Getting Personal – When You are the Business.
Yesterday was weird and confronting in a way that I never thought I would share with you all but after what has happened today I changed my mind. So, here’s what happened.
After having tried and failed at the ‘team’ approach to consulting (I wasn’t emotionally ready or capable of being a manager when I tried it last year) this year has been a more solo affair. A state of affairs that I have found most satisfying until recently. I didn’t have to tell anyone what I was doing, delegate, pay anyone else or worry about how other people would be judging the way I did things and that made me happy until yesterday. Having spent much of this year working on my mental health and trying to figure out why I always spin my wheels at a million miles an hour, take on too much and then fall in a heap – usually covered in cold sores and with a sinus headache – before recovering just long enough to do it all again I had finally Hit.The.Wall. That happened yesterday.
Yesterday if you were the one consulting client that I started and finished a formula fix for in record time making a brilliant job of it (if I do say so myself) you would have thought me awesome. The most amazing chemist since God created chemicals to do chemistry with. A whizz, a guru. But I didn’t feel like that. Yes I managed to answer a few e-mails, solve a few problems, trial a new cleaning formula that I’d made, clean the house, pick up the kids, take kids on a play date, answer the phone once or twice and read the news but that didn’t matter because what I didn’t do was address a problem that I had made.
My brain froze late last week and continued to be partially frozen on Monday when I missed a phone appointment with a client. I knew that there was something that I had to do but the part of my brain that acts in a professional way has long since departed and left a fluffy puppy in its place. I was fast becoming the ‘head in the sand’ queen which is a situation that I’ve never found myself in before and I didn’t like it one bit. It isn’t like I’ve never missed an appointment before, I have forgotten things, let people down, had to change deadlines and have barked up the wrong tree completely and had to eat humble pie but yesterday was different. My brain was waving the white flag and I knew that if I didn’t act NOW tomorrow could get ugly. I was melting down.
Melt down, exhaustion or burn-out whatever you want to call it are common for people who think like me. My research has shown me that I am a Hyper S/ Hyper P stress responder which means that I find it hard to relax and sit still, am often anxious, work fast, multitask and generally spin like a top until I crash. I have been on red-alert for meltdown central since my book launch last year and have been working towards easing my load ever since. That load easing and the subsequent life re-adjustments that have been made have paid dividends and kept me bobbing along with reasonable stability but the part of my mind that keeps me safe never quite gave up nagging me that there was more work still to do. My problem was that I didn’t really know what that work looked like until now.
So, the ‘missing a meeting’ catalyst of yesterday paired with some time to confront the emotions that lay behind that brought me here, to an answer and that’s why I thought I’d share this story.
My answer is easy to say but hard to do. I have realised that my stress response and adrenaline are kicking in all over the place and often for no reason at all. I tend to see each new situation as a battle for which I must prepare to fight or flight. This isn’t rational, I know that but it isn’t like I have any choice right now over how my brain is responding. It is a learned and re-enforced behaviour that I have to cut the oxygen from while I re-learn a healthier way to respond. That required cognitive behavioural therapy, time, patience and emotional vigilance on my part.
So, why share this with you?
Well, as a small business owner that works with many other small business owners I feel that it is important that we are honest with each other. I am not happy or proud of the fact that I let a real fair-paying customer down yesterday (and to be honest, I have let that customer down before too) and neither am I happy with myself for not having been the girl that I thought I was – diligent, hard-working, honest, trust worthy etc. To that customer yesterday and the time before I was crappy, unreliable, sloppy and disorganised.
The last thing that I wanted to share with you was this, before sharing this with you today I took the time to compose a frank and honest personal response to my customer. I admitted that I am suffering with my mental health at the moment (just writing that scares me as it sounds so…….mental) and am at times exhausted, unreliable and having problems in kick-starting my frozen brain. I explained that much of the time the telephone scares me as I never know what someone is going to want from me and that freaks me out – my brain is all out of rational thoughts and needs the time afforded by e-mail to compose its self and string something of value together. Stand-up consulting is NOT something I can entertain for now. I made my sincere apologies and gave my customer permission to walk away with no more to pay as I didn’t feel that I’d held up my side of the bargain.
I share this with you because when you are the business, everything is personal and while your customers don’t necessarily want to buy into all that (just give me my formula and I’ll be on my way) sometimes crossing that line and being honest is what will save you.
My customer has since thanked me for my e-mail and has offered me understanding, time and space. Most importantly they have agreed to stick by me and continue with the project which I feel is a lovely thing to do.
I am grateful for the events of yesterday and this morning as for me it was the kick-up-the-backside that I needed to realise what needs addressing – I couldn’t ‘see’ it clearly before and that is the last reason why I am sharing.
As a business owner I think it only right that remember to never let our fear decide our fate whether that be by ignoring our bills and financial commitments, our health, our customers requests, our staff or our families. I have been guilty of ticking all of those boxes but bit by bit, step by step I am learning how to do it better and I have my business to thank for that.
I’ve also realised that it isn’t the money, the creative freedom or the control that makes running your own business worthwhile, it is what you learn about yourself and for that I am truly grateful.
I have also realised that even your ‘dream job’ can turn into a nightmare if you aren’t prepared to address the problems that lie within yourself. That has been the hardest part and that is also the name of one of my favourite songs. Enjoy.
Thank you and good luck.