Why Female Business Owners face a unique set of Mindset Challenges.
Female business owners face a unique set of mindset issues. We are incredibly resourceful creatures and one trait that many of us share is our ability to empathise. When we see ourselves in others our instinct is to reach out, which is why working with a female coach is so important. It takes one to know one…. right?.
When embarking upon my career as a mindset coach I just wanted to help others. I had no real plan of who and why I just felt a compelling urge to reach out. Whilst noble this is not a great strategy for business and any business expert will tell you, you need to have an audience. You must know who it is you are speaking to and what it is you can offer them. For me this meant a process of defining a niche and client avatars which resulted in the creation of the business I have today.
Defining my own unique skills and credibility to help other women to grow their confidence and their business. To help them make the necessary shifts in their mindset to turn their passion into profit and make business a joyful and fun experience. One they can feel proud of. It is my belief that by utilizing our genetic drivers to build community is how women create and facilitate a natural environment to support each other.
Why is mindset a struggle for women in business?
Truth is, mindset is a struggle in life not just in business. Only difference is, when we operate inside our own lives, it is easy to hide. And it is not until we are challenged, that we even notice there is a problem. There is a lot to lose in life for sure. Missed opportunities, relationships, grief, loss, good luck, bad luck, nice people, nasty people, money worries and our health. Stuff happens to each of us at some time in our life and it is often our mindset that determines what we do, how we feel, how we respond and how we recover.
Once we reach a certain age, most women will be carrying a fair amount of baggage. Not a great way to describe it but it fits the purpose. We are weighed down by the life we have led. If we are lucky, we have worked through and learnt from those experiences.
But the baggage can leave its mark. Even when we think – “well I’m over that” the scar can still be seen, felt and experienced. Hiding somewhere in the back of our mind is a trigger and sooner or later something or someone is going to pull it! In business we are challenged on a daily / hourly basis. And it is not the big stuff. Its stupid crappy stuff like:
- “Should I post this or not?”
- “How do I find out how to do this?”
- “What if people don’t want what I do?”
- “Did I remember to get the stuff for tea?”
Coping with success as a woman can be an even bigger battle.
- “Oh no what if people think I’m greedy or resent me or judge me?”
- “What about my friends who are struggling?”
- “Do I deserve to be happy, rich, successful?”
- “What’s so special about me?”
- “If I am successful, then there must be a price to pay.”
- “No one can really be successful and happy… can they?”
So, we start to avoid, apologise, and hide.
To have a healthy business mindset, we need to have an understanding of fears. For instance, did you know that fear of money is an actual thing? We can actually be afraid of having money, and this will cause us to self-sabotage any efforts to bring income into our business.
There are, I believe, 7 main sources of struggle in business. Fear. Confusion. Isolation. Overwhelm. Guilt. Self-Doubt and Time.
All our anxiety, stuck behaviours and doubt all stem from experiencing these emotions. Some will pop up before we even get started. The “Big 7” as I like to call them are at the root of many of our struggles. They cause all sorts of problems. Anxiety, procrastination, stuck behaviours, overthinking, hesitation, and some can even make us sick. Like actually – go to the doctor’s type sick!! Isolation is a killer. That is no exaggeration. Connection is a fundamental core human need. As stated in Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs first published in his 1943 paper ‘A Theory of Human Motivation’ Above our basic needs of air, water, food, shelter and safety comes love and companionship. If we deny ourselves connection with others, we will fail. We will struggle. We will become anxious and eventually, depression and other illnesses will take over.
For me – finding myself in a pit of depression that no amount of positive self-talk or “Ted Talks” could get me out of, was the point I decided enough was enough. Luckily by taking action to reach out to other small business owners is what saved me. I thought it was going to be their expertise that helped give me a positive mindset. What I found was something far simpler. Connection. I needed to be with people, physical actual people. People who could see me. See my pain. And who wanted to help.
I have a super family. I am blessed beyond my wildest dreams to have children and a husband who have wholeheartedly, often to their own detriment, supported me, my dream and my ‘Why’. By detriment – I mean to support me has meant a lot of missing out, a lot of “when we can afford it’s” and a lot of Aldi’s ketchup. But in business that is not enough. When attending networking events and when I finally started to get out into the world again. I realised that the only real struggle was a limited mindset and lack of connection to other female business owners.
Trouble is, we pride ourselves on the struggle. Women especially. We are not particularly good at asking for help – at least not the right help and therein lies the problem. Women experience business very differently to men and when we start to see the other side of 40 our fears and hesitations can become overwhelming.
Whilst there are famously many confident ball busting women in business holding their own and absolutely nailing it. for the majority of women over 40 this is not their experience of work and it is made even harder when we choose to work for ourselves. For example:
- Women fear failure and making mistakes, and this means they hold back from even trying.
- Women struggle to prioritise their own agenda. Family trumps everything and work life balance can be a real challenge when we work for ourselves.
- Women have a tendency to hold a low opinion of themselves when it comes to money and success and are inclined to sabotage or victimise themselves. This incredibly wasteful pass time seems ridiculous to the outsider but for the person on the inside whilst counterproductive it limits the pressures of expectation.
- Women are far less likely to be comfortable with ruthless behaviours and therefore they will struggle to think strategically about their business, their numbers and their competition.
- The biggest failure I believe and the one I work tirelessly to avoid passing onto my 4 girls is the failure to recognise our true potential. To believe will all our heart the world is our oyster and that anything is possible.
Fear stops a woman from asking the right questions because she is terrified of appearing vulnerable. It is easier to deal with the pain of exhaustion than it is to experience the pain of what is really going on and spend time unpicking that shit.
I know because this was me. We might all struggle with the following:
“If I struggle, then that means I’m getting somewhere… right?” (wrong)
We ask for help and advice in networking groups and from friends and partners. But we are asking the wrong questions and often to the wrong people. Let’s be clear there are many awesome networking groups out there, that will for sure offer invaluable support and advice. Connecting and interacting in these groups is an essential part of being in business. But what I learnt early on was, you must know what it is you need from these groups, for it to be truly effective.
Creating an entrepreneurial mindset will help you to know what you “actually need” and help you to ask the right questions. The big issue I see is that we ask for the wrong kind of help. Because we are avoiding or trying to outrun our own values, drivers, and beliefs. We avoid asking the question because we fear what the response might be. Fear of success, of letting go of our self-assigned labels (more about this later) is a common reason why we avoid asking for help. For fear that it might in fact work.
“If I’m working hard then no one will notice how terrified I am.”
A stereotypical life of a woman in business looks like a woman struggling to stay on top of the orders she has for clients. She will work herself to the point of exhaustion. She will then go home. There she will start on all the other stuff, like bathing the kids, making tea, cleaning the house, engaging with her husband etc. Then at 10.30pm at night she sits down, picks up her phone and messages a friend or posts on her FB profile about what a failure she is as a mother because her kids had to have pizza again. Or they have a project at school, and she forgot to get the stuff. Or she will offload how she will have to give up her business because it is not making any money, even though she is working basically 18-hour days. As women we find ourselves in constant need to beat ourselves up for what we don’t achieve and rarely congratulate ourselves for what we do get done.
She is failing. She asks,
“What should I do?”
“How can I keep going?”
“Does anyone else feel the same or is it just me?”
I appreciate this is quite a stereotypical example of a woman’s role in the home and for sure you will have your own version of this. Sharing the parenting and household duties is of course far more common these days, the point I am offering here is the connection between what is expected and what is in fact achievable. What follows is usually a lot of advice: – You should do this. You should do that. Have you tried this app? or I know someone that does blah blah blah, followed by sympathy. Oh, you poor thing. I know how you feel. Life is hard. Then the positivity parade. Keep going you can do this. You are the strongest person I know. It will be worth it.
