It is difficult to imagine that entrepreneurship takes a psychological toll on those practising it because the majority mostly especially the media focuses on showing only the luxurious and exciting lifestyles of high-profile, successful entrepreneurs.
However, those entrepreneurs are a very small percentage. Most successful entrepreneurs don’t have private jets or islands. Most don’t rub shoulders with diplomats or well-known celebrities. Most of us entrepreneurs live well, but not extravagantly by any means.
That is not to say these wealthy entrepreneurs have it made. Just like all entrepreneurs, achieving goals and maintaining success is quite challenging and can come with a psychological price. This is the nature of our chosen path.
Sure, idolization of the Richard Bransons and Jeff Bezoses of the world still exists. But that idolization may not be so attractive when the true cost of entrepreneurship is revealed. Depression and anxiety are often lurking in the shadows for us entrepreneurs. Not all experience it, but I believe that many of us have moments when mental health becomes a concern.
Research doctor Michael A. Freeman from the University of California San Francisco found disheartening results after studying the psychological price of entrepreneurship in 2015. The objective of the study was, “To investigate the prevalence and characteristics of mental health conditions among entrepreneurs and their first-degree family members.”
Dr Freeman and co-authors of the study uncovered that mental health was a concern for 72% of the participating entrepreneurs. It was concluded that “The findings of this study are important because they suggest an underlying relationship between entrepreneurship and many of the affective, cognitive, and behavioural differences associated with mental health conditions.”
Why is such a large percentage of entrepreneurs concerned or experiencing mental health issues? To understand this better, let’s look at some common entrepreneurship obstacles that may be factored in the psychological price.
Entrepreneurs are often alone — by choice.
Being an entrepreneur is in many ways pretty lonely. Sure, you have friends, family and your team with you for the ride, but being transparent about the state of your business endeavour is left on your shoulders. For instance, entrepreneurs often need to put up a front in order to keep the confidence of investors, the team energized and family and friends unworried.
This can create a pretty lonely space for entrepreneurs. Since your front is up, you bear the brunt of all worries and anxiety alone. This is, of course, unhealthy and can contribute to the psychological price of entrepreneurship. I recommend finding a mentor because you can turn to them and have a sounding board for issues you may not want to share with others.
Failure is part of the entrepreneurial process.
Let’s dive a bit deeper into the topic of failure as an entrepreneur. Failure is indeed part of the process, and the sooner you accept that, the easier it gets. But even though failure is part of the entrepreneurial process, it is difficult to reframe and shed your fear of failure.