I sat at my computer hitting the refresh button over and over. My nails have basically been bitten down too far for it to still be an enjoyable pastime. I was anxiously waiting for an email from a potential client. I had worked really hard on crafting the perfect introduction email and I felt pretty confident when I pressed send. Finally, a new message popped up in my inbox. “We’ve decided to go in a different direction”. As a small business owner, you learn to build up a thick skin. I told myself what I always tell myself at moments like this, “It’s fine. At least you can be proud of what you did. There are so many fish in the sea. Dust yourself off and move on”. Just as I was beginning to believe my hype my eye noticed that the quoted text in the subject line was from a Rob, but the email came from a Susan (names have been changed).
My gut told me not to look any further. But I rarely listen to that old thing anyway so I clicked on the three “see more” dots on the bottom of the email. They had taken my email off of their conversation, but when Susan responded she had forgotten to delete the original email chain. You might think I’m building up to describing a long-winded email from Rob where he said something really scathing. But it was actually worse than that. Susan had outlined my proposal and ended her email by asking if he wanted a presentation of my figures. His response…“nope”.
I read and reread that exchange about ten times. I think that I was hoping to find an additional email where they discussed the points that I had spent hours organizing into what I thought was a well-crafted proposal. Maybe even just an extra sentence where he explained that he was already happy with their current budget and so “nope” he wasn’t interested.
It was on about my fifteenth read when I realized that no one ever talks about this side of running your own small business. The cycle of waiting, rejection, rejection, rejection, success, and then more waiting. Six days out of seven having to give yourself a pep talk in the mirror just to remind yourself why you’re still doing this. And yes, six out of seven days. Sometimes I feel like The Dowager Countess turning to my friends and asking “what’s a weekend?”. The long nights and failing to “successfully” find a work/ life balance. Not that I’m complaining, because that’s the thing, I’m doing all of this to myself. Even now, knowing what I know, I would do it all again and choose this over anything else. Because I really do love it. The struggle that I still haven’t found a way around is being honest about how much of a struggle this is in my social media presence.
I wish that more business owners were honest about the love-hate relationship that comes with building something. We (myself included) really only talk about the successes. Those perfectly curated and gram-able moments. I didn’t post about this most recent rejection, but I always post about new clients and opportunities. The downside to this is that for the people on the other end of the screen the success is all they see. I’m probably guilty of contributing to someone else’s negative opinion of themselves and I feel so guilty about that. When I first started out I didn’t want potential customers to see the struggle. Who wants to work with someone who looks like they are hanging on for dear life? Better to keep things on a surface level.
Most days I can barely find two matching socks and yet you wouldn’t know that from my social media presence. The rule seems to be that once you’ve reached a level of success then you can talk about how hard it was, in the beginning, to get there. But when you are actually going through it you have to make it look like you are loving every second of the process. Even when you’re being “honest” you have to do it with an optimistic spin and a happy face. I don’t know about you, but this pattern of fake or delayed honesty makes me look at my own process in a much more critical light. I don’t think that I’m the only one with this nasty habit of looking at what everyone else has going on and then wondering why I’m “behind”. On top of that, I’m measuring “behind” on this scale that I made up.
I’m by no means saying that I have any plans to stop my popup obsessed lifestyle. I think that only showing the struggle can be just as damaging to people who are just starting out. I’m saying that I’m going to make more of an effort to show both sides. For me, that might mean messier stories to contrast my feed. It’s baby steps ok!
It’s important to remember that you’re not alone. We are all just trying to figure it out. That inner monologue that’s telling you that you aren’t measuring up might just be a liar. When you face rejection allow yourself to feel the sting for a minute before brushing it off and trying again. But most importantly never and I repeat never click on the “see more” button of an email. You have enough on your plate.