How to Answer the Entrepreneurial Question: “Just Who the Hell Do You Think You Are?”

How to Answer the Entrepreneurial Question: “Just Who the Hell Do You Think You Are?”

Reader Comments (80)

  1. I Hear You Marcia….. Loud and Clear.

    This feeling of dread comes especially when some month’s are worse than others and you think am i really cut out for my industry? I used to have this feeling a lot when i first started out a couple of years back and began running my own web development company.

    I can especially relate to the feeling of looking at the guru’s and wondering how do they keep it together, because everything they put out seems so polished and working. All i can say is the feeling and the dreaded question ” who the hell are you?” pops up every now and then, the only difference is one learns to handle it better over time.

    I simply look at how far i have come since starting out and also, how much i am improved and say ” hey i can do all of that, then i can do so much more….” belief in oneself plays a big part, BUT yes it is not easy in the beginning or when you at a low point on your business.

    So I guess chin up and keep trying is good advice. So the next time you hear who the hell are you?, prehaps you should ask if others can do it ….then why not me. 🙂

  2. Marcia, I love point #3, “Not that many people are looking at you”. When I read it I thought, “huh, she’s right”. I was raised to care about how I appeared to other people and so I have a tendency not to do something or put myself out there until I feel that things are a certain way. Thank you for this wake up call!

    • Hi Erica,
      I think a lot of us were raised this way, and it’s a killer. It slows us down in ways we can’t really afford to be slowed down today, when things are moving so fast. Perfectionism and worrying about what others think is hard to move away from but, oh, so much of a relief when you do!

      • Excellent article, I felt that way many times, working my way thru many flops, i often qestion myself,


  3. This is a wonderfully inspiring, timely piece for me today. I especially like the light house analogy. I’ve heard others say before that it is your duty to share your gifts with the world, but the visual of the lighthouse makes a nice concrete reminder for those days we aren’t feeling so useful or stuck in our fears. Thanks for this!

    • Cheryl,
      I’m glad you like the lighthouse. It’s just another way of saying the same thing — and we do need to hear things in different ways. “Sharing gifts” wasn’t concrete enough for me to feel duty bound, so the lighthouse works for me, too.

  4. What a well written post. I can so identify with this. Fear of failure is our worst enemy and you make a great case to fight the fear because there’s so much each person has to offer everyone around them.

  5. Marcia, this is a really LOVELY piece of writing – it struck chords with me personally and professionally especially as a somewhat reserved English woman LOL :o)) – thank you!

  6. Thanks for the encouragement. I’ve been asking myself this question a lot lately. I’m less than a week away from launching my core business product (that I’ve been working on since I officially launched my company in January). Almost every day I’ve heard myself say that I’m not good enough to be doing this (damn inner demon) and I’ve just had to ignore it and keep moving forward. Every time the voice says I can’t, I find some reason why I can. Being out there is tough–it’s hard to have people watching you as you launch something for the first time. But it’s exciting at the same time.

    Thanks for the reminder that it’s OK to stand out and to find a niche that works for you.

  7. Thanks so much for the inspiration Marcia. I truly needed to hear some words of encouragement this morning.
    We all second guess ourselves from time-to-time.

  8. This is truly excellent. Thank you so much. It comes at a time when I’m considering huge decisions about my career as a writer/entrepreneur. The people closest to me, say “go with your gut.” What they don’t know is that my gut is what scares the daylights out of me. I read your posts regularly, but this is my first time to comment. Wonderfully articulated. Many thanks. ~ steve

  9. Awesome post. This reminds me of a cognitive bias called the “dunning kruger effect.”

    “The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than average…Actual competence may weaken self-confidence, as competent individuals may falsely assume that others have an equivalent understanding.”

    • Wow, this is great. I’m currently working on my master’s degree and running my own business, and I still struggle with self-doubt; knowing that there’s an actual cognitive bias helps me feel a bit more normal. And Marcia, as always- fantastic post! Thank you so much for your insight- I feel very inspired!

