Entrepreneurship Can Be Lonely

Mindfulness & Wellbeing5 min read
The Mental Obstacles of Being an Entrepreneur

Entrepreneurship has a complicated relationship with mental health. Entrepreneurs often enjoy a greater sense of personal fulfillment and find meaning in their work more easily than other people do. Entrepreneurial ventures can also be catalysts for personal growth, as they allow one to develop skills that might never be used at a typical job.

However, there is a darker side to entrepreneurship that has traditionally been overlooked. Throughout the past decade or so, multiple studies have discovered alarming links between entrepreneurship and mental illness that highlight the importance of balancing work and personal wellbeing. Research from UC Berkeley found that 72% of entrepreneurs experience symptoms of at least one mental illness—and nearly 20% show signs of three or more.

Improving mental health awareness is one of the best steps that can be taken to reduce the disproportionate impact of mental illness among entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs face a very different set of obstacles than most people do, which makes it especially important to talk about these obstacles and how to overcome them in a healthy way. Following are a few of the most common problems that contribute to mental illness in entrepreneurs as well as some ways to avoid or manage them.

Social Isolation

Starting your own venture can be extremely rewarding, but it can also be extremely lonely. Entrepreneurs are especially vulnerable to the effects of social isolation due to their unorthodox career path. They often experience a great deal of loneliness stemming from a lack of typical workplace social interactions, especially early in the process when they are most likely working alone or with a very small team. 

While the harmful effects of loneliness may not be immediately obvious, studies have found that social isolation can increase a person’s risk of mortality by as much as 32%.

Inadequate Support

Another frequent cause of loneliness in entrepreneurs is a lack of support from the non-entrepreneurs in their lives. There are about 528 million entrepreneurs in the world, which is just under 7% of the global population. This makes it difficult for most people to relate to entrepreneurs.

To combat feelings of social isolation, entrepreneurs should make an extra effort to support one another. As an entrepreneur, it’s natural to want to present yourself as someone who knows what they’re doing. You want to show stakeholders and potential investors that you have what it takes to succeed, not broadcast your weaknesses. But by maintaining that false confidence all the time, entrepreneurs can inadvertently contribute to one another’s loneliness. By saving the bravado for investors and getting vulnerable with other entrepreneurs you trust, you can help both yourself and your peers feel less isolated.

Financial Stress

Being an entrepreneur is stressful. That’s just a part of the lifestyle. While this fact is well-known to most people, it’s easy to underestimate just how stressful entrepreneurship can be. 90% of startups fail, and that statistic alone keeps many entrepreneurs up at night.

One of the most significant stressors that threatens entrepreneurs is financial insecurity. Nearly a third of all startups fail simply because they ran out of money. Most people expect a rocky start when they decide to go all-in on a startup venture, but in truth, that tumultuous “start” can last for years—70% of failed startups fail between years two and five, which is a long enough period of financial uncertainty to strain anyone’s nerves. 

To manage the heightened financial burden of entrepreneurship, it's important for self-employed individuals to understand what they’re getting themselves into. If you put every penny you have into your startup, you’re accepting a 90% risk of losing everything. Guiding a startup to success is stressful as it is—you don’t need the threat of total financial ruin hanging over your head as well. Putting a little money aside as a safety net or maintaining a side-hustle to make ends meet before your startup becomes profitable doesn’t indicate a lack of dedication. It’s simply being smart and prioritizing your health first.

Self-doubt

Succeeding as an entrepreneur requires a great deal of self-motivation and confidence. However, that doesn’t mean entrepreneurs aren’t susceptible to feelings of self-doubt as well. Many entrepreneurs are naturally inclined to continually strive for greater heights of success—that’s one of the characteristics that create entrepreneurs in the first place. But with that ambition often comes a fear of failure.

One of the best ways to soothe the fear of failure is to seek out other entrepreneurs who can provide perspective. Self-doubt only progresses to self-sabotage once you let it influence your actions and decisions. Relevant outside perspectives can act as the voice of reason during periods of self-doubt and protect your decision making from its influence.

Finding a mentor

A great way to access perspectives from other entrepreneurs is by finding a mentor who can offer guidance during periods of self-doubt. Mentorcam can help you connect with industry leaders in small business growth who can offer valuable insights and answer your questions when you’re unsure of your next move. 

If you are experiencing any of the typical mental obstacles of entrepreneurship, consider reaching out to a small business mentor today. There is no easy “cure” for any mental health issue, but developing a support network of mentors and peers can help you manage your personal wellbeing in a statistically lonely career path.

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