When we go into business for ourselves, many of us think that I get to do it how I want, it is mine, I make all the decisions (for all the good and challenging that can be). Until we are in the thick of being an entrepreneur, rarely do we think about whether we are going to be lonely or isolated. If any of those thoughts do circulate in the early phases, we mostly seem to think I'll catch up for a coffee with a friend or I won't get lonely.
Isolation in entrepreneurship is real. It is rarely discussed despite the significant implications it has on our well-being. Perhaps one of the reasons it is rarely discussed is that it may be perceived as being a sign of weakness. Yet, for all who are in business for themselves know that strength, courage, resilience are some of the key attributes of a successful entrepreneur. Being in business for yourself requires great tenacity and determination. Weakness (in all it's negative context) is not typically a word one would equate with entrepreneurship, yet it is cited as a key reason for not discussing isolation.
What is Isolation?
Let's start with what isolation means.
Isolation is to be far away or removed from everyone else.
The word isolated comes from the Latin word insula which actually means island. When you are feeling isolated it can feel like you are on an island all by yourself.
There are a few other words which we need to talk about here as well, due to their close relationships.
Solitude is a state of being alone.
Isolation is a lack of emotional and social connection.
Loneliness is craving social connection.
Working for and by ourselves can lead to a scenario where we do feel isolated. At times it may be necessary to be isolated, for example, working to a deadline or creating a piece of work. However, when it becomes an unwanted experience, then it becomes problematic.
Studies have shown that isolation can have a direct impact on mental health well-being leading to increases in rates of depression, social anxiety and low-self esteem. Humans are wired to connect. It is a part of our make-up. Women perhaps even more so crave emotional connection.
How do we overcome isolation?
There are a few steps we can take to address feelings of isolation. They include:
- Finding a mentor
- Celebrate your achievements
- Find a community
Let's talk about each of these in turn.
There are a couple of types of co-working set-ups. Firstly you can co-work in person. Doing this you might find a co-work space where you hire a desk for an hour or a day or regularly each week. These spaces are many and varied each with different set-ups and resources. One of the similarities is that there will be people who are in business for themselves, whether it be in start-up, longer term established or freelancing. Working in this sort of space provides you with the opportunity to have those "water-cooler" conversations - those informal chats which may or may not be specifically related to your work, however, the simple interaction may spark ideas to explore or tangents to contemplate. Additionally, you may find that there are other people who have skills that may complement your own and vice versa. The possibility of collaboration may arise.
The second way of co-working is online. Some mastermind groups have a co-working component. Other communities may run their own co-working session. Here at WE-Being we regularly run weCoWork sessions through our own Community.
Finding a Mentor
When you read biographies or autobiographies of successful business owners and entrepreneurs, one of the frequently mentioned themes is the importance of finding a mentor. The majority cite the value that mentors add to their own businesses, as even the most successful business owner is not an expert in every aspect of running a business.
Finding a mentor who has "been there done that and bought the t-shirt" is an important step in building your business. A mentor ideally will help and guide you. You are also likely to be inspired and motivated by them. Regular conversations and accountability sessions with your mentor will help reduce isolation.
A mentor will help you while you grow and build your business whilst helping you with any overwhelm you may be experiencing. Through their experience, they will have learnt strategies and techniques to address similar issues. Simply bouncing ideas around with a trusted person will have a significant impact on your feelings of isolation and will most likely leave you feeling excited and re-invigorated to do the work you do.
Celebrate Your Achievements
Often, we are caught in an endless cycle of ticking off things on the to do list. That list never seems to get shorter - the more we learn, the more we want to achieve and the bigger the business becomes the more there is to do. The dreaded list becomes the business version of "The Never Ending Story". Sometimes in the checking off the to do list we forget to give ourselves a well deserved pat on the back for doing and achieving the things we have.
A technique which we employ inside WE-Being is to reflect on our achievements. This can be as simple as noting what we achieved during the week. Regularly we look back on the month and quarter that we have finished and celebrate what we have achieved. It is in this giving ourselves gold stars that we give credit and recognition for all that we do.
Often we look to external sources for that validation and sadly, it is not always as forthcoming or present as we would like it to be. So by taking a moment to review and perhaps even write what we have achieved we are recognising our efforts, our achievements. We need to congratulate ourselves on navigating tricky situations and achieving our goals.
Take a moment to savour the sweetness of the moment in realising that you have put in the work to make your goal real. The mere act of slowing down to reflect can also be enough to disrupt the mental chatter that drives us to keep going, when in fact we need to slow down and reflect.
Find a Community
In social media land, there is a lot of talk about "finding your tribe". And for good reason! Finding a community of like minded and hearted people can be invaluable for many reasons. By connecting with others, we are reducing our feelings of isolation. We can be geographically isolated, however with the myriad of options and choices we can connect with others at any time of the day or night.
There is truth in the saying that a problem shared is a problem halved. In finding a tribe, it is imperative that they be able to commiserate with us, call us out on the little white lies we tell ourselves and who will also celebrate with us. Singing our praises and sharing our joys are as important as understanding and guiding us through our challenges.
Where do you find your community? This is very tricky to answer as it will be different for each of us and for the way we prefer to connect and the options and limitations of our situations. There are many groups on Facebook - some with huge memberships, others with a smaller more intimate feel. There are masterminds and circles - both of which can be found online and offline. Sometimes, your tribe will be random people you connect with via social media. Here at WE-Being we have our own growing community. Join us to find others to connect with and ease your sense of isolation.