What if the only thing holding you back from experiencing the life and building the business of your dreams is yourself?
In general, women tend to struggle with more of a “confidence gap” than men. Learning to have an ownership mindset and understanding how to communicate in an effective, factual way can help you feel confident and empowered at work. But when you own your own business, the only person to manage up to is yourself. Sometimes that can pose the most difficult challenge because you can only advance to a level that your mind perceives is possible. Once you expand your view of what you perceive as possible, you need to give yourself permission to believe that these possibilities exist for you.
As a woman business owner for over eight years, I’ve seen for myself and others that we need to give ourselves permission in these three key areas to move forward.
Permission to Be You
Being a woman in business puts you in a delicate situation. In my experience, you need to work very hard to give yourself permission to act and build your business in manner that’s congruent with who you are as a person. Don’t typecast yourself. I have an enormous amount of respect for many women business owners who focus on only serving women, who share their personal lives extensively — baby photos and all — and talk about things like channeling your inner goddess. But frankly, that’s just not me. My business serves both men and women. I keep my private relationships private. And I don’t focus on “feminine energy.”
On the other hand, I’m far from the stereotypical hard-driving, high-growth, VC-funded tech entrepreneur who lives by analytics and sleeps in the office. I own a primarily service-based business, focus on a sustainable lifestyle and believe that emotions — both my own and those of my audience — play a critical role in how effective my business is.
You need to work very hard to give yourself permission to act and build your business in manner that’s congruent with who you are as a person.
Give yourself permission not to fit a mold of what a “female entrepreneur” should or shouldn’t be, and allow your brand to grow accordingly. Unapologetically be yourself, and you will have the greatest capacity to thrive as an entrepreneur.
Permission to Pivot
Just because a direction was right for you or your business in the past doesn’t mean that you need to keep doing the same thing now. It’s natural to evolve and change over time and for your business to do so based on changing market demands, personal growth and emerging opportunities.
If you don’t like your business’s direction, shift it. You’re the boss. You don’t need to wait for someone to give you permission to serve a new market, develop a new product or service or reinvent your company entirely.
I lean into the risk when I’m considering a new direction. While in this phase, I continue to work with my existing clients but shift my business development focus to acquiring clients for the new potential product or service. If I can and I like how the process develops, I build up that new part of my business and either keep the other parts at a maintenance level or let them naturally drop off. By taking this approach, I can explore new areas of growth without a huge financial risk if an endeavor doesn’t end up as I expected.
Give yourself permission to explore the viability of your ideas. Remain open to pursuing them if you receive great results. Let them go if you don’t.
Permission to Be Happy
As an entrepreneur, if you’re not happy, something is wrong. You have the primary responsibility to redirect the course of your business. Sometimes that looks like making space in your schedule for essential wellness activities such as sleep, exercise and relaxation. Other times, it looks like a complete overhaul of the way that your business operates.
Just because you built something, someone wants you to do something, or you can make money doing something, doesn’t mean that you can or should move forward. Every business goes through some stressful seasons. But if you begin to dread or resent your company on a regular basis, it’s time to figure out what needs to change and shift. Also if you really, really love what you’ve created and it’s working, you don’t need to change what you’re doing just because others perceive something else as “successful.” For example, I love living in the Midwest. Although I appreciate my network on the coasts, I don’t have a desire to move to these epicenters because that would have a negative impact on my health and happiness.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, if you want to build a high-growth, fast-track business in Silicon Valley, go for it! Just because you’ll find a larger number of men at the table doesn’t mean that you’re in the wrong place. You should do what allows you to fulfill your potential. Find the people, places and business opportunities that not only produce a dopamine rush of initial excitement but also end up leaving you satisfied and fulfilled at the end of the day.
Consider this permission granted to be YOU; with a business as big or small, as local or as international, as focused or as diverse as you want. No one but you can define the scope of what’s possible and no one but you can dare to believe that you can make it there.
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Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), and has been published with permission. YEC is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs.