It has become a well documented fact that Entrepreneurs are more likely to suffer from poor mental health. It is one of the reasons that myself and my co-founder Lizzy Hodcroft decided to focus in on founders for the initial MVP launch of Myndr.
There are a variety of reasons why I think this happens: We’re risk takers who will go to extremes to get our ideas off the ground. We suffer burnout from doing too much. We tend to be quite isolated a lot of the time. We also have a lot of financial pressures on our shoulders. All of these things can lead to lonliness, stress, low mood, anxiety etc.
I experience all of these myself and its something we are working towards solving as we develop Myndr further.
Something we also hear a lot about is body confidence. This is something that affects a lot of people; particularly women. But we don’t often talk about body confidence as Entrepreneurs, or how our body affects how we run and grow a business. I often find that when I’m running a business, my body confidence tends to suffer a lot more.
Right now in fact, I can honestly say that I have never hated my body more.
As Entrepreneurs we have to constantly put ourselves out there to grow our business. Whether its meeting new clients, attending networking events, travelling or even putting your face on the front cover of your local Newspaper; we have to be seen. I remember one day a few years ago walking into a women’s business event being held at a hotel. I didn’t often get dressed up, but made the effort by buying a dress and heels. I remember walking in and seeing these fabulous looking women gliding confidently around the room. I felt tiny (I’m 5’3 but I felt more like 4ft in that room), dumpy and highly unfashionable compared to them. I was about 30 years old but looked about 12… and I felt it in that moment. I left that room feeling like my body confidence and self esteem dropped about 90%. I even doubted my abilities as an Entrepreneur because they looked… well… better than I did.
So as Entrepreneurs looking to conquer the world, what happens when you are struggling mentally with your own body. I also don’t just mean this in terms of weight. Bodies are complex machines which don’t always act or behave in the way we want them. What if your body just isn’t working the way you want it to. What if your body makes you feel so sad that it causes you to want to hide away, rather than be out sharing how fantastic your business is.
I know first hand that not all bodies can be changed in the way we wish to change them.
Two years ago I was diagnosed with a condition called Endometriosis. Its a condition where the lining of the uterus — the Endometrium- begins to grow on other organs. Every month the endometrium is shed during a period. This extra tissue growth behaves the same way, only it has no where to go. This causes inflammation, scarring and adhesions to form. In my case, the majority of growth has been around my bowel, abdomen wall and kidneys. During surgery, it was found that my large bowel had fused together and attached itself to the lining of my abdomen. My ureter had then attached itself to my bowel. The adhesions had to be removed and any endometriosis which was still present was lasered off.
I was so poorly with this condition that my doctors initially thought I had Crohn’s Disease until they operated. I’ve now had 3 surgeries in two years. There is no cure for Endometriosis. Hormone based therapy can slow it down, but isn’t always effective.
About 18 months ago I began to notice that my weight was going up rapidly without much change in my diet. I was told by my GP that this was common for women with Endometriosis and Polycystic Ovaries (the other condition I have). The hormone treatment I was on to try and suppress the Endo was probably not helping too.
I tried my best to stick at diets and exercise, but was always disheartened by how slow it was at coming off. Sometimes I would get .5lb loss in a month and then 3lbs on in a few days for no clear reason. Plus the more it went up, the less motivated I felt. Within a year I’d gone up three dress sizes.
I’m currently at the highest weight I’ve ever been in my life. As a result, I struggle with walking, particularly up hills or stairs. I get out of breath and my ankles and knees ache. I need to loose close to 4 stone to get back to an ideal weight. I feel embarrassed and ashamed at how I look now. I can’t bare to see photographs of myself or to look too long in the mirror. Even looking back at old photos makes me feel uncomfortable. I just can’t believe how much I’ve gained in such a short space of time.
My confidence in my body is at an all time low. Not just with my weight, but with how it also behaves. I have some level of pain every day, which leaves me feeling fatigued and run down. Every 28 days I have a menstrual cycle which brings crippling pelvic cramping, heavy blood loss, nausea, headaches and an upset stomach. The pain has been described to me as similar to the early stages of labour.
I live with anxiety about my period and the symptoms it brings. I get nervous of travelling or going out in the evenings and don’t want to be too far from home. I have scars from surgeries, stretch marks from rapid weight gain, dry patches of skin from hormone changes and eczema around my eyes. I live every day not knowing if this body will allow me to have children.
Now as an Entrepreneur, I have to push this body out into the public. I have to travel and meet people. I have to go far from home sometimes. I have to have my photo taken and be seen by strangers who don’t know me or why I am the way I am. And yes I care about that, even though I know I shouldn’t. It’s even worse for me to see people I do know. Old clients or friends who saw me not so long ago looking smaller and healthy. I stand there talking to them and I feel like I need to say ‘by the way, I’m this big because…’.
So, my body confidence is zilch.
But I don’t want it to be.
I know that going forward that I can change my weight. But I also have to learn that I can also change how I see my condition and accept the things I cannot control.
So what am I going to do?
Myndr is an app we’re building based on the graded exposure or hierarchy therapy. Its about achieving small steps in order to get to a bigger goal. So this is how I’m going to beat my body confidence issues.
On Monday I have my first gym induction (GP referred) and I’m attending my local Slimming World class. I’m also going to be running a hierarchy system through Myndr, documenting and discussing the things I’m doing via video and workshops. I’ve found some fantastic experts who are going to teach me some new things, like callisthenics and mace swinging. I’ll be sharing their advice and video workshops via Myndr for other Entrepreneurs to learn from. For anyone who would like to join me on this journey, I will also open a private slack group so that we can actively support each other. Again, it doesn’t have to be about losing weight. It could be about gaining weight, or coming to terms with a physical condition, or even changing a mental attitude about your body.
If you want to get involved, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org