I want to start a business but don’t think I can do it. How can I stop doubting myself?

My journey to open my own business, assemble an amazing team wasn’t a walk in the park. My team and I have endured many pancake moments* landing us in awkward and embarrassing situations – many due to my own doing. Team, I love you!

So let’s unpack this a little bit. Reflecting, on what drives me to keep going and like my colleague reflected, what is it that keeps you happy and upbeat all the time?

I think it started when I was twelve. A giant change that happened in my life, inadvertently, journeyed into vulnerability and bravery.

A jolt of change.

My parents took my siblings and I from the USA to live in Indonesia.

Culturally blind, deaf, and mute. My siblings and I had no understanding of the culture nor the language. We were coconuts. Brown on the outside and white on the inside. We looked like Indonesians but our minds, culture, and language were of a typical American kid growing up in public school life.

Being a twelve-year-old, this transition wasn’t an easy one. Already shaped by the democratic American culture emphasizing freedom of expression from clothing to friends, how we learn, study, and organize our work. Nevertheless, we were expected to assimilate to the culture, and language seamlessly.

My parents required my siblings and I attend a traditional Indonesian school, not the American International School because they didn’t want us to be a stranger in our country of origin. I attended a different school level than my siblings and although similar, the requirements were slightly different. I entered at the junior-high-school level.

On that first day, I uniformed up and headed off to a school that sat two to a bench. Here, the students uniformly stood up to greet (make Sallam) the teacher as he/she entered the classroom. Only when the teacher sat, so did the students. Then she spoke, and all the students heads down started to take notes. The teacher dictated her teaching; those notes were the class. No teaching, just dictation.

Me, on the other hand, head held high, pen in hand with no writing. I thought maybe they will give out notes or handouts. But low and behold, no textbooks, handouts, nothing – just those dictated notes. Therefore at the end of the class, I had no notes and not a clue of what was happening!

Thankfully, Indonesians have a special code of solidarity and never leave their classmates be left behind. So, my bench mate and friends shared their notes and eagerly helped me through that first year. We communicated using broken Indonesian, English, and a slew of Tarzan hand language. However, without them, I’d have been a lonely mess. These people became friends for life.

I tell this story not to get pity.

This story is about grit and perseverance. It’s also about vulnerability and bravery. As well as my willingness to ask questions regardless of the mocking.

Through this transition, I learned that it’s ok to be laughed at and to laugh at yourself. Also, not being the smartest person in the room was humbling because it meant I didn’t know. Forcing me to listen and learn. Those who know me know that I don’t like NOT knowing. LOL.

As I lost the ability to speak, I had no choice but to listen, learn, and observe. This opportunity allowed me to open up and be vulnerable. To be okay that not knowing was okay. I wasn’t defined because I couldn’t speak. I had to be okay with me and where I was in my journey.

I also had to learn to be vulnerable, because speaking a new language means that you are going to make mistakes. You are going to say the wrong words in the incorrect context. And at the same time, I couldn’t remain mute, because without practice I wouldn’t be able to get better. To this day, I speak Indonesian with an American twang… 😀 Uh, people can still hear it. I can still hear it. LOL.

But that’s ok. I developed a willingness to learn and a drive to take it all in – stupid, bad, ugly, incorrect, culturally incorrect, etc. And I did it with humor and fun. I enjoyed laughing at myself and my silly mistakes. Looking back, I didn’t belittle myself. I didn’t care. I was just on my journey and adamant to have fun. I mean, what’s life if you can’t have fun?

What happened next?

As expected, my report card by the end of the first semester had Ds and Fs.

Some cultural context here, the Indonesian report card uses a numerical system. They write a high score (or a passing grade), which is a six and above, in black ink; and a low score (or a non-passing grade), which is five and below, in red ink.

My report card was a sea of red except for English, it was a nine. Because ten is reserved for the teacher.

– Gemi’s own experience

Receiving that report card did not devastate me at all. My parents also didn’t say anything either. Thank you, mom and dad!

