By Tiffany Alexandria Ingle
I'll never forget the words my midwife spoke when I was struggling to bring my second child into the world.
"There's no place to run. The only place you can go is through it."
After 10 hours of a relatively easy natural labor, my birth team became concerned after they noticed my son's heart rate was decelerating after my contractions. They offered to rupture the amniotic sac in the hope that my labor would progress faster and that my baby would come out before he suffered any complications. Exhausted and scared out of my mind, I gave my permission and held onto my husband's hand for support.
The intensity of the pain as I passed into the transition phase of labor was unlike anything I had ever experienced and there was nothing I could do to stop it.
I was trapped.
In order to end the pain and to birth the baby I had been longing to see for so long, I had to complete this miraculous yet terrifying part of my journey.
Birthing a Business
Building a business is a whole lot like birthing a baby. The emotional roller coaster, the all-encompassing changes, and the uncertainty are an unavoidable part of the process.
Entrepreneurs love to talk about the thrill of watching the baby grow, but it is less common to discuss the painful side of birthing a business. This pain is known as entrepreneurial depression, an issue that affects industry titans, freelancers, small business owners, and solopreneurs alike.
A Steep Price to Pay
Men and women entrepreneurs are both vulnerable to depression, but powerful women tend to exhibit more signs of depression than women with less demanding work roles in comparison to powerful men.
A primary cause of depression in entrepreneurs is their high expectations. Entrepreneurs tend to be extremely driven and high achieving individuals. The constant pursuit of bigger and better accomplishments at a breakneck pace can result in feelings of inadequacy.
Paying attention to competitors is a necessary part of running a successful business, but it is often a trap for negative emotional experiences among founders.No one builds a thriving business without going through the startup phase, which is one of the most challenging stages in the life cycle of a business. In the words of my midwife, "there's no place to run" from the experiences that define it. However, it is possible to get through it without succumbing to the gut-wrenching lows.
A Cultural Shift
1) Open up
No one can help you if you don't speak up about what you're going through. Building a business is difficult because it's hard to separate between your professional and personal lives when you work for yourself. The emotions you are feeling may be common, but they don't have to be your normal.
Share with your spouse, a good friend, or a mentor. Join virtual and brick-and-mortar communities for entrepreneurs so you can expand your circle of support. Allow others to help shoulder your burdens and to inspire you to keep pushing through.
2) Set boundaries
The beauty of being an entrepreneur is you alone are responsible for your work-life balance. Learn when to say no to clients and others so you can say yes to yourself and to the things that preserve the peace of your home.
Consider your rest, diet, and workouts as necessary as your operating procedures. Treat time alone or with family and friends with the same importance as you would a client meeting. You don't have to sacrifice yourself in order to achieve your goals.
3) Celebrate your victories
It's easy to remain so focused on your future goals that you ignore all the wins you've had on the journey. Make it a habit to reflect on every step that has brought you to where you are in your business and in your life. Be proud of how you have persevered.
4) Embrace failures as learning experiences
Anyone who has ever succeeded has failed numerous times along the way. Falling short exposes what needs to be changed for the next time. Entrepreneurs can identify so strongly with the health of their businesses that setbacks seem like a character flaw.
Remind yourself that growth is the result of trial and error. Don't beat yourself up for needing to figure out how to get to the next level. It's helpful to take a break from social media while you are healing so that you don't make the mistake of judging your progress by what can be a false representation of another person's business journey.
5) Seek Professional Help
Depression is a serious mental health issue that has varying degrees of severity. Some individuals may need stronger forms of support than others to manage it. Consult with a licensed therapist and your primary care physician to discover what your options are for recovery.
In my own experience with depression, regular talk therapy has been sufficient in helping me cope. For others who may be dealing with clinical depression, medical treatments may be necessary. There is no shame in reaching out to others when you've fallen into a pit. Don't hesitate to get help.
In the years that have passed since giving birth to my baby boy, I have meditated on those sage words from my midwife while navigating the challenges of building my own business. I've held on through tears, frustration, and feelings of isolation with the knowledge that I am creating success with each step I take even if some of my goals have yet to see fruition.
What are some of the affirmations and words of encouragement that you turn to when dealing with the growing pains of business ownership? I'd love to hear from you in the comments. Let's encourage each other as we continue on this path of entrepreneurship and parenthood.
Tiffany Ingle is a freelance content marketing strategist, writer, and owner of Taingled Web. She writes compelling stories for brands that desire to hook hearts and open wallets with the beauty of the written word. She'd love to connect with you on Facebook, Twitter, or Linkedin to talk shop or shoot the breeze.