Entrepreneur guilt: what is it and how can I overcome it?
The guilts. We all get them at some level, don’t we? Entrepreneur guilt is especially commom among business owners, and while it’s nice to know we’re not alone (and we are so not alone), it’s not so helpful, right? Guilt makes us feel like crap. It makes us feel not worthy. You get it.
All is not lost, my friend. In this article, I will be discussing three areas in business that make many of us feel guilty and how to overcome them. By the end, you can use my tools and tips to let go of entrepreneur guilt and become a better business owner/mum/dad/partner/human in general.
So what are the differen types of entrepreneur guilt, and how can I overcome them?
1. Not spending enough time on your business
It’s a tricky one, isn’t it? If you don’t work, you don’t get paid (especially in the early days). You naturally want to spend time on your business, plus it gives you a massive sense of purpose and, for some people, you can get addicted to the high it gives you. I know I can get caught up in new plans/projects and time can disappear in an instant.
There are times, however, when you are unable to work on your business. That could be due to public holidays, sickness, family events or child commitments. Perhaps it could be a technical issue and you simply have no mobile signal. The guilt sets in. I should be spending more time on the business, because of X, Y, or Z… You can come up with stacks of reasons why you ‘should’. You can even make up some amazing stories in your head about what could happen if you didn’t do X, Y or Z. You really do have quite the imagination, don’t you?
So, what are the solutions?
1. The first step is to recognise that you have the entrepreneur guilt. Pushing those feelings back can do more harm than good. Take a step back and recognise that you are human and it’s ok to have feelings like this.
2. Understand that, no matter how much time you spend on your biz, there will be some feelings of guilt. You may feel you’re spending too much time on it or, alternatively, too little time. If you are searching for balance between work and home, then perhaps you’re putting too much pressure on yourself. Maybe work/life integration is a better solution. The black and white of work time and home time isn’t feasible in your situation. It’s like trying to put a square peg in a round hole! Be flexible in your approach to times. Take notice of what you’ve been doing and move on from there.
3. Organise your time more effectively. Use a diary to allocate time to family events and avoid work things at those times. Tell your clients that you are not available – be clear on your boundaries. If you don’t do this, it could lead to frustration and resentfulness elsewhere in your life.
2. Not seeing your friends enough/relationship issues
Let’s be honest here. You think that your friends and family don’t ‘understand’ what you are going through when you have your own business. You are probably right on some level. Working for yourself is vastly different to getting a regular weekly pay with sick/annual leave pay. Yet they don’t know this and nor can they (unless they do it themselves).
What is a remedy for this?
1. Firstly, let go of trying to justify yourself to your friends. Instead, be honest and open to the people around you. Tell them that you are building your ‘baby’ (business) up and that you will make time for them. And do exactly that!
2. Again, use your diary and stick to engagements when you can. Don’t overextend yourself and be clear on what you can and can’t do. Your friends (if they are real friends) will always be there for you and will understand.
3. Lastly, have the ‘conversation’ with your partner or loved ones about why you are doing what you are doing. This shouldn’t be a convincing chat, more of a ‘we are a team and, right now, I need you to bat with me’. They will stick with you if you’re open and honest. Do as you say you will when it comes to time with them.
3. Mum Guilt
Now this one, I find, is a biggie! If you are a mum in business, you will know that this one can cut deep. We are still so close to past generations where possibly our mums, grandmas and great grandmothers didn’t work and looked after the home and kids. We are still carrying around beliefs that this is the way things should be done. Some of our subconscious beliefs go directly against what we are doing – running/owning a business.
So, how do we solve this? Firstly, I don’t think we will entirely remove mum guilt from our psyche. We are human and it’s an emotion. All emotions are there for a reason, right?
I suggest you give these tips a go to alleviate the entrepreneur guilt meets mum guilt:
1. As in the previous section, notice that you even feel this way. Running and hiding from feelings are sometimes just as bad as focusing solely on them. I recommend taking a step back from yourself and ask yourself the question ‘What do I gain from feeling guilty?’ Take a moment and really ‘listen’ to the answer.
You could get the reply of ‘nothing!’ In that case, notice your feelings and recognise that it doesn’t matter how much or how little you do, you could still feel guilty. Move through it and accept that is what you do. Don’t dwell on it. But keep reading, as often the answer you ‘hear’ isn’t always the one that is true.
You could get the reply of ‘well it just makes me feel worse’. So, self-flagellation is what you want? You want to feel bad? You want to be the ‘martyr’, perhaps. Maybe the victim? What do you gain from that? Attention? From whom? Yourself?
Yes, there could be other replies. As a coach, though, I have seen these patterns for years with my clients. That brings me to my next point. Overall, it all comes down to one thing…
2. Your self-care practices. What are you doing for you everyday or each week? Are you even doing anything? The mum guilts are worse when you are not looking after yourself. If you can’t remember the last time you did something for you, it’s possible that it’s been too long. So start with the basics:
- Are you drinking enough water? I am not going to use this article to teach you the benefits of drinking enough water daily – so trust me. Just do it. You will feel better!
- Are you breathing enough? Yes, this is a basic one and, in fact, oxygen is more important than water. Remember that from biology class at school? Whilst reading this, are you barely breathing? I will guess that you are breathing shallow, especially if you are sitting down. You need to completely fill your lungs daily – it’s imperative to your health. So, either learn some yogic breathing or exercise and get breathless!
- Are you moving daily? Again, basics. Just go for a walk – no-one really feels terrible after a walk. Enjoy the fresh air, look at nature and take time for you.
- As you start to do these things more regularly (or even before this), start writing a list of the things that ‘fill your cup’. When your cup is full and the sh*t hits the fan, you will find it doesn’t sting as much. The same goes for mum guilts. Some ideas for your ‘cup’ could be: listening and dancing to music, reading, getting a massage or just a coffee in a cafe with no kids!
This list is by no means exhaustive and I could go on for a few days about how important our self-care routines are!
I hope this has been helpful! I would also love to hear your ideas on what you do when you feel the dreaded entrepreneur guilt! Comment below to share.
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Emma P. is a best selling author, accountability coach and mentor to mums in business. Emma helps women realise their self-care comes first and that, without looking after you first, you can’t look after others to your full potential.