Being an entrepreneur is lonely.
Everyone says it but I don't think I really understood it until last year when I had a scary wake-up call that my body was not going to be able to keep up with the abuse.
I wasn't sleeping, I was putting junk in my body (and then eating kale and shopping at Erewhon like somehow that made it all better), I didn't exercise, I was constantly stressed out and working myself up over things I couldn't control. The list goes on. Sometimes, when we are so passionate about something, we don't see or hear the repeated signals that something is wrong. Starting a company can be like that.
Let me say it louder for the people in the back: starting a company properly, is like that.
I have always said that there is some level of delusion necessary to start a business - and I still think that's true. Embrace it! If it was easy, everyone would be doing it. To be even remotely successful, you have to pour your soul into what you are building and cannot let outside influences dictate your next moves. Frankly, if you were a reasonable person, you wouldn't be doing it at all.
In many ways you are unique but it's super important to remember that you are not alone and you are not the first person to feel this way.
Last year, a series of unfortunate things happened to me that threw me into a tailspin. I shut myself off from the world and isolated. I was suffering from what a dear friend of mine calls, "terminal uniqueness." I was absolutely certain that I was the only one going through what I was going through and nobody could ever possibly understand. It's funny how human beings can do that, and it's even easier when the issue is something that is seen as a weakness. To be honest I even had a little zing of fear posting this because it would be admitting to the world that last year was really hard. But here's the thing, humans are amazing, resilient beings and asking for help is one of the strongest things we can do. One of my personal heroes, Sophia Amoruso, is a perfect example of a successful, resilient entrepreneur. Her "failure" at Nasty Gal brought her to the mega success that is Girlboss.
Social media may have a lot of down sides but the biggest upside is watching some amazing founders tell the truth. Maybe that is a post for another time. I know it helped me get out of my head and realize that my situation was really not that bad - and truly not that unique.
I bet, right now, you are thinking about a situation or feeling where you believe you're the only one who feels that way. I promise that whatever it is you aren't. You probably don't believe me, but that's okay, I will prove it. No matter what it is, mental illness, physical pain, tragic loss, major mistake, god forbid you are human, there is a way out and someone has done it before.
When we're ready, if we pay attention, there are people who are talking about what we are going through, almost exactly. We live in 2019, where there are literally instagram pages, podcasts, blogs and more dedicated to the things we're going through right now.
I just started recording a podcast called, The Truth Is…, to start talking about this more specifically. No question, problem or scenario is too stupid, taboo or untouchable so feel free to comment or email me with any questions. I will do my best to answer and if I can't, I promise to direct you to a resource or person who can. In the meantime, I wanted to share some books that cover a variety of subjects that we don't talk about enough as women or otherwise. Hopefully one of these will help take some your blinders off.
You got this. We got you.
Brené Brown is one of my personal heroes. Like Sophia Amoruso, she talks a lot about the mistakes she has made both privately and publicly. She has dedicated her life to studying shame - in fact, you should watch her Netflix special about it! - and has written a ton of thoughtful books on the subject. In 2019 (much after this book was published) the need for showing public perfection on social media is at an all-time high. I highly recommend this one - and frankly, every one of her books. Pro tip: get the audible version if she is the narrator herself.
The Hard Thing About Hard Things, Ben Horowitz
This is my all time favorite book about business ownership. I read it once a year at least. Ben Horowitz is a visionary and writes honestly about starting a business. If you have ever wanted to start a company, read this book first.
Almost 10% of natal-born women suffer from this invisible but debilitatingly painful disease. Invisible physical pain can play a massive role in your day-to-day life and even more frustratingly so, in your work balance. Especially when it arrives once a month.
My friend Michael recently published this book about his experience with his addiction and entrepreneurship. While his addictions are specific (gambling & cocaine), the book is honest and in its entirety talk about many of the feelings that plague all business owners. Anyone will take away something solid from this book. Highly recommend.
