How entrepreneurs can overcome negative self-talk

Older woman looking in mirror

We are solidly into the last half of 2022 with all of its associated stressors. Our goals may not be coming to fruition. Our focus may be compromised by vacation plans. And our bodies might not look as good as we’d like in our swimsuits. These situations can provide motivation for change or be a starting point for self-criticism.

Negative self-talk for entrepreneurs

One quality that most entrepreneurs share with the rest of the world is this  – we engage in negative self-talk that is clearly not kind to ourselves. We’d never speak to our kids, or our clients, or our neighbors (okay … maybe some neighbors!) the way we talk to ourselves. In fact, we go out of our way to praise effort in other people, because we know that learning takes time and practice, and then listen to our inner critic proclaim that we’re too slow figuring things out.

Having home-schooled two children and a raised a number of dogs, I know from experience that positive reinforcement and incremental growth are what’s needed to master new skills. Seriously. It took a lot of work to get my dogs to sit on command or my kids to learn to read. So why should I expect myself to immediately grasp the basics of Search Engine Optimization or video editing?

The complex world of a solo entrepreneur

I started my business writing career in the 1990s because I had a business degree and loved to write. Back then, it was pretty simple. I had a Yellow Pages listing and a brochure.

Those days are over. We live in a world of easy online searches (a good thing) and amazing apps that don’t require a programming background (also a good thing). However there’s so much more demanded of today’s solo entrepreneur. Constant social media posts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. Video uploads on YouTube or Facebook Live. Creating an email list and figuring out what to send your readers on a regular basis. Maintaining a website that acts as a combination business card and online store. The list goes on.

A lot of this stuff is hard, confusing, and totally outside our area of expertise. Most of us seasoned solo entrepreneurs never imagined that creating graphics or building a website would be part of our day. It’s a daily experience of not knowing what we don’t know — and then figuring out what comes next. It’s easy to become frustrated and start with the negative self-talk.

Most entrepreneurs struggle with technology

Some of my friends are great researchers and enjoy the challenge of figuring out technology. Whether it’s installing a new printer driver or adding eCommerce to their website, they enjoy the “win” of making something work. This is not true for me. I find myself feeling powerless as I blindly follow instructions from a YouTube video or an installation guide.

Furthermore, my stomach clenches every time I call customer support – whether the answer is something simple that I’ve overlooked, or so complex that you need an engineering degree to make sense of the response. Quite honestly, it’s not fun to feel incompetent – especially in a seemingly unending, multi-step processes that you don’t yet understand.

Changing negative self-talk to positive self-talk

When I started building the Solopereneur Academy membership site back in 2018, I had no idea how complex it would be. Membership sites have hidden menus (only accessible by members, of course) and also need ways to manage recurring payments. And then there’s content! My weekly video meetings are recorded using Zoom, edited using Camtasia, uploaded to Vimeo, and then embedded on my website using Kartra. When these elements don’t play nicely together, I follow Tim Gunn’s advice from the TV show Project Runway and try to “make it work.”

I can see progress in my attitude. I no longer tell myself that I’m an idiot for not knowing how to use these apps or judge myself for taking “too long” to make progress. Mostly I manage to stay calm and remind myself that, in hindsight, things seem much easier after you figure them out. I’ve been aware of my personal signs of entrepreneur stress and taken action to silence my inner critic.

Making progress in your business is like diapering a baby. It feels impossible in the early weeks with your newborn. However, by the time your second kid comes along, you could slap on that diaper while riding blindfolded on a roller coaster. We learn.

Permission to address yourself with kindness

If you haven’t already been told this, consider yourself notified! It’s time to stop with the negative self-talk and start being nice to yourself. As solo entrepreneurs, we need to give ourselves credit for the things that we learn every day. We need to replace our internal name-calling with a gentle pat-on-the-back.

It’s time to treat ourselves with the same compassion we would give a family member or a valued friend. And give ourselves credit for being open to learning and persistent about finding solutions, even if we don’t stumble upon the solution right away.

Finally, it’s time to remind ourselves that success is not linear and that mastery takes time. If that wasn’t the case, we’d all be elite athletes, famous authors. or master craftswomen.

Once you master a skill, it’s important to celebrate and honor your success. Do something that recognizes your achievement. This might be treating yourself to a fancy coffee or sharing your accomplishment with an online community such as the Solopreneur Academy.

Listen to Louise Hay

Finally, I invite you to follow the advice of author Louise Hay.  “You have been criticizing yourself for years and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.” Let’s celebrate our successes and be nice to ourselves!

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How entrepreneurs can overcome negative self-talk
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