Abbi Hoxleigh is a PR & Communications Strategist of Little PR Rock Marketing Limited and understands the role that self-belief has played in their business journey so far. They took some time out to speak with The Industry Leaders about this powerful state of mind.
Firstly, can you give us a little bit of background about your business journey?
Communication in all its forms has always been at the top of my agenda. After years at art school learning how we interpret the things we see, I became a qualified graphic designer, narrowly missing the opportunity to work in galleries as a curator. What interests me is telling stories that make an impact and have real purpose and a game-changing moral to the tale. Combining text and image created a sense of fulfilment for me; hand-rendering fonts, conceptual studies, and a passion for critical thinking led to a career in design and print. Taking time out and working for several years as a Community Mental Health Worker, my communications ability was challenged yet strengthened. Years later, I was selected for a role as a Media Officer at an established charity for people with learning disabilities that lasted more than a decade. This role gave me confidence in my ability to communicate on various levels with all abilities inclusively. In 2020 following months of remote working created the self-belief I needed to kickstart my business. I already had a mass of credentials; I simply lacked confidence in them. Now as a PR and Communications Strategist and founder of Little PR Rock Marketing, I talk to my clients about ‘Credibility Confidence’ and help them to gain the media coverage they deserve.
What role has self-belief played in your journey as a business leader? How has it influenced your decision-making and overall success?
My business is more successful when I have self-belief. That is when I write fluently, speak eloquently, communicate effectively, and my thoughts flow without hesitation. Self-belief helps me to talk confidently as a PR trainer and public speaker, as my mind is focused, without doubts and uncertainty. When pitching the media, my self-belief dictates the responses I receive. If I don't believe that I or my clients are worthy of being acknowledged by a journalist, the pitch gets rejected. The media circus can be daunting, and I have had stories that have quickly escalated worldwide. Without self-belief, I would not have known how to make decisions and handle the situation; I had to think on my feet and trust myself. I talk about ‘stacking’ your credibility in media coverage to boost self-belief because you build on solid foundations as you take steps into public relations. It is all about trusting yourself to make the right decisions in the public eye. Your reputation is at stake, and it requires self-belief, the ability to assess the situation quickly and keep calm when presented with opportunities to share your expertise. Self-belief helps you when questions in an interview challenge you, mastering anxiety enables you to find the right words, yet self-belief knows that you have them within you. My decision-making skills have developed as I learn and master the understanding of running and scaling a business. There are still days when the imposter syndrome haunts me, but self-belief can be humble and quietly lift your spirits into positive action. To have self-belief is both a destination and a resting place, just like confidence.
Can you share a specific moment or challenge in your journey where your self-belief was tested? How did you overcome it and what did you learn from that experience?
The first time I doubted myself in business was when I wrote a proposal for a client. We met over Zoom, and I saw she had received mass media coverage. To me, it was overexposure, and the purpose of being in the spotlight for her was fading. The report took several hours to prepare, but I was waiting for a reply once I had sent it. Should I have followed up? After several months I saw a pitch to a PR industry blog. I hurriedly gathered all my top tips from the proposal and wrote an article on 'Media Overexposure: How to Take Back Control of Your Media Presence.' When the piece was published, the swell of anxiety rose from my feet into my mouth, and I couldn't read it. The initial rejection of the prospective client resurfaced, and the self-belief was annihilated. After several months, the article was featured in Public Relations Today and won second place in a Most Valuable Post Awards in the Media Relations section. I couldn’t believe it and realised it was the positive impetus I needed. Having a mission to add value for someone who needs to hear, read or see what I have to say drives me forward when my self-belief is tested. This experience taught me to keep striving even when I feel foolish. It showed me that my negative perception of my abilities had been debilitating and I should not fear speaking my truth. Since then, I have pushed myself out of my comfort zone multiple times, tested my emotional stamina and created a sense of inner resourcefulness. I now lead some clients through their PR confidence crises as I have demonstrated genuine empathy.
How do you cultivate and maintain a mindset of self-belief amidst the inevitable ups and downs of life?
Embracing a life of challenges that can drag your self-belief in all directions is the first step to a resilient mindset. Many daily triggers can imbalance you; no one is immune to doubt and uncertainty. Encouraging a curious mindset that enables you to see every opportunity as a learning experience by removing yourself from the equation helps to identify the real problems and solve them rather than look internally. It is possible to resist the temptation of letting the trials and tribulations of life drag your confidence up and down with them. Sometimes I lack self-belief when positive things are taking place. Equally, I am confident when I am faced with drama and dilemmas. A mindset of self-belief replaces "I can't" with "I don't know how to yet, but I will'." This shift in thinking can help you to master the subconscious gremlins that are holding you back and unlock the secret of how exhilarated you will feel when you overcome your difficulties. Nothing great comes easily. Self-belief can impede our sense of personal value. Our value is more than the task in hand; it combines every positive achievement we have made, and sometimes it is more difficult to access. Your mindset is set for success when you ask yourself why you feel the way you do and forgive yourself for being human and having doubts like everyone else. That way, to avoid spiralling into negativity you create something that puts you in a stronger position to recognise your qualities, skills, and knowledge is essential to bringing your self-belief to the foreground.
Are there any specific strategies or practices you follow to boost your self-confidence when facing uncertainties or setbacks in your business?
