It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life and work and lose sight of one’s mental health, especially being a Black entrepreneur in the current climate. This can lead to a variety of different issues including depression, anxiety, relationships that suffer and a massive decline in high performance.
The need for mental health awareness and support among entrepreneurs is becoming an increasingly recognized problem.
It’s no secret that entrepreneurship is tough: We’re constantly making decisions, managing finances, working long hours, providing customer service, supporting employees — the list goes on and on.
All of these stresses can pile up and take a toll on our mental health so I’ve written a list of mistakes entrepreneurs commonly make when it comes to taking care of their mental health so you can be more successful in taking care of yourself.
Mistake #1: Not prioritizing mental health
Growing up, many people are taught that they need to be strong and invincible. Parents and peers often encourage children to not show signs of weakness or talk about mental health issues. Too many children are conditioned to believe that the only way to achieve their dreams is through sheer determination and hustle.
I didn’t prioritize my mental health because in the Black community, seeing a therapist was for crazy folks and white people. For years, I never went and kept all of the thoughts I assumed were “crazy” to myself. I felt if I went to therapy, I would be acting white and pushing away from my Black culture — but that’s just not true.
Therapy is for everyone, not just people who are “insane,” white or rich. We have the power to shift the narrative around Black mental health. People want to hear more from Black leaders and entrepreneurs now more than ever.
Your mental health should be number one on your to-do list. To neglect it is to risk developing long-term issues down the road. It’s important to utilize resources such as counseling or support groups when you need them.
You shouldn’t feel ashamed or embarrassed about seeking help. Chances are you know someone else who has experienced mental health problems and it’s likely they’ve turned to counseling or therapy for support.
Mistake #2: Not practicing self-awareness
Therapy has given me the ability to introspect on a much deeper level. Each session allows me to look at how I view the world and how I see myself. The more time I spend asking myself questions and working with my therapist to understand myself better, the more I’m giving myself space to be conscious of why I make certain choices.
This ability is crucial as a leader because understanding the way you communicate and how you move through the world allows you to be a better leader. If you’re not aware of your actions and words, you can do more harm than good.
At the same time, introspection means being able to examine how other people are interpreting your actions so that you can hone in on how to be a better communicator. The more conscious you are about yourself and the way others see you, the better you can be at everything you do.
For example, if you are walking into a room of people and feeling uncomfortable because you are not sure if they are comfortable with your presence, being able to look inward allows you to understand your discomfort is coming from how you feel in the room rather than realizing that there is something wrong with them.
Mistake #3: Assuming you can do it all alone
Living in a country that has an ongoing Black homicide epidemic takes a huge toll on a Black person’s mental health. Because of the internet, access to videos and photos of police brutality and Black killings are readily available with the click of a button, which is why it’s incredibly important to understand how it’s affecting you and how you can cope.
For a long time, I tried to deal with all of these heavy thoughts alone and lead a company. I felt my mental health slipping fast. I was angry all day and ready to battle it out over the smallest thing.
So I decided to ask for help. I reached out to about 15 therapists (many Black therapists are booked because there is such a high demand for them) and I eventually found someone.
I told my therapist that I needed help processing all of my fears, stresses and traumas. I told them that I always wanted a family of my own but I was scared at just the thought of bringing children into this world because I didn’t know how I would protect them.
My therapist helped me ask myself the right questions so I could essentially build a better mental bridge to deal with the stress and trauma of the past, present and future.
Dispel the myth: Entrepreneurs don’t have to always have it all together
It’s ok to feel the burden of being an entrepreneur on top of the struggle of being a Black person. Generations of amazing Black individuals have overcome countless obstacles for you to be standing where you are today.
Asking for help from a licensed mental health professional is not a weakness. It’s a strength.
You deserve the professional help you need that will allow you to be a better Black entrepreneur, not just for your business — but for your legacy.