The sad, honest truth behind running your own business – lessons from a novice

I came into this freelance, consultancy life on the back of redundancy with a buoyant drive and passion for helping other entrepreneurs build a wonderful business and culture around them for the benefit of all their employees and customers. Sounds great, doesn’t it? And it is.

Yet, what I didn’t realise was that working for myself would turn into the hardest thing I have ever done.

I’m a glass-half-full, social, smiley, optimistic person most days, yet I recently hit a hard frickin’ brick wall of self-doubt, fear of success, fear of failure and lack of belief in what I do. I naively thought that being of a positive nature meant I didn’t need to actively care for my own well-being. I was resilient, determined, optimistic and did yoga every morning … so that would repell the ups and downs of running my own business <cue eye-ball rolling and head shaking in disbelief>.

I’m not even sure where the low, negative feelings began. I don’t think it was a defining moment it was all things compounding which crept up on me in waves. Some days feeling almost ok. Others feeling lost and adrift. A rollercoaster I’d describe it as. Even with family and friends around me I felt alone. Sinking alone. Feeling like I should be able to cope, should be ‘happy me’, should be able to hold things together. Should, should, should…

The final straw for me happened recently when my teenage son kindly cleaned my car and topped up the windscreen washer fluid … in my oil tank. And my precious car died on the motorway. Tears. Anger. Stress. Frustration. Guilt. Worry. Boom!  All the pent-up emotions came flooding out as I sobbed on the roadside in the pouring rain.

But did it really need to come to a crisis point for the message to get through to me? No.

Were the signs there for me to spot? Yes.

Did I do anything about it? Not really.

Why? Because I didn’t recognise how important I am. I placed my value and my focus on being busy, on my business, on my clients. I was avoiding managing my own wellbeing because my ‘positive disposition’ meant I was immune to feeling low and I’d cope like I always had. Sounds crazy and really damn stupid when I write this considering I centre my own business services around happiness, purpose, value and well-being.

But my business will only ever be successful and have a positive impact on others lives if I place as much focus and value on myself as I do on my business and clients. In fact, I’ve come to realise they are one and the same thing. I am my business. So I am of immense value. And I deserve to take time to be and feel well. To realise my burning ambition of helping others create amazing places to work I am allowed to help me too!

So, Dear One, please stop for a moment and think about and recognise how important YOU are. Before the waves crash in on your world, recognise what makes you happy and what drags you down. Being self-aware (and I mean truly self-aware) of your triggers and what’s going on for you means you can put the right kind of self-care measures in place. Define what you need and want to do that will help you care for yourself every day.

Thanks to my dear friend, Bee, I’ve now created a personal toolkit. I’ve listed all the things that will help me on a daily basis as well as when I behave in certain ways (e.g. procrastinate, withdraw) or feel certain emotions (e.g. lacklustre, doubt, fear). My toolkit includes everything from exercise, journaling, meditation and tapping to Bach remedies, nourishing foods, ‘feel-good’ activities and people whom I’ll turn to for fun and support. I can pick and choose depending on what I feel I need or want.

Don’t wait for the crisis point as I did. Don’t keep the mask of ‘I’m doing fine’ on your face. Make yourself a priority. Every one of us deserves to have a life well-lived. Be good and kind to yourself now and every day from now on.

With love, Jo

First posted on LinkedIn