As female entrepreneurs, we face unique challenges that come with building and running our own businesses. From managing multiple tasks and deadlines to dealing with isolation and self-doubt, the mental health toll of entrepreneurship is not often discussed. In this blog post, I will be sharing some insights from an honest and vulnerable conversation with my colleague and friend, Shulamit Ber Levtov, about the mental health challenges that many entrepreneurs, including myself, face on a daily basis.
The number of entrepreneurs is ever-increasing, due to the effects of the pandemic, and the great resignation, along with many other trends in the economy and workplace. The marketing hype about entrepreneurship presents it as a desirable lifestyle that hides the struggles many entrepreneurs experience, including the highly successful ones.
One of the aspects of the entrepreneurial journey that is rarely discussed is the feeling of isolation. As entrepreneurs, we often find ourselves navigating the business world alone, without the support and understanding of friends or family who may not fully comprehend the challenges we face. Shulamit and I discussed how this isolation can impact our mental health and the importance of creating recognition and acknowledgment for others who are going through similar experiences.
One of the biggest hurdles in addressing mental health as an entrepreneur is the fear of revealing vulnerability and how it may affect our business relationships. Shulamit Ber Levtov highlights the prevailing belief in society that success is equated with strength and invincibility. In this context, there is often a hesitation to share personal struggles, as it may be perceived as a weakness or a lack of competence. However, as Shulamit emphasizes, sharing our struggles is crucial in changing the discussion around mental health in entrepreneurship and reducing stigma.
By being open about our mental health challenges, we create recognition and acknowledgment for others who may be facing similar issues. This openness can lead to a more supportive and compassionate community where entrepreneurs feel safe to discuss their mental well-being. Moreover, when we share our vulnerabilities, we create a space for others to do the same. This can foster a sense of camaraderie and solidarity among entrepreneurs who may have been silently battling their mental health challenges.
By promoting open conversations, we can break down the barriers that perpetuate the stigma surrounding mental health in entrepreneurship. It's important to remember that addressing mental health does not make us any less capable or successful as entrepreneurs. In fact, acknowledging our struggles and seeking support can be a sign of strength and resilience. By sharing our stories, we not only help ourselves but also inspire and empower others to prioritize their mental well-being.
During our conversation, Shulamit and I talk about executive functions, which involve making decisions about what needs to be done, when to do it, in what order, and how much time to allocate. As entrepreneurs, our lives are filled with countless tasks and responsibilities, and without proper planning and prioritization, everything on our schedule or to-do list can feel equally urgent and important, causing anxiety and overwhelm.
Shulamit and I both have ADHD as do many entrepreneurs and difficulties with our executive functions are one of the defining characteristics of ADHD in both children and adults. In my opinion, challenges with executive functions are one of the primary reasons for mental health struggles among solopreneurs who are not yet at a point in their business where they can hire assistance. Having the right tools that support our executive function struggles are key to avoiding excessive frustration and overwhelm.
One of the tools that both Shulamit and I use and recommend is the Eisenhower Matrix because it can help the busy solopreneur make decisions about where to focus time and attention based on what is truly important, not just what feels urgent.
It's important to note that the term "entrepreneur" used throughout this blog post encompasses anyone who considers their work as a business, regardless of whether they are a self-employed freelancer or have a larger business with a team. The challenges faced by entrepreneurs vary in their degree and frequency, with small businesses experiencing similar struggles to larger ones, just on a different scale.
Shulamit refers to herself as an "accidental entrepreneur" and believes that many women in similar situations have more to unlearn than learn when it comes to running their own businesses. The portrayal of entrepreneurship on social media often misleads us, with marketing on platforms like Instagram and Facebook that don't accurately represent the experience of most female entrepreneurs. Many women are drawn to entrepreneurship because it offers the flexibility that is often lacking in corporate workplaces, and there is a certain prestige associated with being your own boss.
But there is the image of entrepreneurship and then there is the reality. It is all too easy to fall into the trap of toxic productivity and the hustle culture. Shulamit highlights how women, in particular, are conditioned from a young age to believe that they are not enough, leading to a constant drive to prove themselves. This mindset often carries into entrepreneurship, causing women to apply toxic productivity standards to their businesses and constantly feel like they're not doing enough.
Shulamit encourages us to reevaluate our to-do lists and question the urgency and necessity of each task. This is where the Eisenhower Matrix can help. Rescheduling constantly can be demoralizing and perpetuate the idea that we're falling short. Instead, she suggests focusing on the critical aspects of our business and prioritizing what truly matters, not what feels important or urgent. By challenging old stories and assumptions about the need to work hard and long, we can redefine success and create businesses that serve us holistically.
Reflecting on our choices, planning our time effectively, and embracing flexibility are also key factors in maintaining our mental well-being as entrepreneurs. By acknowledging the challenges we face and supporting one another through open and honest conversations, we can break the stigma surrounding mental health in entrepreneurship and create a more compassionate and sustainable business landscape.
If you resonate with any of the topics discussed in this blog post, I encourage you to listen to the full episode of The Driven Woman Entrepreneur Podcast. Feel free to DM me on LinkedIn or IG @coachdiannwingert or send me an email at [email protected]. I'd love to hear your thoughts!
If you'd like to hear the full interview with The Entrepreneur’s Therapist, Shulamit Ber Levtov, you can do that here: https://bit.ly/3QohNlk