We will take a look at some of my personal insecurities as an entrepreneur. These are things that I have either already coached myself on very hard previously and now accept, or constantly work on so that they take up minimal cognitive space in my brain.
Specifically, among the many insecurities I’ve navigated, I want to share three particular ones:
1) My appearance
2) Being a coach based in Asia, despite the coaching industry being very western-centric at the moment
3) Being a business coach
I am certain there are a lot of readers experiencing similar insecurities. Perhaps you could say that I feel a sense of responsibility to talk about this because I struggled with some of these insecurities myself, and honestly, there were times when they felt crippling for my business.
You may think, “Why is this an insecurity?”.
Well, it’s because our brains like to make things into a problem, even if nothing is really wrong. So, I want to use this opportunity to share my perspective on how I manage and work through insecurities in hopes that it can help you look at your own insecurities from a new perspective.
Let’s start with one of my biggest insecurities since I was a child: my nose.
I’m really insecure about the size and shape of it because I honestly think it’s too big. Not gonna lie, as I say this, I feel embarrassed.
But I know some of you listening might have insecurities about some part of your face as well.
If you’re like me, you might also have resistance towards creating video content for your business or showing your face (or whatever body part you’re insecure about) on the internet.
And actually, this is related to another insecurity I had during 2019.
Specifically, I was quite overweight and my doctor told me I needed to start losing weight because I had become pre-diabetic, and weight loss might prevent this from turning into actual diabetes.
If any of you were following my business journey in 2019, you may recall that I looked quite different in terms of my body shape and size.
During my business break between August 2019 to February 2020, I focused heavily on my physical and mental health and lost about 35-40 pounds during that period, which is a relatively significant change for someone who is only 5 ft 1.
Luckily, today, I am still regularly getting blood tests and check-ups, but so far it seems like a lot of the symptoms I was experiencing in 2019 are now no longer an issue.
But the reason why I brought up my weight in 2019 is because I was actually really insecure about it. Yet, I still showed up on Instagram stories almost every day in 2019.
I remember I did not like watching my video content at all because I didn’t like looking at myself.
I also edited every single photo I posted onto my website or Instagram feed at the time because I wanted to make myself slimmer in those photos.
So, how did I navigate my insecurities with body image, and how does this relate to my business? Honestly, I noticed that I felt very inspired by others who looked like myself.
Whether it was because they were Asian (because back in 2019, there were a lot fewer Asian coaches in this space) or because they were overweight and absolutely killing it in their business. Or maybe they also had certain facial features that resembled mine and confidently showed up for their business.
I drew so much inspiration from these individuals. And that’s when I realized, “Ok, well, there has to be someone in my audience who is following my business and journey, and they’re finding value from me simply showing up as myself.”.
That was what helped me realize that me showing up as myself is inherently helping others who see themselves in me. It’s not even about the success I may have in my business, but it’s simply showing others that they too can do this.
That’s how I learned to become more accepting of my body image, and honestly, I am now at peace with how I look.
Not necessarily because I love my appearance 100%.
That’s why I still use a filter when I do my Instagram stories, for example, because it makes me feel more confident about my content.
But because I know that as someone who is building a business and personal brand on social media, my presence and authenticity can be of value to someone out there. That alone is enough of a reason for me to show up as I am.
While this may not necessarily be an insecurity for me per se, it is something that I have reflected on, and it has influenced some of the decisions in my business.
There is no denying that the online coaching industry is centered around Western countries.
From my own observations, I find that the most well-known coaches are based in Western, English-speaking countries.
I would even argue that the United States and Canada are at the forefront of this industry because I have noticed that many coaches schedule their coaching calls or programs based on times that are most convenient for them, such as Eastern Time or Pacific Time.
Likewise, most coaching programs are offered in US dollars.
As someone who is currently based in Hong Kong, I do feel FOMO sometimes.
