Is This The Business You Really Want?

I only have value when someone else sees value in me. That has been my core belief for many years – sad but true.

What I experienced as a kid has shaped me – even branded me. The behavior patterns I created to survive my childhood are the same ones I follow today. Unfortunately, most of the patterns I put in place to protect myself then, are now holding me back. Make me desperate to meet the expectations of others. And have me putting everyone else first. All that matters is getting someone else to see value in me.

How can these behavior patterns create a life and business that work for me?

And that is the question. One I am finally answering after all of these years.

The patterns I created as a child have followed me into my business. In my efforts to please others and be seen as valuable, I have lived most of my working life miserable at heart, my true feelings hidden behind a quick smile and a dry sense of humour. Never let them see you sweat.

From years of stuffing the pain down I felt damaged. Something had to change. I loved what I did but not how I did it.

Like many people, entrepreneurs are shaped by their early experiences and work hard to meet others’ expectations. Investors, clients, or advisors – we just want to please them. And yes, our parents and family as well. We work hard to earn the respect of others, losing a little more of our own identity in the process.

And then we hit this place where we wonder if our business (the one we have lovingly and painstakingly built with blood, sweat, and tears – and dollars) is what we really wanted.

As I sat in the airport waiting for the Friday night flight back to Halifax for the fifty-third time, I wondered why I was doing this. Is this really what I want?

My answer was a resounding ‘no’ and it started me down the road to changing my business model – how I worked, what I worked on, and who I worked with. I finally hit upon my truth – I have to value myself before others can value me.

Maybe that truth hits home for you too.

To break your own negative patterns, I recommend a great exercise to start your journey.

  • Think back and write out the 3 or 5 critical experiences that have defined who you are. 
    One for me was relentless and cruel bullying throughout my school years.
  • Identify the behavior patterns that have resulted and write them out. 
    To protect myself from bullying, I put up walls so people can’t get close and hurt me.
  • Now assess whether the behaviour patterns are healthy or not. 
    Putting walls up also keeps the great people away from me and I lose – not so healthy.
  • In reviewing the behavior patterns, which ones will you keep, which will you change, and which ones will you simply stop? 
    I need to be more open and let people in so that I can enjoy a much richer and deeper community. I need to stop putting up walls.
  • Put a plan in action to make a shift in those unhealthy patterns (or strengthen the healthy ones). Recognizing the behaviors when they are happening is the first step. From there you can start making changes in how you respond and act. It takes time but journaling or coaching can help.

One of the key behavior patterns I noted is that I let my reliance on other people determine how I see my day –  good or bad. Now I realize that I decide what will be a great day for me – regardless of others – and make it happen.

These shifts in perspective sound simple to make but can take months of hard work. So note them first, notice them in real time, and then have patience with yourself to make the change.

At heart, entrepreneurs are pleasers. We so want others to see the value in our idea – and us. So much so that we suppress our own feelings to meet their expectations. A shift needs to happen so we create the businesses we really want. Only when we value who we are – and work from that place – will others truly value what we bring, the business will follow.

My wish is that you will be far wiser than me, live life on your terms, and enjoy the journey.