I love this quote by Oprah Winfrey. Just a few words to describe a powerful truth.
It sounds like something the motivational speaker, Earl Nightingale, would have said. He was known for expressing powerful ideas in plain and simple language.
My Dad was a big fan of his when I was a kid. He would play Nightingale’s tapes – like “Lead the Field” – in the morning when he was driving my brother and me to school.
😫 It drove me crazy back then because I wanted to be listening to Cyndi Lauper, Madonna and my beloved hair bands on the radio.
But as an adult, I went back to those messages when I became an entrepreneur.
One of my favorite stories Nightingale told is from a column he read by the journalist, Sydney Harris.
It goes like this:
Harris is walking with a friend who stops by a newsstand to get a paper. His friend buys the paper and politely thanks the vendor, which the vendor doesn’t even acknowledge.
“Sullen fellow”, Harris says to his friend.
“Oh, he’s that way every night.” the friend replies.
“Then why do you continue being so polite to him?” asked Harris.
👉 “Why not?”, says the friend. “Why should I let him decide how I’m going to act?”
Nightingale makes the point that the key word here is “act”. The friend chooses how he’s going to act towards people, whereas most of us just *react*.
It’s a thought-provoking point but I think there’s something deeper to this story that’s worth looking at.
❓ What stops Sydney Harris’s friend from reacting in an equally rude manner?
👉 His personal values.
⭐️ The friend clearly holds treating people politely and respectfully as a strong value and he doesn’t let another person’s behavior sway him from living his life in a way that reflects his values.
Now that’s gold!
I’ve been an entrepreneur since 2010 and today, as a coach, I help women entrepreneurs and other purpose-driven women bring their bold dream to life.
One of the biggest obstacles I’ve faced and that I see my clients face is this:
👉 Changing or modifying our behavior in anticipation of what other people might think, do, or say in response.
And I think that applies to most of us in life, whether you’re an entrepreneur or not.
If you follow me, you know I recently launched a new MeetUp group and that it took me a year to put the idea into action because I was afraid of what other people might do:
…i.e. they might not show up at all…they might not like it, if they do show up…and they might not come back.
😬 If you’re an entrepreneur, maybe you can relate to delaying a launch or some other idea because you’re afraid it won’t sell or that you might get dissatisfied customers.
Here are some other examples I see in business and life:
❌ As entrepreneurs, we stop ourselves from necessary price increases because our current clients might get mad or leave…or worse yet, they might think we’ve become haughty and gotten too big for our britches.
(If there’s one thing most women hate, it’s being seen as someone who thinks too highly of herself. 🤔)
❌ As entrepreneurs, we’re afraid of sales and marketing because we’re afraid some people might feel we’re bothering them or that we’ll be seen as only caring about money.
(If there’s something else women hate, it’s being seen as selfish. Our culture teaches us to be the caregivers of the world and that expecting anything in return makes us greedy and self-serving. 🤔)
❌ In life, we stay part of social groups, religions, and volunteer groups even when they no longer feel like a fit for us because we’re afraid of what people will think of us if we leave.
❌ We pursue career goals and versions of beauty, lifestyle, and “success” that don’t reflect what we truly want for ourselves because we’re afraid to deviate from the cultural expectation. “What would people think if I actually lived my life that way?!”
❌ We stay quiet in the face of racism, misogyny, and other forms of bigotry because we don’t want to “rock the boat” with people.
⭐️ In every single one of these examples, we choose to sell ourselves out for the hope and possibility that we won’t upset other people, or experience the pain of feeling like a failure, feeling rejected, or feeling socially isolated.
And that’s understandable. As social animals, we’re hardwired with the desire to belong.
It hurts when we feel rejected…separated…or excluded. So much so that we’ll abandon ourselves in order to avoid it.
👉 And yet we will never live a life that feels true to us so long as we’re living our life for other people.
❓ So how do we stay loyal to ourselves knowing that all the things we fear about what other people might think, do, or say might actually happen?
It’s true, afterall – we might fail, we might get rejected, and people might think poorly of us!
It comes down to this:
===> Getting clear on our personal values and choosing to live by them, even when it’s hard.
🔥 In other words, we choose to do something not because we’re guaranteed the outcome or reaction we want, but because it’s who we are as a person.
✅ I finally launched my MeetUp because I changed my focus from whether it succeeded or failed to whether or not I was living my values of courage, self-expression, and betting on myself over my fear.
✅ If you’re an entrepreneur and you value self-sufficiency and creating the lifestyle you want, there’s a good chance you’re going to have to raise your prices now and then.
✅ If, as a business owner, you value personal agency and turning your vision into a reality, you’re going to have to do some sales and marketing. Probably a lot of sales and marketing.
✅ If you value self-respect and honoring your time and energy, you may have to walk away from groups, a lifestyle, or cultural norms that “everyone else” (e.g. family, friends, work colleagues, etc.) is part of but that no longer feel like a fit for you.
✅ If you value human dignity, you may have to speak up in situations where that’s being trampled on.
✅ If you value your voice, your dreams, and your individuality, you’re going to have to take some risks in your life and leave safety and comfort behind.
It doesn’t mean that you have to do any of this capriciously. You can be thoughtful, strategic, and tactful.
⭐️ But you do have to choose yourself in the end.
It’s the only way to live a life that truly feels like yours. A life where you have your own back.
And yes, it’s going to hurt sometimes.
👉 But it will never hurt as bad as it does when you know you’ve sold yourself out for the tenuous feeling of approval, belonging, or “not rocking the boat”.
P.S. Moving beyond the fear of failure and rejection is hard, but it’s *a lot easier* when you don’t have to do it alone. I help purpose-driven women get the clarity…courage…confidence…and structure they need to bring their bold dream to life!
Curious if I can help you? Set up a free Meet & Greet call with me here and let’s chat! https://soulfireshift.com/coaching