Fighting the Internal Battle

If you’re looking for a reason to be paranoid, as a small business owner, you really don’t have to go far. Taxes. Paperwork. Competitors. Employees. Things you should Know How To Do Already. Technology.


What’s really more debilitating is cultivating a habit of internal fear. As any student of history should know, it’s often not the outside or alien forces that are so entirely destructive to a culture, it’s the internal issues that really bring down seemingly strong and unified forces. Internal squabbling. Internal debates. Internal lack of confidence about the future. The Roman army was nearly invincible in discipline and ability to conquer others. What they couldn’t conquer, any more than Alexander the Great, was a gradual habit of slackness, permissiveness, and lack of internal fortitude. Gradually, their leaders got more concerned about what others thought about them, than about doing their job.

Obviously, we’re not immune to these internal attacks. As small business owners, there’s an entire list of bogymen just slavering to grab on to your energy levels and general outlook with grubby little claws:

1. The Sly Suggester – doesn’t outright slam you down. It just mildly, persistently, logically brings up repeated images of failure or potentially uncomfortable situations.

2. The Gossip – gets you thinking about how important people in your life really don’t believe in you, don’t think you’re moving toward anything worthwhile, or secretly harbor doubts about your abilities.

3. The Ripper – baldly accuses you of being lazy, unintelligent, worthless, or horrible to others. Whereas the Gossip likes to put your own fears and doubts into other’s minds/perspectives/mouths, the Ripper lays it all out there: you’re intrinsically all wrong.

4. The Revenge-Monger –  no matter what, it tells you there’s a reason to fear. If you do well, you’ll be punished down the road. (Success is a lonely road.) If you do badly, you’ll pay for that too. (You’ll never get out of this debt hole.) If you don’t do well or badly, something will happen to push you either way, and you’ll still pay. (Nobody likes someone who doesn’t achieve.)

5. The Reasonable Limiter – cramps any creative impulse that you have by wondering if you’re reaching too far too fast. 

6. The Reckless Rebel – tells you that you should throw all caution to the wind, in direct opposition to the Limiter. Seems like a good idea, except it always involves more money and energy than you have right now, which the Rebel tells you is a cowardly way of avoiding Progress and Investment in Your Future.

7. The Town Crier – your every move in public is assessed as a possible way to earn people’s disapproval. Your hair’s a mess, your makeup is old/nonexistent, your shoes show wear and tear, your car is a disgrace. Nobody will want to sign on the dotted line with a car/watch/phone like the one you have. Definitely a reason to pay money to spruce up your image. It’s an investment. (See Reckless Rebel, above – they’re in cahoots.)

8. The Fat Slug of Depression – no matter what, you don’t feel like stepping out the door or trying anything new. It seems a much better plan to just sit on the couch and do nothing. Nothing will matter anyway. Even if you send out a contract proposal, you won’t get it. Just give up, take welfare, go back to your job, nothing will work.

There’s probably hundreds more, with lots of fancy psychological names other than Scary Shadow People.


Sure, some days it helps to just get out into the sunshine and breathe free air (or cold air), and remind yourself that Today Is All You Have, or Tomorrow Is Another Day. Some days, you need a cup of new coffee and the ear of a friend. Other days, maybe you need a small nap on the couch, or to say no to a new client who’s already responsible for missing chunks of hair. (In this case, listening to the Fear Monger might have its uses – this client really will not improve over time. Reject their unholy offer of work now, while you can.) Occasionally, hugging a stress pillow – or throwing it – can have a great and cathartic effect. Clean the garage. Yell at a noisy neighbor. Quietly take a day off and go fishing – or paintballing. Read one of your favorite old books in comfy jammies, or watch a movie you’ve seen 100 times, and get back at your work tomorrow.

That’s one of the things that really works over time – get back at your work tomorrow. Don’t decide on a bad day that it’s All Over, you should just shut up shop and quit. That’s like shopping when you’re hungry or stressed. Sure, you can allocate some time to researching other lines of work, other niches to add. Just keep going, no matter what the riot of feelings are telling you. The habit of persistence is something that’s underused and under-appreciated today, which is why you’ll be respected for exercising your persistence muscle today – and tomorrow – and the next day after that. Samwise Gamgee is right: “Even darkness must pass. A new day will come.” 

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