The following is excerpted from “Seize the Yay.” Copyright 2021. Reprinted with permission from Murdoch Books, an imprint of The Quarto Group.
The many new beginnings Nic and I have embarked on over the past few years, including not only Matcha Maiden, but also more recently, writing this very book, have revealed to me that the hardest part of almost any endeavour is rarely its unfolding or implementation, but simply mustering up the courage to commit to it at all.
You might have picked up this book because you’re dreaming up your very own side hustle or business idea, considering a dramatic life change or simply looking to new projects that will incorporate more joy into your life in smaller ways. Regardless of where you’re at on your own way to yay, the very first step to making those dreams a reality will generally be the toughest one you make. Not necessarily in terms of what taking that step physically involves, but more in the mental and emotional challenge of taking it.
Enter the notorious impostor syndrome and my enduring favourite motivational quote on the destructive effect of self-doubt from American poet, writer and philosopher, Suzy Kassem: “Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will.”
The creeping sense of self-doubt triggered by anything novel and unfamiliar is, at once, one of the most natural and common – but also destructive – human tendencies. It can send unsettling, disparaging voices through your mind, leading you to question the worthiness of your ideas, your abilities or even yourself. I suspect that this internal “I’m not good enough” dialogue may sound very familiar to many of you. The resulting lack of confidence and uncertainty can lead to sabotaging reactions that nip dreams of all kinds in the bud before they ever have the chance to get off the ground and, ultimately, prove those limiting beliefs wrong.
You might assume that the further you progress or the more successful you become, the less you’ll worry about being a fraud or otherwise unworthy but, in my experience, not even the most successful and confident people are immune from its clutches.
Particularly when Matcha Maiden really started to flourish and grow, I found myself expecting to wake up with a staunch confidence that would create an impenetrable armour against impostor syndrome but (spoiler alert) that day has not yet arrived.
So, for any of you struggling against self-doubt or feelings of unworthiness as you approach the new or unfamiliar, please know that you are absolutely not alone nor are those feelings and later success, fulfilment or joy mutually exclusive. Let me reassure you that you can harness and use those feelings to your advantage once you learn how to manage them.
Rather than ridding myself of self-doubt and nerves, I now interpret these feelings as healthy markers that I am invested in what I’m doing and not becoming complacent. In fact, I would worry if they ever disappeared completely. Though the distorting and unsettling whispers of impostor syndrome do, I assure you, still pop by for a cuppa at the most inconvenient of times, I’m getting better at distinguishing them from reasonable and useful self-evaluation, acknowledging their presence then simply moving on. Like any great skill, mastering your inner critic takes repeated and dedicated practice. It will, I promise, get easier with time. Even as I acknowledge my worries that this book won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, I also know our story has already provided varying degrees of inspiration and guidance to people. I hope that this longer expression of it can do the same, and more, for others.
The many times along this journey where self-doubt nearly toppled me have shown me the terrifying cost of letting fear scare me away from my dreams. How tragic it would be if I’d never found out what I was capable of purely because I couldn’t believe it was possible.
Sure, every single one of your ideas might not work. Various obstacles or bumps in the road (the “nay to yay”) might stop certain dreams of yours from coming true, but they might also redirect you to even better ones. As our story, and the stories of many successful people, demonstrates, those obstacles could mean things work out better than you ever imagined, if you just give them the chance.
Our close call: How Matcha Maiden almost didn’t happen
Allow me to run you through an example of how my self-doubt very nearly sabotaged Matcha Maiden before she was even born.
Reflecting on this close call years later, with the benefit of hindsight, has made me desperately passionate to help others distinguish between reasonable concerns and the fallacies of impostor syndrome.
As I’ve mentioned, at the start, our goals for Matcha Maiden were quite conservative. At best, we envisioned it being a one-off side hustle that would allow us to sell the excess powder that we couldn’t consume ourselves and recoup a bit of cash in the process. At worst, we would fail to sell anything at all, in which case our net position would be almost the same as it was if we’d never had the idea at all – so it wasn’t really a “worst case” at all.
In hindsight, this was a relatively low-risk endeavour: we’d already paid for the stock, both of us were keeping our existing income streams and we were investing very little funding into the infrastructure in favour of a DIY build-your-own-website, pack-your-own-product situation.
But of course, impostor syndrome isn’t remotely rational. Amid all our excitement, self-doubt crept nimbly into my mind from the beginning. Rather than focusing on the opportune gap in the market, our combined transferable skills and the fact that we had very little to lose even without those things going for us, I became consumed with the barriers, limitations and every way that things could go wrong (which, to be fair, is exactly what lawyers are trained to excel in, so my journey has involved a lot of unlearning).
Among the most glaring barriers was, undoubtedly, the fact that we had absolutely no qualifications or experience in importing, manufacturing or food.
If you are considering a similar life change or new project, I don’t necessarily recommend choosing the option that’s the furthest possible one from your strengths and experience to jump into headfirst, like we did. However, even if you do, you will find out that this is still no reason why things can’t work out wonderfully.
In fact, sometimes the naivety and untainted perspective of being a complete outsider can actually work in your favour. But it does mean your self-doubt radar might go off with a special fervour reserved just for those full-body leaps outside of the comfort zone.
This was precisely the case the very first time I nervously pitched the idea for Matcha Maiden to a third party beyond our immediate family to get some feedback or pointers in the right direction.
Nic and I were, and still are, very lucky to be surrounded by friends who also happen to be wonderful entrepreneurs and business owners who have forged a path ahead of us and shared their knowledge and resources generously many times over.
It astounds me to think we could have very easily been scared off from trying and never seen how wonderful Matcha Maiden could become or what other opportunities it could lead to.
This makes me passionate about helping others recognise and challenge their self-doubt reflex and have a chance at overcoming it. I don’t mean to say thoughts of self-doubt should disappear altogether – I believe they are a healthy indication that I care about what I’m doing and that I haven’t developed a blind spot to my weaknesses or areas for improvement.
It’s more that I want to illustrate the dangers of letting those thoughts dictate your decisions at the expense of your dreams. My hope is that you can learn to acknowledge them with a knowing smile, but gently push them aside and get on with things.
“Seize the Yay” is available now and can be purchased via StartupNation.com.