Mel Robbins talks a lot about how her life was falling apart before she started this book and came up with her 5 second rule. Sometimes it's helpful to hear how far someone went down one direction before they decided to turn around. No matter how far you go one way, you can ALWAYS go another. Remember that.
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Sometimes the person you have to stand up to is you! There I was, rewatching the Miss Universe 2019 competition. Which I do for inspiration from time to time. (No, seriously!) There is something about seeing women on stage, in full-on glam mode, and speaking with confident assuredness that really lights my fire!
I have seen this Zozibini Tunzi of South Africa win this crown so many times before, but something about this particular viewing, her delivery or her words, touched something inside me a little differently. At that moment, I truly believed, with complete conviction, that she lives what she speaks.
The announcement was made, the audience cheered, and the crown was awarded. The light was dazzling,, she looked stunning, almost blessed. The judges made the right call with 2019's queen.
Reflecting On Myself
Suddenly, the YouTube video ended. And I was left looking at a black screen. In the darkness of that screen, I saw my reflection and I began assessing what I saw, asking myself, "What have I been doing with my life?" It may seem like an overly dramatic question, but at that moment, I had to ask myself seriously… What have you done? The fact that I couldn't come up with a solid, confident answer gave my inner-cynic license to quickly spiral into self-criticism.
This went on for quite some time, until I got up. I stood up and walked to my mirror to have some serious one-on-one "Queen Talk." I needed to get out of that self-critical mindset, and I know that physical movement is something that help disrupt a way of thinking. I needed to remind myself of who I really was. The negative feelings I was experiencing at that moment were not reality.
Here are a few reminders for whenever you need some Queen Talk!
1.) Comparison is truly the thief of joy.
This saying feels like a cliché. That is, until it's applicable to you. At that moment, this "cliché, becomes self-evident. Comparing myself to someone on a stage with years of experience in an area I know nothing about is not only unfair but straight-up mean. A part of my comparison comes from me wondering, "Would I have the ability, if put in that position, to perform at such a level?" The answer is totally and without question, yes. I excel in the field I work in now, and I know that if I put that same energy towards something else, with practice, I could do just as well. No joy can come from comparing yourself to someone in a completely different field!
2.) Never forget the blessings that have been bestowed upon you.
Every single day, I am blessed to have the opportunity to wake up with all ten fingers and toes and choose to create the kind of life I want to live. There is so much power in that alone, but sometimes it's easy to take it for granted. Let us not forget those who are unable to make that same decision every day of their lives.
3.) Appreciate how far you have come!
I've been very intentional for some time to be kinder and gentler to myself. I need to realize that I am human. Being human means that I will not know everything, and I will continue to make mistakes.But I must let go of the need to always be right. I feel empowered when I can see the growth that I've made, regardless of the mistakes that may come in the future. I don't react to every little thing that bothers me, because I have learned boundaries when it comes to dealing with others and myself. I truly value my time and my energy, and, for that, I am proud.
4.) You Can Be Who You Want To Be
If you can see it in your mind, you can achieve it in reality. I saw myself when I looked at the women on stage, when she smiled, the way she talked, her elegant walk. For a moment, in my self-criticism spiral, I forgot that we are all connected. Debasish Mridha has said "I may not know you, but I don't see any difference between you and me. I see myself in you; we are one." I will not sit in the mentality of lack, there is more than enough opportunity and good fortune to go around for everyone. Her win was not a loss for me, but it can be a nudge from the universe for me to go ahead and dream big!
This Queen Talk was not easy. There may have been some tissues and tears involved but giving myself an honest yet compassionate talk is sometimes what I need to bring myself out of some bad head space. In these moments of doubt, you truly need to be your own best friend.When times get rough, criticism won't always come from outside sources. How you speak about yourself internally is crucial to how you see and feel about yourself. As Beyoncé once sang, "I've got Me, Myself, and I." We must put forth every effort to be there for ourselves. I look forward to more Queen Talks when some negative emotions arise. I am grateful for the person I am today, but I am excited to see the women I become.