  10. Thank you for this. I’m a young professional writer without a college degree, and even though I’m very good at what I do, and have won some awards for it, sometimes I still get nervous, thinking I need that piece of paper to prove I know what I’m doing – even though I’m proving it in better ways every day.

    It’s really encouraging to hear that others have found success NOT following the book.

  11. LOVE this title… what you’re saying and how you are slapping me upside the head with it! Timing is everything. I am good at what I do and I actually have said to myself more than once, Who do you think you are?!

    Is it okay to just say Thank you for this AWESome blogging and sharing!

  12. The lighthouse scene played out very dramatically in my mind, because there’s a storm passing through right outside my window. I can’t help but smile & let go this morning! And, keep going forward!

    Thank you so much for these inspiring words!!!

  13. Hi – Excellent post!

    I love these posts. This was me, and I used to always think like this. Now – and I have only really been “operational” in this business about 3 months – I don’t care what people think. If people give me negative comments, or judge me without knowing me then they have no value to me what so ever. So, I give them no thought at all anymore.

    I have just dived right in a the deep end, and am going to see what happens. I will make mistakes on the way and people will question what I do – but as a family man with two kids, the question of “who do I think I am?” is not one that crops up anymore…….

    I think anyone who doubts what they are doing should check out other people in their niche – dont worry that they may be considered more successful than you. Just remember they were you once…..

    Keep going and help each other…….


    • I find that action is a helpful antidote to self-doubt. 🙂 It doesn’t completely get rid of it, at least for me, and that’s ok — a small dose of doubt will keep you honest. But it brings things to a healthy level rather than that overwhelming swamp.

  14. Wow, what a great article! I’ve had those fears too because I’m self-taught at what I do and am not well-known in the make money online niche.

    Such a good point, though, that those who might look down on me are not my audience anyway. I need to remember that! Not that I have been criticized, that I know of, except in my own mind. 🙂

    So glad I saw this post!

  15. Love your lighthouse analogy… Like you say, we get so caught up thinking the spotlight is on us (some of us adore that attention and some of us hate it) when instead it should be shining onto that helpful path we create for others. Well said.

    Joe 😀

  16. I’m saving this article so I can re-read it again when I’m doubting myself. It’s excellent timing for me and hit the nail on the head in regards to wanting to stay invisible. Thanks so much!!!!

      • Funny thing is I feel my most invisible when I have a bad hair day, my gray is showing too much, etc. Like I really blend in. : ) Again, great article, thanks!

  17. Thank you for the inspirational post, and also for providing an awesome example of engaging, inspirational content. You set the bar high for the rest of us with this post, and we are all the better for reading it. I also appreciate your ability to talk about vulnerability and self-doubt, because you open a dialogue for all of us, and there is comfort and encouragement in knowing we all face the same fears, and we can get past them. I love the summary of “I know you can do this. You know you can do this. So go do it. You’ll be great.” – that will be put on my whiteboard today. Thanks Marcia!

  18. Marcia, This is an absolutely fab read! Beautiful writing. I love the lighthouse image–very helpful. Perfect timing, too, since I’m launching my big project right now. I think I’ll print this out and tape it in on the wall right where I can see it and re-read as needed. And as I walk out on the cliff and jump off with my bag of potatoes 😉 I’ll say, “Yes, I can, yes, it’s good and I know it’s good, just jump and shout really loud! Turn on the lights and up the volume!” Thanks 🙂

  19. Dear Marcia,
    BRAVO! You have managed to shine your light so bright today!!! My dear friend forwarded this email to me right after a conversation I had with another friend about how “unworthy” I was feeling to be a part of the dream team that will bring Adaptive Yoga to our community! The thought of talking to medical professionals makes me want to run for the hills! But at the end of the day, you are absolutely right… I KNOW I(WE) CAN DO THIS!
    : )

