I find that I’m invisible online, I am in a sea of health coaches with much less experience and training, yet they’re attracting crowds. I try to offer value to my list and it’s not easy to get feedback … online, with an email list, I’m sort of lost and trying to find ways to build my self esteem as I don’t get feedback.

When I read this in a business-support group I’m in, I really identified with that last piece.

One thing I’ve learned since I started acting 10 years ago is that I was never going to be satisfied with reviews of my performance. Nobody but me really knows what I’m striving for and missing. My standards may be impossibly high, but they are there because I know that when I dig deep, I’m capable of surprising myself — and I already know everything that’s in my head, which makes surprise challenging.

This doesn’t mean I don’t think my work is any good. It also doesn’t mean that I ignore praise, and I certainly don’t have thick enough skin to ignore blame. (I can’t even resist getting stuck on simple descriptions that make no sense to me, as when a character I played was called “young” when she was clearly old to me.) What it does mean is that I have to find internal motivation to do the work and improve the work, even without feedback.

My mother had a lesson she actively taught to each of her kids: the work doesn’t change once a critic or evaluator gets ahold of it. The shitty paper you wrote on the bus on the way to school doesn’t suddenly become amazing because the teacher loved it. The paper that you struggled uphill to write, then had a breakthrough in which you wrote brilliant, flowing words and ideas doesn’t become shitty because your teacher comments, “This essay in no way fulfills the requirements of this assignment. However, since you got an A on the midterm, you will get a Pass for the class.”

(Clearly, some important and powerful learning happened, for better or worse, since I remember a 30-year-old comment word for word. Not that grades matter.)

Your internal compass has to mean something, or you’re lost. Much of the time, you’re shouting into an abyss and getting nothing back besides echoes. Pay attention to your own judgment, and be as fair and kind with yourself, and as admiring of yourself, as you would be of someone you love.

Online business is a weird sort of abyss, one that often seems populated by more wonderful people who are capable of breakthroughs I’m not. I, too, feel invisible online, or more experienced and offering more valuable help than others who are getting more attention. Yet if I let that feeling overtake me, I lose sight of the guideposts.

What, then, are the guideposts that I keep in sight?

  • I know my shit. I’ve been doing my shit so long that what seems obvious to me is a revelation to others. Keep saying what’s obvious; it’s also true.
  • Once I do make the connection, my clients love what I can do. Finding the right people is the work.
  • It took me a long time to figure out how I want to work, and that it’s okay to work the way I want to. Run your business your way.
  • I work for hard my luck and good fortune. My felicity is sweat equity.
  • Daily conversation feeds me. My ideal is to talk to one new person a day. 

Self-esteem needs to be detached from feedback, but we live in the real world, and in that world, it’s easy to forget what guides us. When you find yourself getting lost in comparison or in the silence of the abyss, you may need to sit down on the path for a while, but the fog will clear and you’ll see the guideposts that will take you home.

What are your guideposts? How do you keep them in mind when you’re feeling lost?