Over the past five years, I’ve worked with thousands of women and among the many things I have learned, one major takeaway is that women don’t invest in themselves enough.
As women, we spend a LOT of time investing in other people – our children, our families, our communities, our schools… but when it comes to investing in ourselves? Forget it.
But why don’t women invest in themselves? Here are 4 of the most common reasons I come across when speaking to women about investing in themselves:
- Guilt: by investing in yourself, you can’t invest in someone else
- Lack of time: we all do so much – for working women, staying on top of work can be hard enough! If you are a mother, the strains on your time are constant. Carving out time to invest in yourself, whether you are working, mothering or both can be next to impossible.
- Lack of ‘earned’ income: many women who have taken career breaks in particular, don’t feel that they ‘deserve’ to take money away from the family to invest in themselves
- Fear: what happens if you invest in yourself and then it doesn’t work?
I get this 100%. In fact, I have used every single one of these reasons myself at various different points in my life when I’ve been faced with an opportunity to invest in myself. Reasons not to do something will come up no matter what you kind of investment you might be wanting to make.
Maybe you want to start running in order to lose weight. Maybe you want to upskill with a social media course to get back into work. Maybe you want to buy a website domain in order to launch a business idea that has been rumbling around in your head.
Whatever decision you are facing, you have a choice: let the reasons you shouldn’t do it talk you out of it OR step back, take in the whole picture, analyse the situation and make an informed decision with a long term vision.
I find that the reasons you shouldn’t do it tend to win when you don’t share your problem with someone else. Equally, on the flip-side, by sharing your dilemma with others, you may be able to come to a solution you weren’t expecting.
At TechPixies, we find that partners tend to be either one of the biggest advocates of our courses OR the biggest barriers. But in order for a partner to be an advocate or a barrier, you have to talk to them about what you want to do in the first place!
Step 1: Acknowledge what you are afraid of
So my first piece of advice, when considering investing in yourself is to acknowledge first and foremost what you are most afraid of – is it guilt? lack of time? lack of ‘earned’ income? fear?
Step 2: Write Pros & Cons List
If you go to your partner with your desire to do something and you start by saying what you are afraid of, you may find that they agree! And then, not only have you talked yourself out of it, but you’ve allowed them to talk you out of it too! SO BEFORE YOU GO TO YOUR PARTNER, write a pros & cons list – think it through a bit more, if the pros outweigh the cons, then you have a stronger argument as to why you should do it.
Step 3: Think about best and worst case scenarios
I remember a coach asking me once – ‘Joy, what is the absolute worst thing that will happen to you if you don’t do this?’ That is really hard to do BUT if you really think about the absolute worst thing… it is likely that it isn’t actually that bad. In many cases, the worst case scenario is that nothing will change.
It is a lot more fun to think about the best case scenario! So LET YOURSELF GO THERE. Let yourself think about the best thing that can happen to you. The thing is… your brain doesn’t actually know the difference between ‘thinking’ about scenarios and actively ‘doing’ scenarios. I learned this as an archer. If I thought I couldn’t hit a bullseye, I would miss it everytime BUT if I told myself I could hit a bullseye, I had a much higher chance of hitting one. Give yourself a chance to think about the best ‘what if’.
I recently heard an amazing doctor who runs a cutting edge disruptive healthcare company say
‘Being negative is easy, being positive is hard.’
I couldn’t agree more. Being postitive – and staying positive – IS EXTREMELY HARD. But you have to let yourself go there in order to have a chance.
Step 4: Talk about it
At TechPixies, we find that women in relationships often still have to get approval from their partners. In the twenty-first century, this might sound outlandish BUT for many reasons it isn’t.
For one, a partnership is a team – if your partner was making a decision that might affect you, you would probably appreciate being consulted (even if they were going to do it anyway!).
Secondly, if your fear is about money for example, and it is a legitimate fear, then talking about it means you have an opportunity to come up with a solution (set up an ebay account and sell some stuff that is collecting dust!).
I can tell you from experience – If you don’t discuss it, you’ll isolate your partner and you may even miss out on a constructive, collaborative discussion which might work in your favour. Who knows? Maybe they’ll surprise you and be super supportive.
I recently asked our alumni how their partners reacted to their desire to do our courses. Here are some of the answers I got back:
- ‘Mine was very supportive! He agreed that a course would be good to build my confidence. I had reservations because of the cost, but when the [cheaper] online version came along that sealed the deal!’
- ‘Once he knew I really wanted to do it there was no objection. Sometimes you forget to tell people what you really want. So my tip is not to ask to do it, to state you want to do it. There’s a difference there somewhere. When you say you want to do something there is still space for discussion but I think if the other person can see you really care about it then that discussion moves more onto figuring out how you could make it work, rather than deciding if the thing is worth doing in the first place. At the time as a mum at home, looking after the kids, normally putting myself last, not earning any money I think I usually asked!’
- ‘My partner objected on the grounds of cost. All I really wanted to find was an ‘office-ready tech course’ to update my skills, and this was the closest thing I could find. I confess that I enjoyed the taster so much that I paid for the courses on my credit card, to his disapproval. However, he now sees the positive impact that it has had on my confidence, and that it has been the catalyst for so much more, including, incredibly, losing 2 stone in weight! I seriously think that it got me out of a rut, and I’ve met some brilliant people.’
It might help if I share a personal story at this point. A couple of years ago, I wanted to sign up for a business course (to help me learn how to start my business). It was going to cost me £750. I did all the steps above and then I presented it to my husband. Almost immediately after I told him all the reasons why I wanted to do it and why I knew it would be good for me and the business, he said ‘You don’t need to do a business course. You can get tons of information for free on the internet. Just teach yourself.’
I was gutted… but deep down, because I had done all of the background work, I knew the pros outweighed the cons, I knew that the cost was high but the best case scenario (a successful business) was much better than the worst case scenario (a failing business). It was at this point that I had to do the next step… I had to be brave.
Step 5: Be Brave
I suppose it is important to talk about two kinds of brave – ‘responsible brave’ and ‘stupid brave’. A quick example of stupid brave might be the fact that more people die doing extreme selfies than die of shark attacks (yes, that is apparently a real statistic). Obviously stupid brave = extreme selfies.
Responsible brave means that you’ve assessed the situation and the risk, though scary as ever, is worth taking. So unlike the extreme selfie takers, the worst case scenario for you is not death.
In the case of my own personal story above, being brave meant that I went ahead with the course anyway despite my husband’s objections. He wasn’t happy about it but I knew that at the end of the day, he wanted my company to be successful. It meant I had to overcome guilt of leaving him with the children every Monday night for 3 months and it meant having to fork out £750 which I didn’t really have.
The end result of the course was that I totally changed the direction and focus of my business for the better. Armed with my new business plan (a benefit of the course!), I applied for and won a £15,000 grant which more than covered the £750 fee and subsequently grew TechPixies 480% over the next year. And if that wasn’t enough, my husband really enjoyed his Monday night bonding time with the children.
So if you are sitting on the fence, trying to make a decision about doing something you want to do, be it a marathon or a TechPixies course, I would encourage you try these steps. And do let us know how you get on! You can find us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.
This post was written by Joy Foster (@TechPixieJoy on Instagram), the founder of TechPixies.
The picture at the top of this post is of Jen Jones, a very inspirational woman from San Diego who I am lucky enough to know! She also happens to be one of the bravest women that I know too… You can find out more about Jen Jones at Jen Jones Direct.