Facing your fears.
At the beginning of 2019, I decided to focus on one key area of my life, that was leading to bad and unhealthy habits. And that was anxiety.
You see, I had started a business at the age of 25, and I had absolutely no clue what I was doing (other than my passion for making peoples wedding day’s as magical as I could). It was at this age that I adopted a fear, one that I had never experienced before, and that was FAILURE. This was the start, and the root cause of my anxiety, that has been at the forefront of my universe for many many years. Back in 2012, starting a business was not the normal (Safe) path that all my friends were following. They were climbing the corporate ladder, and here I was arranging flowers, cleaning vases, answering emails and trying to wear multiple hats which included marketing manager, accountant, and logistics just to name a few. Most people believed we would fail, that it was too great a risk, and that in a years time we would be back home, working for my parents again. This is the fear that motivated me in the early days, a chance to prove them wrong, but it also brought on a sense of anxiety, that always seemed to linger.
It would creep up on me in the middle of the night, in a moment of joy or at times of rest. It was that little voice saying, “are you sure you did the right thing opening a business”. I pushed it away and kept soldiering on. Afraid to stop for a moment in case the whole business came tumbling down.
Fast forward to my fifth year of business (my 30th birthday) and this little thing called anxiety was no longer a little feeling, it was a full-blown monster that was lurking around every corner. It made me scared to make decisions, scared to take a break, scared to dream outside of my business. It was all consuming and it consumed me. I battled to sleep; I was constantly worrying if everything I had worked so hard for would one day just be taken away. I worried my brides would hate the tables that I had created, I worried that I had forgotten an important detail, I worried about cashflow, I worried that I wasn’t doing enough for my daughter, worried that I wasn’t being a good wife. IT STOLE MY JOY. I really wasn’t enjoying my work anymore and I knew it was time for a change.
When the opportunity came to move to a new country, I jumped at it. I thought if I ran away, got a normal job that, I would suddenly feel better and the fear and anxiety would just go away. But it didn’t, suddenly there was even more pressure, an even bigger fear of failure. It took hold of me and made all of the decisions in my life.
I think there are a lot of business owners who can relate to this. The fear of failure.
Often, we aren’t following the traditional paths most of our friends and family walk on. We are out there in the mud, in the overgrown forest, hacking away a new path for others to travel.
This is why the fear of failure is so great, we have no end in sight, no light at the end. Just a series of trees and muck to wade through, never really knowing if we are moving forward or going around and around in circles.
When we started Molly and Tom, I knew that I didn’t want to make the same mistakes as we did with our first business. I knew that if we were going to be creating a new path, that we needed a guiding light, and this is also the way I overcame my seven-year struggle with anxiety.
You see I realised that I had to have faith. I had to believe in myself, because if I didn’t who else would? I was determined that there is actually no such thing as failure, and while I might make some mistakes, and that there may be times were I go in circles, as long as I knew where I wanted to be then I would find my way out of the woods.
So, I wrote a list of things that I would not compromise, and no matter where the path lead, I would stick true to my values and never waiver. This helped me (and still guides me whenever important decisions need to be made). It has also helped overcome some of the anxiety that was crippling me.
Whenever, that sinking feeling in my belly appears, these are the three steps I take, to calm my nerves, and know everything will work out.
1. Take a deep breath:
You can’t make any logical business decisions from a state of panic. So, take a moment and pause. Take a step back, and let the problem sit with you for a bit (having faith that you will find a solution). I find this is the best thing to do in times of panic.
Perhaps business is slow, perhaps you have upset a customer. The best thing to do is to take your time to evaluate the situation properly, consider your values, and then to find the next best way forward.
2. Get some rest:
If you are anything like me, when anxiety rears its ugly head, that’s when you lie awake at night thinking about all of the possible outcomes. Often the problem hasn’t even occurred, but there you are awake at 2am coming up with a strategy of what you will do in case the “worst happens”. This is not productive, and certainly doesn’t help.
I try to visualise myself looking at the problem and letting a wash of calm enter my body. And tell myself that I have every resource and toolset to overcome the problem ahead of me. Having faith that I have made it this far, and that the obstacle ahead of me is sent to teach me something, something that is going to make me come out stronger on the other end. Because here’s the thing – even if you do make a mistake, chances are you are going to learn a valuable lesson from it. By looking at it in this way, you can change it from being something negative into something positive.
3. The last thing I do, is focus on the things I can control:
When you suffer from anxiety you tend to have a very narrow focus, worrying about things that are far beyond your control (i.e. How people are going to react, if your business will overcome this slow period, or how you are going to get through the next challenge). None of those are things you have any control over, what you do have control over is taking positive action.
So, for example, when I am worried about my business, the first thing I do is look at my figures. Those are cold hard facts, that I cannot manipulate or distort in my mind. I normally avoid looking at them, out of fear, but often they can set your mind at ease. You may look back and realise that this period is normally a slow season. And that you should focus on getting rest and getting ready for your next busy season. By sitting and worrying about things being quiet, you miss an opportunity to recharge, spend time with family or gather inspiration for something you have been dreaming of doing.
I am by no means a qualified professional, these are just some strategies I have used to cope with my own anxiety. I hope this helps you, if you find yourself reading this in a time of panic. Or if you have been going through a difficult season. This is something that I work hard to fight every day, but the more you practise these three simple steps, the better you will be able to manage your anxiety in your business and enjoy creating a path that no one has ventured down before.
I also have a list of books that have truly changed my life - you can view them HERE.