The Unspoken Truth About Entrepreneurship and Depression
No word in the English language has quite the sex appeal as the word “entrepreneur.” It rolls off the tongue like honey and everyone wants a bite of its sweetness. As a society, we correlate the word entrepreneur with freedom in every sense of the word – financial, physical, mental, and emotional. We look to people like Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos with equal amounts of envy, lust, and admiration, for they are the embodiments of true entrepreneurship. They ARE The American Dream.
But with the responsibility of independent wealth and freedom can come the dark underbelly of depression, anxiety, and mental impotence; feelings of inadequacy, shortcomings, and even fraud.
In the light of day, a CEO sits in grandeur at his desk – a king upon his throne, waiving his ball point pen at his employees as though conducting a symphony that he alone controls. Or perhaps it’s the woman at the coffee shop, tapping rapidly at her keyboard – double-latte-extra-foam-no-sugar fueling her thoughts as she manages her online business, acutely unaware of the clatter drumming around her. Then again, it could be the single parent that works remotely from home, doing freelance work in between diaper changes or soccer practices.
Entrepreneurs are everywhere; in all walks of life and with varying degrees of responsibilities. But the one thing they all have in common is self-reliance. One does not accept the life of entrepreneurship without also accepting that failure is on his shoulders and his shoulders alone.
Being an entrepreneur is isolating.
Being an entrepreneur is scary.
Being an entrepreneur is experiencing the highest of highest and the lowest of lows.
Being an entrepreneur is sleepless nights, looking up at the ceiling, wondering if you are chasing a pipe dream and will there be casualties along the way?
But more than anything, being an entrepreneur means not showing any of this and that’s what this article is about – eradicating the stigma that a boss or a CEO or an owner of a company has it all and thus has to be happy that he or she has it all.
Most entrepreneurs – especially those starting out – don’t sleep. They barely eat. They worry about their company and their employees and their families. They worry about their clients and if they have made their lives better or worse. They worry about emails and bills and debt and scaling their businesses. Most importantly, they worry that you KNOW they are worried and that’s when the depression and anxiety kick in. How can you possibly heal when you have the weight of the world on your shoulders but everyone thinks you have the world in the palm of your hand?
Depression and anxiety don’t give a shit about your skin color or how much money you have or how powerful you are. In its most feral of forms, depression is the response to not feeling adequate enough and nobody understands that feeling quite like an entrepreneur.
What’s my point in all of this? It’s normal to have crippling fear. It’s normal to feel alone and like nobody will understand. This life we have chosen – this life of entrepreneurship, of making something bigger and better than ourselves – is isolating and consequential and dubious. And it’s okay if some mornings you wake up with stones in your stomach or butterflies in your chest because nobody ever said it would be easy.
They just said it would be worth it.