Recently, I popped a new logo up on my website. I really love it! And it got me thinking about the three words I’ve chosen to appear below my name: mentor, writer, and advocate.
I have so much to say about each one, but the one I’ve been pondering on in relation to this post is advocate.
I advocate for small businesses. I believe in them. I believe small is beautiful, and that small business has a unique opportunity to make a difference in the world. Don’t believe me? Note the unrest at Etsy about the pending Handmade at Amazon. Big corporates are now fighting over small business. Because they know they can’t replicate it.
So advocating for small businesses is cool, but I realised recently that I advocate for something more specific than that. I’m really an advocate for the emotional, mental and physical health of small businesses. I want to bust open myths of needing to be super productive, super organised, good at everything and otherwise perfect.
I want to encourage and allow you to be all that you are – and know that that is enough.
I want to be a beacon of light, letting you know that you’re not alone.
As a mentor, working one-on-one with talented entrepreneurs and designers and makers and plenty of people who don’t know how to describe themselves, I hear the truth. I don’t always hear all of the truth, because we all struggle with it. But I hear more of the truth then others do.
I hear the stories of struggle. I hear the cash flow challenges, the staff issues, the crises of confidence. I hear about the family health issues and personality clashes that take over working days. I hear the stories of day jobs that are soul-sucking.
I’ve heard so many of these stories that I can tell you everyone has them. No one is walking a smooth road, at least not in every aspect of their lives. That’s not what we’re here to do! We’re here to struggle and learn and get better.
And what I’m interested in at the moment is talking about the struggles.
We don’t openly talk about every struggle we go through, certainly not publicly, and that’s right. But while we’re worrying about coming across as negative, we’re bottling up a whole load of feelings and experiences that are affecting us. The longer we bottle them up, the more likely they are to come out in a big long stream of negativity.
I don’t want to encourage wallowing in negativity – far from it. I know there are plenty of negativity-breeding forums and places on the internet that aren’t productive.
But here’s the thing:
Acknowledging your feelings is productive.
Acknowledging that you’re struggling or worrying or feeling alone is vital. And it usually includes telling someone in order to fully acknowledge it.
It doesn’t have to be your business Facebook page. It doesn’t have to be a lot of people. I recommend that it’s not anyone you don’t trust.
Share your feelings with a person or small group who will:
- see your struggles for what they are
- acknowledge your feelings and sit with you in them
- avoid trying to “fix” the problem immediately
- keep it confidential
- maintain trust with you, now and in the future
I know people, personally and professionally, who have a lot of struggle, but who shy away from sharing it because they don’t want to come across as negative or needy or failures.
And the thing is, they’re robbing themselves of getting the help and support they need. They’re shying away from admitting there’s a problem that needs attention. They’re keeping themselves small.
Women too often get labelled as “dramatic” or “needy” or “whiny” – which isn’t the case at all! And god forbid a man shows feelings that might be construed as weak or not having it all together.
Having feelings is not dramatic or weak. Bottling them up for too long so they come out as a huge long stream of unsolvable problems is unproductive and, in my opinion, unprofessional. When we dismiss feelings, shrug them off, try to pretend there isn’t a problem, we’re letting them take over. Which isn’t a great way to run a business or live a life.
Rather than trying to squash them, share them with people you trust. Rather than try to fix it with wine or chocolate or a bath, write down how you’re feeling. Get curious about what you’re feeling. Get down to the crux of it. Don’t censor yourself while you’re letting it out. Just let it be.
This is the step so many of us skip, for fear of being crazy or dramatic or weak. This is the step that allows us to actually process feelings, so that we can move past them. This is the part that makes us feel alone.
Please allow your feelings.
Please share them.
You know where I am if you don’t have another trusting place to share them.
PS My Small Creative Business Retreat 2016 is now open for booking! Now there’s a place you can be yourself…