For many years, I have been told time and again things like:
And EVERY single time I would get a comment like this, externally I was saying “I’m not really sure - I don’t really stop, I guess!” but internally a battle was raging.
You see, in my own mind I wasn’t doing enough, let alone launching a hell of a lot of things like peopled seemed to think I was doing. I would constantly tell myself that no matter how much I did, it wasn’t ever enough and I needed to BE more and DO more.
A lot of this came about through various things and situations that happened in the past, that I then allowed to consume and control the way that I did business.
For too long, I let fear rule the decisions I made in my business. I let fear hold me back and I let it stop me from moving forward in the ways I have been dreaming of for so long.
Yep, fears. If you name a fear, I probably experienced it. I was afraid of failing, of people accusing me of being a fraud, of not being good enough. I was afraid to be myself, even though I advocate that to all of my clients, my audience + my friends + colleagues. I was afraid to speak out and voice my true opinions because I thought I would have another troll appear to belittle me and make me feel worthless. And, more than anything, I was afraid of judgement - both good and bad - and how that made me feel. I was afraid of people judging what I did to their own expectations, judging the decisions I made, judging who I am as a person and more. And more than anything, I was constantly judging myself.
Now the problem here isn’t having these fears. They will come up whether we are brand new in business or have been running a business for 10, 20, 30 years. They’ll come up whether we’ve not even made any money yet, we’re making a few grand a month or we’re making big bucks day-in, day-out.
The problem instead is how you handle the fears that come up.
For far too long, I let the fears I had rule me and my business.
I let it stop me from moving forward and upwards, from making decisions that mattered, and I let it hold me back and stay at the same level over and over again.
To the outside world, it looks like I was doing a lot - and that I had the confidence to pull it off. In the past few years I have published two books (one with a publisher + one self-published), I have been growing my followings on social media + started being a little more visible, I’ve been featured many times on various podcasts, interviews + websites and I’ve even become a published logo designer.
Yet what isn’t seen in the highlight reels we choose to share with the world is the inner battles that I, and so many others, have been fighting: coming up with ideas for products + services and either “launching” them (believe me, simply adding it to your website and hoping people will find it ISN’T a launch) or planning them so thoroughly only to abandon them part way down the path of creation.
There have been so many ideas, good and bad, that I have squashed out of fear of releasing something that people may judge and out of fear of releasing something that isn’t QUITE as perfect as I want it to be.
Take a moment to sit and think. What have you not released, launched, created or shared with the world? Why didn’t you do it? Dig deep - was it fear, in whatever shape or form that might be, however big or small?
If fear isn’t your immediate answer, I’m willing to bet that a good proportion of other excuses (because, #sorrynotsorry, that’s what they are) might be a lack of time, being unable to fit it in alongside everything else you’re doing, or something similar.
On one hand, that makes sense. On the other, however subconscious it is - this is fear telling you to stop. One excuse after another. And I truly believe that if you have a great idea that you know can help people - you have a duty to share it with the world. And what’s even better, is if that idea lights you up then you will make the time, you will fit it in, you will do everything you can to get this idea off the ground and out into the world.
Take another moment to think of someone you admire in business, who is further ahead than you. Maybe they’ve launched their own online course, maybe they’ve built a huge community around their message, maybe they simply have more clients than you. Maybe they’re admired by many, they have created a movement, they are visible + on a much grander scale than you.
Have you got your person now? Perfect.
Then I have a truth for you:
The ONLY difference between YOU and THAT person is that they took action.
When I take the time to look at what I have done in my business, there’s a hell of a lot there. I wrote out a list of all I have done during the coaching I received on my positioning a couple of months back - and there’s probably more there that I’ve missed. But while there is a lot on that list (and it’s all great stuff, things I am proud to have done and achieved) I also know the amount of things I’ve also held back and that I could have launched.
Again, that one difference between me and the people I most admire in business is that they did it anyway, fear or no fear.
Ashley, of Fire and Wind Co., recently started a campaign that has swiftly turned into a movement, of women entrepreneurs who are ready to share with the world why they’re not the flawless creatures social media and the online world can make us out to be (however conscious or accidental that may be).
Looking at this campaign, having a heartfelt conversation with my biz bestie and taking the time to allow all of that to sink in gave me a chance to reflect on all of the ways I’ve truly held myself back over the years.
And do you know what? This reflection happened LAST. WEEK.
Yes, that’s right. I’ve been running my business for almost 4 years, working under the Rachilli brand I created for over 7 years, and I’ve only just realised how badly my fears have been holding me back and made the change.
I’ve been doing so much work over the past few months to look at my brand, my positioning, the work I’m putting out there (both products AND services) and the message I want to share with the world. And heck, it’s a terrifying experience.
And even through this time, I’ve been making huge changes. But I’ve still allowed that fear to take a grip sometimes and the changes I’m implementing haven’t happened as quickly as I would have liked.
