Business like a muddy marsh, that has a sea of impenetrable fog, an endless number of pathways that lead you nowhere and sinking sand that will suck you into a hole you can’t get out of.

Your job as a business owner is to navigate the marsh, make it out alive AND somehow make money throughout that journey.

Along the way, you make mistakes that cost you time, energy and a lot of money in the business marsh.

  • You had money to throw into your eCommerce business but didn’t know how to use it
  • You made decisions that at the time you thought were good
  • You didn’t have anyone (like an eCommerce coach) to talk to that had done something similar
  • You didn’t know what you didn’t know

Business marsh mistakes break the heart of women in product businesses, no matter how experienced they are. In fact, they break the hearts of women in business, in general.

Why?

Because we create our sense of self based on external factors. I call this currency and it’s what we value ourselves on being and doing.

Currency is what we trade self-esteem in… like how well our business is doing.

Just the other day, I spoke to a woman who was a hugely successful business owner – multiple businesses that created millions of dollars worth of cashflow each year – who had been embezzled by a former employee.

She was on the cusp of losing one of her businesses and she was on her last hopes.

She was a smart business woman. She’d had a lot of success already. And she hated herself for not realising what was happening underneath her nose.

“How could I have let this happen? I should have known better, and done better, and been better.”

I certainly am no different.

When I decided to walk away from Trefiel, my first company with nothing after it, I spent an entire 12 months having an identity crisis.

From 2015 to the end of 2018, I’d introduced myself as –

“Hi, I’m Lucy from Trefiel”

The "Lucy Bloomfield" who's sole identity came from her businessAnd all of a sudden, I wasn’t Lucy from Trefiel anymore.

That crisis around who I was and what I did (not to mention recovering from a traumatic breakup), lead me to arriving at the start of 2019 with $500 in my bank account.

I joke and say now that I had an identity crisis, then, I had a financial crisis.

Did I beat myself, internally and externally, for getting myself into this situation?

Me, who had built a half a million dollar product business, with $500 in my bank and no way of changing it?

You better believe I did.

  • I should have known better.
  • I should have done better.
  • I should have been better.

I whipped myself with my failures in a way that no one could or would. And if I had to paint a picture of my inner-world at that point in my life, it was this –

I lived in a world that I created, which had a never-ending series of flaming hoops with spikes, that were impossibly high and small, for me to jump through.

My inner voice was the cruel ringmaster and my self was the tamed lion.

Over the past 12 months, I’ve come to realise that I lot of what I mistook as “that’s just who I am”, is actually not all that unusual. I’ve come to realise this through the 5,000 sales calls I’ve done this year.

It’s incredibly common and given that you’re reading this blog post, I can almost 100% guarantee you do this too.

And I just want to say this –

It’s not your fault.

Really, I mean that.

It’s a schema you created when you were a child. Almost every single entrepreneur has this schema.

  • It’s the reason we start businesses.
  • It’s the reason we’re successful in business.
  • It’s the reason we feel what we’ve done is never good enough.
  • It’s the reason we whip ourselves with our mistakes.

This is not some random thing I made up either. It’s something well known within therapy circles.

Your schemas are fucking with you and your business.

So let me share what they are exactly.

What is a schema?

Basically, it’s a mental structure that you use to organise information and guide your own thoughts and behaviours about your entire life.

The best way to explain this properly is to show you a real-world example of a schema in action.

  • A little girl learns what a donkey is.
  • It has a tail, two ears, four legs and is furry. That’s a donkey.
  • When she encounters a cow for the first time, she thinks it’s a donkey.
  • It fits within her current schema of what a donkey is.
  • She learns that it’s a cow, not a donkey.
  • She creates a new schema for a cow.
  • She adjusts her schema for donkeys so that it’s accurate.

See how she organises information into categories (aka schemas), so that it’s easy to process and reference in the future?

“A cow is a different from a donkey and here’s how”

You do that too but you’re not a little girl.

You have years and years of schemas that you’ve built which shape your perception of the world.

One of that areas that you create a schema around is your self, and this is where things start to get really interesting. These are called self-schemas and they are the things you know to be true about yourself and how you expect yourself to think, feel and act.

A self-schema gives you an overall perception of yourself that is based on past experiences:

  1. Your physical characteristics
  2. Your interests
  3. Your personality traits
  4. And your behaviour

And look, a lot of the time, schemas are really great. They help you navigate the world, make decisions and live with your life with ease.

The only problem is…

Not all the schemas you’ve created are positive or beneficial to you.

Not all schemas are good schemas. In fact, some of the schemas you’ve formed in your earliest years as a child are what most professionals would call “maladaptive”.

They stop you from being the woman you want to be and you being the CEO you want to be. 

What is a maladaptive schema?

It’s a dysfunctional mental structure that you created during your early childhood and has been expanded on throughout your entire lifetime.

Basically, between the ages of 6-9 years old, you created a narrative about why things happen in the world. As per a typical 6-9 year old, you thought it was because of you.

