How To Stop Hiding and (Finally) Grow Your Business

By Jessica Ruprecht

Here’s what I know to be true: growing your first business or blog is scary. It asks you to show up in public in ways you’ve probably never dared to before and to make yourself visible before a larger audience than you’re comfortable with.

Growing a business is not for the faint of heart!  But here’s the thing: some of you might desperately want to start a blog or a business, but feel stuck because you’re equally afraid of being seen. For years this was me. I desperately wanted to grow an audience for my blog and launch an online business, but every time I put myself out there I got so scared I eventually gave up. It was too much for me – too uncomfortable, too scary, too difficult.

I felt like I was never going to be brave enough.

The courage that I saw in the women around me successfully launching and growing their online businesses just didn’t seem to be accessible for me. No matter how hard I tried I just wasn’t able to fight my way through my fears and “do it anyway”. The truth is, trying to force myself to act more bravely than I felt never made me feel courageous. It only ever made me feel smaller, more cowardly, and less worthy.

The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way.

It took me years to figure out that there’s a way of working with your fear that doesn’t involve holding on for dear life and trying to fight your way straight through it. I learned to navigate my fears in way that was gentle and compassionate – and it was learning this that ultimately made it possible for me to stop hiding, show up in the world, and build my business.

You can learn how to navigate your fears, too. Here’s how.

The first step is to learn to recognize when fear is present.

The purpose of this step is simply to help you become more aware of when fear (or the avoidance of fear) is motivating your actions. To do that, it is helpful to learn to recognize what fear feels like in your body – do your palms sweat, does your heart pound, does your belly clench, or do your feet itch to get up and go somewhere?

Fear wears many disguises: it may look like apathy, exhaustion, procrastination, avoidance, restlessness, distraction, or numbing. But no matter what disguise fear might be wearing you’ll always know it if you become familiar with the sensation of it in your body.

The second step is to listen to your fear and honor it.

When we try to force ourselves to take action in spite of our fear we are not honoring fear’s purpose – which is to alert us the presence of danger. Instead, when we try to white-knuckle our way through fear we are ignoring how scared we feel and disregarding our own intuition.

Our fears are not silly or foolish – they are doing their very best to protect us from getting hurt. The trouble is that sometimes our happiness is worth running the risk of getting hurt. Unfortunately, our fears will never understand that we might be willing to risk a few mean comments for a chance to share our message with the world.

The truth about fear is that most of the time it really just wants to be heard. Your fear wants you to be aware that danger is present. Most of the time your fear only wants your attention – it wants to let you know that it perceives danger, so that you can be cautious as you take action.

Step two is about engaging with our fears in an honest dialogue. It’s about acknowledging that our fear serves a useful purpose and is never malicious. Step two is about asking ourselves what about this situation is my fear reacting to? And what does my fear need from me in order to feel safe?

It is important to ask these questions because this is how we allow our fear to protect us – by acknowledging that danger is present and acting to first meet our own needs in order to help ourselves feel safe.

For example, regularly publishing content to my blog is a way that I choose to grow my business; however, if I am afraid of publishing content because I’m worried that I will say the wrong thing and upset people, then publishing content to my blog is going to be a constant battle. I’ll perpetually be resisting actually doing it even as I pressure myself into blogging because I know that I should.

But here’s the thing: my worry about what other people will say isn’t foolish – it’s about protecting myself from getting hurt. What I’m really afraid of is that if I receive criticism for my words that my feelings will get hurt. So then the question is how can I protect myself from getting hurt and still publish my blog post?

This is what I can do: I can choose to not let someone else’s criticism or praise change my own opinion of myself. I can choose celebrate the courage that it took to publish my thoughts no matter what someone else does or doesn’t say in response. And I can choose to take care of myself if my feelings do get hurt – I can soothe my hurt feelings with my own affection.

When I do this, my fear eases because it knows that I have seen the danger and have taken steps to protect myself from being hurt, no matter the outcome of publishing my blog post.

As we learn to listen to our fears and honor their wisdom, we no longer have to fight our way through them in order to achieve our goals – which makes attaining our goals so much easier.

The third step is to have compassion for yourself as you struggle with fear.  I used to see my struggle with fear as cowardice. I’d tell myself, If only I were braver… then I’d be able to achieve my dreams. This approach never helped me move forward; usually, it only made me feel worse.

So this third step is an invitation to embrace your glorious humanity and be gentle with yourself as you navigate this process. You are allowed to find things frightening. You are allowed to feel uncomfortable.

In no way do these feelings detract from your inherent worth. This process doesn’t always work overnight. Sometimes our fears are deeply seated and it takes time to soothe them.

But if you keep showing up to listen to and honor your fears and keep having patience with yourself as you struggle it will become easier to step outside your comfort zone, stop hiding, and take action in your business. Because the truth is that the courage you need is already inside you. You just need to learn how to wield it.

Jessica Ruprecht is a life coach and writer at http://jessicaruprecht.com. She works with women entrepreneurs and creators who have big dreams, but whose fear of sharing their work with the world is holding them back. She helps women trust that their work is good enough so that they can finally stop hiding and start living. Her new ebook, Practical Courage: A Heart-Centered Guide to Achieving Your Dreams, will be released this spring. Sign up here to receive her free newsletter, designed to help you live your life with less fear and more courage – plus, be the first to know when Practical Courage is released!

Blog Biz // Give Yourself Permission


By Rebecca Pitts

I'd love to talk to the Blog Society tribe about something that I've struggled with for almost a decade now...

I always wanted to do something creative and to run my own small business and brand, but I never really thought that I could just go ahead and do it.  Sure, there were (and are) lots of other people that  are putting their voice out there, running a blog, making things, or selling their wares and art. And here's what I thought: those people are simply more talented, more qualified and plain luckier than I am. 

