How To Be A Badass Entrepreneur…Even With Anxiety
Guest Post by Sarah Marandi-Steeves, LCSW, PLLC
If someone told me 5 years ago that I would have a successful and thriving fully booked self-pay therapeutic private practice, a private practice coaching business, a digital course, a blog, a work schedule conducive to my needs, and financial security I would have actually laughed out loud, rolled my eyes, and likely questioned that person’s sanity.
See, 5 years ago I was in a very different place in my life.
I was working long hours and unpaid overtime at an agency where I made little income and left most work days crying in my car because of how stressed out I was. I felt as though I had no time to do anything I needed or wanted to do because by the time I got home from work, I was so exhausted and burnt out and the anxiety I had thinking about what the next day would bring left me feeling emotionally paralyzed. I was not taking care of myself emotionally, spiritually, mentally, or physically and I was really not the most pleasant person to be around because I was stressed out ALL OF THE TIME!
I have suffered from anxiety my entire life and for a really long time, I let my anxiety control me and I let my anxiety dictate my happiness.
It wasn't until a few years ago that I finally decided I NEEDED to make a change in my professional life as my anxiety and stress levels were so high, it was beginning to impact all aspects of my life. That is when I decided to follow my dream of opening up my very own private practice.
You’d think following my dream and making a big change would be super exciting and fun, right? Wrong. Well, actually, it was super exciting and fun, but my anxiety didn’t allow me to truly embrace that.
Instead, my anxiety skyrocketed the moment I put my formal resignation in. All of a sudden every single negative thought I could possibly have popped into my head, such as: “You’re never going to make it”, “You won’t get any clients”, “You are going to fail”, “You are making a mistake”, “You’re not good enough to be on your own”, etc. etc. etc. It also didn’t help that I had people in my life actually saying some of this to me, too. I remember feeling so anxious to the point that I almost went back to my superiors to say “JUST KIDDING, GUYS!!! I’m staying!” but that was my ANXIETY taking the lead.
Those negative thoughts were my ANXIETY trying to control me. That feeling of dread and fear was my ANXIETY trying to keep me from going outside of my comfort zone.
I WAS good enough to start my own practice. I WAS going to get my own clients. I WAS going to make it. I WAS going to succeed. I WAS making the right choice.
So, how did I do it?
I stopped letting my anxiety control me. And no, I didn’t just think to myself, “I don’t want my anxiety to control me anymore” and then magically it went away the next day. That thought did help me start to make changes though.
Here’s the thing, anxiety isn’t all bad. We do have times where we experience good anxiety and anxiety by nature is there to help us stay safe and protected.
The difference between someone who experiences typical anxiety vs. someone who suffers from an anxiety disorder is the ability to turn off the negative intrusive thoughts when they arise.
When you suffer from an anxiety disorder, it’s really hard to find the courage to break through those negative mindsets as your anxious thoughts seem to play over and over in your mind, without an end in sight. Sound familiar? It’s all about learning how to use your anxiety to YOUR advantage. Instead of having it be a barrier, use it as a guide.
Being an entrepreneur is SCARY! Being an entrepreneur who suffers from anxiety is TERRIFYING because you’re always questioning yourself and your decisions! But, it does not have to be limiting and you can absolutely be a successful business owner while simultaneously managing your anxiety symptoms.
Below are my top tools that I use to keep my anxiety in check so I can continue to have a successful business:
I had to do some hard work on myself to get to the place I am at now, which is exactly why I went back to therapy myself when I started my business. (Yes, therapists see therapists, too!) I knew I needed the support of someone who wasn’t a friend or family member to help me manage my fears and worries in a way that was going to help me stay on track and a therapist is the perfect candidate for that task!
Therapists are trained in supporting their clients in identifying triggers and managing their stressors effectively and successfully. Having the support of my therapist as I started my business was incredibly helpful for me as I had someone to process all of my fears and worries with as well as learned valuable tools to manage my specific symptoms.
Embrace Your Anxiety:
I know, this one is a head scratcher, right? The reality is, if you suffer from anxiety then it’s not going to magically go away. It’ll become more manageable but anxiety doesn't just disappear. So, embrace it.
When I stopped having pity parties for myself about the fact that I was always so anxious and just accepted the fact that this is something I am going to need to continue to work on, I was able to shift my negative mindset and use my anxiety to my advantage vs. let it stop me.
For example, every time something made me REALLY anxious, I knew that was the path I needed to take because it was outside of my comfort zone and that feeling of anxiety was my body’s way of telling me that.
I also started to pay attention to my thought patterns and triggers. Remember when I said anxiety can be good? It’s there to help us. So, when something really didn’t feel right and made me feel really uncomfortable and anxious, I dug deeper to evaluate WHY I felt that way and in doing so, learned to trust my gut. This will serve you well in business as you are going to be making a lot of decisions and learning to trust yourself is HUGE when it comes to those decision making skills!
I also shifted my anxiety to excitement. It’s typical to experience anxiety when something is changing and in business, things are consistently in transition. That’s the nature of running any type of business, as no two days will ever be the same and you are going to need to learn to roll with the change and transition. For someone with anxiety, this is honestly really hard to do as we want to control every single thing because control = comfort. So, when I decided to get EXCITED about things vs. worried about them, it helped me shift my mindset to something more positive and more powerful.
Find Your Inner Circle:
Being an entrepreneur can feel isolating at times, which is why it’s so important to establish your inner circle.
Having your inner circle is going to be so helpful for your anxiety because you are going to have an instant support system of like minded individuals who will motivate you, encourage you, support you, and inspire you! We are most like those that we spend the most time around, so choose wisely.
When I first started my business, my inner circle was much of the reason my anxiety was so high. Instead of their faith in me, I felt their doubt. Instead of their encouragement, I felt resentment. Instead of being inspired by them to uplevel myself, I felt as though my dreams were maybe “too big” and started to question my path. All of this was a recipe for increased anxiety. As soon as I made adjustments to my inner circle, my anxiety began to diminish.
We all know the benefits of self-care, but the thing I want to highlight is knowing what type of self-care is best for you. For me, I know I need to have a solid morning routine to keep myself grounded. I also need to ensure I am incorporating workouts in throughout the week as well as ensuring I am getting enough sleep. All of these routines keep my stress levels low and my anxiety in check, which is so important for both myself personally and my business!
If you’re an entrepreneur who suffers from anxiety, know that you are not alone. Anxiety is incredibly common and with the right treatment plan, very manageable.
If I had given into my anxiety and allowed my symptoms to control my thoughts and behaviors, I wouldn’t be writing this blog post today. I wouldn’t have a successful business. I would still be that stressed out girl crying on her way home from work, feeling as though my dreams were out of reach.
Do I still struggle with anxiety? Yes. Do I still have days where I feel overwhelmed? Yes. However, I have learned to make my anxiety work for me and my business. I have learned to use my anxiety to propel my business forward vs. hold me back. And you know what? YOU CAN, TOO! Have faith in yourself, find a plan which works for you, and watch your dreams come true!