Now look, everyone has maladaptive schemas.

Just because you have maladaptive schemas, doesn’t mean you had a terrible childhood… although it can sometimes mean that too.

Here’s the thing though –

The maladaptive schemas you’ve developed feel familiar and comfortable, which is why you probably haven’t noticed it or would even argue for it’s place in your life.

In fact, the one maladaptive schema I’m thinking of right now is something that almost everyone woman in business (and truthfully, every woman) speaks about as something she’s proud of.

Do you want to know the most common maladaptive schemas of women in product businesses?

  1. Unrelenting Standards
  2. And punitiveness

Let’s take a look at those, shall we?

How does Unrelenting Standards play out in you and your business?

If I reframe unrelenting standards into something that I hear all the time from women in eCommerce, it’s this –

“I just want it to be perfect”

“I’m a bit of a perfectionist”

“I always want to be doing better”

It’s like what I was saying about earlier in this post, right?

You create a series of hoops to jump through that are increasingly higher, tighter and have more spikes, no matter what you have achieved.

Nothing is ever good enough.

You are always searching for that last bit of growth. That last tweak that will make you better and finally “complete”. Typically, this comes from the desire to avoid criticism completely.

“If I can just get this perfect in my mind, in my eyes, everyone else will see it as perfect too… and will never have anything negative to say about me ever.”

Wait, there’s more.

Your unrelenting standards shows up as –

  1. Your hyper-specific attention to detail in order to achieve perfection.
  2. Your rigid “should” rules in all areas of life that govern everything you do.
  3. Your preoccupation with using your time in the most efficient way possible, so you can accomplish more.

Does anyone else feel personally attacked?

When I started getting into schema therapy with my own psychologist, I realised just how pervasive this was in my life, all the way from the time I started coding websites when I was ten years old.

Actually, even before that.

And as I look back at the last five years of my life, I see this maladaptive schema sending me into deep adrenal fatigue while running Trefiel (and again, while starting 10,000 Customers in 2019) and me basically not having a life ever, outside of business.

Here are some of the stories I’ve constructed based on my Unrelenting Standard schema:

  • “If I’m the perfect girlfriend and the perfect business partner, he’ll never leave me.” – Guess what? He did.
  • “I shouldn’t feel sad about this, it’s been over a year since I found out I was sexually abused.” – Guess what? 12 months is not long enough to recover from severe trauma, even with consistent therapy.
  • “I need to work all day, every day, as fast and as hard as I can, for the rest of my life… so I can get where I want to get faster.” – Guess what? The end of my life is where I’m going faster.

That’s just a few of the stories I’ve uncovered in the last six months. There’s still more… there’s always more.

I share this with you because I understand that reading about this and having a breakthrough moment about the way you perceive the world can feel scary and isolating.

I am exactly the same as you.

You’re not alone and the mix of Unrelenting Standards and Punitiveness in women in product businesses is a toxic combination stopping you from getting to where you want to be.

So let’s talk about Punitiveness.

How does Punitiveness play out in you and your business?

Punitiveness is the belief that everyone should be harshly punished for making mistakes. Almost always, it manifests in you having difficulty forgiving mistakes in yourself and, as a consequence, in others.

Sound familiar?

In the 5,000 sales calls I’ve done this year, this is how I see Punitiveness play out in a woman-led product business –

“I got burnt”

“I hired an asshole”

“They fucked me over”

And because we’re talking about eCommerce and product businesses, let’s get real specific –

“I hired a paid advertising agency and they fucked me over.”

Without getting into toxic sales and money beliefs (that’s a whole other post), as soon as this type of thing is said in the conversation I immediately know how you see the world –

  1. You haven’t accepted full responsibility for your part in the situation.
  2. You haven’t forgiven yourself.
  3. You haven’t forgiven the other party.
  4. You’re going to have a shitload of baggage about working with other people.
  5. You probably won’t be able to overcome that on our call and accept my help.

This is where the self-flagellation comes in.

This maladaptive schema is the reason why:

  1. The woman at the start of this post beat herself with her former employee’s antics as proof that she wasn’t good enough.
  2. Anther woman who told me she was a “lazy, pathetic, cockroach of a human being” for being depressed for 10 years after what happened in her personal life (things that most of us could not survive, but she did).
  3. I used my recovery period after walking away from Trefiel as proof that I was worthless, incapable and never going to be successful again.

Hell, I could list off a whole heap of times in business where I royally fucked up and in my mind, that was a direct reflection of me as a human being. I’ve spoken about this pretty candidly previously and will be finishing the Trefiel series “From 0 to 10,000 Customers” soon with a post on all the mistakes I made in my first product business.

What has this got to do with growing your product business?

Literally everything and I’ll explain why.

There are a lot of people out there who talk about self-love and self-care. When they talk about it, they mean hot tubs and face masks.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m huge a fan of face masks. I even started a company selling them. But when I think about self-love and self-care, that’s not what I think about.