I don't have permission to do that kind of work and live a creative life.

I'm happy to say that I'm speaking from the other side now and have finally pushed through the noise to launch my creative business and brand, Hudson + Daughterin early 2014. It's not perfect, and it's a work-in-progress, but I've had some surprising and thrilling successes, including a recent nomination as a Martha Stewart American Made finalist and a Country Living Magazine press mention.

Today, I'd love to talk with you about my creative struggle, and what finally lit the fire under me to put myself out there and launch my business... 

The untruths I had on repeat I was very, very busy for years--busy telling myself all of the reasons why I couldn't possibly start my own creative business. (So busy, that I wasn't doing the actual work.) Here are the three big un-truths that had me stuck in creative paralysis:

* Untruth #1: Am I really allowed to design, make, and sell things I make when I didn't go to art school? Truth: Well, actually yes. You are. And this is actually true of most fields, apart from the industries that require professional certification. The commercially successful illustrator and artist Lisa Congdon (and author of recently published Art, Inc.) never went to art school. She didn't even launch her art career until she was well into her thirties. And think what you will about Sheryl Sandberg and Leaning In, but the stats don't lie—men are more likely to apply (and therefore get) jobs that they are not exactly qualified for. Equally qualified women are more likely to talk themselves out of applying in the first place. 

* Untruth #2: Fear. What will people think? What if people don't like what I'm making or saying? Truth: Actually, most people aren't thinking about you at all. Ouchright?! But really, it's true. It may feel like such a big deal to send that email to your address book telling them what you're up to, and sure, you may have a judgmental relative to deal with at Christmas dinner. But most people will likely smile at your good news and be on their merry way. Here's an added bonus to getting over your fear of what people think: it will become immediately clear who's on your cheerleading team. Sure, you knew your best friend from forever ago would be your number one fan, but you might be pleasantly surprised at some of people who emerge as champions in your corner.

* Untruth #3: The people who are making their creative businesses work have more time, more money, more talent, and more connections than I do. Truth: Yep, they do. But so what. There will always be people who seem to have it all. Maybe it's not attractive to admit, but I get jealous really easily. I'm jealous of Anna Bond for her singular style and the immediately recognizable, alluring, and whimsical look of her work and brand that happens to have stretched into every adorable boutique across the nation. I'm jealous of Ina Garten for the life she has created for herselfplunging head first into a catering business (from a government desk job) and transforming that business into a cooking and entertaining media empire. Plus, she's got an awesome kitchen. Instead of internalizing that jealousy, and making it all about what I'm not, I pay attention to the feeling and ask myself what exactly is it about that person or her body of work or her lifestyle that I'm really after? I write it down. I make it a long term goal. Once you're clear about what it is that you're after, you're much more likely to make it happen for yourself.

What finally pushed me to move beyond these untruths and launch my creative business:

* Becoming a mom and losing all of that "me" time. John Lee Dumas calls it the baby effect. I've had less time then I've ever had in my entire life, and I've never been so productive. I've got one hour to design this piece or write this blog post or it's never, ever going to happen. Now's the time to seize that hour. Use the small amount of time you have. By committing to doing even one small thing each day, the days and weeks add up, and you've got a body of work and a business that is chugging along. 

* Putting myself out there and sharing my work. I'll be honest, some days it feels downright uncomfortable. And yes, sometimes I still cringe when I push the send or publish button if I'm pitching to a magazine or promoting a product. But here's a little secret: just keep on doing it. Notice what happens when the sales are lower than you had hoped for, or if you get a 'thanks but no thanks' reply: the world doesn't end. Surprisingly, I've taken these rejections far less personally than I would have ever imagined. And, not surprisingly, putting myself out there has led to the good stuffthe successes (the press features, the sales). This is the stuff that keeps fueling the creative fire.

* Connecting with a creative community, off-line. If you are lucky enough to have someone in your life who is like-minded and is also working on a creative project, talk things out with them. Meet for regular coffee dates. It's not necessary that you're working in similar disciplinesit's far more important to connect with a person who is open-minded, encouraging, and curious about her work (and yours). If it's proving difficult to find that person or group, try looking online for a group that meets in your area, or start your own.

* Wising up and getting older. This may be the most elusive one of all, and perhaps is the most important. At some point, the collective experiences of your lifeyour professional experiences, your studies, your personal growth, even the stuff that just happens to you and to the world that is out of your controlall of this meshes together and pushes you to evolve as a person. Meanwhile, the time is flying and the years are passing. Fast. Notice this. Does this scare the hell out of you? Good. Use this fear. Seize it. No one hands you the permission to go out and do the thing you're meant to do. You have to go ahead and take it.

Now, I'd love to ask you: what has held you back in the past? What was your turning point—when did you finally go ahead and give yourself permission? What happened? I'm so curious to hear!

Rebecca Pitt founded Hudson + Daughter in 2014 as a way to share the things she makes, open a shop, and to connect with readers, writers, artists, and makers.  She has a soft spot for indie comics, collage, beautifully illustrated children's books, Ernest Hemingway's first and third wives, modern architecture, the 5 o'clock spritz, first folios, Wes Anderson movies, rare book rooms, Lorrie Moore short stories, and flaky, buttery croissants (preferably paired with the perfect cup of dark roast coffee). She has lived in Connecticut, Italy, Boston, New York City, and is happy to call the lower Hudson Valley home. You can find her on her blog or on Instagram @hudsonanddaugher.


All images by Rebecca Pitt

A special thank you and shout out to our Blog Society partners this month who proudly support us: Babe ScrubFarm & PrettyMartine Gallery and Bloggers Bazaar