  20. Hi Marcia,
    A very helpful and supportive article in that I have had some of the thoughts you mentioned. I have been an employee and solo business owner. Now semi-retired and working in an area that caught my attention, Media Literacy. Teaching children and their parents the skills they need to critically think about the media messages that surround them in everyday life. I am self-taught and sometimes gets in my way. The point you made about ” You distinct voice has a market” will help to keep me focused and moving forward. Thank you

  21. How did you know I needed to read something like this today? I got a major case of the “Oh, no, what have I done?!” stress release last night when I created my blog to support a new business my friend and I are launching. So much of it is about being afraid of being SEEN even though that is exactly the point isn’t it?!

    I love John’s reply too – great advice! It is definitely my tendency when I get scared to just launch into writing something or hop onto a social media site and start chatting away vs letting those doubts & negative responses eat at me.

    Bookmarking and sharing this one because I know I will need to keep coming back for the reminders!

  22. Hi Marcia,
    I got one of those MBAs at age 21. I want you to know that I don’t think it helped much except get my foot in the door early on. It’s working in the trenches as business owners that builds our confidence, I think. Thank you for all the wonderful reminders here: not worrying what others think, attracting the right people (and repelling the wrong), & that helping people is what it’s all about. Happy to know you. 🙂 — Kristy

  23. Great post Marcia! This is something I’ve been fighting for the last couple of weeks. I’ve been marketing secretly online for 8 years now, and the insecurities you mention have kept me back as well. The fear of being seen and teaching others without a degree were my hangups. I will no longer allow this to affect the person I am now and can become.

  24. What I’ll be doing to battle fear and overwhelm? I’ve finally hired a coach to encourage and keep me accountable!

    It also is a matter of choosing love over fear every conscious moment.

    Thanks for a great post, Marcia (enjoyed your landing page video, too).

  25. You covered just about everything! This was exactly my thoughts when I first started my blog, and I even got a couple of remarks saying this same thing. You just have to be determined and plod on!

  26. Fantastic post, Martha! The “who do you think you are?” question is chilling for nearly everyone. (And as a fellow too-tall girl growing up, I know how tempting invisibility can seem!) Your post beams with empathy, authenticity and hope–important and timely things I’m glad to hear. Thanks for sharing your wisdom in such a warm and generous way.

  27. What an amazing, kind, and sincere article. I really love it.
    This speaks to such deep fears we have as entrepreneurs. This fear quietly lurks and makes little impacts on a lot of different things in business. From waiting longer than you want to, to launch something new (so you can get it just right before anyone sees it), to the fear of contacting new people about working together, its an important fear to overcome.
    Thanks for a great article!

  28. Wow Marcia, everything you say resonates with me. Big time. I’m a designer, yet my own website has been “under construction” for over two years. I kept allowing other projects to come first, or got side-tracked – anything but do my site. I’ve been researching and writing for years, but never found time to put my books together. Now, finally I have some spare time to work on my own stuff …and presto! …a painfully debilitating neck/shoulder is making it hard to work. I accept I created that for myself, but your post has given me some insight into the “why”. It’s a useful tip to contact my satisfied clients for feedback on past projects etc. Thank you!

    There’s a culture for prominent “gurus” to tell their story of rags to riches to gain trust. I wonder whether those of us still struggling to make it are holding back until we get to the riches bit before we can tell our story? Will people respect me if I tell the world I’m not making a fortune?

    • Very insightful, Sue. Guess you’re going to have to get moving on your site and your books, huh? It may not be necessary for you to tell the world you’re not making a fortune 🙂 but telling your story in bits and pieces as you’re comfortable is a wonderful start. Taking the plunge in baby steps and finding out you’re not dying but actually feeling liberated is a wonderful thing.

  29. Hey Marcia! Great post and I just want to say people around you never be happy with you no matter whatever you do for them and they still making fun or pointing you on some points but its you who did not bother their negative points instead take that critics in positive way and that’s where you gain confidence and improve yourself.

