Have you ever explained what you do only to receive blank stares, raised eyebrows, or that what-planet-are-you-from look? Yeah, me too. As women, it feels like we’ve got negativity coming at us from all angles (don’t worry — I promise this won’t be a feminist rant!), but this is even truer of female small business owners — we’re constantly being evaluated, put down, and questioned. Believe me, I’ve been there. Oh boy have I been there. Cue: Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off.”
Here’s a quick backstory: Last October, I went out on a limb and bought one ticket to Being Boss NOLA. I didn’t know anyone going, but I’d been obsessively listening to the Being Boss podcast, and I really liked Emily and Kathleen’s confidence, their no-bullshit attitudes toward business, and how they work “woo-woo” into their business and lives. I also really love New Orleans and had only been once before. At the time, I was struggling with a lot — a blog I was getting sick of, a tiny side business I was afraid to grow, a boyfriend I always seemed to fight with, friends and family who didn’t really understand what I was doing, and some other pretty heavy family drama I won’t get into. I needed an escape. I needed direction. I needed confidence. And I needed some cool new lady bosses in my life.
I forced myself to get out of my element and make new friends in NOLA. Talking with fellow entrepreneurial women who have the same struggles really helped make sense of my own problems and assured me I wasn’t the only one dealing with them. During the live recording of Being Boss Episode #43, Emily and Kathleen were asked how they deal with being “a fairly woo woman attached to a mega not-woo guy.” I didn’t ask this question, but I am so glad someone else did because it spoke to me too.
Emily said, “If you are woo, it’s who you are. And if they love you, they love your woo. And if they’re not going to love your woo, they can go.”
Kathleen said, “If your partner’s not cool with it, either you need to get more confident around what you believe so you’re not projecting that they have an issue with it, or if they really do have an issue with it, break up with them… If you’re not into it, if things are not good, if the sex is awful, just break up!”
It hit me right in the gut—as if they were talking directly to me. Later that day, a tarot card reader reaffirmed this for me. She hadn’t even put out all of her cards when she said, “Oh honey. The guy you’re with right now is not the one,” and then proceeded to get eerily specific and on-point about our relationship. She also told me I should be running my own business, but needed to find the confidence within myself. She placed an invisible crown on my head, held my hands, and said, “You are capable.” (I cried.)
I walked away from this trip knowing I had a lot of cleaning up to do. I had way too much negativity weighing me down and it had to go. In the year since Being Boss NOLA, I made some pretty major changes in my life, and I actively work to keep negative energy at bay. Here’s what I do, and what you can do too:
When I got home from NOLA, I wrote down all the things that made me feel bad about myself, and then found ways to solve them. Here are two examples:
- I had “fraudy feelings” about my business (I’m not an esthetician, why am I making beauty products?!). To banish my fraudy feelings, I have to keep reminding myself that I have done a lot of research into the cosmetics business, taken herbalism classes, studied anatomy and physiology, and made countless formulations of products before landing on my current lineup. Even if I didn’t go to beauty school, I know my shit. If you’re struggling with this too, I highly recommend listening to Being Boss Episode #12: How to Be Boss Even When You Feel Like A Fraud. As Kathleen says in it, “Sometimes to be an expert, you just have to be two steps ahead of who you’re helping.”
- I felt really self-conscious about my body (a feeling all too familiar to us women). So I reached out to two of my best girlfriends and we did a boudoir photo shoot. And we looked fucking hot! I keep a few of the prints in a box in my bedroom and take them out when I need a confidence boost. But boudoir shoots are expensive. If you can’t do one, dress up in something that makes you feel sexy and remind yourself that you are. Positive affirmation, ladies!
VALUE YOURSELF AND YOUR WORK
This goes hand-in-hand with being confident. You know those friends/family members/loose acquaintances who think it’s so cool you’re striking out on your own — so cool in fact, they want you to make them a beauty product or design a logo, etc. And they kind of imply that you should do it for free. (Squealing breaks sound) No, no no no no. If they want something, they can pay for it. If they really want to support you, they should know that this is how you want to make a living, and you can’t make a living if you never charge anyone.
