There’s a big shift that happens when you finally pony up the courage to leave your comfortable, full-time, often lucrative position in the pursuit of following your gut and your dreams. Creating your own company is one of the largest (and most impactful) leaps of faith you’ll ever take in your life, and stepping off that ledge into the vast unknown probably shook your spirit. But when you look back on those pivotal first days of creating your business plan, finding your first set of investors and buying that dot com, you likely have stars in your eyes, thinking of how much you’ve loved your company since the get-go.
To both your friends and your employees (and maybe your board), you lovingly refer to your business as your ‘baby’ - and that’s probably because it feels how you’d imagine being a parent feels. Even in the darkest hours (and with the late night phone calls and the carpal tunnel), you would do most anything to make your company successful. Why? It’s a calling and an innate passion inside of you. And nope, we’re not just talking in idioms here - it’s actually scientifically backed.
According to a recent study conducted at Aalto University in Finland, researchers discovered that entrepreneurs love their companies just like parents love their children. Published in the March 2017 edition of The Journal of Human Brain Mapping, scientists studied MRIs to compare the brain as it responds to seeing images of companies, versus children. (Though they tested men and fathers in this particular study, we’re sure the same is true for women - and if we had to guess, women might even love harder.)
While looking at sweet shots of their babes and then ones of their company, researchers were able to conclude that both entrepreneurial love and parental love impact the same region of the brain. This section is associated with high emotional processing and consideration, skills you'd need to have both to raise a business and to nurture a child.
Erin Motz, the co-founder of the yoga and lifestyle brand, Bad Yogi, relates, saying, “I don’t have children yet but I always swear by the fact that I do love my business like a child. It doesn’t matter what it does to me; it can make me lose sleep, wake up early, stay up late, eat too little because it makes me busy or eat too much because it makes me stressed. I don’t care if it throws up all over me, there’s nothing else I’d rather spend my time with.”
Erin Motz, Bad Yogi. Photo: Erin Motz
An interesting takeaway is just how much being motivated and inspired by love can put up blinders for you. When you’re engaging the part of your brain that encourages unconditional love, you also suppress the other area of your cognition that is critical and negative. In other words? You always think highly of your children… and ahem, that your business is the best. Even if, sometimes, that’s not always the most accurate portrayal of either.
As Melissa Fensterstock, founder of Aromaflage says, “As an entrepreneur, you must be aware that your creation may have faults and may need to pivot. Sometimes it takes an outsider with a fresh perspective to bring clarity to an emotionally charged situation."
Melissa Fensterstock. Photo: HBS
"While entrepreneurs must be optimistic almost to a fault," Fensterstock continues, "they must also take care to evaluate risk and execute decisions with a clear and unbiased mind.”
A tall order for both an entrepreneur and a parent. If you find yourself faced with tough choices, try to get an outsider's perspective - one who isn’t cradling your precious one day-in and day-out. Since you carefully took care of your baby when it was a heavily diapered and unpredictable newborn, having someone else to weigh in can offer the objective reality check you need. Remember to keep in mind that those maternal skills are still beneficial and well, part of the job description of the CEO.
“To say that I'm maternal and protective about Feastive would be an understatement. I don't actually have a baby so I can't really compare it to the real thing, but startups are all nurtured from an idea – the ‘embryo’ if you will – into an infancy that is both perilous and highly rewarding. Every day brings something new to the table, and there's a never-ending sense of worry paired with discovery that I imagine is just like having an actual child,” says Debbie Soo, founder of Feastive.com.
In 2016, I finally found my voice. I always thought I had one, especially as a business owner and mother of two vocal toddlers, but I had been wrong.
For more than 30 years, I had been struggling with the fear of being my true self and speaking my truth. Then the repressed memories of my childhood sexual abuse unraveled before me while raising my 3-year-old daughter, and my life has not been the same since.
Believe it or not, I am happy about that.
