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Striking Out Alone: Developing Your Identity As An Entrepreneur Whether this comes naturally to you or not, being the person who makes every single decision can test your self-esteem in ways you didn't even know possible.

By Carina Harvey Edited by Aby Sam Thomas

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

You're reading Entrepreneur Middle East, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.


We play many different roles in our lives, and when we transition into being a business owner, we assume a new identity as an entrepreneur. It's easy to focus on what it takes to run a business, rather than pay attention to how this identity shift affects our mindset. Change can knock our confidence, and make us feel exposed. This is especially true if you have previous unresolved insecurities or doubts about your core identity. But don't panic, know that these feelings are normal, and take time to figure things out, so that you can play to your strengths as you navigate your new position.

Becoming a business owner means having the courage and confidence to strike out completely alone. Whether this comes naturally to you or not, being the person who makes every single decision can test your self-esteem in ways you didn't even know possible. As you grow and develop into your new persona, drawing on all of the values and experiences you've gathered so far is important.

When I wanted to leave the corporate world and set up my own business, I knew two things:

1. I needed to find something I felt truly passionate about, and was prepared to live and breathe by.

2. I wanted to be the best possible version of myself, and present that when setting up my business.

That meant implementing a solid structure to understand my core identity, and how it would play out as an entrepreneur. Working on this is possible at any stage. Even if you have an established business, things can suddenly feel unmanageable, and the same approach will help you see which direction you want to move forward in. Here are my five recommendations to gain more understanding:

1. Identify your true purpose Finding passion and motivation in business can be a challenge. Many individuals might see a potential gap in the market. However, being a business owner means more than being a subject expert. It also requires handling multiple strategic and operational elements. Unless you are enthusiastic and emotionally invested, it can leave you dissatisfied or unable execute certain tasks.

Even if you've already chosen your chosen path, I would suggest thinking about how it aligns with:

-Your deep-rooted passions.

-Your natural abilities and talents.

-Your developed skills.

-Your values and how they align with your offering.

-Your experiences and coincidences i.e. what has led you here.

Once you're clear about the above, even the more demanding requirements of the business can be seen as an opportunity, as opposed to a chore.

Related: Entrepreneurial Lessons From The Frontlines Of The Podcasting Scene In The Middle East

2. Establish an authentic voice Who you are, and the value you and your business provide, are the essence of your brand. Rather than assuming what people want from you, or how they expect you to behave, this will attract the right people to your organization. Be it client, supplier, or investor, your goal should be to collaborate with those who can benefit from working with you, and who are aligned with your principles and objectives. Being clear about your purpose will also provide with you with your personal story and your "why." Openly sharing these with prospective customers and partners will help them understand what you do. It will capture their attention, enabling them to engage and remember you.

3. Play to your strengths (and plug your gaps) I wanted to build a coaching business, because I knew I had years of practical experience; it was a skill I had developed, and, therefore, a strength. Nonetheless, I went further by exploring broader educational opportunities to develop myself personally, whilst growing the concept for the business. Consider what you already know, and look at ways to enhance this further.

Now onto the gaps. It is not a weakness to lack certain skills; no one is good at everything. But you will encounter problems if you fail to acknowledge it. Are there hard skills you need to acquire to benefit your business? Or personality traits you would like to develop? Maybe your mindset needs attention to address any limiting beliefs that are holding you back, or keeping you stuck in behavior patterns. Be honest in your self-assessment, and where you need help and support. It's an extremely powerful step.

4. There are no mistakes, only lessons Many entrepreneurs are natural-born perfectionists, making this tough to understand! But once you do, it's wildly liberating. I have covered developing your purpose, story, voice and skills, all forming your entrepreneurial identity. Also, understanding how you work, and how others i.e. customers, stakeholders, and staff perceive you, is essential to your persona as a business leader.

In order to explore these areas, you may attend workshops, run events or hold discussions where you might receive feedback you weren't expecting, which might feel uncomfortable. However, the quicker you discover what isn't working, the faster you'll discover what does. It is about trying new opportunities, and testing out how and where you want to position yourself in your market. You will also find that this approach leads to the expansion and evolution of your messaging delivery, content, and purpose.

5. Build your own tribe of peers Being an entrepreneur can be a lonely place. The proverbial buck starts and stops with you. This intense accountability and often, inability to consult with others such as colleagues or partners, can lead to procrastination and inhibit decision-making. Finding your tribe is crucial to having likeminded individuals to bounce ideas off and gain encouragement.

The most successful business owners are those who are authentically themselves in everything they do. Yet putting yourself out there as an entrepreneur, especially in the early stages, requires spirit and bravery. This is where your peer group who champion you, can really come into play as you support and collaborate with one another. And finally, the great thing about identifying and choosing your tribe is the element of choice. Working for an employer does not behold such benefits, so have fun with it, and choose the people you really love to work with.

Related: Unicorns Vs. Zebras: Rethinking What Counts For Entrepreneurial Success In The MENA Region

Carina Harvey

Personal identity coach

Personal identity coach Carina Harvey built a successful career in human resources (HR) over two decades working for blue-chip organizations in London and Dubai. After experiencing several significant life changes, including redundancy, divorce, and miscarriage, Carina struggled with a loss of identity and purpose. During her years in the corporate world, Carina always had a love of fashion, and she was inspired to pursue a new career direction. Carina obtained several fashion and styling certifications, and attended Harvard Business School learning to adopt sustainable strategies. Later, while working as a stylist, Carina saw that many of her clients had also been through life changes, leading to a similar loss of identity. Carina realized she could offer a two-fold approach working with individuals to uncover limiting beliefs, and rebuild their confidence, internally and externally. In addition to individual coaching, Carina assists HR teams with developing their wellbeing agendas. 
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