“Be yourself, everyone else is taken.”
~ Oscar Wilde
Back in 2014, was when I got real about creating my own business. After years of talking about building a coaching business, I finally started to earn a living from my coaching and my first few years in business were a complete adventure.
What finally got me from talking about, to actually creating, my dream business was working with a brilliant business coach, who taught me everything he knew about building a successful soul-centred business. One of the things he said to me on nearly every coaching call and wrote at the end of nearly every email he ever sent me were these two words “Be you.” Such a simple message yet, I now realise, at the time I didn’t get it at all. How could I not be me? I used to think. I don’t know how to be anyone else but me. But that’s where I was wrong.
Fast forward a couple of years and I was feeling stuck in my business, lacking passion and excitement and feeling disconnected from my work as a coach. For the life of me, I couldn’t work out why. When I looked at things more closely, I realised that this funk, this lack of passion for my business had, bizarrely, started around the same time my business success had reached an all-time high.
It was early 2016 and I had created an online Women’s Circle (filled with incredible ladies), I had filled my coaching practice with high-paying clients and I had even had my first $10,000 month. I should have felt elated but I didn’t and as the months went on, I felt more and more drained of energy and less and less connected to my business.
Later that same year, through the help of another coach and some serious soul searching, I worked out what it was all about. During the first two years of building my business, I had nothing to lose, I was starting from the ground up and was completely open to new ideas and to the approaches my coach and others were sharing with me. I was keen to learn and I operated from a place of trial and error. Most importantly I was open to failing, a key component of being successful and as a result it felt easy to show up and be me. After all what did I have to lose?
With hindsight, what I realised is that once I had reached and even exceeded the ambitious goals I had set for my business back in 2015, I suddenly felt very constrained and unable to truly be myself in my work. It seemed as though the stakes had suddenly got very high. Despite the fact that I was charging more than I’d ever charged before for my coaching programs and people were still signing up, rather than confirm that I must be doing something right, something else entirely happened. I got scared.
I became more fearful of expressing myself fully in coaching sessions and online, I became more prone to comparing myself to other coaches and their level of success or the ease with which they ran their businesses and I became stuck with the idea that I had to follow what had worked before rather than continue in the vein I had originally built the business, that of trial and error and a willingness to fail. Suddenly, to my mind, failure seemed to come at a much greater cost and the fall from success suddenly seemed a lot higher.
The irony is that it was my willingness to be completely and authentically me that had led to me filling my coaching practice and exceeding my income goals yet after reaching that level of success, suddenly ‘being me’ didn’t seem like the best strategy. I felt like I needed to be more somehow, more professional, more coach-like, less challenging, less bold in my coaching, more safe. I had started to tone myself down, for fear of chasing away my newfound success.
I wanted to make changes in my business, to change my coaching programs up, to shift things in my women’s circle and to be more present online but I felt reticent to take a new direction and risk losing what I had thus far created. The “trial and error” approach of before was replaced with one of “tried and tested.”
There is so much talk of the importance of being authentic in business these days. In many ways it has become the strategy of success for any online business. As I wrote this article, I perused a few articles on the topic and I couldn’t help smiling as I read in one blog, under the title “Authenticity Checklist” things like ‘Always be consistent and avoid giving mixed messages’ and ‘Only make promises you are sure you can keep.’
Now I don’t know about you but that’s the opposite of being authentic for me. I’m certainly not always consistent and if I only made promises I was 100 per cent sure that I could keep, I wouldn’t make any at all. That doesn’t sound like being real to me, it sounds like being perfect. In another article I read about the importance of authenticity in your business because it’s a “trend that’s not going away.” A trend?
This isn’t how I see authenticity. I don’t see it as a strategy to connect with my ideal clients or a way to build my personal brand. Instead for me it’s about dropping the filter we all, to some extent, feel we have to put up for people to like and accept us.
For me, being authentic, is what naturally happens when I don’t allow self-doubt and fear to cloud the way I show up.
Ten ways to spot when you are not being authentic in your business
1. You constantly compare yourself negatively to peers in your field.
2. You feel fearful of upsetting your clients or getting fired.
3. You find yourself holding back in your direct communications with clients and in your marketing.
4. You take on clients who you don’t feel excited to work with.
5. You have exciting ideas for your business put you put them aside for fear that people won’t resonate with them.
6. You obsess over your niche, fearful of getting clear on who your ideal client is for fear of scaring off the others. You try to please everyone.
7. You agonise over how to present yourself and your business to the world.
8. You don’t do certain things in your business out of a fear of failing or looking bad.
9. You stick to what has worked in the past and fail to understand why it no longer seems to be working.
10. You don’t feel free, excited and engaged in your work.
Once I had the epiphany that I had stopped being true to myself in my business, I changed so many things, from the way I showed up in my business to who I helped and what I helped them with. I now have a greater awareness of how easy it is to slip out of authenticity and into trying to be what we think people want us to be. I also know that it doesn’t have to be a level of success that has one feeling reticent to show up fully and authentically, sometimes that pressure to show up a certain way, or to do our work a certain way is there from day one. How ever it shows up, it’s crucial for you and your business that you find a way back to authenticity as quickly as you can.
How about you? Does any of this post resonate? Do you recognise any signs that you might not be being fully true to yourself in your business? If so I’d love to hear from you so drop me a line in the comments.
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