Entrepreneurship is really tough. It wears on us physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. It’s tough on our significant others, our friends, and our families. Often times, while we’re building, we have no lives outside of work.
70% of entrepreneurs suffer from mental health related realities, like ADHD, depression and anxiety. Most entrepreneurs have brains that are perpetually active, extremely creative, and hungry for more.
I recently sat down with my friend Lizelle Van Vuuren to talk about mental health for entrepreneurs; a topic that is far from foreign to her.
Let’s start by sharing that she is truly a modern entrepreneur. Most notably, she founded Women Who Startup in 2013, Undock in 2020, has had a number of smaller projects along the way, and is currently the Chief Growth Officer at OwnTrail.
Lizelle shared with me that she has experienced a great deal of childhood trauma.
“Most humans have trauma throughout their lives. I’m an immigrant. I’m gay. These experiences made me who I am. They certainly gave me layers of resilience, too.
So when someone says to me “It’s really difficult to build a company, right?” I usually respond, “For me, no. It’s the most amazing thing I’ve ever done, and about the easiest thing I’ve faced in my whole life. There are things I’ve overcome in my life that were terrifying and lonely. And I’ve survived all of them. So for me to have the privilege to build companies with cool people, to share myself with the world, to be inventive and build technology that connects and provides value… it’s about the easiest, most magical thing I’ve ever done in my life.
The darkest moments I’ve had were actually the moments in between companies. It wasn’t when I was building, when my mind had something to gnaw on every day with the amazing people I was meeting along the way.
What if I didn’t have it? Would I just sit around and build puzzles all day and play with legos? NO! I have the capacity to be wildly creative, extraordinarily inventive, and solve really hard problems in the world. Entrepreneurship is a gift.
So, let’s call mental health the “other side” or the “downside” of entrepreneurship. There has to be a balance. If you’re in the right support communities, you can absolutely use entrepreneurship as a vehicle to navigate your mental health.
While this is a tricky and sensitive topic, we invite you to join the conversation. Is there someone in your life who should watch this episode? Please share this founder story with them.
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If you pin all your hopes on reaching the top of that mountain, your path up there will feel endlessly long and painful, and anything other than summiting will feel like failure. After countless trials and tribulations, I learned that starting a company isn't about getting to the top of the mountain—it's about becoming the kind of person who climbs mountains, no matter how steep they are.