So I have a little sermon to give today. I’ve been talking with some of my friends about running our businesses, and the skewed perception that we all have of our fellow online business owners. And, babe, I have got to get some stuff out there and off of my heart.
I’m greatly privileged in that I have an amazing friend group of talented business women. We spend a lot of time talking to each other about our own businesses, sharing what we’re learning, how we’re growing, and the insights that we’re getting. And this group of babes are all business to business service providers. That means we have the advantage of learning a lot about how people are running their businesses, and what it all looks like behind closed doors.
But with that knowledge has come some weight, because I realized that I was part of a trend… The internet illusion that Everyone Else Has Their Sh*t Together. As I’ve developed some closer relationships lately, I’ve realized how many people I have on this enormous pedestal, but when I start looking behind the scenes of their business I’m like… Dude. We aren’t doing anything different. Maybe they’re better at being really visible. Maybe they make more money. A lot of times, though, they don’t even do that. There’s a lot of people who I’ve always idolized that when I start looking through their processes—and even their work—I’ve realized, this is not any different from what I do.
That’s not to say that I don’t still have a ton of heroes above me, and lots of room to grow. Because I definitely do. But as I’ve been sharing about this, I’ve come to see how often I put myself on the comparison train with other women. And then, as I’ve built friendships and strengthened my community, I’ve had several of those same women come to me and say crazy things like: “Well, you’re so impressive and I’m so intimidated by you because you have all of your sh*t together.” It’s better than the greatest comedy special. I die laughing.
Because I’m just this person with all of these struggles who does not have all of her sh*t together. I just have the important sh*t together, ok? And I present myself differently than how I’m feeling.
You’re seeing your weaknesses and their highlight reel—and it isn’t the same.
We don’t acknowledge that enough. We know that we clean up our own presentation, but we don’t recognize that other people are doing it too. It’s so easy to see all the ways that we don’t feel confident, or we’re anxious, or we second guess ourselves and feel like we’re just making stuff up. And every day, we stare at all of that in ourselves yet still put our best foot forward because we are successful women.
You’re out there doing things, making progress, and looking professional, even when you don’t feel professional. But then you look at everyone else’s highlight reel without acknowledging that everyone else is playing the exact same game you are.
There’s nothing wrong with feeling unsure and still moving forward. With taking steps to make sure you look legitimate and professional, despite the emotional roller coaster. That’s good, babe. The self-sabotaging mistake we make is recognizing our weaknesses in ourselves, while assuming that everybody else’s external image is how they feel all the time. What we need to recognize is that everybody else is on the emotional rollercoaster. Everybody else has sh*tshow days, even when their scheduled post on Instagram still goes out—making them look awesome. Everybody else has six tabs on Google open searching how the eff do I do this?
So I just want to take a minute to preach to myself, and to everybody else, that we need to run our businesses and our lives with endless grace. And by that I mean an overwhelming compassion and sense of self love. I mean the deep conviction that we are worthy outside of our to-do lists and our professional accomplishments.
It is good and right to put on a professional appearance. It is good and right to show up with confidence, good branding, and a peaceful demeanor to inspire your audience to trust you. We don’t need a bunch of people showing up with all of their neuroses on display in their businesses. I’ve been around that and it’s toxic, exhausting, and it repels. What we do need is for women to show up with confidence and transparency around their colleagues. And so often we don’t do this because we’re making the mistake of thinking that our colleagues are our competitors and they’re not. In a past generation these were the women who you would have been sitting in the office eating lunch with, who you’d be making jokes with across the hallways. But now we work on our own laptops, in different places, under different websites.
Stop mistaking your colleagues for your competitors
If you’re owning your full self, your brand, and your expertise, those women are not your competitors they are your community, and we need each other. So, if you are struggling with feeling burnt out and alone, and if you ever feel like everybody else around you is five steps ahead, then I have a challenge for you. You need to find a table to gather around with other women who are your colleagues and be vulnerable. You don’t need to be putting all of your ish out there for your clients, but you do need to be putting it out there for your community.
