• Tish Hawken

It’s Okay to Admit You Are Struggling

As a woman in business, especially if you are successful, it can be incredibly difficult thought to reveal to others that you are struggling with low self-esteem, reduced self-belief or even the symptoms of anxiety or depression due to adverse personal circumstances that have come your way. Keeping up appearances for your peers, colleagues, downline, team, friends and family can be your number one priority for fear of being judged as weak or incompetent.

Acknowledging to yourself, that you are struggling, can also be quite an ordeal. High achievers are renowned for chastising themselves when low mood or negative thoughts take hold.

As a female entrepreneur or corporate career woman, it may be and usually is, vitally important to you that your professional image and reputation is not tarred with what some people can deem as a stigma if you are suffering from mental health difficulties.

The very idea that you may lose business, credibility or even the fear of losing your job due to mental ill-health can be petrifying and crippling. However, times are changing and as more people speak out about their mental health difficulties, especially individuals who are in the public eye, struggling with how you are feeling and how it is affecting you is becoming increasingly acknowledged and less of a taboo subject.

Contrary to what you may believe, encountering emotional or mental health difficulties are very common, especially for female entrepreneurs. According to a study conducted at the University of California in 2017 of 1000 entrepreneurs by Dr Michael Freeman:

  • 49% have or had a mental illness or a history of mental ill health

  • 23% had a family member with mental health difficulties

That means that 72% of entrepreneurs in the study were directly or indirectly affected by mental health conditions.

Dr Freeman said, “people on the energetic, motivated and creative side are both more likely to be entrepreneurial and more likely to have strong emotional states including depression, hopelessness, worthlessness, loss of motivation and suicidal thinking”. Therefore, entrepreneurs seem to have a higher risk of depression than other working individuals. It has also been suggested that women are twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with anxiety whereas men will turn to substance abuse and disruptive behaviours.

I discuss in my book ‘Grit School’ three types of women in business that I have identified exist that deal with negative adverse circumstances in varying ways.

The ‘Bunny’: This type of woman struggles intensely when personal challenge hits. A small personal issue can derail her and stop her and her business in their tracks. She gets scared and scurries back to her ‘burrow’, never to return. She is desperate to make her business work but cannot seem to get the momentum going due to the challenges she faces and the lack of resilience when negativity hits. This lady will struggle to reach any kind of business success.

The ‘Workhorse’: This is the woman who has oodles of grit and resilience, sometimes to her detriment. This lady can power through the negativity, the changes, and the personal challenges, but at the cost of her physical and mental health. She is such a workaholic that she focuses on business, even more, when the going gets tough personally, in order to block it out. Eventually, she ends up in burnout because a) she is not addressing the emotional issues and b) she is working too hard. She cannot see the wood for the trees. There is no balance.

The ‘Lioness’: This woman has got her ducks in a row, she is strong, resilient and focused, as well as being balanced and knows exactly when to pull back and address any personal difficulties. She has a knack for managing her business' needs at the same time. She is organised, forward thinking and kind to herself. Her thoughts are constructive and calm, and she has a steely character that is solid when there is chaos all around.

These are, of course, general avatars that I have created since starting in the female entrepreneurial world and observing the behaviour of women who are experiencing hardship. There will be, of course, many variations.

Most women in business strive to be a ‘lioness’ as she has a work ethic, resilience as well as balance and wisdom. However, I know and understand that this can take time, effort and commitment through my own personal circumstances of having to develop grit and resilience over the years.

The important thing is that individuals learn to develop personal qualities and character traits which will enable them to rank up their ‘grit meter’. Here are 7 qualities that you can develop to help build your resilience:-

A Fierce Mindset: This is probably the foremost quality because our minds manage everything that we do. Learning how to develop positive, constructive thoughts, having balanced perspectives on situations and life is key to developing resilience.

Taking Responsibility:Taking responsibility for our own lives, situations and actions mean that we have matured psychologically, and this can help us to tackle effectively whatever comes our way as we see it as our responsibility to do so. It gives us mental strength.

Courage:Having courage is an amazing quality to develop. Doing the things that scare you, getting out of your comfort zone, facing adversity and pain all develop courage. Going hand in hand with courage is…

Determination:This quality is essential for developing grit; you must be a determined person. Your reason for your success must be very strong, whether you are overcoming personal or business challenges. You must have this quality to win. Without determination, you will slip back into a life that you do not want.

Vision: Having vision means having the mental capacity to be able to visualize, very clearly, what it is you are seeking to manifest in your life. Having a powerful vision for what you want to create is another key element for developing grit. Once you have a powerful vision, determination, and commitment will follow.

Commitment:Being committed means to start something and finish it. This quality means seeing the end goal of what you want to achieve and taking the necessary steps to do so without fail - even if there are setbacks along the way.

Passion:Whatever your business or career, are you passionate about it? Do you have an unstoppable desire to be successful (whatever success means to you)? To have passion is like having a force pulling you towards what you want to achieve, it is a behavioural driver. If you wish to overcome your difficulties so you can continue moving forward in life and business – check where your passion level is.

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