  30. God, I’m so tired of the adoration for the “right” way of doing something. It is SO overrated. I happen to have an MBA, but it’s not doing me a lick of good as I try to start my own business. What’s helping me is the community of people who write posts like this, who share their experiences and give me ideas for things I can do and who taught me about the value of storytelling in business. I believe those three things will be the most important for me as I move forward.

    The old saying is that people buy from people they like; even if the product or service I provide is not as “good” as someone else’s, if I can work with like-minded people who appreciate the overall experience, that’s a win for me and them. With all that said, I still need to work on overcoming the pull of invisibility. I recently started two new blogs, so maybe that will help! 🙂

    • Jodi — I like your list of the 3 most important things as you move forward. Remembering them should help with overcoming that pull of invisibility.

  31. Thank you Marcia for speaking directly to me! I have been wanting to start a business in an overcrowed field that is overflowing with “experts” and BIG players, for the last 7 years! What has caused my procrastination? Who do you think you are? You have no real experiance! You’ve never worked in this industry! Who’s going to listen to you?
    The one difference that I see, is that you had the 25 years of proven history in what you do, and I do not. Is it possible to not have the proven success in an industry and still make the business work?

    Thank you from your newest fan!

    • Hi Dana,
      Here’s what I think: the proof is in the pudding. In what i do, experience is a plus. It’s easier for people to trust me because I’ve been through it. But there are other fields where instinct and talent play a larger part, and number of years experience isn’t as big of a factor — someone could be experienced and still not be any good, and a new person could knock you over with their talent. In both cases, results are what matters, and you’ve got to be able to help people/make a difference/add value and demonstrate it in some way. Are your results measurable? DOES anyone listen to you? Can you demonstrate value? Experience is relative, I think. Hope that helps.

  32. I swear I feel like this blog post was written for me. Most days I feel like I am falling on my face and not going to make it. I am funding it out of my saving and in fact I just cashed in my last 401k. I need another job, but the idea of giving up my dream is just unacceptable and I am passionately in love with what I do for a living. I get to see lives changed daily with what I do and that is the reason I know it will be successful!

  33. Love it. Taking fears and self defined weaknesses and turning them both into strengthens and focus. Knowing our skills, passions, talents and dreams, and letting them out.
    Of course the entire world will not applaud. It’s not a one size fits all world. Thanks for the reminder!

    • Right. The entire world will not applaud. Knowing this and accepting it — and being able to move forward anyway — is very liberating, isn’t it?

  34. I’ve tried several business ventures and have gotten closer to success (FAILED) each time ?. I’m about to launch a new blog. I keep hearing those nagging demons, “who the hell do you think you are?” To which I answer, I’m sure as hell gonna find out.

    Thank you marcia!


  35. Thanks for this great read Marcia! As I was reading this I related it back to one of my favorite business books, Getting Naked by Patrick Lencioni. This book addresses many of the fears that we face in business and how to combat them head on.

    We just went through an exercise at Willow Marketing where we asked “who are we” and how do we set ourselves apart to really make a difference to our clients. We ended up coming out of that exercise with the “Willow Way” of Client Service. This is what makes us different and what truly matters. I would love your thoughts on what we developed:

  36. Thank you Marcia for a refreshing and inspiring post that I love both as a Life Coach who helps people with their self expression and authenticity and a Founder of FreshBiz; a brand new game that develops entrepreneurial multi-dimensional thinking. The old “Who are my to do something?” vs reframing that question and instead asking “Who are my to NOT do something?” We have more power than we know and live in a world that allows us to harness and amplify that power like never before, if we could just realize that we’re more than enough. There is a balance in realizing that we have what it takes and at the same time, realizing that there’s always more to learn. May we find the strength to make a powerful difference through being our true selves at the highest level!

  37. Thanks Marcia for the great advices. I feel tomorrow will be a productive Monday 🙂 I’m in an early stage of putting myself together and this is just the kind of guidance I need.

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