Beware the enemy at the gate if you want to achieve your goals

For solopreneurs, consultants, salespeople and parents

My Mum grew up in a time and place where the opportunities and expectations for women were limited. And for working class women even more so.

She refused to accept she was limited in her possibilities. Yet the path she thought she was going to take was taken from her when her dad died. She was 15.

At an age when many of her peers were thinking about boys and having a good time she went out to get a job, to help her Mum raise her much younger brothers.

Yet she refused to accept that was her lot in life and she set about re-inventing herself throughout a very varied career. Manchester’s version of Madonna…but without the singing!

From lab technician to nurse. From nurse to business owner, from business owner to health visitor from health visitor to parenting expert and trainer.

She didn’t start out with a level playing field, perhaps like many of you. She also experienced the usual politics, bias and discrimination that many of you no doubt have, and will continue to face but she refused to let that hold her back. A mindset she sought to instill in us as we grew up.

While a lot has changed over the last 40 years there is still a long way to go. There’s still inequality and a lack of diversity. And the enemy at the gate.

History is littered with men and women who have been pioneers. Mentally strong people that were not afraid to challenge the status quo. One thing they had in common was a strong sense of self-belief to overcome imposter syndrome, whatever challenges they faced. And the enemy at the gate.

The Power of Self-Belief

Take Arya Stark from Game of Thrones. She is physically the smallest character but not in spirit. She grew up as a tom boy wanting to fight and do everything the boys did.

She didn’t listen to what her mother wanted and expected her to become.

It was her self-belief and self-image that saw her find the courage to kill the night king where every other man had failed.

Like Arya, it’s your beliefs about yourself that will decide whether you can transcend stereotypes, overcome stigma and discrimination. Your beliefs about yourself have the power not only to change your world but that of others.

Beware the enemy at the gate

Developing a strong belief in who we are and what we are capable of can be the hardest step. The path to this is guarded by our demons. Our deep-rooted ideas about who we are and what we are capable of. It is these thoughts that undermine our confidence, that feed our imposter syndrome and hold us back from achieving our potential.

The good news is that if you have limiting beliefs the chances are they aren’t all self-generated.

Sadly, these demons have often been created by those closest to us — the enemy at the gate.

We have all been collecting beliefs about who we are and what we capable of from our family and friends since before we can remember.

All their fears, attitudes and experiences become blended with your own. This means you are only half to blame. A big part of mental strength though is accepting our fifty percent. Owning our thoughts, attitudes and behaviours.

My demon story

To illustrate, I’d like to share a short story from my childhood.

I can recall the occasion vividly. We were in the car going down a steep and undulating road that cuts through the hillside of green fields. My Mum was in the passenger seat, her large, black handbag on her lap, my Dad was driving. It was a typically grey day with heavy clouds filling the northern sky.

We were talking about how on both sides of our family, prosperous businesses had been lost. Either squandered by rogue uncles, or in the case of my Mum, the death of her father.

It was then she said the line that became a demon of mine. “We’ll never be rich in our family.”

In that instant, I remember feeling shocked, sad and frustrated. Like something was suddenly out of my reach. Taken by a power (fate) I had no control over.

I wasn’t old enough and mature enough to challenge it. Between that throw away line and the fact that we were often told, “It’s rude to talk about money”, meant that I grew up with some negative beliefs about the subject.

It wasn’t until I became a solopreneur, that the limiting nature of my beliefs became fully apparent to me. I struggled with seeing my value and charging my worth. I was apologetic and discounted too easily.

I lost business because I was to cheap. I didn’t earn what I could have, because I was too cheap. My cashflow suffered because I hated bringing up the subject of money at the outset and chasing it when it was overdue.

Slaying my demon

To slay my demon, I invested in Sandler sales training among several other things. This helped me challenge and re-frame those negative, limiting beliefs inadvertently installed by my Mum all those years ago.

It took time and money. Lots of money. The cash I invested in training and the cash I didn’t make.

We aren’t alone, people like us. One of my favourite writers on here, Tim Denning also talks about the battle with himself and the fear of being judged by those closest too him.

“In the last 30 days, I took a long hard look at myself. Some days, I need to stop doubting myself and thinking about what friends, family and work colleagues might be saying about my work. Screw ‘em.”

Thankfully for me, my Mum installed way more positive beliefs, attitudes and values than negative. Despite losing her to cancer in 2011, aged only 63, she’s still a massive positive influence on my life.

Questions to consider:

What negative beliefs are you carrying around that have come from others?

Which of your family and friends have biggest influence on your beliefs and are they good?

What’s one belief that’s holding you back that you’d like to change?

What are YOU going to do about it?

. . .

I’m a writing rookie on Medium, let me know if you enjoyed the article by giving it a clap or leaving a comment. It would mean a lot. Criticism welcome.

Helping people use mental fitness for a great life. Author of Mental Toughness Metaphors — Stories to inspire resilience

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store