At the peak of my entrepreneurial success, I poured my heart out to my counselor.
“I thought being at this point in my business would feel different. Instead, it feels shallow,” I said to him.
My counselor had to wade through deep, muddy waters to uncover what was going on underneath the surface. He told me I crafted an illusion of what entrepreneurship was, and was feeling the dissonance of that illusion not being a reality.
I knew he was right the moment he spoke it. I attached myself to the shiny results of entrepreneurship and ignored the inner realities of being an entrepreneur.
“Be your own boss.” “Sell or be sold.” “Escape the 9 to 5.”
These were mantras I bought into. But all of these shiny pictures of entrepreneurship ignored the dark side of striking out on your own. Today’s society ignores the daily overwhelm, anxiety, stress, and fear that comes with being an entrepreneur.
In addition, today’s picture of the modern entrepreneur sells a “bag of goods” that don’t set up entrepreneurs for success. Late nights, early mornings, neglecting relationships, and more don’t work for today’s entrepreneurs — not if they want a life of joy.
If today’s entrepreneurs want to feel a success they can be joyful about, they must push aside these 5 things that today’s society tries to sell them about what it means to be an entrepreneur.
It is true that entrepreneurs need to work hard to achieve their dreams. But oftentimes, this hard work comes at the expense of entrepreneurs’ joy. Entrepreneurs are told to romanticize this hard work, as if it gives them an excuse to neglect sleep, avoid relationships, and pushing themselves to the bone.
This over-romanticized view of hard work is hustle. It’s a poor excuse to give everything to your work.
And if entrepreneurs keep buying into the hustle mentality, it leads to burnout.
A study done by the Harvard Business Review found that entrepreneurs who had fixed mindsets and obsessive passion were more likely to burn out. Those with fixed mindsets believed there was no other path for them, and those with obsessive passion couldn’t find a harmonious balance to their work.
When we believe we are destined to have a successful entrepreneurial journey (a fixed mindset) and that we must give everything we have to our work (obsessive passion), the product is burnout. And both the fixed mindset and the obsessive passion are products of hustle, the romanticized view of overworking.
If entrepreneurs want to find the joy in their work and life, they need to stop buying into the idea that hustle makes everything worth it in the end.
2. Emotional Suppression
America has a heart problem. We are detached from feeling our true emotions. And this heavily impacts the work entrepreneurs do.
As entrepreneurs rush to the top and keep pushing forward, they suppress their emotions. They are told to ignore what’s happening underneath the surface and focus on the work ahead.
Suppressing my emotions worked for a while. But after a while, I couldn’t name my emotions, or feel them. When this happened, I had no idea what was going on internally. My heart was closed off to joy, and I didn’t know why. It wasn’t until I met with a counselor that I discovered I was ignoring my true feelings. I buried them under the surface so I could perform better.
Little did I know, suppressing emotions hurts performance.
Studies show that people who suppress their emotions are less able to repair their negative mood. They experience more negative emotions and fewer positive emotions. Plus, they have less life satisfaction and less self-esteem.
And oftentimes, these repressed emotions come out sideways. It’s no wonder why the mental health statistics for entrepreneurs are so frightening.
According to a study done by Michael Freeman at the University of California, entrepreneurs are 50 percent more likely to report having a mental health condition. These conditions are prevalent among founders.
- 2x more likely to suffer from depression
- 6x more likely to suffer from ADHD
- 3x more likely to suffer from substance abuse
- 10x more likely to suffer from bi-polar disorder
- 2x more likely to have psychiatric hospitalization
- 2x more likely to have suicidal thoughts
It doesn’t work for entrepreneurs to ignore their emotions. This doesn’t remove their emotions. It just causes them to come out sideways.
The solution then is to gain enough awareness over emotions to be able to name them, and then engage those emotions. When we understand our emotions, we then understand the stimuli that triggers them and what results they lead to.
Once we take ownership over our emotional health, we can start applying the fixes that can save our entrepreneurial careers and our health.