For example, during the current mastermind that I’m in, there are times when my mastermind peers schedule virtual hangouts and discussions in the afternoon of EST or PST times, but that would be around 2-4am in my time.
I think these sorts of experiences have helped me become more considerate of the diverse audience and needs of my clients.
This is why I have made a conscious effort to have multiple group coaching call times for my group program, so that everyone is guaranteed at least one time slot where they can get coached.
That said, I don’t believe in trying to accommodate everyone’s needs at all times. You don’t have to wake up at 3am just to have a client call for someone who’s based on the other side of the world.
Although I have done that before, like when I did podcast interviews or workshops for other people’s group programs at 1am or 2am Hong Kong time, I am now very selective about such opportunities that require me to step outside my own boundaries or work outside my designated working hours.
On a similar note, if you’re building a business on social media, you have a global audience.
More likely than not, your audience comes from an array of backgrounds, identifies with different cultures, is based in different geographic locations, and collectively speaks multiple languages.
However, in the online coaching space, I find that these multifaceted identities and experiences are often neglected in favor of a Western-centric or English-centric perspective.
As someone whose first language is English and who can speak fluently with an American or Canadian accent, I acknowledge that this is a privilege within the online coaching industry, and honestly in life in general as well.
For example, because the online coaching space is still primarily English-dominated, it is a lot easier for me to communicate my ideas and interact with my audience and clients in English. I can create content without worrying about English mistakes (well, I make a lot of typos, but that’s not the point here) and without having to worry about whether the way I phrase things might be wrong or could potentially be misunderstood.
This is actually a worry that some of my non-native English speaking clients have.
Actually, some of them worry about whether their audience will look down on them or choose not to hire them if they speak with an accent or if they think they’re not as good as an English-fluent coach.
If you’re grappling with similar thoughts, here’s one thing I want to offer: Lean into who you are.
You don’t have to try to fit into another version of yourself to be a successful coach online.
Specifically, you don’t have to conform to a western-centric or English-centric mold of success, especially if you are immersed within a diverse community or catering to an international or other cultural audience.
You don’t need to minimize or modify your inherent self, and this applies to other parts of you besides language or culture or location.
When you’re so focused on trying to fit into the mold of a coach from a completely different background or part of the world, you are suppressing your unique self, your unique thoughts, and your unique lived experiences, and you will not fulfill your potential.
Instead, I would encourage you to fully express yourself and become an example of what’s possible for those who look like you.
Let me share an example. Although I coach my clients in English, as I am unable to speak another language confidently enough to coach using it, I have worked with clients who coach their own clients in another language.
For instance, one of my clients uses Chinese as her primary language when working with clients. It makes me so happy to see coaches like my client not feeling pressured to use English.
Instead, they use what comes most naturally to them so that they can operate as their most confident selves when working with clients.
Furthermore, they are able to serve clients who might be neglected by the English-dominated coaching space.
When you lean into who you are and leverage what you already know and have experience with, you can serve your unique audience so much better. For some, that might mean using their native tongue in their business.
As someone who was born and raised in North America due to my parents’ decision to immigrate to the United States so that I could grow up in an English-speaking environment, I am very privileged to be fluent in English.
However, now that I am based in Hong Kong, my Chinese skills are quite poor. I can speak Cantonese at a basic level, but I have a strong accent that indicates I’m not a local person, and I cannot read or write Chinese.
This has been a huge hindrance for me when going to restaurants in Hong Kong, and it was also the reason why I was rejected from many jobs when I first looked for work after leaving law school back in 2018.
This is why I really hope to be able to support clients from all parts of the world and from all walks of life because I firmly believe that with this digital space and social media, you can establish your unique footing in the online coaching space.
I deeply believe that it is possible for you, regardless of where you come from, to create a meaningful, impactful, and profitable coaching business, even if English is not your mother tongue.
This isn’t necessarily an insecurity, but this awareness has really helped me be more open-minded to the options available to me when making decisions about my business.
