The day I discovered that I was my own worst boss

A story about mindset and how you need to clear out the demons

I had a very powerful call with my own coach not long ago. I love having those weekly calls with someone who has been in my shoes, helps me grow as a business owner, and holds me accountable. Whilst we were talking, we discovered I still had some self-limiting beliefs (like everyone does!), and she asked me where I thought these came from. I know from my own work with clients, that many of them fear judgement from family and friends. But I realised, that it was not my loved ones and dear ones who I was afraid of; but that I had other demons haunting me. Memories of people that were holding me back from stepping into my true power. Or were they?

The mind is a funny thing. And what you tell yourself is often only partly true, or even a complete and utter lie. What narratives are you still keeping alive right now, that you fully believe in? And why do you regard these stories as true?

Stories are thoughts made up by someone – usually yourself, and put in your head. Thoughts are nothing else than energy and information. The information, in turn, is fed and fabricated by experiences and memories from your past. The things that have shaped you. But memories become muddled and vague and usually start to lead a life of their own as years go by.

Monsters in your head become bigger and more real, the more attention you give them. What is the truth? What is the reality you are creating for yourself?

Photo by Lisa on

When certain things keep popping up, they are a message

“Who are these people you feel judged by?” my coach asked me on the call. They weren’t my parents, as they are very supportive. My friends are also generally interested in what I do, and don’t judge me. So who were the demons that came up? I knew. Ex-bosses from the past. I wrote a blog post about one of them already, not long ago, so it obviously was something that needed my attention – yet again. It was the memory of their words and attitudes toward me that was still running through me, and kept popping up. Why now? What was going on? What was the message?

I am 42 now, and generally a very confident, positive person, who doesn’t dwell much on the past. But I am on a continuous journey, just like you, and learn about myself every day. Old phrases from a long lost past like: “We hired you for too much money”, “You are not someone with a lot of depth”, and belittling the word ‘marketing’, as if it doesn’t belong in the creative world, were still somewhere deep in my subconscious, and I clearly needed to deal with them, once and for all.

You are not worthy and other BS

As I told these stories to my coach, she listened (she is good at that), scribbled down some notes, and then looked back at me. “Nina”, she said, “You still have a horrible boss right now, don’t you?” I looked at her puzzled. What did she mean? I don’t have a boss anymore, I am self-employed. And then it hit me. God darn. Bull’s eye.

I have always been my own worst boss.

None of these memories, words, and hurtful comments still had anything to do with the people who had once delivered them. The messengers were just that: messengers. They carried no other meaning any longer. Things that hurt you, or haunt you, are the things that are already within yourself. They are reflections of your own demons and limiting self-beliefs. I was my ex-bosses. Both of them. And I was not being very kind to myself at all.

The memories of my ex-bosses were bubbling up to the surface more than once this year, because I was going through an important period of growth. And when you grow, old beliefs will do anything to try and hold you back. Reminding you of all the things that could go wrong, and why you’re not worthy of success. But if you look at them closely, those old stories are trying to tell you that it is time to let go and move on. Because nobody’s judgement will affect you, really, if you truly believe in yourself.

When you are embarking on something new, like starting your own business, be aware of those inner voices that make you doubt yourself. The demons that pop up. The fear of judgement. Don’t give them power.

Who are you fearing? Whose voices are they? Are those people really that spiteful? Why would they care so much about your failure or success? Who is really judging your bravery, your courage, your creativity, and your zest for life? Who tells you that you are not worthy?

Them? Or is it really you, who is judging yourself?

Photo by Cleyton Ewerton on

The ‘I am just’ stories that get stuck down with superglue

I recalled going to an opening night of an art exhibition one night, at my old work place, and talking to my ex-boss, many years after I had left my job. By then, I had already opened my own vintage furniture shop, and had just won an actual award for my creative contribution to the local area. What an achievement, right? My ex-boss congratulated me at first, but then sniggered when he heard it was an award given out by a local magazine. Obviously a lot less impressive in his eyes. Or in mine?

For many years, especially in my twenties and thirties, I did not feel I had a ‘proper’ career, like people had in law, or in corporate jobs. I wouldn’t even call myself a professional, despite already stacking up an impressive amount of years in marketing, copywriting and PR. I was enjoying the jobs I was involved in, doing the creative work that fired me up, but I never thought it was as important as other people’s jobs. Probably also something to do with the low wages in the cultural sector.

So, “I was just working in the arts”, “I was just doing the PR”, “I was just selling vintage furniture”, “I was just working part-time as marketing manager”, and laughing at my “so-called-career”. I really was my own worst boss, unkind, depreciating and always pushing myself to the limit. Appearing pretty confident on the outside, but keeping myself very small inside.

These kinds of beliefs are so incredibly common, especially among creatives. Maybe you are even nodding your head right now. Yep, you’re thinking you’re a fraud too. We talk ourselves down, think others are doing a way better job, and because of these beliefs we freeze. Big dreams stay just that. Dreams. We undercharge because we believe we ‘first need more experience’. We over-deliver, because we look for validation from the outside. We are scared of judgement, fear negative reviews, only think in ‘what-ifs’.

So we keep doing what we do, and don’t go up the ladder of success. Not because we are not capable, because we are. But because our demons tell us it is safer to not risk it, or we may be ridiculed – so why stick your head above the parapet?

Photo by Engin Akyurt on

List all your negative beliefs….and then tell yourself the opposite, positive story

So I started listing all of my self-limiting beliefs, and stories about my career, past jobs, and achievements. It was such a good exercise, I can really recommend it. It clearly exposes how you quickly down-play any of your achievements. I wrote for example that I believed that I “had never had any significant success in marketing the arts centres I once worked for, because visitor numbers had never gone up much, despite my efforts.” Holy moly, woman, that is a pretty negative way of talking about your work!

Then on the opposite page, I tried to see it through a different set of glasses, and I wrote:

“I have increased (online) visibility and the national reputation of both arts centres significantly, through consistent, powerful marketing, which helped them to boost their image in the industry, and attract continuous funding. I kept attracting visitors, despite the challenging physical locations of both arts centres (one down a dark city alleyway; the other in the middle of the countryside), and despite their programming not being much aligned with the general conservative taste of the local, ageing, population.”

Right, now we’re talking!

You see how the same story can be told in two different ways? It depends from which angle you look at it.

And what about that award I won? I won a freakin’ award, for goodness’ sake! All by myself! Because I built a business from the ground, with my own money, with my own bare hands, while holding a baby, and then another one, while running an actual, physical shop, in the middle of nowhere, and organising a string of successful creative events that inspired many. There. Take that, you inner critic.

What about you? What are the stories you can dig up about yourself today, that you keep telling yourself? What are you down-playing? How can you change those stories, show yourself some self-love and appreciation, giving the events and achievements the glory they deserve?

Get your journal out right now, and jot it all down. It helps, I tell you! I bet you’ll see some patterns there, and gain insights. And I bet you too are your own worst boss right now. Telling yourself to work harder, that you are not good enough, and that you are not worthy.

Let’s show some compassion to that inner boss, and tell her that you’ve got this. She was only trying to guide you, but was acting like a bull in a china shop. Forgive her. You can change this now. You are only at the beginning of your incredible journey as an entrepreneur, and you are learning so much. You don’t need to have it all figured out from day one. You are doing so much better than you think you are. Keep going, you are worthy!

Did this story resonate? You can work with me 1-to-1, to battle your demons and build your business. Book a free call to get to know me.

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