To me, self-love and self-care is:

  • Forgiving yourself for making bad decisions
  • Forgiving yourself for not knowing how to manage others
  • Forgiving yourself for abdicating the most important work to other people
  • Forgiving yourself for fucking up
  • Forgiving yourself for being perfectly imperfect

And most importantly…

Going to therapy and working on your maladaptive schemas so you can live a more peaceful life.

Notice how none of what I mentioned is the sexy selfie that everyone posts on #selfcaresunday?

That’s because the realest self-care is the stuff you can’t see.

It’s the way you transform mental structures you created in childhood that cause you harm.

Unfortunately, that’s difficult to take a selfie of.

But as someone who has put a lot of time and effort into this over the past 12 months, I want to share what this work has done for me.

How changing my maladaptive schemas has helped me build a business that is on track to do a million dollars

People are under the assumption that because Trefiel was quite successful, I didn’t make a whole bunch of mistakes.

Trust me, I did.

  • I didn’t sell a god-damn thing for nine months because I was terrified of being “salesy”.
  • I made stupid decisions that cost us thousands, tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands of dollars.
  • I abdicated the success of my company (aka sales) to my business partner, who was a white male engineer-type (read: nerd) who had no fucking idea how to relate to our customer, a woman from lower-socio economic regions.
  • I took my hands off the finances and running the company so I could focus on “more important things”, ultimately leading us to be less successful than we could have been.

And that’s not even getting into the nitty gritty.

Then, look at what I did after Trefiel:

  • I signed my half of the company over and walked away with nothing so I could move on with my life.
  • I spent a year dealing with the end of my old identity, a really difficult break up and further trauma after unlocking repressed memories from my childhood.
  • I consistently under-valued and under-charged my worth while working for any company that would take me.
  • I was still terrified of being called “salesy” and basically lived off what came to me in that twelve months (less than $30,000 total).
  • I was so incapable of doing anything (because trauma and sales avoidance and money fear) that I arrived in 2019 with $500 in my bank.

Then, let’s look at everything I’ve done in my second company, 10,000 Customers, so far:

  • I’ve blown so many sales calls by accepting people’s objections or not knowing what to say, losing countless deals along the way.
  • I’ve ended calls with perfect clients who I could have done a lot to help because they seemed like they “had it all together”.
  • I spent $10k on Facebook Ads in a month and made $8k total for that month.
  • I let people into my programs who never paid me for the expertise I’ve given.
  • I ran my business into such a huge cashflow crunch that I almost didn’t get out alive.
  • I’ve bent my boundaries and given compensations for people who didn’t deserve it and ultimately, they treated me exactly the way they showed me they were going to on our first call.

Plus, so many more.

Of course I’ve made a shit tonne of mistakes. That’s part of the nature of business. This is not my point and I don’t think that’s the real value for you.

My point is the way I deal with those mistakes and the way I treat myself (after a significant amount of therapy) is completely different to how most women in product businesses do.

Those mistakes I made are not barbs that I whip myself with.

  • I don’t let them stop me making decisions.
  • I accept full responsibility for all of them.
  • I forgive myself for making them.
  • I take healthy lessons from them.
  • I adjust my mental structures so I can make better decisions in the future.

In short, there is no more “I should have…” in my life, because saying “I should have…” does not help my grow my business.

It does not help me make better decisions.

It does not help me lead a healthier and happier life.

I see all of these mistakes as my MBA, except better because no University could have ever taught me what I’ve learnt in the last five years.

ThIS subtle shift in my thinking has taken me from being a half a million dollar business to being on my way to a million dollars, and it’s a shift that all my clients need to go through if they want to be more successful than they currently are.

You’ll have to do the same thing too.

Because here’s the thing –

  1. If you don’t fully accept responsibility for your part, you won’t forgive yourself.
  2. If you don’t forgive yourself, you won’t move on.
  3. If you don’t move on, you won’t get takeaways.
  4. If you don’t get takeaways, you won’t become better.
  5. If you don’t become better, your business won’t grow.

I know what you’re thinking.

You’re like me.

You’re worried that if you stop beating yourself to be and do better, you won’t be as successful. You won’t get anywhere.

I can promise you right now, from the other side of doing this work, that the love and compassion I give to myself is the single reason I have more ambition and drive than I ever have had before.

It’s also the reason why I now have a much healthier relationship to my work and as a consequence, am doing better and better and better with each passing month.

In order for you to have:

  • Everything you’ve ever wanted,
  • Everything you’ve ever dreamed of,
  • Everything you fear you won’t get,

You have to forgive yourself…

  • For not knowing every single god damn thing about business,
  • For not knowing what you didn’t know, and
  • For making bad decisions because you didn’t know what you didn’t know,

You have to forgive yourself.

You have to forgive yourself.

It’s the only way to move on and be successful.

Trust me, I tried every other way.

This is the only way.

You have to forgive yourself.