I have several techniques I use to bounce back in times of uncertainty. In a practical sense, I write often, finding systematic ways to create order on the page. This helps to dump all the uncertainty in one place and release my thinking to focus on what that looks like from a fresh perspective. Usually, this leads to a generation of ideas flowing, and I set them in motion as part of a self-improvement strategy. That means a gap analysis of where I am now, in doubt and uncertainty and where I want to be, in a state of self-belief and control. This process often happens to me mentally and is followed by a stream of consciousness that can sometimes become an article on the subject. One way that I find liberating is to speak to others in honest conversations or about topics that inspire me. That can break a cycle of doubt as you introduce new thinking pathways. The synapses begin to spring into action, and a newfound confidence emerges as I am reminded of my opinion and its value.
How do you handle self-doubt or negative self-talk that may arise as a business leader? Do you have any specific techniques for reframing negative thoughts?
Patience is one way I manage a lack of self-belief. Taking things slowly and nurturing my emotions helps me to bounce back. Stopping and listening to myself, I am in touch with my feelings and can self-soothe, putting me in a better position to access my subconscious thoughts. Taking the time to connect with my emotions provides insights into the underlying causes of self-doubt and tackling it head-on. Communication is also crucial to boosting self-esteem and facing uncertainty. You need to find a route to communicating your doubts in a safe place where you can exorcise them. Sharing your innermost thoughts and feelings with people you trust can provide the understanding and encouragement you need and significantly boost your self-esteem. If you can dislocate each emotion of anxiety, doubt, uncertainty, fear, and overwhelm, you can master them. Remembering that you are every version of yourself throughout your life can help you to reframe your thoughts. By practising positive self-talk, I look back to when I overcame fear and doubts; how did I manage it then, and what did I learn? I focus on the person I was then, reminding myself that adversity does not make me stronger. I have always been confident and strong; this test is a reminder. Faith in myself returns, and I reinforce my belief in my abilities. This perspective shift can help you reframe your thoughts and regain self-belief.
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs who struggle with self-belief? How can they start building a stronger sense of confidence and belief in themselves?
Entrepreneurs struggling with self-belief need to know that no matter how successful someone is, there will always be days that they have doubts too. Developing a business means scaling up the risks taken and the necessary responsibility for growth. Aspiring entrepreneurs need to harness what ignites their self-belief to unleash the powerhouse within them. Find your core beliefs about what it means to believe in yourself and give yourself the ability to celebrate your wins rather than criticise yourself for humble-bragging. If you create a working environment that welcomes mishaps and errors as learning and personal development, you will find that your confidence will flourish again. When you see others value what you say in the media, you can rely on this endorsement to add to your self-belief. That media publication believed in you, so why wouldn't you?
Have you ever encountered external skepticism or negativity regarding your business ideas or decisions? How do you stay grounded in your self-belief despite external influences?
We all face the nay-sayers at times. Part of the process is to delicately remove the feelings of a personal attack and use the commentary to your advantage. Scepticism from others can shatter inner confidence, but it is merely another's risk assessment of your business. Facing opposition sooner rather than later may improve a decision, an invention, a unique selling point, an intellectual property proposal or a business idea. It is vital to keep those feelings of negativity locked into the external influences but take their comments on board. Self-belief is a work in progress that requires us to stay centred while actively listening to others regardless of their opinion. Grounding yourself in this way exercises your resilience muscle so that you behave like Teflon. Making you impervious to the slings and arrows of a verbal onslaught yet wise enough to know why you were fired at. An understanding that society is made up of perspectives as varied as the number of people in it helps you to dodge barriers and obstacles. Experience is the companion of self-belief as it provides evidence and a way forward. I like to be challenged, and journalists often investigate the truth of scandals, incompetence and shock. Their role has made them sceptical; as a PR and Communications Strategist, I need to appreciate this, which has taught me to speak my truth confidently. Once people see that you offer thought leadership and value that improves their lot, their negativity begins to subside. An essential factor to remember when you face scepticism or derision is that you may need to communicate your vision to others more effectively. Practising your communication skills, adapting and revising your message, looking for opportunities to trial your ideas and relying on sceptics as sounding boards places you back in control.
Are there any books, podcasts, or people you'd recommend checking out for anyone who wants to change to a more self-confident and belief-rich mindset?
As someone with PTSD, I listen to people who have overcome trauma, and it inspires me to believe that I can do the same. I read many academic books as I study for my PR diploma, but if I can, I listen to people like Simon Sinek, Dean Graziosi, Lisa Nichols and Richard McCann.
Finally, what are some practical tips or exercises you can recommend for entrepreneurs to strengthen their self-belief and mindset on a regular basis?
Visualisation is an exercise that helps me to stay focused on my end goal, not how I am feeling. I keep a vision board on my wall and a computer screensaver to remind myself of my aspirations and achievements, as the latter has been given a gold star. It is also worth envisaging the future you don't want, which is the one that doesn't serve you and moving away from it. However, stepping outside my comfort zone is the most impactful for me. I have launched into public speaking despite reservations, written a book, started a PR diploma and business, and cajoled myself into a growth mindset since I started my business. When I first stood on a stage, I was a rabbit in headlights; now, I turn on the switch of self-belief in the moment and begin talking. Surrounding yourself with people who believe in you is essential, as they will hold up a mirror to you when you are filled with doubt. Friends have watched my development from the wings as a true cheerleader. Those people show me my true worth without trying to say the right thing. They don’t need to try; they see the good in me.