Jul 01, 2019

Is the Social Media Hustle Hurting Entrepreneurs’ Mental Health?

All you need to start your own business and achieve financial freedom is a computer and an internet connection.

At least that’s what a new generation of entrepreneurs wants you to believe. It doesn’t take much searching to find them—just look up #hustle or #entrepreneur on any social media platform. Between inspirational quotes pasted over stock photos and selfies in front of vacation backdrops, these entrepreneurship gurus often push their picture-perfect lifestyles just as hard as the products they sell. Unfortunately, pictures don’t always reflect reality.

The Truth about Entrepreneurship and Failure

According to a recent study from Proof Factor, 31% of entrepreneurs secretly worry they’ll go out of business. In other words, there are about 10 million entrepreneurs out there who feel they’re on the verge of failing. So why are we bombarded with nothing but success stories?

The entrepreneurship community is great at pushing the positive but falls short when it comes to being vulnerable and opening up about failure. One business owner in the Proof Factor survey admitted to hiding the truth from friends and family. “I’d rather take on debt than have to admit that we went under,” the anonymous source explained. Another confided, “my friends all thought I was some kind of 28-year-old entrepreneur genius. They didn’t know I was panicking every time I looked at my ATM receipt.” 

Entrepreneurs Suffer from Greater Levels of Mental Illness

This dissonance in the entrepreneurship community—between what’s portrayed externally and what’s felt internally—contributes to feelings of isolation and shame, ultimately harming entrepreneurs’ mental health. “I’ve been getting heart palpitations thinking about going out of business,” another business owner told Proof Factor. Some even stated that they regretted starting their business in the first place.

The link between mental health problems and entrepreneurship is proven and needs to be addressed. Roughly 1/3 of entrepreneurs admit to feeling anxiety, according to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, and about half report feeling stressed. Even more concerning, another study showed that mental health issues impact over 70% of entrepreneurs. Research done by the University of San Francisco’s Michael A. Freeman shows that startup founders are:

  • 2 times more likely to experience depression
  • 6 times more likely to experience ADHD
  • 3 times more likely to experience substance abuse
  • 10 times more likely to experience bipolar disorder
  • 2 times more likely to experience psychiatric hospitalization
  • 2 times more likely to experience suicidal thoughts

Social media might be making these problems worse. A study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania shows that limiting social media use reduces depression and loneliness. Studies have also shown that interacting with “Instagram model” type accounts makes us feel worse about our bodies, so it makes sense that interacting with Instagram entrepreneurs who project an image of perfection might make us feel worse about our entrepreneurial pursuits.

Common Reasons for Stress and Anxiety among Business Owners

Even small obstacles can appear daunting when you feel you’re the only person facing them. Luckily for business owners who are struggling, Proof Factor’s survey makes it clear that you’re not alone—1 out of every 3 entrepreneurs feel the same.

In the Proof Factor survey, business owners shared their biggest worries, which included:

  • Being replaced by technology
  • A lack of demand for the product sold
  • A lack of paying customers
  • Increasing wages and stagnant profit
  • Declining disposable income in the middle class

Increasing competition is certainly a concern as well, considering the ease with which people can start their own businesses on the internet and social media.

As a business owner, you can empower yourself and other business owners to face these obstacles by being more honest about the reality of running a business and admitting vulnerability. If entrepreneurs share their struggles with others and seek support, roadblocks will feel less like a failure and more like an opportunity to improve.

It’s also important to make your mental health a priority. Avoid entrepreneur burnout by taking care of your mind and body. Make sure you’re sleeping enough, exercising regularly, eating well, staying hydrated, and taking time to rest and spend time with loved ones. If your mental health is declining, seek the help of a counselor.

Taking time for yourself and opening up to others about your struggles when it feels like your business is failing is scary. However, by not protecting your mental health, you’re putting your business in jeopardy. Your well-being is the greatest investment you can make in the future of your business.

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About the author

Elizabeth Aldrich
Elizabeth is a freelance writer covering personal finance, business, and travel. Her writing has appeared in The Motley Fool, Business Insider, Yahoo! Finance, LendingTree, Student Loan Hero, FOX Business, and more.

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