But … She doesn’t want the advice because she hasn’t got time to action it. The positivity parade has the complete opposite effect and just gives her more ammunition to beat herself up with. She is exhausted so she takes the sympathy, maybe feels better for a day or two and then goes right back to the struggle. Nothing changes.
What she will benefit from is a mindset shift to help her take back her sense of achievement.
“I feel like I’m struggling with everything!”.”
Now pain and struggle are a part of life. Without pain there is no point to life. The good news is, we can choose the pain (most of the time) that we want to carry. We can choose our struggles. But what is happening here is she is experiencing pain and struggle and reaching out for support, to off load and numb that pain. But she is not asking the right people or the right questions, she is in fact avoiding. Because time, money and her mindset are getting in the way. When you are experiencing 1, 2 or all 7 of the Big Struggles, you will inevitably be getting in your own way. Knowing what you need to do and yet sabotaging or limiting your efforts to actually engage in the solution.
Time is telling her that she cannot stop. There is no time to sit and focus on herself or her mindset. She doesn’t have time for that hippy wanky shit. She has actual stuff she needs to get done. Money worries are shouting – “there is always a price to pay”. Guilt says, “that money could be better spent on your kids”. She is convinced she cannot afford expert help, because she has supplies to buy or marketing to pay for. She will spend ££££’s on printing leaflets but not ££’s on addressing the issues that could help.
“But if I struggle, then that means I’m getting somewhere… right”? (wrong)
Her mindset is telling her she does not have time to sit and action plan or chat about what is really going on because she must work hard. She does not want to be fixed because that means admitting defeat. She does not want to know what is going on, because that could open a whole can of worms. Guilt, fear and confusion mean that she will avoid addressing the real problem. “If I look inside – I might not like what I see”. “Working on me sounds hard”. “I think I’ll just keep battling on”.
Working with a coach will help you change that negative mindset
Coaching has been a life changing therapy for me. First as a process of personal growth and now as a tool that I share with others. Although there are many types of coaches, mindset coaching works very well with female business owners.
My clients often come with mixed ideas of what and how coaching works, so I use this simple metaphor to demonstrate the difference and to help meet their expectations.
Imagine you have tripped over on the pavement and you are on the ground in a heap. People are watching, you feel vulnerable and exposed.
- A Counselor would stop, bend down and ask “is it ok if I sit here with you, till you are ready to get back up?”
- A Teacher or trainer might stop and say “I can help you to get up. Put your hands flat on the ground and push. Bring your feet up to your chest and bring yourself up to your feet.”
- A Mentor could ask, “Can I help? I have been on the ground many times, this is how I got up.”
- A Friend would stop, reach down, pick you up off the floor and carry you back home.
- A Mindset Coach will most likely stop and ask “What happened? How did you get here? What do you need to do to get back up? What can you do next time to stop yourself from falling?”
Now most of us when faced with fear, pain and vulnerability will immediately opt for either of the first 4 options. This is because the first 4 options keep us in our comfort zone. At least to begin with. They feel like an immediate solution to our problem, something to take away the pain. Mindset coaching requires us to be almost entirely in our stretch zone and when we are already overwhelmed, struggling and afraid the last thing many of us will do is volunteer for more discomfort.
Despite the many thousands of self-help books, business scaling courses, networking, coaching, and empowerment materials found in shops and online – not one of them can offer the transformation you desire without your commitment to take action.
There is no magical formula to follow. My promise to help reduce your struggle comes with as all these books do a caveat. You must take action. You must commit to a journey of curiosity and growth in order to have the life and the business you desire. Which is why a mindset coach is essential for women in business, to help them find their own way, find connection, and support them in difficult times.
And this takes time. In my role as a coach I walk beside my clients through the stretch zone, I walk beside them facilitating their process. Supporting them to gain clarity on their inner strength and use it to set achievable specific and measurable goals that move them forward. It can be uncomfortable as we have discovered, but if you are willing to trust the process, lean into the discomfort and embrace the change it can be the most incredible ride. So, are you ready? Are you up for the challenge? Fantastic, let’s begin.