The face of entrepreneurship wears a mask. Entrepreneurial culture idealizes “living the dream”, and assumes the notion of creating a billion-dollar business empire as standard. Questionable, considering the challenges that startup founders and small business owners face.
Chasing the entrepreneurial dream, together with the relentless pursuit of happiness can spark an emotional rollercoaster for impressionable startup founders. What’s worse, is that the glamorous myth of entrepreneurship implies there’s no place for vulnerabilities — entrepreneurs are always in control, continually smashing goals in a super-productive, eternally optimistic way. And, a myth is exactly what it is. It’s a far cry from reality.
Even if entrepreneurs experience explosive growth, there’s likely to be overwhelming stress, soul-searching, and sacrifices to be made.
Success stories splashed across the media are motivational, but they can also trigger a “compare and despair” complex. High profile figures may seem like overnight success stories, however, at closer inspection they’ve been tested to their limits, or suffered unyielding anxiety.
Research shows that entrepreneurs are at greater risk of mental health issues than general populations. In a study of 242 entrepreneurs by Dr. Michael Freeman at the University of California San Francisco, 49% reported having one or more lifetime mental health issues.
The overwhelming fear of failure
Stress seems like an inevitable state of being for the entrepreneur due to financial pressures, lengthy hours, and accountability to partners and investors. It’s when stress leads to anxiety that it can become difficult to function effectively. Frustrations, setbacks, and failures are commonplace in business, and contrary to the organizational structures of large businesses, there’s no buffer to protect the small guys from a tumble. And, as the company grows, there’s more at stake, and setbacks can really hit hard. When consumed with worry, entrepreneurs can eventually crack under the pressure of keeping up appearances.
Reluctant to admit their struggles to close friends or family, entrepreneurs may feel compelled to paint a rosy picture — but behind the scenes lies the stark reality. Under the veil of positivity, charm, energy, and motivation lies the truth of entrepreneurship — huge pressure and responsibility, highs and lows, and undermined mental health.
Every entrepreneur faces difficulties that may seem beyond repair or inescapable. We never really know what people are going through unless they choose to speak about their troubles, or there are devastating consequences like suicide.
Austen Heinz, CEO of Cambrian Genomics took his own life in 2015. Jody Sherman, one of three Las Vegas entrepreneurs associated with the Downtown tech project took his own life in 2013. And others are starting to speak out about their mental health problems which have sometimes led to suicidal thoughts. The list of startup founders who have recounted their mental health issues is growing. But regrettably, not everyone goes from darkness to light.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention report that each year 44,193 Americans die by suicide, and the rate of suicide is highest in middle age. There is no complete count for suicide attempts and many of these go unreported and untreated.
The high standards expected of US start-ups driven by entrepreneurial culture can trigger immense feelings of inadequacy — personally and professionally. If the business takes a dive, the lines can blur between professional success and personal values. The entrepreneur may feel they’ve nothing left to offer society. And the tendency to compare themselves to others can make their own achievements seem miserable in contrast.
At Oasis Counseling Today, we realize that overwhelm, stress and anxiety are highly-relatable experiences for the modern entrepreneur. It’s critical for today’s entrepreneurs to realize their personal value is not based on how their business is performing.
Anxiety and wider mental health needs exposure, rather than pretending they’re not relevant. This way, individuals won’t feel like their issues are unusual or something to be ashamed of. Encouragement and support is called for — to help those who struggle to begin their journey towards better mental health.
Contact us today, if you would like to find out more about our services on 702.294.0433 (locations throughout Southern Nevada). http://oasiscounselingtoday.com