We’re All Insecure When We Start

We're All Insecure When We Start

About a year and a half ago, in November 2013, my wife and I showed up at a bar in downtown Boston for my 10-year high school reunion.

It was a fun night filled with some awesome conversations with people I don’t get to see much anymore, and of course some awkward conversations with people I pretty much never spoke to in high school, but now that we’re 10 years out we act like we’re the best of friends.

There was also the guy who showed up in the suit and tie and wouldn’t stop talking about his high-powered job.

There was the girl who thought it was “super adorable” that I was about to have my second kid and couldn’t believe how much I had “grown up”.

There was the random hook-up and the guy who drank too much. The girl you couldn’t believe was doing so well and the guy you couldn’t believe was still at home with his parents.

You know, just like every other high school reunion ever.

But despite all the fun and hilarity, what I’ll really remember about that night was the intense insecurity I felt when asked one simple question again and again.

“So, what do you do?”

Normal question, right?

We all ask it when meeting someone for the first time or when it’s been a while since we’ve seen them. It’s really just a social convention at this point.

“What do you do?”

But for me personally, at that specific point in time, it was just about the scariest question out there.

I had just lost the only job I’d known since college. The start-up I had been a part of simply didn’t work out and it had only been two weeks since the official end.

And although I was still weighing my options, I was most of the way committed to starting this crazy adventure of building the business I’m running today.

I should have been excited.

I should have talked about all the fun and interesting ideas I had.

I should have admitted that I was nervous, but that I saw a ton of opportunity here and couldn’t wait to get started.

But I’m human. So I didn’t say any of those things.

Instead, when people asked me what I did, for the most part my answer sounded something like this:

“Well, actually, technically I’m unemployed right now, but…”

Why did I do that?

Why did I tell people I was unemployed instead of talking about this exciting new business idea I had?

Why did I sell myself so short?

Well, the simple truth is that I was insecure.

See, I knew what I wanted to do. Starting this business was something I had been dreaming about for years and I was incredibly excited about the possibility of actually getting to do it.

But it was still all so new to me. I was at the very beginning of a completely new and unfamiliar journey. I could see where I wanted to get to, but I could also see just how far away that was from where I currently stood.

And the gap between the two scared me.

I was filled with doubt about my ability to actually do it successfully. And my ego was still hurt from the failure of the startup I had just left.

And on top of all that, my wife and I were due to have our second child in just a couple of weeks, which brought up its own set of questions and anxieties.

So when people asked me what I did, my heart would skip a beat, my stomach would tie up in knots, and I let my insecurity show in full force.

We’re all insecure when we start

Although I wish I had acted differently that night, the truth is that my actions were pretty normal.

Whenever we start something new, no matter how excited we are about where it might take us, we can’t help but see that huge gap that separates where we are now from where we want to be.

As we look at that gap, we start to think about ALL of the things we’ll have to do in order to get to the other side. Some of them are things we’ve never done before, things we’re not all that sure we can actually do yet.

And as we think about all of those things, the excitement of this new venture starts to be replaced by fear, doubt and insecurity.

We start thinking things like “Who am I to think I could actually pull this off?” And “Maybe I should just play it safe and stick with what I know.

You might have thoughts like this when you’re thinking about getting married or having children.

They may creep in when you think about pursuing a new job or negotiating a raise.

And they can definitely take hold when you start along the path of improving your financial situation and reaching for some of your biggest life dreams.

These doubts, this insecurity, it all sucks. But it’s also totally normal.

And if you want to be successful, your job is to fight it off like all hell.

How to get past the insecurity

So, how can you fight off that insecurity and actually get where you want to go? It’s not easy, but here are a few things I’ve learned along the way.

1. Find someone who supports you

At one point when we were talking about whether I should start my business or get a job for the bazillionth time, my wife finally said: “We have all this savings. If it isn’t for this, then what’s it for?”

I’ll never forget that.

Her support was the real reason I had the courage to take this leap. And it continues to be a driving force behind why I’m still here.

Finding that one person who believes in you could be all the push you need.

2. Focus on small steps

You aren’t going to bridge the entire gap in one day. There’s no single action that will solve all your problems.

So instead of trying to do everything all at once, write down 1-5 things you can do RIGHT NOW to make progress. Then put all your energy into doing those things.

Repeat that process enough times and you’ll be amazed by just how far you can travel.

3. Celebrate progress

Keeping your sights set on your goals is important, but it can feel defeating if you’re always looking ahead.

