Overcoming Insecurity as a Young FounderFeatured

Hey! My name is Nastassia Ponomarenko and I'm a 21-year-old, second-time founder and the CEO of Connectful, a startup that launched in October 2020. Connectful is a networking app for entrepreneurial young adults. In the span of almost 3 months, we've gained 5,000+ users and are growing daily. We are soon going to start rolling out video based features to make connecting with like-minded people more personable and engaging. At 18 years old, I founded Nasty Fit, a now 7-figure fitness apparel brand created for women to feel, look, and become their best. What I get asked quite often is, “How do you overcome insecurities of being a young founder?”I don’t think age really matters here. It all boils down to how we individually deal with “new” events. Someone who is 50 years old and starting a business can go through the exact same insecurities as someone who is 15 and is doing the same! We’ve all had to do something new before and get over the natural fears that come with that. Founder life is kind of like hopping on your first roller coaster. 1. You voluntarily decide to go on the roller coaster.2. You somewhat know that it will be a wild ride. 3. You try to mentally prepare yourself.4. The ride starts, you start going up and the views are great, the sky is looking pretty and then before you know it, it’s time to go back down and your stomach starts feeling weird.5. And then it happens over and over again. What I’m trying to say is that you always get hit by difficulty and may experience feelings of self-doubt, uncertainty, and overall insecurity. To me, the most important action is to keep your momentum going because the more obstacles you overcome, the more resilient you become. Here are some tips on how I overcome feelings of insecurity: 1. Be self-aware of the feelings when they arise, accept them and let them go. Hypothetical example: Sally Sue gets invited to do a TedTalk next month, but doesn’t feel confident that she can actually provide value and make it a good speech. She becomes aware of these thoughts, acknowledges them, reassures herself that these are lies that the mind tells her and lets them go (doing long exhales and inhales work well too). 2. I stopped comparing myself to others. Let’s be real, what benefit comes from going on social media and comparing myself to someone else? What helps me is constantly acknowledging that I am on my own unique path and have my own life to build and live. 3. I think about who inspires me. Strong leaders like Michelle Obama, Oprah, and Elon Musk are all people who have gone through all sorts of insecurities and have conquered them (at least to a large extent!). 4. When I mess up or make a mistake, I simply accept it and move on. Dwelling on what was and used to be is not a good use of time.5. I know that it gets better over time. The more momentum you build by going out of your comfort zone and facing difficult tasks, the more confidence you build in yourself and the less insecurities you will have. 6. I hype myself up! Sometimes before I speak with someone, I take about one minute to repeat things like “You’re intelligent, you’re smart, you’re a boss, you can speak well, you are powerful…” etc. This one seems to work well for me! All in all, age doesn’t hinder potential, our fear does. Fear isn’t picky over what age someone is, it will cling on to anyone who lets it.
I love this! I too am a fan of hyping myself up 🤩🤩🤩
Haha, you gotta do what you gotta do!
"To me, the most important action is to keep your momentum going because the more obstacles you overcome, the more resilient you become." Yes to this! Thanks for sharing, Nastassia.
Thanks Hannah! :)
Nastassia, SO GOOD to see you write this and share! I was just talking to my therapist about feeling some imposter syndrome about being a founder and she told me the exact same thing you mentioned in point #1. These thoughts are lies that the mind tells itself -- it's this form of cognitive distortion and it's so vital to let them go. Rooting for you and Connectful!!
100% and thank you for sharing that! Definitely, it's all cognitive distortion. Rooting for you too!! <3
LOVE THIS! Absolute Bad a$$! Thank you for sharing!!!!
Thank you so, so much!! :)
Hi Nastassia, I'm also a young founder (24 years old). I'm currently working on LevelUp, an app that connects women mentors & mentees, so it seems like we have a lot in common! Would love to connect and have a chat sometime :)
That's so cool! YES, I'd love to connect. Love how your name is similar to mine as well :) Maybe shoot me an email or a LinkedIn message? If email, it's [email protected] :) Looking forward to chatting!
Thanks for sharing! Surely, neither does age get in the way of your immense wisdom. I have a tough time answering the question, "why am I the right person to do this?" Often there is no measurable reason. Only just I’m crazy enough to say yes? Committing to crazy starts from a visceral reaction to all the crap that’s wrong with the world, but to change any of it one must first be crazy enough to face the overwhelming likelihood of failure. The odds can’t be any more against us just as our human nature will always default to survival over risk. Our brains process fear as what's keeping us alive. But the way I see it, beyond the success and failure, is at least your actions may help get the ball rolling to inspire others to act as well. I suppose I fear not trying at all more than the failure itself. It was great to hear your story and best of luck to you!