Women entrepreneurs struggle to be seen and heard in business…and life. That’s a bold statement. I stand by it. I’ll briefly explain why and then share a few ideas for women entrepreneurs to build the confidence to be seen and heard in business.
Let’s dig in.
Ever created an entire course or opt-in freebie and then only spent a few days or weeks sharing about it on social media?
Or published a physical or ebook and expected sales to ‘manifest’ out of the blue, without actually doing any marketing?
Maybe you’ve written a few blog posts, shared them on socials, and then decided, nobody’s reading so you might as well stop writing and sharing.
You’re not alone. I have done all of the above.
Many of us have.
(Side note: none of these behaviors mean you’re doomed at growing a business and there’s nothing wrong with you.)
Some people label this behavior with fancy terms like self-sabotage, imposter syndrome, and procrastination. But really, they’re all symptoms of something deeper happening. And that something deeper is rooted in the same self-suppression and fear common to many of us.
Where does this come from?
Many of us were raised in households and environments where we were encouraged to be quiet, not take up space, and only speak when spoken to. Concepts like…
‘Good girls are seen and not heard. They’re demure and quiet.’
‘Don’t speak up or stand out.’
‘Try not to take up too much space.’
Now, we can roll our eyes at this nonsense and say ‘Not me. I’m a badass.’ The problem is deep down you don’t feel like a badass because you’ve internalized a lot of this ‘stay small and be quiet’ programming.
You heard it repeatedly in your early years and carried these sentiments into relationships, work environments, and beyond.
So what exactly are we grappling with now?
Is it just a lack of confidence? Yes, and no.
It isn’t an inherent lack of confidence that led us here. We were socialized to be this way by well-meaning (and not-so-well-meaning) authority figures like parents and teachers, for example.
Regardless of whether it’s inherent or not the internalization of these ‘stay small’ concepts has degraded our confidence.
Somewhere between hanging our business shingles and gaining a consistent stream of clients/customers, it hits us. Oh, shit! I’ve really got to put myself out there. Like, out there out there. Hiding and staying small doesn’t quite align with business growth.
But being bold, audacious, and fiercely confident feels scary AF.
So what do we do about this?
How can women entrepreneurs build the confidence to be seen and heard to grow in business?
Here’s what I’ve learned (and I’m still learning)
Gain awareness around how you want to be seen and heard
Because of years of this self-suppressive behavior, you’re not sure how you even want to be seen. For some of us, we have to do deep work to get to the root of how we’d like to project our inner self externally in our business.
This may require journaling or working with a coach or some other self-reflective work to understand how we want to be seen. What our true self even looks like and how to show it to the world and allow ourselves to relax and feel safe being seen.
Feel safe being seen and heard
If you’ve spent a lifetime afraid to be fully yourself, it’s going to be hard to start a business and suddenly unleash the full truth of who you are.
Most of us are afraid to be seen and heard for a multitude of reasons. It may be fear of rejection, criticism, or fear that who we are isn’t worthy of others’ attention.
This is deep work.
Building a business will call you to the fire of looking deep within. There’s no other way to nurture a business you love and that feels true to you. You’ve got to do the work to understand what may be holding you back and what you need to do to feel safe showing up as yourself. And what you need to do to feel safe being seen and heard.
This is the work I do almost daily.
When I’m stalling, hesitating, and shrinking off-stage, I know I have to revisit my inner work to understand why I don’t feel safe at that moment and how to shift that feeling. I take center stage in my business. You should, too. Not off on the sidelines hiding behind the curtain. Center stage. Anything else is hiding.
Sometimes we need to leap from one cliff to another. Other times we need to build bridges. Everything in life cannot be about leaping. The majority of our business building isn’t about big, massive leaps. It’s about showing up daily and making slow, steady progress.
Bridges help you get from where you are to where you want to be. And you can build a bridge one piece at a time.
So, start with taking actions that feel right to you. Slightly scary but not scary enough to make you run and hide if you get rejected. What does that look like?
It looks like….
Spending just 15 minutes a day making new connections on LinkedIn or adding comments to connections’ posts.
Attending a local networking meeting or relevant meetup event
Finally adding updated profile pics to your social media (if you choose to be on social media).
Spending 10 minutes marketing your book (so it’s not languishing on Amazon).
Reaching out to past clients to reconnect and find out what they’re up to (they may just need your help).
This is by far NOT an exhaustive list. It’s a list of random examples. I chose these specific ones because they’re all things I struggle with and see others struggle with doing on a regular basis, too.
By building tiny bridges at a steady pace you build momentum, which builds confidence.
Yes, there’ll be setbacks (criticism, rejection, days when you just don’t do what you set out to do). This is normal. But if you do this next step, it will help you battle those.
If you’re even a slightly visual person, seeing what you’ve accomplished can give you a boost of motivation – and confidence.
I track my bridge-building steps in a written journal. Then, I skim my journal each morning. Seeing all the bridge-building I’ve already done reminds me that I am capable and I am doing the damn thing!
Lean in on support
We thrive when we have others to connect with. Whether it’s to run ideas by, share wins, or vent about what’s bothering us. Having people who’ve got your back (and who lend you their ears) helps you feel stronger.
Building the confidence to be seen and heard in business is a steady process for most of us. We won’t wake up overnight and feel confident. It doesn’t work like that. No matter how many books you read and seminars you attend.
Ultimately, for women entrepreneurs to build confidence in business it requires taking steps, building bridges, and leaning in on support.
It’s also about being radically honest with yourself. Seeing where you are, without judgment, just observe and see where you’ve held yourself back.
I always say building a business is one of the most effective forms of personal development. It’ll push you beyond what feels comfortable. And with each push and each step, you gracefully (and oftentimes clumsily) build your business and your confidence.