As someone with an international brand and audience, it is my responsibility to make sure my clients feel included and supported, while also bearing in mind my own capacity and boundaries, rather than making decisions solely based on my own needs.
Let’s start with some of the specific thoughts I had to navigate.
They include: 1) “Cheryl, you don’t have any business experience, education, or training. How are you going to be a business coach?” and 2) “There are so many other business coaches out there. Why would anyone work with you?”.
To be honest, I think my own insecurities about being a business coach stem from my own judgments about people becoming business coaches despite not having any experience in business. This includes judgments against myself and how I got into the industry.
Here’s how I personally got into the business coaching industry.
I didn’t start out as a business coach. Initially, I thought I wanted to be a career or resume coach for undergrads or fresh grads looking to land a paid research assistant position. I worked with two people for free, but I didn’t really vibe with it.
However, at the same time, people were asking me about how I had the confidence to put myself out there and talk about my experiences with leaving law school and dealing with parental expectations.
So, I decided to work with a few people for free on their confidence to show up online, share their unique story, message or work, and help them with their content and personal brand, since these were things I had been doing for a few months at that point in time.
Interestingly, one of my beta clients got her first paid client from our program, and I decided to explore helping more people sign their first paying client. The rest is history.
However, my own judgments about myself as a business coach still come up sometimes. This is because I grapple with deeply rooted beliefs about the “importance” or “necessity” of having traditional indicators of credibility.
For example, many business coaches previously worked in marketing jobs or went to business school, even if they never used what they learned in their own business.
Others may have run other businesses before starting a coaching business.
I was making my lack of formal business experience mean something about whether I could help people or not.
What helped me work through this was that I didn’t start out promising to help people sign clients. I simply wanted to work with people on their confidence and content because, back then, I had been creating content and showing up on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube.
Once I saw that my clients were getting more advanced results, I challenged myself to see if I could help another person repeat similar results.
I think this approach helped me reduce my feelings of imposter syndrome and remain in integrity in my business.
That said, I also think that I still have room to explore my own thoughts about credentials.
As someone who’s currently in a PhD program, I acknowledge that I still have thoughts that I need to untangle so that my pursuit of a PhD credential doesn’t affect the way I show up in my business or the way I coach my clients.
Business coaching is not the only way to make money. You do not have to become a business coach just to make money as a coach.
We as human beings have a lot of needs and wants and pain points and challenges in life. For many people, starting their own business does not even cross their mind at all. Likely because they have other priorities or needs in life that matter more to them right now.
That’s where you can think about how you can create a coaching business that solves problems in these other non-business areas of life.
If you have no interest in being a business coach besides the belief that business coaching is the “guaranteed niche” that will make you money, stop. Do not become a business coach with this intention in mind.
Here’s why: first, it’s really difficult to sell an offer that you don’t fully believe in.
Selling is going to feel hard, and you’ll probably come across as salesy or pushy if you’re selling business coaching without a genuine reason for being a business coach.
Second, if you lack confidence in your ability to help someone as a business coach but still decide to jump into this niche thinking you can learn and start helping people with the basics, it might work.
However, bear in mind that this is a highly competitive niche with a lot of people vying to become business coaches. If you doubt your skills, it will create a lot of self-doubt and imposter syndrome.
This will not only affect your ability to market and sell your program, but it will also affect your confidence when working with clients, which can ultimately affect their experiences and results.
Finally, you already possess skills, experiences, knowledge, and perspectives that are valuable to others. You can leverage these right now.
If you have an offer that you fully believe can help someone, you will show up to talk about it with a different energy.
Your communication will be more confident, and you will be in a better position to articulate how you can help people and the value you bring because you are leveraging what you already know.
The business coaching niche is extremely competitive. There are many coaches making six or multiple six figures per year, and some even talk about having 10k months as their norm.
It can be downright overwhelming, and this is true for any niche. I too have experienced my fair share of comparison and self-doubt when looking at other business coaches.