So take some time to look back and acknowledge the progress you’ve already made AND to appreciate where you are right now. Chances are you have some things you can be proud of, and you should give yourself the same kind of praise you would give to others.

4. Give it time

To some extent, getting past your insecurities is just a matter of time. The more time you spend doing something, the more routine it will feel and the more confident you will be in your abilities.

So again, don’t feel like you have to conquer this all at once. It’s a long, difficult, sometimes triumphant, sometimes discouraging process for everyone, and the longer you stick with it the better your chances of success.

5. Accept that insecurity is part of the deal

I’m MUCH more confident talking about my business today than I was a year and a half ago. But the truth is that I still have many moments of doubt and insecurity as well.

If you’re doing something challenging, those feelings probably won’t ever completely go away. If anything, that doubt can be a sign that you’re on the right path. There wouldn’t be any reason to doubt if you weren’t pushing yourself outside of your normal comfort zone.

Learning to live with those waves of insecurity and keep moving forward anyway is an incredible strength.

What are you going to start?

If you’re starting something new, something you care about, something you’ve never tried before, or maybe something you have tried before and failed, you’re going to feel insecure.

You’re going to doubt whether you can do it. You’re going to have a voice in your head telling you to turn and run the other way.

Everyone feels that way. It’s normal.

But it’s NOT a sign that you should give up.

It’s a sign that you’re on to something big. Keep moving forward.

Start building a better financial future with the resource I wish I had when I was starting my family. It’s free!

6 Comments... Read them below or add one of your own
  • Jacquelyn May 12, 2015

    I love this! I am in the excited with lots of ideas and a business direction phase. (I do still have a typical day job)

    This seems to be a common feeling as we have grown accustomed to success defined as that high powered job instead of a high powered life.

    It was great reading this and associating with so many of those feelings, makes me remember the need for resilience but also that belief and action are incredibly important.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Matt Becker May 12, 2015

      Wow! I absolutely LOVE this line: “we have grown accustomed to success defined as that high powered job instead of a high powered life.” That’s just an unbelievable way of encapsulating so much of how my mindset has changed over the past few years, and I can’t tell you how much that change has benefited me personally.

      The ideas phase of a business that you’re talking about is a lot of fun because you see all the possibilities, but those same possibilities can definitely feel daunting. I think your last point about the importance of action is really key. Action not only moves us forward, but it makes the thing we’re pursuing real as opposed to just an idea, which is actually a big step in relieving a lot of the doubt. It’s no longer something we’re “thinking about doing”. Now it’s just something we’re doing.

      • Jacquelyn May 12, 2015

        Yes! I spent so much time investing in school, then more school to get a job to be told what to do on some scale. I do love the guidance and lessons I can learn from, but the idea and the way we live today is much more conducive to an entrepreneurial lifestyle…and for good reason! Technology has revamped our daily routine.

        That being said…action still seems to be the hardest part and I could not agree more with action making an idea reality. Acting on your idea is the hardest part b/c we have, like the high powered job, been conditioned to fear failure rather than embrace it and as a result it leaves us in a static state. Just another reason to love creating your own life. More movement = better quality.

        Love your stuff and look forward to talking with you more!

        • Matt Becker May 12, 2015

          Thanks Jacquelyn! I can’t wait to hear more about your journey as you move along!

  • Dane Hinson June 3, 2015

    Hi Matt,

    Came across your blog and it looks like we have quite a bit in common when it comes to family and finance. Just wanted to thank you for the inspiration. This world of blogging is all new to me. I’ve always wanted another outlet outside of my 9-5. I started a blog two days ago and it has been so great to get my thoughts out there. If you have any advice for me I would greatly appreciate it. There seems to be so many aspects of setting up a site, collaborating with others, developing content, etc. that it’s a bit overwhelming. But I’m looking forward to embarking on this blogging journey.

    Best regards,

    • Matt Becker June 3, 2015

      Welcome Dane! And thanks for the kind words! I actually wrote a post for another site that shares my thoughts on how to do blogging right, and you can check it out here: 8 Steps to Better Blogging. To me, the biggest point in that article is #2. You need to know exactly who you’re writing for and you need to write things that help them. Everything else relies on that being done well.

      I would also check out The Fizzle Show podcast. They have a fantastic perspective on blogging/building a business that I’ve really benefited from and that is unique from a lot of what you might run into in other places. I would actually recommend starting from episode 1 and working your way through.

      Good luck Dane!

Leave a Comment