But, as of last week - all of that has changed. Even though it scares me, I’m doing it anyway.
It can be so easy to say those words - but taking the action, to keep moving...that is what matters most. For so long I would kid myself, telling myself that I needed to work through these fears before taking any more steps. But in reality, all that did was hold me back time after time. It as just another excuse, another reason to stop and stay comfortable.
And although it feels like a switch has been flicked now that I've realised this, it also feels like nothing has really changed. I have finally embraced who I am, wholly and completely. I no longer feel like a fraud because I am walking my talk + following the lessons I teach to my own clients, my audience and the people I surround myself with.
I am finally unapologetically ME, being both the crazy-pants, hyper person when I’m with people I love to be around (seriously - if you want proof, just ask any member of the Conquer Club who have been on a call with me when I’m in the chat. I can’t hold back the crazy OR the excitement + everyone gets to know about it!) and the quiet, introverted person that needs her own space. I’m being more real, more raw, instead of showing the highlights that we inadvertently start to share. I am becoming + embracing the polished mess I know I am (yep, lover of the contradictions here).
And I’m embracing these sides of me in my own business, for my clients and for my own products and services. Instead of trying to be one or the other, I’m harnessing my strengths and combining my creativity with my knowledge of business + brand strategy. This is where my two passions collide + where I’m strongest - something that has been proven to me since I embraced this in the past 2 weeks, let alone in the past couple of months.
So please, if I have any point to make, let it be this:
Your fears will come up at any time, and it’s likely different fears will come up for you at different points in your journey. You absolutely have the power to heal and move past these fears...but before you do that, keep moving forward. Don’t allow your fears to hold you back and stop you from releasing your magic into the world. Allow yourself a moment to panic or get scared, but then do it anyway. Show the world that you are more than your fear - and more importantly, show yourself.
Starting Monday 27th October, Geek Mental Help week has been set up to raise awareness of mental health issues within our industry (and the wider world). Mental health affects so many people around us - often more than we realise - and I'm so pleased at the work that's being done to raise awareness of something that is so prevalent, yet talked about so little.
I very nearly didn't publish this post, as I feel that I would have little to add to these experiences. While I don't personally have any mental issues such as depression or anything remotely as bad, I've known many people to suffer with it. Instead, I wanted to talk about something that, while undiagnosed, is something that has affected me - quite severely at times - for the past few years.
Those that know me - and I mean those that know me well, not just those that have met me briefly or talked to me online - will know that I’m actually quite an introvert. I love working alone from home, as being around lots of people for a long period of time is absolutely exhausting for me.
That said, I love people. Although I’m actually really quiet until I get to know somebody, I love being around people and talking and chatting generally. I just find the whole thing absolutely exhausting and tiring. Often after I’ve been to a conference, I’ll go back to my hotel room and just be shaking for an hour before I can fall asleep. It’s not that I find that experience overly bad, but more like overwhelming.
Another thing that not many people know about me is that I am an incredibly anxious person. It’s something I’ve taken great strides to overcome this year in particular, as it was so debilitating. I like to think that I have made a difference with this in the past 6-8 months in particular.
I also have a disability that affects me in some way every day - I am in pain every single day in some form or another (the last week has been hell) and I am often exhausted from the effort of simply getting through each day.
Now again, I don’t have serious mental health issues so I feel almost a fraud writing this. I very, very nearly didn’t publish this post. But for a long time I’ve suffered with anxiety and worrying. For a very long time I cared far too much about what people thought of me and every single negative remark stayed with me for years, eating away at me.
But moving on from that - working from home is ideal for me. It’s not only because of the quiet and the time that I get to reflect with my work, but also because it allows me to take breaks as and when I need to, on my own terms. But with that, I’ve become comfortable being in one place and only going to other particular places during the week, almost in a routine.
Breaking from that routine is scary for me. I like my routines, I like structure. I’m a perfectionist and I’m also very often obsessive-compulsive. I have to have everything just so (I can’t stand pens being out out of place, knives and forks on a table not straight, and if I spot a pattern in something - anything, whether it’s physical or mental - and it breaks I compulsively have to fix that pattern or it will bug me incessantly all day long).
Going away to conferences is something that, because I’ve become so used to my structure and routine at home, is terrifying to me. I’m always scared meeting new people anyway and I know I’m going to be exhausted and struggling to remember people’s names (something I’m normally very good with!) and I also know that standing on my feet for hours at after-parties normally means I’m in agony for a few days afterwards.
But the actual anxiety of doing this - and going through these motions - is scary. For days before a conference I am struggling to sleep and worrying about what if ABC goes wrong or XYZ happens and how will I deal with that. It’s for this reason I carry my phone with me at all times, and ensure I have a portable charger just in case the battery gets low. As I finish writing this post I’ve just finished packing for a few days in Cardiff, where I’ll be attending “The Web Is_” conference. I’m so excited to see people that I haven’t seen in months - but in the back of my mind I’m trying to block those worries that normally come around when I have to break from my routine and go and see people and be out on my own.