The journey for a survivor like me to feel even slightly comfortable sharing these words, without fear of being shamed or looked down upon, is a long and often lonely one. For all of the people out there in the shadows who are survivors of childhood sexual abuse, I dedicate this to you. You might never come out to talk about it and that's okay, but I am going to do so here and I hope that in doing so, I will open people's eyes to the long-term effects of abuse. As a survivor who is now fully conscious of her abuse, I suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and, quite frankly, it may never go away.
It took me some time to accept that and I refuse to let it stop me from thriving in life; therefore, I strive to manage it (as do many others with PTSD) through various strategies I've learned and continue to learn through personal and group therapy. Over the years, various things have triggered my repressed memories and emotions of my abuse--from going to birthday parties and attending preschool tours to the Kavanaugh hearing and most recently, the"Leaving Neverland" documentary (I did not watch the latter, but read commentary about it).
These triggers often cause panic attacks. I was angry when I read Barbara Streisand's comments about the men who accused Michael Jackson of sexually abusing them, as detailed in the documentary. She was quoted as saying, "They both married and they both have children, so it didn't kill them." She later apologized for her comments. I was frustrated when one of the senators questioning Dr. Christine Blasey Ford (during the Kavanaugh hearing) responded snidely that Dr. Ford was still able to get her Ph.D. after her alleged assault--as if to imply she must be lying because she gained success in life.We survivors are screaming to the world, "You just don't get it!" So let me explain: It takes a great amount of resilience and fortitude to walk out into society every day knowing that at any moment an image, a sound, a color, a smell, or a child crying could ignite fear in us that brings us back to that moment of abuse, causing a chemical reaction that results in a panic attack.
So yes, despite enduring and repressing those awful moments in my early life during which I didn't understand what was happening to me or why, decades later I did get married; I did become a parent; I did start a business that I continue to run today; and I am still learning to navigate this "new normal." These milestones do not erase the trauma that I experienced. Society needs to open their eyes and realize that any triumph after something as ghastly as childhood abuse should be celebrated, not looked upon as evidence that perhaps the trauma "never happened" or "wasn't that bad. "When a survivor is speaking out about what happened to them, they are asking the world to join them on their journey to heal. We need love, we need to feel safe and we need society to learn the signs of abuse and how to prevent it so that we can protect the 1 out of 10 children who are being abused by the age of 18. When I state this statistic at events or in large groups, I often have at least one person come up to me after and confide that they too are a survivor and have kept it a secret. My vehicle for speaking out was through the novella The Survivors Club, which is the inspiration behind a TV pilot that my co-creator and I are pitching as a supernatural, mind-bending TV series. Acknowledging my abuse has empowered me to speak up on behalf of innocent children who do not have a voice and the adult survivors who are silent.
Remembering has helped me further understand my young adult challenges,past risky relationships, anger issues, buried fears, and my anxieties. I am determined to thrive and not hide behind these negative things as they have molded me into the strong person I am today.Here is my advice to those who wonder how to best support survivors of sexual abuse:Ask how we need support: Many survivors have a tough exterior, which means the people around them assume they never need help--we tend to be the caregivers for our friends and families. Learning to be vulnerable was new for me, so I realized I needed a check-off list of what loved ones should ask me afterI had a panic attack.
The list had questions like: "Do you need a hug," "How are you feeling," "Do you need time alone."Be patient with our PTSD". Family and close ones tend to ask when will the PTSD go away. It isn't a cold or a disease that requires a finite amount of drugs or treatment. There's no pill to make it miraculously disappear, but therapy helps manage it and some therapies have been known to help it go away. Mental Health America has a wealth of information on PTSD that can help you and survivors understand it better. Have compassion: When I was with friends at a preschool tour to learn more about its summer camp, I almost fainted because I couldn't stop worrying about my kids being around new teenagers and staff that might watch them go the bathroom or put on their bathing suit. After the tour, my friends said,"Nubia, you don't have to put your kids in this camp. They will be happy doing other things this summer."
In that moment, I realized how lucky I was to have friends who understood what I was going through and supported me. They showed me love and compassion, which made me feel safe and not judged.