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Two Harsh Truths of Entrepreneurship

Two Harsh Truths of Entrepreneurship

In July of 2020, my co-founder Fairuz Ahmed and I started a nonprofit organization called The Parasol Cooperative with a vision to protect life through technology and accelerate the work of domestic violence organizations. Since incorporating in July 2020, the entire team has made significant progress in establishing partnerships, co-creating and testing our prototypes, and enabling critical services for DV organizations. For which I am extremely grateful, especially for the work to be highlighted in Forbes and by UN Women.

So why then do I wake up with crippling fear? Why can’t I sleep without my anxiety and thoughts getting the best of me? Every. Day.

Turns out, I am not alone. Research has found many entrepreneurs face these struggles, which can lead to depression, among other mental health issues. These two issues are the most prevalent.

[Related: Building the Mindset to Thrive in the New Normal]

1) Fear of failing, but not the way you think.

Our brains are hardwired to remember failures. Since the startup boom, we hear and see quotes about how we should “embrace failure” or “fail fast,” all of which, while great in sentiment, make the anxiety worse. As if we are doing something wrong if we don’t accept failure.

Most entrepreneurs HATE failure. I do, too. But not for the reasons you might think.

Many entrepreneurs wake up in the morning with a crippling fear that we will mess something up for the organization and all the hard work from people will have been for nothing. It’s letting the team down. It’s letting the family down. That’s the failure that’s unacceptable.

However, after I mentioned this fear to a fellow entrepreneur, I was reminded by my ten-year-old son who overheard the conversation:

Mommy, you know you can mess up right? I will still love you.

Something I have said to him millions of times.

We teach our kids that failure is okay. That messing up doesn’t mean we love or respect someone any less. When we are vulnerable with our family, friends, and co-workers about messing up, it creates an environment of trust and facilitates a better learning environment. Yet, so many of us don’t show these insecurities over the chance of being perceived as weak.

It’s our strength and it’s time to embrace that.

Admittedly, this fear of letting people down or “failing” motivates us to work harder and put in longer hours, leading to the next harsh truth.

[Related: Why We Need to Let Go of Gatekeeping and Perfectionism During Lockdown]

2) Sleep deprivation.

Studies have shown that stress can adversely affect sleep quality and duration. On the same accord, insufficient sleep can increase stress levels. Well, shoot!

The anxiety from #1, along with the laundry list of activities still pending, cause the brain to go into overdrive. I can say with certainty that it’s true for most business owners and women. COVID-19 has exasperated the situation.

We have forgotten how to take breaks. There are days when we barely remember to eat lunch. Boundaries for work and home are blurred right now.

Many of us have come to rely on melatonin and meditation. They help, but we constantly feel we need to do more. Resulting in a cycle of criticism when we don’t do more. Sigh.

Set boundaries for work and home. Take frequent breaks. Get off your device and do something you enjoy, like reading. I have suggested these tips to so many people, but they are easier recommended than implemented.

So, for now all we can do is acknowledge that there is a finite amount of time in the day and learn to accept:

I am one person. I must breathe and be kinder to myself.

[Related: Why Leadership Training is Critical to Helping Women Achieve Their Potential]


Meghana Shah is the Founder and CEO of The Parasol Cooperative, a speaker, a mentor, and a mother. She loves creating and fixing things that help improve life, whether at home or at work. You can read more articles from her on her Medium page.

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