Overcoming My Fear of Negative Feedback

“Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection”

~ Mark Twain

In this post I share some of the behind the scenes of my business on the topic of showing up in the face of resistance and dealing with negative feedback.

If you have read some of my previous articles you may have heard me talk about running workshops/online classes. I have in one way or another been talking or thinking about offering online classes for at least the last two years and yet as of today, I’ve never sold a group class or workshop online.

I’ve actually taught loads.

For the launch of my Female Business Academy (FBA) back in 2017, I taught several free online workshops. Once the FBA was up and running, I taught several online classes to the members. I also taught several online classes to the 2020 Conscious Business Mastermind (CBM) cohort and teaching has been and will be a huge part of the CBM in 2021 AND I taught classes to huge audiences as part of the Embodiment Conference twice last year.

It’s safe to say, I teach online regularly and I’m more than comfortable doing it.

YET…

For some reason, I’ve had huge resistance to offering regular, paid for online classes and workshops to my wider audience. Which I’ll admit baffled me for a while. Having been in business for myself in one way or another for close to a decade now, I don’t usually have a problem with resistance. I felt sure that I had successfully fought and slayed the fear of failure and being more visible dragons long ago but, here I have been not wanting to offer a paid for online workshop.

I have one way to deal with resistance. I call it front-loading the fear. I take one big step to announce to the world that I am going to do the very thing I’m feeling resistance towards and then, motivated by the pressure to keep to my word, I take action. Which is exactly what I did this time last week, on the spur of the moment I decided to announce a free online class that very Friday.

I set everything up and promoted it across my social media channels and initially felt relief as people started signing up which quickly turned to mild panic as the number rose to 40 people. It’s funny, I thought my biggest fear was that no one would show up, but it turns out that my biggest fear was a load of people turning up. Allow me to explain.

I have two core offerings, my 1:1 coaching and my Conscious Business Mastermind. I don’t take anyone on I haven’t coached or spoken to at length first. Meaning, I get to choose who I work with. For a recovering control freak, this was more important to me than I realised. My fear of online workshops, it turns out, is that I have zero control over who turns up or how many people turn up.

Despite having a stonking headache about a half hour before the class and the fact that it was last thing on a Friday (by which time I’m usually pretty spent), I felt like it went okay. Because the main purpose in running the class was to practice my registration process, gain some confidence and get feedback, I told attendees at the end of the 90 minutes that should they wish to receive the recording and resource guide, they would need to complete the feedback form.

A link to the form went out 10 minutes after the call ended and I waited nervously for the first completed form to land. I didn’t have long to wait. I let out a huge sigh of relief as I read words like “It went beyond my expectations…You are a breath of fresh air.” and “not a single words was out of place.”, then the second form came in and it was just as positive.

Okay, I told myself, it looks like people liked it. When the third form came in, I had already concluded that the class had gone well, so when I read that this respondent found my delivery monotonous and that they felt they had learned nothing new in the class, I felt a wave of shame flood my body. The feeling was visceral. Another 20 forms came in over the next hour or so and they were all positive. As of today, 29 forms have come in and 28 of them have been positive, some extremely so.

YET,

Because of this one form, it took me several hours to shake off the feeling that I had seriously messed up.

Thankfully that feeling didn’t last and now I’m mostly just deeply grateful for the comments I received on all of the forms. In fact the one form that expressed disappointment in the class is the one form that I feel has set me free.

As great as it is to get nice feedback, when the feedback we get is in the main positive, we’re much more likely to get complacent about our work and/or live in fear of the bad review, the unhappy customer or client. When the worst case happens and someone lets you know that they didn’t get much out of your offering, whilst it stings initially, with a little time and perspective, it’s actually quite liberating.

Even though I’ve always known on an intellectual level that we can’t please everybody, all of the time, I think as humans we deep down secretly try to. So when someone lets you know that what you created fell short for them, it actually bursts a bubble. A bubble in which you tell yourself that everything you put out into the world has to be perfect. Because here’s the thing.

How your work lands for people is not up to you.

When one person can say “It was one of the most value packed workshops I’ve been to (paid or free).” and another can say they “didn’t learn anything new.” then there is no clearer message to me that how my work is received is out of my hands and what a relief it is to let that go.

I probably don’t have to tell you why I am sharing this but just in case there is any doubt, I will.

I see amazing, smart, conscious business owners play small ALL the time, in an attempt to avoid “failing”, getting criticized or being disliked and I get it, we’re hardwired to avoid rejection. Hundreds and thousands of years ago rejection by our fellow humans would have meant death, but this isn’t the case anymore.

The truth is that failure is an inevitable and extremely important part of growth.

Had I allowed my resistance to win, I might have had a more pleasant Friday night, but I wouldn’t have given myself this opportunity to grow. That one piece of less than positive feedback helped me to look more closely at all of the feedback I received and really dig deep for any and all improvements I can make for next time.

Because of all of the feedback, my future classes will be better. Rather than resting on my laurels, I’m motivated to do even better next time — not from a striving perfectionist place but from a place of curiosity about how to make continuous improvements to my work and my offerings. Trust me when I say that coming from a place of curiosity feels infinitely better than coming from a place of perfectionism.

So how about you? What have you been putting off launching to the world?

I know there’s something because we all have something! If you feel called to share it with me, I’d love to know and if you feel like trying my tactic of front-loading the fear, head over to my free Facebook Group right now and announce the launch of your thing to the world!

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Caroline Leon

Business Coach helping conscious change makers to build and grow sustainable businesses, using strategies rooted in integrity. https://carolineleon.com