Something else that I’ve also suffered with quite badly in the past few years is imposter syndrome. I know this is something that affects a lot of us - and not just those in our industry. I recently signed up for a 6-month long mastermind with a group of totally inspiring women, and it was amazing to see how quickly we all connected. And it wasn’t long before those fears and imposter syndrome feelings rose to the surface, where we confessed to each other just how much we were all scared and not sure of ourselves and our abilities.
When I was younger, I was bullied severely. From when I was in primary school, all the way until part-way through high school my life was hell at points. I think my imposter syndrome stemmed from there - sure I was a bit different and definitely the exact definition of what the bad term for “geeky” then meant, but was that any reason to bully somebody? No. But it happened. Whether it was my hairstyle, the way I looked, the way I talked, the way I enjoyed a class…whatever it was, I was quite often singled out.
Whilst the bullying eventually stopped, my confidence didn’t automatically rise. I’ve suffered with believing in myself ever since then. Imposter syndrome can be crippling. The amounts of times over the last four or five years that it has actually stopped me from doing my work is crazy. It’s really hard to describe, but the way it felt for me was almost like drowning in self-doubt. Doubting myself, what I could do, why people believed in me.
If trolls told me that I wasn’t any good at what I did, and that I was never going to be the next XYZ, and that my work wasn’t half as good as ABC’s and why was I even bothering (I’ve had all these thrown at me) - and heck, if a potential boss even told me “Well, let’s face it - you can’t design.” - that simply carried on that bullying from school and made me believe in myself even less. The imposter was well and truly stood there, in the forefront. I truly believed I was no good at what I did.
I’m not writing this for sympathy - just to help explain my own issues. The pains and struggles I go through are nothing compared to what other people are going through. In fact the reason I wrote this - and told myself that I would share this - is because I want people to understand that even if you can go something that, when you compare it to other people’s troubles, seems trivial? It isn’t. Everything is relative.
That last sentence feels like an epiphany of sorts, that I’ve just had literally as I typed it out. But it’s true. When I talk about my disability to people, they often say something like: “Oh, I feel bad for complaining about my dodgy knee/back/wrist now!” and I tell them this: DON’T. If something is causing you to feel troubled or not your 100% very-best-self then don’t trivialise it and compare yourself to others. Your problems are relative to you, and if they make you feel bad then that might be huge. Everybody has different ways of dealing with different things (thanks for the reminder, Robert).
But for me, things really are getting better. I want you, reading this, to know that if you have a problem anything like mine then you can learn to overcome it, or at least learn how to deal with it. I’m so lucky that I am surrounded by people that are wonderful to me and help me when I need it. Having a support network like that is essential for me, on days when I just want to scream at everyone or days that I just want to cry because I’m in so much pain - I’m allowed it. But these people also help pick me up and inspire me to continue.
I don’t think I’ll ever be 100% happy with my work - I think that is the ever-continuing problem as a creative person. But that said, I know that I am doing everything I can (meditation, yoga, exercising, EFT/tapping sometimes, drinking more water, stepping back and looking at things objectively) to make my life better and to improve it. Sure, I won’t like the work I do all of the time - but as long as I can see improvements along the way, then I’m happy with that and I can finally feel proud to do the work that I do. As cheesy as it sounds, I want to make a difference in the world - in some small way, somehow - and if I can take steps towards that goal, then that can only be good.
And to end, in a way, I want to quote something I realised yesterday:
surround yourself with people that are full of heart and that can inspire, help and support you on your journey <3
Much love to you all. xox
Geek Mental Help Week is a week-long series of articles, blog posts, conversations, podcasts and events across the web about mental health issues, how to help people who suffer, and those who care for us.
Follow @geekmentalhelp and share #geekmentalhelp. Make a submission for this site on Github.
When we're surrounded by so much talent, we can quickly become envious of, or even intimidated by, another's work or success. When we have so much to keep up with, when it often feels like we're commended for working ridiculously long hours and when we're (sometimes) expected to understand the ins-and-outs of every single far-reaching aspect of our work it's really easy to feel like we're very quickly losing our way and falling out of line.
So I want to start by asking you a question: what do you do? Or rather - what do you WANT to do?
If the answer is short, and you’re really happy with what you do - then brilliant. But if not, or if you feel like you have the slightest doubt in you that you’re not doing what you want to do, then I urge you to do one thing: make a change.
The key here is focus. The change that you make doesn’t have to be radical or life-changing - though it can be. What you need to understand is how to focus on what you really want to do and have the heart to take that idea forward, and be willing to take risks.
