Too often, successful female business owners don't share how they got where they are.
Many women entrepreneurs are struggling to maintain the resolve and confidence they need just to keep plugging away at their business day-to-day. It's not only because entrepreneurship is inherently challenging, but also because often women are grappling with how they've been socialized. Women are taught from a young age — from parents, peers and public images — that modesty is a virtue. So it's difficult for many women to be assertive, even though the survival and growth of their business demands it.
MostU.S. women entrepreneurs own micro-businesses, typicallydefined as enterprisesthat employ fewer than five people and have less than $250,000 in sales and assets. While these businesses successfully support mortgages, living expenses and payroll for a few employees, they typically are not the kind of enterprises that grace the cover of Forbes. It's harder to feel confident of being on the right path when those who've achieved success seem to be outliers rather than the norm.
For some successful women business owners, talking about themselves and their success comes with a visceral sense of anxiety due to outdated social perceptions. But aresearch-supported study found that successful women in business are being viewed positively with a high degree of "likability" that suggests an audience already primed to hear the story behind the success.
Why Tell Your Story
Maybe you've been reluctant to put yourself out there, preferring to focus on your business as a whole rather than your role. But you (and other women business owners) need to share the entrepreneurial path you've taken thus far, for several reasons.
1. Inspiring Other Female Entrepreneurs
For many women who did not grow up seeing women business owners in their neighborhoods, it can be a constant struggle to believe that they are actually capable of accomplishing their entrepreneurial dreams. Sharing your story can give them the boost of inspiration they need to keep going.
2. Establishing New Gender Norms
Archaic gender norms still cling to the surface of our collective consciousness, giving rise to social standards and practices that continue to foster gender inequality. By adding your voice to the growing chorus of successful female business owners, you can show other men — and women — that female entrepreneurship and assertiveness are not to be avoided, but pursued.
3. Learn by Teaching
When you share your story and your advice to fledgling female entrepreneurs, you also reinforce the lessons you've learned for yourself. Whether fact-checking the information you plan to present, validating the truth of a new lesson you wish to share or taking in feedback from your audience, the process of sharing can help deepen your understanding of business as well.
Perhaps you know all this already, but still haven't put yourself out there because just thinking about it has you flush with anxiety. Maybe you've already turned down opportunities to speak at local networking events or your child's career day. Or, perhaps you've stalled on incorporating your story as founder and CEO into your content marketing strategy. You're not alone in feeling this way. But you can push back against those feelings and start putting yourself out there. Here are a few ways to get started.
How to Tell Your Story
1. Identify the Roots
When we're overwhelmed with anxiety, our ability to think critically and clearly is impaired. We often feel out-of-control or powerless against the very thing that is triggering the anxiety. So, we avoid the trigger. However, if we don't knowwhywe feel anxious, we can't develop a real plan to overcome that anxiety.
It's essential to understand why you hesitate to tell your story. Do you feel like you are unworthy of the success you've already attained? Is it a fear of being stigmatized as hostile, unlikable or difficult? No matter what it is, engage in some self-reflection, and write down why deep down you struggle with sharing your story. Understanding thewhywill make it seem less overwhelming andhelp you take the next steps to overcome it.
2. Use Positive Affirmations
Every time that voice inside your head questions whether you should be talking to others about your business, realize that those negative thoughts are just that — negative thoughts, and they must not dictate your behavior and choices.
Meet those negative words with words of affirmation. Take a look at your balance sheet and sales. When you've had a good week or quarter, reflect on your success. Tell yourself, "I am successful and here's the proof." Remind yourself that you sacrificed and worked hard to get to where you are and that you're capable of achieving any and all of your goals.
3. Start in Safe Spaces
It's easier to confidently share your story when you've practiced one-on-one or in small groups where the stakes are low. And, it's even better if you can practice with other successful female business owners who've been where you are and who you can trust and depend on for honest feedback.
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