I recognize that my inclination to compare myself with my peers stems from my high school and university days, where we were all vying for the same universities or competing for the same scholarships and awards.
I was in an environment where everyone was all up in each other’s business, and I know I wasn’t the only one who used to creep on other people’s LinkedIn profiles to see what research labs they were working at or what extracurricular activities they were doing or what scholarships and awards they won. I am guilty of that.
Thankfully, I have done a lot of mindset work since then and have developed much more self-trust and belief in myself, what I do, and what I have to offer.
But back then, we were all striving towards the same goals, and there was a seemingly clear-cut roadmap to success, such as getting a 4.0 GPA, working at a certain number of research labs, participating in specific extracurricular activities or internships, to get into law school, medical school, or other desired programs.
In addition, our exams always had a “right answer.”. Because of all that, I grew up believing that there was one “best” way of doing things and one ideal mold of a student or person I should be molding myself into.
These beliefs did infiltrate my confidence and self-belief as an entrepreneur for a while because I struggled to believe that my unique thoughts, experiences, and stories were of value.
I had difficulty believing that just being myself was valuable to others. I’m sure I’m not the only one who did this at the beginning phases of my business journey, where I looked at coaches ahead of me, analyzed what was working for them, and tried to model it in “my own unique way”.
However, I wasn’t using my own brain to create content, frameworks, and concepts from scratch.
When I gave myself permission to fully lean into the things inside my brain, including my unique perspectives, ideas, opinions, lived experiences, and stories, and started sharing these things without looking at what others were doing, I saw a shift in how I showed up, how people responded to my content, and also in my bank account.
I started to dig into my own unique thought leadership, which means I started leading with my own unique thoughts. I saw that I no longer felt the need to look at what others were doing because I deeply believed in the messages I was sharing.
Here’s what I noticed: when I was so consumed with looking at what others were doing, it said a lot about my own lack of confidence in what I was doing.
Also, that was a lot of precious time and cognitive energy that could have been better spent on using my own brain to create content, new frameworks, strategies, and so on.
This is why I deeply believe in the importance of developing your own unique thought leadership, especially when building your coaching business. Because everything inside your brain matters and is of value to your unique audience and clients.
But when we’re so consumed with trying to figure out what’s working for other people and trying to tailor that to our own businesses, honestly, that’s not what your people want or need from you. They can get that from another coach.
I invite you to explore the messages you truly believe in. What are the thoughts, ideas, perspectives, past experiences, or stories that are already inside your brain and that you can start sharing more of? These things have impacted you, and thus, they can impact someone else as well.
Gone are the days where you can simply follow someone else’s content strategy or model and sign clients. That doesn’t work anymore. Maybe it worked in 2019, but it definitely won’t cut it in 2021 or beyond.
Instead, work with what’s inside your brain and, honestly, inside your heart as well. As cheesy as that may sound, it’s what will be most honest to you.
In my opinion, when your marketing and messaging are honest, you’ll attract more clients, make more money, and actually help more people.
Clients want to work with a coach who they know is damn good at what they do. They want to work with a coach who is confident that they can help them achieve results.
I believe that it takes time and working with client after client to get really good at helping them get incredible results and transformations.
The reason my clients get awesome results regularly is that I have worked on myself as a coach to coach my clients better, on my own strategies that I use in my business and teach to my clients, and on my thoughts, mindset, and wellbeing as not just an entrepreneur, but also as a person with different areas of life that matter to me.
By working on these areas and being patient but disciplined with my growth, I am continuously getting better at supporting my clients in their journey to creating their own results, and that’s one reason I believe I have been able to stand out in this online business coaching space.
Whenever I start to compare myself with other business coaches, I have to ground myself back in the amount of time I have spent coaching many clients, as well as the amount of work I have done on myself to become the coach I am today.
I am a coach who stands firm in my own messages, core values, and belief in the work that I do.
I am able to help my clients create their own amazing results in life and business.
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