You need a safe space where you can be vulnerable to talk about your struggles and where you’re failing, to share where you’re excelling and what you’re learning. Where you can tell your stories because we need your stories. You need to find a table where you can stare other women’s vulnerability in the face to see that while you’ve been standing there carrying a hundred pounds of baggage, feeling all alone and as though everybody else “gets it” except for you, that she was beside you. That there actually wasn’t ever a secret handshake. That nobody else had the keys before you did. That behind the professional bios, sparkly websites, and gorgeous Instagram feeds there were other women carrying a hundred pounds of baggage, and doing it through the failure.
Through the fear.
Through the mental illness.
Through the motherhood.
Through the weight of it all.
You need to find a table to sit with those women, so that you can be seen and so that you can see them. We need you to show up for each other. In business you are going to fail, just like in life. I advise you to fail daily, fail often, fail forward, fail in a million different ways. But the thing is, when we sit around a table with our community we learn. And when we learn, we don’t all have to fail in the same ways. We can fail forward and tell our stories, and that gives the woman sitting next to us permission to fail in new and exciting ways.
There are so many aspects of my business that people have approached me about lately, hoping to figure out how I got to where I am. I’m not so far ahead or so innately pulled together.
I just listened when the woman across from me said, “I tried this and it went badly. This is what I do instead.” When she tells me that story, I absorb it and implement it, because I know I’m going to fail a dozen ways today, but I don’t have to fail in the way that she already did. I accept her as my teacher, because she’s on this path with me and I want to learn from her. Just like when I show up in teaching. When I teach about something like Instagram, it’s not because I’m perfect. It’s not because I have it all figured out. My own profile is small, I’ve spent years putting all of my energy into my clients. I teach because I have failed in a thousand ways online, and I can show up with confidence and give you my story and my expertise so that you don’t have to struggle in the same ways I did.
There are times when we are all going to have to fail in our own way. There are struggles that I face that perhaps nobody else will. There might not be somebody trying to figure out how to scale and grow this particular kind of business while dealing with chronic illness, being a single mom, and having a heart that craves endless rest and space for mental health. My odds are slim that there is somebody walking in those exact shoes who can teach me all the ropes.
But there are plenty of people whose failures and stories I can learn from to grow my business. There are plenty of people you can sit down next to to share your story with and learn from their journey.
Creating a space to end impostor syndrome
But the only way we can all learn from you and acknowledge your expertise, the only way we can see you and validate your experience, is if you sit down around a table and open up. We would put an end to impostor syndrome and comparisonitis if we simply sat in community with our colleagues and shared with vulnerability and transparency. I have seen this over and over again in my life, because I have sat around tables with colleagues who are at the five-figure, and the six-figure, and seven-figure stages of their businesses. I have seen that behind the mask of the gorgeous website and the shiny Instagram we are all carrying the same baggage and insecurities—it does not go away when you add a zero to your revenue line.
This week, if I could give you one challenge, it would be to find one other woman in business to whom you can say…
…This is where I am.
…This is what I’m scared of.
…This is where I’m stuck, and where I’ve failed.
…This is where I am amazing.
Sit at a table virtually or in person—look into their eyes, don’t hide behind typed words on a screen—and say, “Here I am. This is my vulnerable truth about my business. Let’s grow together.” Stepping into that space will allow you so much freedom. It will show you how the person who you thought was so far ahead of you, the woman who looks like she never struggles, is standing beside you on the same pedestal your feet have been planted on for so long. It will show you that you are worthy of the same success and grace, and it will allow you to approach your business with strength and perspective, curiosity and compassion in a way you never have before.
And if you are struggling to find that community, if you don’t know who to talk to—just ask. I’ve joked about it before, but I really do know all the best people. I have the joy to know incredible women in almost every industry, and I am happy to connect anybody who I think could value from a meaningful relationship with each other. You do not need to be doing this alone. If we would all just sit down together, and make an effort to quit hiding both our bag of tricks and our bag of failures, then we would experience so much more peace and success every day. I know it.
Amen and that’s all, y’all.