3. Lack of celebration
When I was an entrepreneur, I couldn’t stop and celebrate my achievements. I didn’t even let others celebrate for me. Whenever they would try to, I would shut them down and say…
“There’s still more work to be done though.”
I said this every time. I felt that celebrating was invitation to stop pushing forward. In reality, I discovered celebrating was inspiration to move forward.
The reason I couldn’t celebrate was because I was experiencing what Brene Brown calls foreboding joy. Foreboding joy is when you won’t let yourself experience joy because you’re afraid of losing it. This is prevalent among entrepreneurs. They can’t celebrate because they always feel like they’re on the verge of losing their success. So they keep pushing forward.
The result of pushing forward is anxiety. By never stopping to celebrate, they are only fostering the fear they have of losing everything.
When entrepreneurs stop and celebrate a job well done, they are actually giving themselves motivation to move forward. Celebration fights back foreboding joy and anxiety and gives entrepreneurs the ability to experience more success.
If entrepreneurs want to be in their business for the long haul, they need to celebrate.
When entrepreneurs are not at their desired level of success, they can look around and compare themselves to other, more successful entrepreneurs.
Some paint this as inspiration. They look around to be inspired by what others are doing. But what most often occurs is a loss of creativity.
In her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, Brene Brown says…
“When we compare, we want to see who or what is best out of a specific collection of ‘alike things’… The comparison mandate becomes this crushing paradox of ‘fit in and stand out!’ It’s not cultivate self-acceptance, belonging, and authenticity; it’s be just like everyone else, but better.”
With the paradox of “fit in to stand out,” what’s lost is our creativity, or what makes us unique.
When I was an entrepreneur, I compared myself to other successful entrepreneurs. But this comparison led me to copy what they were doing instead of expressing the creativity I naturally have.
It’s no wonder I grew dissatisfied with my business. I had built someone else’s business, not my own.
Comparison for the entrepreneur is only an invitation to ignore what makes you unique. And when you lose this, you lose the joy of living out who you are.
5. Ignoring the facts
While it is true that entrepreneurs must acknowledge their emotions, they cannot be overtaken by them. Just like every good thing, too much of it can become a bad thing.
When entrepreneurs are flooded with emotion about a situation, it hurts their decision-making. Worse, it leads them to ignore the facts and make the problem bigger than it is.
In my business, I ignored my emotions most of the time. But when it rose to the surface, it came in floods. I was overtaken by negative emotions, and sometimes, had to take the entire day off to get back to a normal level.
Whenever this happened, I ignored the facts. Truly, the problems weren’t as big as I was making them out to be in my head. But when I ignored the facts, I made them bigger. All this did was increase my stress and overwhelm.
Today’s entrepreneurs are not told to focus on the facts. Instead, they’re presented with black-and-white pictures of what’s happening. They’re told that the world is against them. There are haters and fans, winners and losers, those on top and those on bottom.
These are not facts. An ignorance of facts only dramatizes a situation. For instance, a person online might express a concern about your business to you. If you ignore the facts, you can view this person as a hater and write them off, but still have that negativity linger inside you. But if you look at the facts, this person might not be making a character assumption about you. They’re just giving you feedback you can either take or leave.
The world is not as black-and-white as we might think it is. When we look for the facts, we stay level-headed, and are able to make decisions that move us forward.
True success for entrepreneurs
True success and joy comes for entrepreneurs when they choose to not accept the “bag of goods” societal messages try to sell them. Being an entrepreneur doesn’t have to mean hustling, neglecting your emotions, avoiding celebration, comparing, or ignoring the facts.
Entrepreneurship can be a healthy endeavor, but only when we correct the messages we have in our head.
When I left my time of counseling, I realized I had wrong messages about entrepreneurship. These messages were only contributing to my unhappiness. I had to define what success meant for me. And once I did, I opened up to joy again.
Success is whatever you want to define it as. You don’t have to accept society’s messages of success. It’s a difficult battle to define your own success, but once you do, it’s sets you up for the long haul of entrepreneurship.