Entrepreneurship Can Be Lonely

8 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, passion and confidence. However, that doesn't mean entrepreneurs aren't susceptible to feelings of self-doubt as they struggle 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 successful 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.

5 Ways to prevent entrepreneurship loneliness

Success doesn't happen overnight; it favors the prepared. You have to be comfortable being uncomfortable. You will take a risk on people, decisions and opportunities. So how do you prepare for being an entrepreneur?

1. Appreciate what you have

The realization that loneliness is inevitable and that feeling lonely again will creep in at some point is enough to help you push through tough times. Knowing that you occasionally feel lonely at the top will help you prepare to deal with emotional fluctuations.

With this realization, you can read the signs of loneliness and seek help to avoid being overwhelmed. You may also consider spending extra time doing what pleases you as you try to ease the emotional tension.

While the hard work of a business may not always yield the expected results, acknowledging the positives amid the tension can be a great way to deal with the feelings of loneliness. Even when things seem to be working against your expectations, there is always something special about your business.

Instead of focusing on what's not working, consider putting extra effort into what seems to be working. This gives you every reason to hold on to your investment while also attempting to fix what doesn't seem to be correct.

2. Occasionally take a break

While taking care of all your business deals on your own can take a toll on you, you must ensure that you get enough time to relax and unwind. As an entrepreneur, you are an investment that only you yourself must protect. You protect yourself by caring for your mind, body and soul while continuously investing in yourself. You may ask yourself, how do I invest in myself?

You have many long hours to study your craft and become an expert in what you do. Deconstruct your skill so that you would be able to teach it to a novice. Continuously learn and allow your mind to explore ideas, but prepare your mind for what may come.

Finding time to relax will help reduce stress and curb burnout. You will not only feel re-energized but will also combat loneliness and take your business and work life to the next level.

Getting time off your work schedule is a perfect way to combat loneliness. Occasionally, get out of your office and do something different. You can spend time with your friends and family members or even participate in your hobbies.

While entrepreneurs may dedicate so much time to activities that foster business growth, relaxing and spending quality time with family or friends should be top priorities. In addition to sharing your challenges during those times, you can take your mind off business and focus on other equally important matters that count towards combating entrepreneurial loneliness.

3. Mingle with like-minded people

It would help if you had someone who understands what the loneliness entrepreneur and entrepreneurship life entails. Hence, it would help if you established connections with people who can bail you out in your time of need. People who can offer you emotional support whenever you feel lonely. While fellow entrepreneurs can offer this support, family and close friends also play an integral role in helping you deal with loneliness.

Whenever you feel overwhelmed, open up to another person or someone you can trust, which can help ease the loneliness. You can also enroll in entrepreneur organizations or co-work and expand your network. There exist many entrepreneur organizations whose aim is to offer opportunities and check on the welfare of entrepreneurs.

You can identify and connect with a group with the same passion and interests. The organizations or groups help you remain ambitious and grow your new business, but will also help you handle emotional strain whenever you need support.

It is crucial to associate with people who will help you assess your situation and offer appropriate solutions to help you prevent emotional breakdown. Entrepreneurship groups can provide encouragement and support while holding you accountable. Many entrepreneurs have benefited from these relationships and found success in different areas of their business.

4. Monitor your general health

Your physical and mental health should always be a priority. With physical exercises, you get closer to overcoming loneliness. In addition to helping you maintain physical health, exercising keeps your mind alert, making it easier to handle your day-to-day activities.

Most importantly, get enough rest and quality sleep. This helps you relax and get ready for another day's activities. If you feel overwhelmed, you may want to consult a mental health expert for tips on overcoming stress. Always feel free to share your challenges with someone you can trust.

While being an entrepreneur has its share of rewards, loneliness can interfere with work life balance and your schedule and adversely affect you and your business. If you want to enjoy being an entrepreneur, interact with your employees and people with similar interests. Feel free to share your challenges and seek help whenever you feel alone or overwhelmed. If you do, loneliness will become manageable.

5. Find 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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Chris Yeh

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