failed to take action to regularize them.
With cortisol through the roof, I was permanently tired and, to give me energy, I turned to sweets and bread and easy snacks. I gained a lot of weight (which boosted my visibility fears).I couldn't sleep and my brain was as foggy as a London morning.
I tried everything-except what my body truly needed: A drastic change in food habits, exercise, and stress-reduction activities.
At the beginning of this year, I finally took action. I started slowly eliminating foods that made me feel bad. Then, for our 10th wedding anniversary, my husband and I gave each other Garmin VivoFit trackers (because we want to live a long and healthy life together) and started going out for walks every day. And finally, two weeks ago, I started a strict hormone reset diet that is proving almost magical. I'm also making sure that I send daily love messages to my body, through reiki and body love meditations. I thrive when I'm a vessel for creativity, love and joy, so I must take care of the vessel of my soul.
In 2015, I discovered that growing a business requires us to pay deep attention to our mindset, and the ways it tricks us into staying stuck. I discovered that moving forward requires harmony of mind, body and soul- and that one cannot work properly without the other. And I discovered that I'm capable of much more, if I only allow myself to experience it.