At the best of times running a small business has plenty of ups and downs.
But in the last few years of the pandemic, wars, environmental and weather disasters have taken that next level for many.
I’ve been self-employed and a business owner for 18 years. I have enjoyed both incredible success and happiness and crushing defeat and angst.
The reality of small business self-employment
Upfront, it needs stating that all that glitters isn’t always gold. Whom we think are thriving may not be. And vice versa.
The reality is small business and the self-employed can have more ups and downs than a roller coaster at Luna Park. It’s not all great freedom, huge dollars, beers and skittles.
Financial pressures can swing the culinary gates from lobster and fine champagne to baked beans and cheap white wine. It can be a feast, maintenance or famine lifestyle.
Self-doubt, mental health, physical stresses and loneliness are well documented in small business. Feeling that we are always on top of our game is a tightrope we grapple with as expected and unexpected pressures present.
The pressure to be seen to be smashing it with influence, popularity and success on social media is gruelling.
Brené Brown the world’s leading researcher on vulnerability and emotions shares:
“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change” and “Vulnerability is not a weakness but a myth which is profoundly dangerous.“
Denying vulnerability truly harms humans and businesses. There is an obvious demarcation between positivity and denial, and the swing is fluid.
Hope is a far more practical and empowering perspective often than fairy tale positivity.
Suffocating without air
There can also be an extra layer of family, financial demands and time pressures. Feelings of inadequacy can sabotage success and happiness.
Concealing feelings is like suffocating without any air.
There is a long line between the adage of ‘fake it till you make it’ and honest vulnerability. Butterflies in the stomach before a TV interview or nervousness before presenting at a conference is not the same space.
It sits in the ‘practice makes perfect’ and ‘I am always learning’ seat. That is a positive place compared to shame which is damaging and erodes.
Responding to the challenges
The roller coaster impacts both men and women equally but responding to the challenges differ.
Men may struggle with asking for help due to embarrassment, preferring to sort things out themselves.
Women can ramp up self-loathing and self-doubt manifesting in a fear to market themselves.
How to cope with the rollercoaster ride of small business and self-employment
- Ditch the ‘so busy’ mantra. It is not only a boring statement but can turn away prospects.
- Sharing your truth and vulnerability with others is half the battle to survive. It allows solutions and input and a camaraderie that you are not alone. Ask for help.
- Change and ramp up marketing and communication messaging. Go as bold as you want. Be brave.
- Hold your power in your business’s size and focus on marketing your value, not the gloss of ‘big is better’.
- Get support in understanding new technologies or tools that baffle you. Everyone has different learning styles and time frames of absorption.
- Don’t buy into the ostensible successes of others on social media. People hide their truth at frightening levels.
- Be mindful that “reality statements are not value-judgements“.
We are all human beings navigating our way through businesses and life. There is no shame in not having all the answers, not always smashing and being vulnerable.
In a world where communication builds trust, genuine self-awareness through sharing and vulnerability can be a real business superpower cushioning the rollercoaster landings.
This article was first published on sibling website Inside Small Business.