You Are Not Alone: On Self Care & Being An Entrepreneur
I used to think self care was hard. Impossible even. That was until I started working for myself, started my career as a freelancers/entrepreneur/small business owner/whatever the name of the day is. Then I started to think that it was another ball game completely. Before we go any further, I want to just make sure we're on the right page here. In this post, I'm not going to be guilt tripping you about how you should be investing in yourself, and how clients can't trust you if you're not investing in yourself first. I'm not going to be telling you that you're The Worst Entrepreneur Ever if you're struggling with self care (and haven't showered in three days). And I'm certainly not going to be telling you to take a fucking bubble bath.
So breathe your sigh of relief and know you're not alone in this.
Not by a very very long shot. We're in this together, you and me. What I hope happens by the time you've finished reading this two part series , is that you feel less alone, that you have a few practical tools you can use to start to slow down those spinning plates and that you can start to quit giving yourself such a hard time.
Back when I had a steady 9-5 job, I struggled to look after myself and prioritise myself. I found it hard to switch off, I was taking so much emotional shit home from work and nothing filled my cup. There was no joy, there was no relaxing. Instead there were to-do lists, giving out my time like it was going out of fashion, and putting everyone's needs before my own.
So I started working some of that shit out, and started blogging about self care, burnout and saying no. And I started to enjoy life. I started to notice the little things again. I started to explore what makes me ridiculously happy (a good book, notebook shopping, laughing until my belly aches, long walks in the park) and I started to feel like myself.
And it felt really good.
And then things changed. I left my job, I found myself working as a self employed freelance graphic designer, started doing more work to build That Hummingbird Life into a business (in progress) and started a The Couragemakers Podcast
And life is very different.
While sometimes I catch myself feeling so grateful that Dolly Parton's 9-5 doesn't ring true, I've noticed that I'm getting caught up in so much shitty negativity. I've noticed that I'm not been very good boss to myself, that I work myself too hard, that I've gone back to putting everyone else's needs in front of my own, and that I still don't have the most realistic expectations of myself.
And I know I'm not alone in this.
So many of us start working for ourselves because we want the freedom, the ability to make our own decisions and we feel that working for ourselves will allow us to contribute to the world so much more than we were before.
But for recovering Type As like me, it can be a complete and utter shit show for a while. Because while we like our lists (especially in fun notebooks), and our plans, and our schedules and our ambition, we also have huge expectations of ourselves (that we would never dream of putting onto someone else), perfectionist tendencies and we struggle to have any kind of resemblance of work-life balance.
We work until we're ill, we get ill and we don't tell our clients (if we have them) because we don't want to let them down and we get worse, more cranky and more stressed, and life becomes hell.
We continuously beat ourselves up for not being able to achieve everything we set out to do in one day, completely ignoring the fact that the list probably wasn't achievable in the first place.
We start to look around us and start to believe that we're the only ones struggling because everyone has these beautiful photos of their office, everyone seems to be making more money than us and everyone seems to have their shit together. (Spoiler alert, they definitely do not).
We start thinking that we have to work every minute of every day, we start to get cranky with our loved ones because they just don't understand and we have a never ending to do list running circles in our brains like a Rick Astley song.
And this ends up in a horrible, horrible cycle.
A cycle of pushing ourselves too hard, reaching exhaustion, feeling guilty and continuing to push ourselves even though we don't feel like we physically can.
And it's nothing like that idea we had in our head. The idea of being in a mode of endless creativity, joy and freedom. Taking breaks and being liberated from our desks.
And that makes us feel even worse. And like we've failed.
No, I'm not reading your brain, I'm just in the trenches with you. This is some really hard shit to deal with. And you are not alone.
In becoming your own boss, you no longer have a job. Whether you're a creative, a freelancer, or small business owner, you have to run the whole show. Even if you do outsource, you have to oversee everything and make sure everything's happening. And if you don't outsource and it's not a possibility for you right now (raising my hand high in the air), you have to become an expert at administrative tasks, marketing, social media, product development, client management, project management and about a million other things.
That's huge fucking responsibility. Especially when for the most part you have no one checking to make sure you've done everything and it's completely up to you. You're essentially juggling so many plates that it might be worth trying out for Cirque du Soleil.
Yet not many people get how hard you have to work.
They don't realise how much pressure you're under and how much you have to do.
So before I share some practical things in the next post, I want to talk real, person to person. Because I have a feeling you need to hear this today.
You are not on your own. Even though you might feel like you're drowning, you're not. You are working as hard as you can. Everything you want to achieve is possible, but the journey might be slightly different than you imagined. You have so many skills and you're doing a killer job at combining them. You are really really appreciated, even if you don't feel it right now. Your work matters. But more importantly, you matter. And because you matter, something has to give. You have everything inside you that you need to put your vision into the world. And you need to extend your compassion that you have for the world and for your clients to yourself. Because there's only one of you. And that makes you a pretty fucking precious human being. A human worth loving and taking care of.
So for part one, I want you to read that reminder as many times as you need to. And really take it in. Because you're doing great. And you deserve some compassion.
Even though it might feel like it, none of us have our shit together. So let's let our shit hang out together.
I look forward to seeing you in Part Two next week, where I'm going to be sharing LOTS of practical tips, things for you to try out and things that have helped me.
I'd love to know if this post resonated with you. Let me know in the comments and let's start getting some of this out in the open!