My “aha” moment came during a weekend retreat.
I’m standing in front of the room at the mic. Something compelling me to admit that I felt like I wasn’t being true to myself. Saying that I wanted to be honest about my feelings, but felt as though I never could.
The realization I had that weekend changed everything: I understood that my personal darkness–low self-esteem, strained relationships, buzzing anxiety–could not be contained in some separate realm from my business.
Moreover, this darkness was not merely “spilling into” my business, it was enveloping it in the same way it enveloped me.
But saying my truth aloud, into a mic no less, triggered a series of shifts that would eventually allow me to heal.
The first of these shifts? Committing to start seeing a therapist.
Since I’ve been in therapy, I’ve been righting my personal life, changing my mindset, and systematically eliminating negative beliefs. As a result, I’m showing up for my business as I never have before.
Here’s how therapy has helped my business:
Allowing myself to be seen
Back in college, when professors would assign personal essays or any project with a personal element, I would panic. Outwardly, I’d be angry, claiming that professors had no right to give us grades on something so personal.
But inside, I was terrified that people would finally see how awful or pathetic I was inside.
When I started my business, this attitude carried over, though I left it unexamined. Consequently, I found myself refusing to start social media for my business and never doing any publicity. I even frantically tried to keep my friends and family from knowing I had a business.
Just like in college, I was afraid that people would suddenly find out the “truth” of my “bad” inner self. So I kept everything close to the chest.
The problem with doing this is that no one on the business side got to know me as a person, which is crucial for building a brand and making connections.
Additionally, my family and friends could have been an early source of referrals and clients for me, but I didn’t let them into what I was doing.
Naturally, my business didn’t grow for a long time. And I lived with anxiety, constantly trying to manage how exposed I was.
After working through this in therapy, I’ve come to see that there’s nothing scary inside me. I let people see me now–both sides of me, my personal self and my business endeavors.
And guess what? My business is growing. My prices are rising. And the anxiety that tells me to stay invisible is quieter than ever.
Letting go of the idea that I’m not good enough
Therapy has helped me dismantle my belief that something was inherently wrong with me, or that I was simply not good enough.
I’d tried to challenge this feeling before. But it still remained rooted deep down and would pop up whenever some small failure occurred. Of course you didn’t get that client–it’s you, I’d think.
This belief kept me playing small in business. It made me afraid to put myself out there for fear of being ridiculed for even trying. It made me hide whenever possible. And often, I would self-sabotage. I’d talk myself out of a client, or downplay my achievements until it sounded like my work was a total joke.
Now, I’m seeing myself objectively. I’m stating my achievements with confidence. I’m winning new clients at higher price points. And frankly, I feel lighter.
Dreaming big (and stop letting a fear of failure guide my life)
I just want to survive. I don’t care about money. I don’t ever want to be known as an authority, that’s not my thing.
These are things I used to tell myself regularly. But through therapy, I’ve come to see that I was just trying to protect myself from failure by pretending I didn’t want success.
When you are afraid of failure, you don’t try very hard. I used to never set goals–for anything. Because I was terrified of disappointing myself.
Working with a therapist has made me feel braver. Now, I courageously name what I want, write down specific goals, and create plans to achieve them.
For example, I wrote down a goal to be a guest on a podcast. I’ve got two interviews booked on podcasts at the time of this writing.
Looking back, I wish I had felt worthy of therapy even before I started a business, when the consequences of my inner turmoil were “just” emotional, rather than tied to tangible business outcomes. I could have avoided a lot of pain.
But I feel lucky that I ended up running a business anyway. Without this business, I suspect I would have kept ignoring my problems as I stalled in a corporate career.
Nothing forces you to reckon with the darkness of your inner world faster than becoming an entrepreneur. And for that? I’m grateful.
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