The Dilemma of the Failing Cheerleaders

You will find support. Maybe where you least expected it.

My friends: be prepared. After all the things you’ve worked out, studied, prepared, asked about, planned, calculated and investigated, there is this one that hits most first-time entrepreneurs (following the frenzy of word-mangling: firstepreneurs – ouch, just kidding!) never considered. It hits them like a wall, when it comes.
Let’s call it the outsourced self-sabotage.

Here is what happens : you have made the decision to be(come) self-employed. Maybe you’ve had conversations with other people for some time, maybe you’ve figured it out all by yourself in sleepless nights. You know how much courage it took, how much going back and forth, doubts and excitement, fears and hopes. And then the day is there and you make the decision: I quit my job and do my own thing. YAY!

Time to share with those, who are closest to you. This is the moment to celebrate your courage, to initiate your journey, to share your dreams. You talk to your spouse, your parents, siblings, best friends. You’re excited to see their surprise, smile, congratulations, how-can-I-help-you. And then…
None of that.

Instead (from bad to worse):

That tormented smile of those, who have to suppress a fart. “Oh. Nice.” (Nice, huh? Gee, thanks for the enthusiasm.)

More doubts (thanks, I’ve had enough of my own).


Resentment. “You’re selfish.” “You’re destroying the family. ” (WTF?)

Ridicule. “Really? You? I remember you used to spend your pocket money within the first week…. How are you going to run a business?” (That was thirty years ago…. and I’m not opening a business of pocket money!)

Now here you sit and wonder, how can they let me down, how can they do this to me, how can they pull the floor from under my feet. Aren’t they supposed to be the ones, who most cheer for me?
Take a deep breath. Let you ego down a bit.

We are all supposed to be or do something all the time. ‘Supposed’ is a meaningless concept. It doesn’t matter how they can fail you. They can. And some of them will. As much as there will be people who support and encourage you, there will be people, who withdraw support and doubt you.
Both of them are useful. If you know how to use their reactions.

So, let’s have a look at what we can do with this.

1. Doubts

When your close ones express their doubt, the primary question is not: how can they doubt me, but why does their doubt affect me? You see, we often want others to validate our own worthiness and that leaves us vulnerable. Their doubt hurts us, not because it is in disagreement with what we believe about ourselves, but because it REFLECTS our own fears.

“Are you sure?” No, I’m not.
“Do you have enough experience/capital/contacts/competence for that?” That’s the question I’m asking myself every day.
When their doubts affect you, you have some work to do. Leave those questions for them and change your own to:
Why am I so successful? Why am I ready for this business? What makes me so perfectly suited to do this business?

Build your true confidence. True confidence does not depend on external validation. If you allow other people to keep you from doing your thing, you have outsourced self-sabotage. “They said I wouldn’t make it, so I didn’t” doesn’t make a good line on your deathbed. Change the narrative. It’s your story.

2. Resentment and Ridicule

How many people do you know who live their lives wanting to live another? How many of them have resigned to their own fears (possibly reflected by their loved ones, if they ever expressed their desire to get off the hamster wheel)? If they have resigned, they will not tell themselves every day that they just couldn’t sum up the courage to follow their calling. That would be too painful. So, they have a whole set of rational explanations that sound very convincing:

I had a family to take care of (i.e. I’m responsible).
I didn’t have the opportunities (i.e. doing your thing is only for the rich and beautiful).
[fill in your favorite]

As long as the entrepreneurs are distant enough, it is easy to attribute all kinds of priviledges to them that allows them to be successful and justifies why they (your loved one) could NOT be.
Now, here comes you. From the same town, the same family, the same conditions. But you don’t let those fears and doubt keep you from doing your thing. And so you strip them of all their perfectly woven narrative of why they cannot unhamster. That hurts. From here, I guess, you can easily see where the resentment or ridicule (both have the same origin and intention) come from.

What does that mean for you?

It is their pain. Not yours. Don’t take it personal. And if you can, make it easier for them: their self-esteem is down, help them lift it up again. Ask them for advice. For feedback on your concept, website, whatever it is. Make them part of your thing.

3. The Cross-Cutting: Fear

The tortured smile, the doubts and questioning, the resentment, the ridicule: they all have a common source. Fear. We’ve touched on some of it above. Let’s look at the ones that are most affected by our decisions. Those are usually our spouses or anyone, who depends financially on us and/or lives with us in the same household.

Self-employment comes with quite some changes for any family or household. Number one, of course, is financial stability. You don’t get your pay check every month. You have to get your own health insurance and retirement plan. So, unless you have some serious savings somewhere, you in for a bit of uncertainty.

Personally, I’m not very bothered by financial worries. I have other issues, but this is not one of them. Uncertainty has been part of my life, and I have always embraced it with curiosity. What happens, though, is that initially I failed to appreciate that not everyone is as relaxed about uncertainty as I am. My husband does not like uncertainty. He is not curious to find out what happens. He likes security. From his own history it is easy to understand where he is coming from. And he depends on me financially. So, how can he be enthusiastic about his wife jumping into cold water with the whole bunch of five.
If you have a similar situation: pick them up where they are. Listen to their fears and worries without making them yours. Acknowledge that it is okay for them to be hesitant. Tell them what makes you confident. Tell them how they can help. The more they can feel they are in control they more they will support you.

You know

It is important to keep in mind, too, that you always know where you are. You know what you do the whole day, what your plans are, how they are unfolding. Your loved ones don’t. Unless you keep them in the loop.

What to do? Keep them in the loop. Let them know what you’re working on and how it’s coming along. Ask them how much information they need to feel save and make sure you provide it.

The other aspect is time. As an entrepreneur you are in charge of your time. Woohoo! Now, that doesn’t mean you only work four hours a week to build up a great business (I know there are folks out there, who suggest that, but. It. Is. Not. So.). You may have to put in some serious hours to lift your business off the ground. Just make sure you have some time reserved exclusively for your loved ones. No phone calls, emails etc. during that time.
Having to invest time into your business doesn’t mean that you business will fail if you don’t respond to an email within the hour. Make sure you attend to the important things in life. Almost nothing is ever urgent (unless you’ve sat at your computer for the last hour wanting to pee, but too stuck to your screen to honor the urge).
In summary: maintain communication with your family and show them that they matter in your journey. Create space for them, and they shall fill it.

So, where the hell DO I get my support from?

Be patient with your loved ones. If you can accept their fears and give them space, most if not all of them will come around. In the meantime, reach out. Find a mastermind, talk to someone, who has been there, get a mentor, a coach, a friend, a former boss, a patient barista, take care of yourself.
As much as we often expect our loved ones to support us unconditionally, we are shy to reach out and share our ideas and plans with others. Maybe they think we want to sell them something? Maybe we come across as needy? We haven’t talked to them in two years, how can I contact them now?
By simply contacting them. Most people are very happy to give feedback, support you, share their experience if you ask specific questions or for specific experiences. Make it easy for them to respond by telling them exactly how they can support you.

Don’t be particular about WHO should give you support. Be very particular about WHAT support you need. Then go out and get it. It is there waiting for you!

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