The 4 Biggest Psychological Barriers for First-Time Entrepreneurs (And How to Break Through Them)

Running a successful online business often means taking care of practical problems. Most of them can be dealt with given the appropriate skills, a little know-how, and some hard work. What holds us back from reaching the dizzying heights of the success we dream of is a completely different species of problem altogether. The barriers that we create are in our own minds, and they prevent us from growing to our full potential.

A psychological barrier is a deeply ingrained belief that we hold about our own ability, worth, or about the world in general. This belief is a limiting one – and it isn’t real or accurate – but believing it makes it real enough to prevent growth.

The solution lies in identifying the barrier for what it is – a half-truth at best. From there we can begin to root out those limiting beliefs, and cultivate new, healthy ones instead.

In this post we reveal four of the biggest culprits, and examine the ways to break through those barriers that hold us back as entrepreneurs.

1. The Uncertainty Barrier

The underlying belief here is “Success isn’t guaranteed – so I will probably fail”.

Doubt, uncertainty, and fear are formidable hindrances to success. These emotions trigger hardwired biological and psychological responses, which are part of our natural survival instinct. They’re uncomfortable, and we try to avoid them.

Living within your comfort zone might be more pleasant, but it won’t help you succeed as a solo entrepreneur. The root of uncertainty is fear – of failure, or even of succeeding. Taking responsibility for success can be just as scary as being unsuccessful.

How to Break Through

  • Accept a constant level of uncertainty, and make it an ally instead of an enemy. Know that success doesn’t necessarily equate to security. As the rewards grow, so do the risks – and there’s no avoiding it.
  • Know your real limits. This comes from experience, and from pushing those limits as far as you can. You won’t know what you’re capable of until you’re brave enough to try.
  • Understand that while feeling uncertain is uncomfortable, it’s perfectly natural. The only way to grow is to face your deepest subconscious fears.
  • With fear in its proper place, move on. Find practical ways to limit the uncertainty as far as possible. Hedge your bets at the early stage, and work within your constraints.

2. The Loneliness Barrier

This belief here is “I will have to do everything myself. It’s me versus the world, and there’s no real support”.

Just like the others, there’s a little bit of truth in this belief. As an entrepreneur you walk a lonely road. You create your own vision, define your own terms, and create your own job description. You also have to answer to your toughest critic – yourself.

There’s a kind of camaraderie that exists when you’re in the trenches with all of the other employees. Individuals who rise out of the ranks can often feel isolated, and entrepreneurs can sometimes feel like they’ve been outcast.

Loneliness can actually affect your health – and there’s also the inner conflict that success creates. While one part of you wants to stand out and be noticed, another part fears the isolation of success – and that’s exactly the barrier holding you back.

How to Break Through

  • Remember – every solo entrepreneur faces the same barrier. The successful ones break through and come out stronger on the other side. They aren’t necessarily smarter or tougher than you, they’re just comfortable in their own company.
  • Join interest groups with like-minded people, and you’ll soon realize you’re not completely alone. It can be encouraging and motivating to surround yourself with the kinds of people you want to be like.
  • Collaborate on projects and create links to a network of people. They won’t carry the burden of responsibility for you, but they can provide moral support.

3. The Self-Esteem Barrier

You may secretly hold this belief – “I’m not smart enough, tough enough, or rich enough to make it”.

One of the biggest barriers to success is your own belief that you’re not good enough. When you read about the achievements of others, you compare yourself negatively. Instead of seeing similarities, you focus only on the differences.

The symptoms of self-sabotage are some of the hardest to recognize. Almost without realizing it, in the back of your mind you’re telling yourself that you’re unworthy, uneducated, unlucky, or limited in some way.

Finally, if you ever get the feeling you’re a fraud, or that you’re not really cut out to be doing what you’re doing, it’s called ‘Imposter syndrome‘ – and it’s just as damaging as other self-esteem issues, so stamping it out is paramount.

How to Break Through

  • Take a good look at your own sense of self. Here’s a list of 16 questions to ask yourself to gauge your level of confidence and self-esteem.
  • Identify your core competencies and focus on those to boost your self-confidence.
  • Graciously accept compliments. It doesn’t mean you’re arrogant – you can be humble and confident at the same time.
  • Make a list of your lifetime accomplishments, no matter how small, to remind yourself that you’re not a fake.

4. The Trust Barrier

The problem here comes from believing “You can’t trust anyone these days”.

Let’s be honest: The internet is a difficult place to build trust. Every time you hear of a scam, you’re reminded that the world contains predators who get rich by preying on trusting people. When you’re dealing with an anonymous person, you’re missing out on the visual clues in order to make your own judgement.

Most seasoned freelancers and consultants have come across at least one client who disappears without paying. On the other hand, if you’re the client outsourcing can be tricky when you don’t trust people to deliver on what they promise.

Having a little faith in people doesn’t mean that you need to be naïve. However, a disproportionate sense of mistrust can undermine all of your business relationships. When you can’t trust anyone at all it becomes a barrier to progress.

How to Break Through

  • It’s true that not all people are trustworthy, so take sensible steps to protect yourself with written agreements where possible. In addition, accept that at some point you’re going to have to trust somebody.
  • Build trust with others over time by consistently delivering on your promises, and acknowledging when they deliver on theirs.
  • Have trust in yourself that you’ll be able to deal with the disappointment when others don’t keep their promises.


Psychological barriers can be hard to identify in ourselves. They’re often deeply rooted and carefully guarded, and some of them may have been with us from our early childhood. However, if they’re holding you back from success, it’s high time to break through those barriers.

Bringing those beliefs out into the open where you can examine them is the first step. Write them down, acknowledge that they are beliefs – not truths – and look to change your mindset. You can use these questions as prompts:

  1. What do I believe about uncertainty and success?
  2. What do I believe about loneliness as an entrepreneur?
  3. What do I believe about my own worth and ability?
  4. What do I believe about trust?

Are there any emotional or psychological barriers that you have overcome on your entrepreneurial journey? Share them with us in the comments section below!