Sure, when you’re just getting started and want to build a portfolio or you’re testing out a new formula for a deodorant for example (I’ve done this), pick some people to strategically work with, BUT NOT FOR FREE. Pick people you can barter with — maybe they can do some photography for you while you design their logo? Or you know they have an active Instagram following so you ask them to share your product with their followers in exchange for free samples. If a “friend” keeps pushing for free stuff, they’re not a friend. Bye Felicia.
…Which leads to me this step. And hey, maybe you can skip this. Maybe you only have really fantastic, supportive people in your life who totally dig what you do and buy all of your things. But odds are if you’re reading this, you’ve got some naysayers who need to be cut loose. Whether it’s “friends” who constantly ask for free stuff or never come to your events, or a partner who asks when you’re going to give up your “side project” because you’ll never make any money from it — you’re gonna have to make some cuts. And it’s hard. My ex-boyfriend and I had been dating for over seven years. Our lives were totally intertwined. Our breakup was messy, painful, and exhausting. It took a few months, and when it was finally completely over, I got the flu, a stomach bug, and the worst period cramps I’ve ever had in my life all in one week. My body was purging all kinds of negativity! And when that was all over with, I poured all of my energy, heart, and soul into rebranding my natural beauty business, now called florapothecarie. Being Boss members were there to support me, and helped me pick my final logo.
Breaking up with partners, friends, and even sometimes family members totally sucks, but after a while, you realize you’re way happier without all those Dementors trying to suck the happiness out of you. (I’m a big Harry Potter fan.) You need people in your life who are going to build you up, not constantly bring you down. My ex-boyfriend was an okay guy, but he just wasn’t for me. He would question why I was making natural beauty products, would tell me it wasn’t practical because I’d never make a living from it, and would get pissed every time I asked him to help me set up for an event. My ex-friends would make fun of me, ask for stuff for free, or complain that I never hung out with them because I was always “doing business stuff.” Again, I say to you, “Bye Felicia.”
FIND YOUR TRIBE
Once you get rid of the haters, find people who love and support you. Are their other entrepreneurs in your area you can connect with? Join some Facebook groups like The Rising Tide Society or Creative Life, Happy Life with Merriweather Council. Introduce yourself and say where you live too because you may find creatives in your area this way. Go to networking events or reach out to people you admire via email or social media. Then, actually hang out with these people and nurture those relationships.
Listen to Being Boss Episode #88 Prioritizing Relationships in Work + Life for even more tips on making friends as an adult, how to reach out to online friends, how to take online friendships offline, as well as tips for thriving in life partner relationships.
GET RID OF BAD ENERGY
If you’re feeling like you’ve just got a dark cloud hanging over you — nothing specific, just some bad juju in the air — try a ritual for cleansing your space or banishing negative energy. Here’s a simple cleansing ritual I wrote on the florapothecarie blog. I also find it helpful to meditate, take a bath, or go for a walk in the woods.
Now, I put conscious effort into keeping negativity out of my life. Some creeps in every now and then, but I don’t let it get to me. I don’t know when I’ll be able to turn this into a full-time business, but for now, I am happy and confident and doing what I love. And I have people to support me. My new (and vastly improved) boyfriend helps me all the time with florapothecarie — I don’t even have to ask; he just offers! Imagine that! In my low times when I haven’t had a sale in a few days or I’m feeling totally uninspired, I get dinner with one of my fellow local entrepreneurial friends. Or I express my fears to my boyfriend — “Will you still love me if I fail completely and we’ve put in all this effort for nothing?” I’ll say. And he takes my face in his hands and says, “of course, silly. You’ll always be boss, even if you don’t have a business. And I’ll love you with or without one.”