My attitude, though, was uh-ok. What in the world? Getting a sea of red on my report card triggered something inside me because I was always a pretty good student. I really got fired up and desired in making all those red scores into black ones!

And I did. By the end of the school year, I had all black scores (notice how I didn’t say high scores) enough to get me to the next grade. (In Indonesia, you have to pass exams and have a specific score to get to the next school-grade)

This story and my attitude are what bring me to this point in my life. It is me at the core.  

You liked the story and probably wondered what this has to do with confidence, curing self-doubt, and building a business.

Firstly, my experience is an example of how mindset can impact the journey and the outcome.

The attitude I had (and still have) is whatever is in front of me is an adventure. I didn’t have set expectations, nor did I come into class thinking that they should conform to me but instead take in the experience as is—no judgments or expectations. By holding this attitude, it allowed me to absorb and enjoy the unknown with no bias. I also didn’t forget to smile and take it all in.

I held on to the belief of not yet.  

Taking the positive and absorbing the new and weird. That first day I wore my uniform with pride and stood up to greet the teacher with an attitude of gratitude. Rather than thinking, this isn’t the way it was done in America, I observed, how efficient it was to have teachers move from class to class.

Keep looking for that silver lining.

Secondly, I was kind to myself.

I laughed at myself all the time. Because of my endless pancake moments*.

From embarrassing myself in calling someone an Indonesian dish to call them deaf. (This is what you get for joining in on the taunting of others!)

To telling my Indonesian tutor that I made out (sexually) with all the people downstairs out in the open (he almost spit out his coffee when he heard it). In the end, it was a grammatical mistake where I used the incorrect prefix and changed the meaning of the word entirely. And so much more. So many more embarrassing moments.

However, it was and still is the crying and laughing that make the journey special. In the end, I couldn’t control the outcome, just the attitude during the journey.

Thirdly, keep learning, and refining.

I was never the one to get it right-out-of-the gate. Needing to keep trying was my way of being able to perfect it. Unlike my friends, family who got it right the first time-that just wasn’t me. Perseverance or Sabr is what I have had to lean into to make it happen. Noorbiz itself is a rebirth and reiteration of many other businesses and ideas that have failed miserably and financially.  

Do I sometimes doubt myself? Of course I do.

However, I am still here and still going because I know my purpose and mission. To help you, the woman entrepreneur, who looks like my team and I, enabling you to bring your best selves to the table, work in your genius zone, and create financial wealth through the business you make. I am so passionate about this work. It fires me up because my experiences in work and personal helps many on that journey. Including you.

The words of encouragement I ask myself is, “What is the worst thing that can happen if I do this?”

– This is a question I ask myself and is the outcome that bad?

Using these words has allowed me to experience adventures, opportunities, and mistakes that make me wiser, and hopefully smarter. These words have also opened me up to share my journey with others who understand my journey. I have learned that working together is better than doing it alone. My confidence has soared, knowing that people who genuinely want me to succeed are here to hear me out.


So, can you start your own business?

Yes, you can. Open your mind and heart to the possibilities. Don’t have set expectations, and watch out for your unconscious bias. Be kind to yourself, and your journey is your journey. You are where you need to be, and that’s OK. Find a support group, mentors that understand you and can help guide you on the shortest path to creating a business of your dreams.  You don’t have to do it entirely on your own.

Start with that first step and embrace the power of Not Yet pioneered by Carol Dweck.  

Also, know that self-doubt never goes away.  By embracing the power of Not Yet, allow lessens your self-doubt and over time takes a backseat propelling you forward.

Persevere regardless how small the win might be. Because whatever that progress is, you’ve taken one-step forward. And that step is progress.

Don’t forget to smile and have fun.

Life is an adventure.

We’d love to hear from you. If you have questions or thoughts that you’d like us to cover, please send your thoughts here

*) Pancake moments is my own term, it is the moment a pancake is ready to be flipped. And you know it’s ready because bubbles form at the top. And when you do, it ends up splattered all over the stove or misses the pan entirely.

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