There’s so much less stigma than there was around this subject than even just 10 years ago. It’s important to look after your mental health.

It’s true there’s a long way to go. We are getting better and there are so many more resources out there and that’s great.

A reason I went freelance was because I believed it would be mentally healthier. My job was high pressure. Truthfully, it has been one of the single best decisions I’ve ever made.

But, it’s not without it’s own pitfalls.

Mental Health written in scrabble tiles

Starting your own business, going freelance or simply branching out can blindside you in unexpected ways.

  • Imposter Syndrome

  • Perfectionism

  • Unpleasant feedback

  • Self Doubt

  • Stress

  • Anxiety

The great news is that these are all things you can overcome. The bad news is that you should be prepared to do the work. These examples are my own and the improvements have been based on my own experience. I’m not a medical professional – I just know what works for me and wanted to share that with you.

Imposter Syndrome – a mental health nightmare

Woman wearing comical glasses and moustache

This one is a right bastard.

It creeps up on you when everything is going swimmingly. I find it’s at it’s worst when I spend too much time coveting other peoples business success or lifestyles.

So, first things first. Remember who you are.

Youre an expert in your own experience, in your own point of view and your own business.

ONLY YOU are an expert in this area!

It’s this self awareness of your own skill-set, knowledge and experience that has people coming to you. If you walk into a room with someone who is doing something different or someone who is much more experienced in your chosen arena that does not negate your own individual experience.

You’re the right fit for people too. This is when you should consider it an incredible opportunity for you to learn not for you to shrink.

There are a few things I do to make this ‘less’

  1. Reduce my mindless scrolling – yep I uninstall IG or take a couple days away from the socials. I always take little breaks during the day or week anyway. I don’t have notifications on because it pulls me in; whilst I’m working or with the family/friends I don’t even pick up my phone. It really does help.
  2. I keep a file with all of the positive feedback I get and look through it from time to time. Reminding myself of the good I’ve done really makes a difference.
  3. Dedicate a bit of extra time to do the thing I’m really good at in my business. It always makes me feel good when I’ve been productive and creative.

Perfectionism

Even in my old school reports my teachers would say ‘Amy is her own worst enemy’. I’ve been known to put things off or cancel things because they aren’t exactly how I think they should be. My standards for myself are higher than any anyone elses. Higher than anyone has ever placed on me.

It’s a crippling belief and behaviour pattern that can really negatively affect my mental health.

I believe it’s linked to low self esteem. That the key to overcoming this is accepting that you wish to be perfect. And likewise, that there really is no such thing.

Things I do to help my mental health:

  1. Give myself realistic deadlines and commit to them
  2. I’ve a phrase I live by when I am in this mental space, it’s ‘done is better than none’
  3. Ask myself out loud in the mirror whether this is just my perfectionism talking. This makes me feel a bit silly and in effect creates a diversion

Unpleasant feedback

I wasn’t actually sure what to call this stage. It relates to other peoples opinions and how they affect us. I still remember to this day the boy that told me my teeth were orange and even now I hate smiling and showing teeth.

For him it was a throwaway comment (I had just eaten a bag of wotsits) to me it was the gospel truth because it was someone elses belief and I therefore have orange teeth.

When I went self employed I was thrilled. People started saying things like

‘you must be mad’ or

‘That’s a brave step since you’re probably not going to earn much for a while at least’

I felt my fear kick in and motivation dwindle. This is so so hard.

We open ourselves up to other peoples criticism, it’s tough not to be brought down. (Think social media etc.)

My experience

There was a client (a small tech start up) who I had been so excited to work with but ended up having to ‘fire’.

As we progressed they wouldn’t share relevant information and made it clear that they thought I should be selling their business to my family. (My relatives who are very successful in their own fields in silicon valley).

When I said no; any pitches would have to go through the normal channels, they told me I wasn’t committed to their business.

It hurt.

I was 100% committed but they were asking me to cross my own ethical boundaries. They expected me to leverage a familial relationship for their business. They also consistently paid 60 days late

I ended our working relationship. I felt bad because they said I wasn’t committed enough.

This plays on my mind even now at times because it’s how I’m built.

Certainly, I don’t have any ‘tricks’ to make this easier. I definitely still struggle with wearing the weight of other peoples opinions myself.

I think the best way to overcome it is to try to work on your self confidence everyday.

That will partly mean taking action and being more decisive; staying authentic and living a life of integrity; striving to continually grow and build our qualities and strengths.

Here are a few things I try to remember when it feels too heavy a burden.

  1. In the words of the great Rachel Hollis, ‘Other peoples opinions of me are none of my business’
  2. The way people talk to or about you is a reflection of them not you.
  3. As long as I am doing right by myself, my son and my family then I am ok regardless of what they think.

Self doubt can plague your mental health

Woman looking doubtful behind a stack of books. Mental health and soelf doubt

This leads on nicely from the last one! Self doubt is part of all of us but easily combated;

If you work at it.

My top advice for working on yourself doubt are:

  1. Take action and be decisive (it doesn’t give you the time to slip into the ‘what if’, train of thought)
  2. Accept compliments and actually respond. When someone tells you you did something well say ‘thank you for noticing, I’m glad it was a positive experience for you’ or something along those lines reflective of their compliment WITHOUT justifying what you did or being self deprecating (it’s harder than you think if you’re like me!)
  3. Help other people. This is my go to, firstly it takes me out of my own head but mainly because helping other people is bloody awesome and that makes everyone feel great.

Stress

This is going to happen whether you live in meditation on the beach in fiji or whether you’re starting a business from scratch, have screaming triplets and need to milk your own cow.

It is a part of life.

Stress is our body and brains response to an external influencing factor. For example:

“I’ve 50 orders to pack tonight and I’m running out of time and the kids need me.”

This one sees me ask myself some questions – if the answers don’t help I will call a friend and talk it through.

  1. Am I being honest with myself?
  2. What can I get away with not doing to better support what I MUST do?
  3. Is there anyone I can ask for help

Anxiety

Similar to stress. However, it’s triggered by internal feelings and doesn’t need an outside stresser. This one I find hardest to manage of the two because it creeps up on me. But here are a few things I find help reduce my anxiety

  1. Changing my space. If I’m on the sofa watching TV or at my desk writing content and I begin to feel anxious I stop what I’m doing and go to make myself a cup of tea or walk the dog or hang the laundry. Sometimes that is enough of a disruption.
  2. Accept that I am feeling anxious and ask myself why this may be. Sometimes it’s trigger is a real thing and that may need addressing. Sometimes the trigger is just in my head and that may mean I need to change my internal talk and work extra hard on positive affirmations and my internal talk for a little while.
  3. Ask myself – Have I slept enough? Have I drank enough water? Have I spoken with my best friends lately? Normally if I make sure I do one or all of those things I can reduce the level of anxiety dramatically.

Don’t forget I am just at the end of an email amy@theamyjohnson.com or use my contact page and if you need more support then you can click NHS MENTAL HEALTH SUPPORT and you’ll find a list of all sorts of UK based support services that can help.

Catch you later,

Amy x

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