Entrepreneurship & Mental Health: What No One Tells You
By Andrena Sawyer
I remember the first time I met him at a friend’s house. He was incredibly smart, charismatic and passionate—all the things I believed it took to own a successful business.
As the night when on, I realized my original assumption was correct. I pulled out my phone and did a quick search of the guy that had caught my interest—not in a romantic way, but in an intriguing “I’m fascinated by you” kind of way. He was the real deal.
According to his digital footprint, he’d been in local and national media, he had thousands of followers on social media, and his business was a real business—systems, staff, and everything. I was impressed. Wary of coming across as odd, or romantically interested, I resolved to secretly follow his business ventures from that day on.
Imagine my shock, when, only a year after our meeting, I came across a press release that he was going out of business. I read the contents of the press release, and I was dumbfounded. It went into great detail about his frustration with the lack of support, the personal financial difficulties he’d had to endure, the debt he went into for the sake of maintaining his business, and the toll all of it had taken on his mental health.
At 32 years old, he was moving back in with his parents and going to figure out his next move. There, in an open letter for the world to read, he bravely committed to doing what many entrepreneurs are never taught to do—take care of self first. He was tired, and he was closing shop and taking some time for himself.
The truth is, it is incumbent on you, as an entrepreneur, to get a hold of your emotions, triggers, and mental health. One of the things that no one tells you is that the stresses of entrepreneurship and seeming failure has led some to suicide and others to avoidable (and unavoidable) depressive breakdowns, especially during the notorious end of the year burnout season.
Entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart, and unfortunately, we live in a generation and culture that glamorizes insta-everything. Many do not consider that it actually takes an average of 15 years for those building their empire to become an overnight success. During that time, it's not uncommon get to a point where you realize that you simply cannot continue to fake it until you make it. In those moments, it is not your business acumen, the number of followers you have, or even your five-star customer ratings that will save you. Salvation becomes dependent on two things: your ability to separate self from your work, and how well you’ve developed your self-management skills. Both are just as instrumental to your success as any other part of your entrepreneurship journey.
During the holiday season, the temptation is always to reflect on the successes and failures of our business, adjust and get right back to work for a successful new year. My hope is that this year is different. Having consulted with hundreds of entrepreneurs, I hope we can begin to see a shift in culture that promotes self-care and encourages entrepreneurs to adjust that process slightly and prioritize self-management. Doing so just might save you and ultimately your business.
Andrena Sawyer is the President of P.E.R.K. Consulting, and the Founder of the Minority Christian Women Entrepreneurs Network. She is also the author of The Misadventures of a New Entrepreneur: 5 Things They Won't Teach You in Business School, The Long Way Home, Ponder It In Her Heart and The Other Side of Assertiveness. Follow her on Twitter or Instagram @Andrena_Sawyer.