Paul Chen is quoted as saying “passion never fails” - and I think he has a point. When we are passionate about something we often - however subconsciously it may be - put more effort, love and hard work into what we do. It’s natural - you’re more likely to be enthusiastic and compelled for a good outcome when passionate about something.
Passion and risks can make for both a wonderful yet scary combination. Having passion for the work you do means you’re more likely to be willing to take risks - you love what you do and you want to see a project, or yourself, succeed. But taking risks is another matter - sometimes it’s a small risk, but sometimes it can have much larger consequences if things don’t work out.
I took one of those bigger risks myself - I went full-time freelance just over a year ago without any savings and without projects lined up. It’s definitely not been easy, in fact it’s been ridiculously hard at points - though that’s for another article. But for me, the passion I have for what I do and the connections - but way more importantly, the friendships - that I’ve made over the years have helped me find my way and take the path I have. And now? I wouldn’t change a thing for the world.
Taking risks is difficult, and more than that it’s scary. But if you get anything out of reading this, I want to encourage you to make change in your life for the better. You never know when those little changes might add up and surprise you, and make a big difference in your life.
Note: This article was originally supposed to be published in Lustra Magazine, an independent publication created by Tim Smith to discover adventurous creators in the web industry. Unfortunately, Lustra Mag wasn’t to be, so I’ve instead decided to publish the post here for you all to read.
Extra Note: This article originally appeared on my old personal blog, but I’ve decided to move it over here instead.
I’ve known that I wanted a career in design and development since I was about 11 years old. I remember browsing the internet, wondering how to create images and websites and teaching myself how to do so.
Jump forward in time and I’m struggling in my first year of my AS-Levels and I was a bit stuck, wondering where I was to go next. I knew that I didn’t feel confident enough to complete my A-Levels and I wasn’t enjoying the subjects I had chosen. But earlier in the year we’d had a presentation where we were told that if we didn’t go to University, then we most certainly would end up at least 30% worse off wage-wise than those that completed a university course. Naturally, the thought of not going to university scared me – but I knew I wouldn’t be able to stay how I was.
Luckily for me (at the time) I managed to find a course locally that was for adults and was teaching Interactive Media – anything from graphic and web design to animation. The only catch was my age – having only just turned 17 I was a year younger than the lower age limit of 18, but luckily for me (again!) the examining body decided to let me on to the course.
For the next two years I studied hard for my HND and came out with mostly Merit and Distinction grades – gaining only a pass in one module. I’d always planned on completing a degree after my HND, whether that meant going to a different university or completing a top-up year where I was studying for my HND. However, I decided to take a year out and try and get a job as a junior instead.
I was almost at the point of giving up and going back to university when I got an interview for a junior position in January 2010. Since June 2009 (six months) I had been searching and applying for an endless amount of jobs. Needless to say, the job requirements included “HND or Degree or above” but, in practice, I was never asked about it in the interview.
Since then I’ve had another job at one agency and I’m soon to start a new job at a brilliant web agency. Again, my education was never really asked about for both roles. We’re lucky that in our industry – the creative/design industry – we don’t need to have a qualification saying we can do something. We get hired on our skills, talent and quality of work – education is secondary.
Personally, I wish that I’d had a bit more know-how about me before I decided to do my HND. Although the HND helped me become more disciplined about deadlines and allowed me to work alongside several similar-minded creatives, it didn’t really do much for me and I came out after two years feeling like I hadn’t learnt much more.
It doesn’t matter if you study for a HND, Degree or go straight into working – from what I’ve seen, you’ll still start as a junior. If I had started as a junior at 17, I’d be at a much higher level than what I am now at almost 21. However, although it’s been a harder road to get where I am now I wouldn’t change it for the world – it’s shaped the designer, developer and person I am now.
And all that being said…although I’ve found the educational world not to be quite right or even beneficial to me that’s not to say that you, reading this, won’t. University can be wonderful for many other reasons – you get to meet friends you’ll hopefully keep for life, you have the freedom to experiment and create your own unique, individual styles at university more than anywhere else.
I guess my closing thoughts can be summed up like this: do what you think will make you happy. Don’t follow the crowd, don’t do what your mum and dad tell you to do and don’t do something because you think you have to. Do whatever you decide to do for yourself.
And love every minute of it.
Rachilli is a creative studio dedicating to helping create more authentic brands for creative brands & businesses ready to grow deeper roots with their audience & build their business in a more aligned way.
Rachilli is also committed to helping empower other's with chronic illness to carve their own path and create a life & business that works for them and to lead the way by creating a platform for, and being a voice alongside, those with chronic illness in business.
Rachel, the founder, is an award-winning designer and photographer, published logo designer and author, and is dog mama to two - slightly crazy - pups, Storm & Jasper.
© Copyright 2012 - 2023 · Rachilli Creative Studio · Rachel Shillcock