Nine-to-Five vs. entrepreneur life, let’s just say there are pros and cons for each. Most people who are entrepreneurs are pretty familiar with Nine-to-Five life because we’ve lived it – but the reciprocal is rarely true.
One aspect about having a “real job” is that generally the big ticket emotional risks of entrepreneurship are taken care of by someone else whether we realize this or not. The company or concern we work for created a business plan, built their reputation, applied for their license and insurance, designed the logo, selected and/or created the products, set the schedule, leased the building, sourced the equipment, created and now maintains the accounting books. No matter how good or bad a day we have in the office, we sure didn’t have to put all that together. This isn’t to say an employee shouldn’t be valued and compensated well – they should – it’s just that someone who’s used to being an employee is likely not in touch with the emotional labor imbued in all entrepreneurship.
As an entrepreneur we are responsible for everything listed up above (plus paying taxes, building a social media strategy, finding healthcare, sourcing headshots, designing or commissioning our website, enacting and publishing our photography, writing our copy…I could go on!) –
but one of the most emotionally taxing things we do, is we reach out to form networks and relationships.
This is hard work. Harder than most people realize.
Maybe we write a podcast and ask for an interview. Maybe we reach out to a brand and ask for a collaboration. Maybe we ask a Creative to co-host a workshop. Maybe we make contact with a Chamber of Commerce and request to give a presentation.
Every one of these reach-outs, is a chance for a rejection, or for a failure on the part of the other party. And these can hurt.
I have too many failures or busted-ass relationships to list in full, so I’ll just provide one example here.
An unspecified time ago I asked a fellow Creative to join in with me on a live workshop, a simple project that would provide some quality no-cost education to both our follower bases (about ten thousand people in total, across all platforms). I built the slides and shared in IG post, on Facebook, and in IG Stories, and I wrote a preparatory blog post. She did about ten percent of this work – just a bit of social media sharing. Fine. She’s busy, right? (I mean – so am I!) But I was the one who thought of the idea. It’s only fair!
On the day of the event she showed up and we started the workshop in concert. She immediately began having technical troubles – she was having difficulty with the project itself – and instead of staying in the workshop and supporting my livestream, asking questions, helping those who were following and deferring to my professional stream, she abandoned the project and began complaining on her own IG commentstream about how frustrating her week had been.
To this day she’s never acknowledged how her behavior might have affected me, and she’s never apologized. Now that I think about it, she never thanked me for putting the workshop together, either.
Sadly, I have too many stories like that (because even one time, would be enough)! People who didn’t meet their agreement, or let me down on their commitment – and seemingly never gave one thought to my effort, care, professionalism, and hopes or expectations.
People who behave like this rarely apologize or make amends.
They usually make it all about them – they had this disaster, they had this special circumstance, don’t you know! They’re not normally like this! Et cetera – without one word of how their mistakes or failures affect others. And far more than any technical problem, any flaky client interaction, any challenging design project, any equipment or supply snafu – these interactions can set us back, because they are deeply hurtful.
I know what you’re thinking.
“How do I make sure that never happens to me?”
While there is no formula for Never, there are a lot of suggestions I now have, borne of experience – and these are a bit more multifacted than a single blog post can cover. In my WHOLE ENCHILADA course we tackle a whole module on networks and collaborations – and how to save yourself from interactions like these. I’m supremely gifted at instructing on this topic because, sadly, I had too many bad experiences and I simply had to learn how to strategize out of them – either that, or give up entirely.
So I don’t have time for all of that now but I do have one thing to say, if and when you experience these kinds of disappointments:
Do everything, everything possible to prioritize your mental and emotional health when you get hurt.
Sometimes we need to confront the person who hurt us. This isn’t about it being Right or Wrong to confront – this is about our own personal values. We have to ask ourselves if we’ll still respect ourselves if we don’t speak up (with kindness, directness, and a simple focus). This can be a hard question to ask, and harder to answer. So take your time! Give yourself the gift of a thoughtful response.
But often – especially in a networking scenario where we are not close friends and do not have a history of direct and edifying communication – we probably shouldn’t confront the offending party.
It might not be worth it. It probably isn’t.
And if we decide to let it go without reprisal or comment, this decision can leave us sitting in icky feelings. It seems so unfair. They’re the one who let us down. They’re the one who fucked us over. Why do we have to feel bad?
But we do feel bad, and we will for a while.
So my advice is: protect your mental and emotional space.
Protect yourself whatever way works best. This might mean Unfollowing the people who hurt you, or who let you down. If you can’t afford to Unfollow (lest it might hurt you professionally) or you aren’t sure – simply Mute them or place them on the Restricted list. You’ll be glad you did.
You can change your mind later, maybe. You can either let them back in, or let them go in a more permanent way.
But you need time and space to process, because you were hurt. And if you’re a Creative, you probably take that hurt a little more to heart than most.
And that’s okay.
So! Going forward:
Find someone to talk to. This should be a friend who can keep a confidence (in other words, won’t triangulate and/or tell others what you tell them), someone who understands you, and someone who can both listen to you but also gently hold you accountable to your own values and your own high standards.
Take your time. It’s okay to be hurt for a while – even over a “small” sleight. As long as you’re not merely rehearsing the other party’s misdeeds, and you are looking deep within yourself, and you are not retaliating? You’re doing great! Really let yourself feel the pain. It’s okay. I promise, it will change over time – I just can’t promise a specific schedule.
Resist the urge to go looking for those who harmed you, on their socials. Whatever investigative work you think you can accomplish, you will usually come away in pain – again. They hurt you once. Why allow for a second round?
Don’t bother counting who Follows you or who Unfollowed you. I have a friend who tracks each Unfollow with a third party app. I was aghast to hear this. I can’t imagine a single benefit I’d receive to knowing that information. I’m still waiting for someone to supply one.
Focus on your skills, your gifts, and your passions. A whole lot of people are intimidated by you, even jealous. Please trust me when I say: that is their limitation. It has nothing to do with you. It would be lovely if people could be more helpful to the Creative, if people could understand that even the most successful artpreneur needs just as much encouragement as the one just getting started. But most people do not get it. They’re caught up in envy instead of really trying to know who you are – let alone what you need.
Practice gratitude. Gratitude is a practice, a habit. There are many modalities built for every kind of brain and every kind of lifestyle. I can leave you to search for those and adapt them as you see fit. If you’re going to fixate on negative interactions (like our brains compel us to), at least give your mind a fighting chance at staying above water by creating a regular Gratitude practice.
These kinds of misunderstandings and mishaps really hurt. People really hurt us. And I think in a perfect world you’d be able to sort out what happened. You’d be able to tell that person, “Hey – I felt hurt when ______” and they’d meet you back with that loving, language-of-the-giraffe nonviolent communication technique: they would thank you for reaching out, and they’d ask for more information. They would slow down and respond carefully, and you would slow down and read their response in kind. And so on.
But in real life, only about one person in fifty will respond that way.
Most people – no matter how directly you ask, how carefully you broach the subject – will respond by lashing out, or telling fibs – disavowing their behavior or minimizing the pain you experienced. That’s just how things generally go in internet and text communication. It sucks, but that’s reality.
Stay true to your lodestar. You are to be commended for reaching out, and doing your best. Despite what you so often hear, not everyone offers up their best. Sometimes you get them in bad moments. Their bad moment, is not a failure on your part – personal as it may seem, and as much as it really does hurt. Instead of offering up your vulnerability to someone who has already proved they are careless of your feelings, make sure you are getting support from people you trust.
Good luck. It is rough out there!