Is vulnerability holding you back?
Being a doula is an incredible job. We get invited into some of the most intimate and vulnerable moments of people’s lives. But actually being a doula itself requires an immense amount of vulnerability, and being vulnerable can feel terrifying. Not only are doulas vulnerable by some of the ways we support our clients, but also for many of us, by operating our own business.
The brilliant Brene Brown defines vulnerability as “uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure”, and being a doula plus starting up/managing a business involves all of those things, A LOT of the time.
It takes courage to believe in yourself and your abilities in order to start up your own business. You have to put yourself out there, and allow yourself to be seen, which can almost feel like being naked on the bus in high school. It also takes guts to say “Hey this is my business, I’m great at my job, and totally worth your investment!” (even when you totally are!)
It takes courage to believe in yourself and your abilities in order to start up your own business. You have to put yourself out there, and allow yourself to be seen, which can almost feel like being naked on the bus in high school.
I have felt immensely vulnerable at basically every stage of running my business.
I did my training, now what?
During my MSP training I hadn’t put much thought into how hard the “putting myself out there” was going to be: Actually pursuing clients; reaching out to other businesses; and saying out loud “Hi! I’m Meg, and I am a doula”. It felt so scary to actually vocalize the words and hear myself expressing them to the world, making everything become a reality.
I worried about whether or not I would be successful and whether or not people would take me seriously. And of course the biggest fear is what if I made a huge mistake? I was terrified taking those first steps of my journey with so much risk and uncertainty. I felt vulnerable and nervous but also insanely excited.
Running a business.
At the beginning of my entrepreneurship, I naively thought that once I became more established I’d become more confident and everything would get easier. The truth is, even with more experience attending births, running workshops and doing exactly what you want to be doing, there is still so much that can leave you feeling emotionally exposed.
The truth is, even with more experience attending births, running workshops and doing exactly what you want to be doing, there is still so much that can leave you feeling emotionally exposed.
I still get sweaty and nervous before a consultation or running a workshop. My business is an extension of who I am and I pour my heart and soul into it every single day. Meeting with new clients and participants can leave me open to feelings of vulnerability, discomfort and even rejection
Working with clients.
As doulas we know the support that we provide is invaluable. But for those of us who are birth workers, we may leave the birth wondering how the family felt about our support. After the baby has arrived isn’t an opportune time to ask parents about their experience.
Sometimes I leave births wondering if I did everything I could do and I’m anxious to hear how the parents are feeling or if they were pleased. It might even be days later, at the postpartum follow up, that I have the chance to get some positive feedback.
It can feel terribly vulnerable to put everything you had out there and walk away unsure whether or not it was enough. This is the very definition of vulnerability: uncertainty, risk and being emotionally exposed.
Sometimes you may feel like you’re not good enough.
The work week of an entrepreneur is legitimately a roller coaster, all within the time span of a week (or sometimes even a day). I can go from feeling 100% confident and successful in my business to feeling that starting it was a HUGE mistake, and wanting to quit. Occasionally these random thoughts can run in and out of my head before I even have the chance to get out of bed.
Most (if not all) business owners have doubts, challenges and struggles throughout their careers. It is a normal part of being an entrepreneur (and a part of being human). It can be an added challenge for those of us who may have decided to become a doula without initially thinking about the business side of the equation. (PS. This was 100% me, but the #bebobabes have had my back every step of the way.)
Running a business is a lot of work, and there is a huge learning curve. Naturally it can feel overwhelming, especially on days when you think you aren’t doing anything right. Sometimes it may feel like any success you’ve had is a fluke. You may think one day people are going to realize you’ve been faking it and it’s going to blow up in your face (there is actually a name for this!).
You may think one day people are going to realize you’ve been faking it and it’s going to blow up in your face (there is actually a name for this!).
Believing that “most of your success is the product of luck or fraud rather than skill” is called Impostor Syndrome. According to research approximately 70% of people struggle with Impostor Syndrome, and it is most prevalent in high achieving women (so it could possibly be you). It can be a fear that we are failing or looking foolish, or that we will never be “enough” (whatever that might be).
Putting ourselves and our businesses out there opens us up to the possibility to fail or look foolish. That in turn leaves us feeling emotionally exposed (aka vulnerable), a reason why we might get anxious going to business meetings or doing up business plans, because at the end of the day no one wants to fail.
If being a doula is vulnerable and scary why do we do it?
Without vulnerability there can be no connection. It might be scary to put ourselves out there, but if we don’t then people cannot find us. If they can’t find us they will not get the support that they need. When we show up and allow ourselves to be seen, we do what we set out to do, and help families.
We help them to feel comfortable in their pregnancy and to become informed on their birthing options. We stand beside them during labour (for as long as it takes) and get to witness their first hello with their baby. We’re also invited into their “fourth” trimesters!
It might feel scary sometimes, but to be alongside families during their journey into parenthood is truly a gift and just so DAMN worth it. <3
Meg is the owner of The Blissful Doula. She is a certified birth and postpartum doula, Honours Psychology graduate, wife and mom to her sons Gibson and Miller. She is passionate about making pregnancy, birth and the early days of parenting as stress-free as possible. She specializes in maternal mental health, pregnancy after loss and prenatal education. You can find out more about Meg and check out The Blissful Blog at theblissfuldoula.com or follow her on Facebook.
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