What This Entrepreneur's Emotional Journey Can Teach You About Growth and Success
Sometimes moving forward means acknowledging and healing from the past. Here's how you can regain control of your personal and professional success.
I wish that I could start this article by sharing that everything is perfect in my life, but of course it's not. What makes it a little harder is that I also work in the field of personal development. Every week, I'm helping my clients through their troubles and challenges, but at the same time, I'm still very much a work in progress.
But I write this excited because as long as we're committed to growth, dedicated to becoming better humans and improved entrepreneurs, we can make a deeper impact — deeper in the sense that the more we're willing to untangle the hurt, pain, suffering, confusion and heartache, the more we can serve. Why? Because we understand others at a deeper level.
Misery is defined as "a state or feeling of great distress or discomfort of mind or body," and my journey with this began when I was 13 years old. The entrepreneur in me didn't fully emerge until the event that caused my body to shut down and protect itself.
"I can safely say this is where the entrepreneur was born in me"
I was finishing up a game of rugby with the popular kids and walking into the shower; I brushed past the team captain who proceeded to shout "he touched me" at the top of his voice, at which point around 30 other boys put their backs to the walls and called me gay.
Every day at school from the age of 13 to 16, I had to watch my back to keep from being verbally abused or physically assaulted. So what did I do? I isolated myself in the computer room and created a fanzine called Megabyte, which focused on reviewing games for the Commodore Amiga computer. As the memories flash back, I can safely say this is where the entrepreneur was born in me.
I later learned that because I normalized the bullying at school, and because my body was always in fight or flight mode, I didn't have a "normal" framework to compare my experiences to. So, in my adult life, everyone became a threat, and I became hyper judgemental of people and, of course, sought validation everywhere. I started addiction patterns to soothe myself, but in essence, I've been walking around in the world looking through a lens of fear and seeing many people as unsafe to approach.
"We can change, but we have to be willing to look at our past to identify the events that caused the initial pain"
Money and my unhealthy definition of success became a big addiction for me because it's how I sought connection and love. The bigger house, sports cars and material life became a focus when I went through emotional challenges like breakups and anything that triggered those events from my past.
One thing that I know to be true from working with many entrepreneurs is that there are two main areas that block transformation and the ability to live happily again. The first is being unaware of what is causing the internal misery. We act a certain way and have unhealthy behaviors, but we allow them to continue because we don't think they will change. This is a lie. We can change, but we have to be willing to look at our past to identify the events that caused the initial pain. The second is being aware of what caused the suffering, but not being willing to do the work.
By "the work," I mean opening up to someone and being willing to "go there." We need to talk, express real, raw emotion, and have someone help us become aware of the life we can have versus the life we are experiencing. This is pivotal because it creates a space for us to change and make different decisions. Sometimes that takes going through quite a process and feeling again. This is what happened to me; my nervous system was "stuck" in the past until I visited a school where I hadn't experienced bullying.
"One of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves as entrepreneurs is sharing our true selves with others"
My misery came from being numb, from not even knowing how to feel my body and my emotions, and as a result, I put a protective shield around myself that I didn't know even existed. This allowed some people into my life, but many who were toxic and didn't want to know me for me, but only for what I had. My "stay the f*ck away" from me energy was not my fault, but it has been my responsibility to examine and overcome.
One of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves as entrepreneurs, especially if we've been through significant hurt in our lives, is sharing our true selves with others: the smiling, laughing version that isn't in our head, but is connected to our body. The vulnerable, open, honest, soulful entrepreneur is within all of us. We just have to be willing to connect with it and then embody that over time and, sometimes, with a little help.
Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor