This has nothing to do with branding, marketing or communications. It is the story of my recent experiences and one that is telling about who I am. No backlinks, no SEO and no calls to action. Just this thing I wrote because I needed to let something go.
I am sharing it because I find that small business owners have a hard time letting their guard down. We feel the need to have our game face on all the time.
I hope that by sharing a piece of me, that I feel is raw and vulnerable, it will help others know they are not alone. Life happens, so it is important to take the protective gear off, nurture yourself and create a good support system. Here I go.
A message to business owners:
I fucking hate to cry. I hate to cry in public. I hate to cry in the workplace.
But it happened. In a big committee meeting.
It’s not like tears were streaming down my face. But there I was speaking to the group in an after-action meeting, and my eyes were red, and clearly, I was fighting back the waterworks.
We were working on an awards event that I have worked on for more than ten years. This event was bigger in scope than any year prior. Even in an ordinary year, there are a jillion moving parts. Yes, a jillion.
If you have ever worked on a project like this, you know, it’s never 100% seamless. And being a show-runner, you see all the warts from start to finish. You work hard to make sure the hiccups are minor and go unnoticed. I know this is how it goes in my bones, but it’s still hard for me to accept even the tiniest of flaws.
So in that meeting, there were a lot of rah-rahs and a few politely-mentioned but valid areas for improvement; however, nothing that would bring a person to tears. When it came to my turn, I pointed out some flaws in our planning and a couple of costly mistakes that were averted. I made suggestions on how we could mitigate the circumstances next year. But as I was talking, I could feel it. My game face was cracking, my eyes welled with the tears that I was fighting, and my face was red.
All I really, really wanted was this event to be flawless. And I mean that with all of the extraneous really’s that I can get away with writing. Worse than anything, here I was, hating myself for being tearful about it.
The truth is my emotions have been bubbling, raw, just under the surface for the last couple of years. Tears came too easy. My sister, my best friend, had been battling cancer. I got that news 30 days after my aunt lost her battle with cancer. My aunt was an important mother figure to me. My first-born had gone away to college. My father was showing signs of dementia. I was working harder than ever, handling projects on a scale larger than I ever had on a tight schedule. Another beloved uncle passed away. I now know that I also had an undiagnosed autoimmune disorder that had a physical impact and put me on an emotional roller coaster.
And then, the worst thing happened…my father died suddenly. My entire world changed in 17 minutes. One month before the big event. The one with a jillion moving parts and the biggest scope than any year prior. Now, there was a funeral to plan. “Set aside your emotions,” I kept telling myself. “Get through this event, and it will all be okay.” My biggest fear at that point: letting someone down.
That meeting – the one where I cried in front of everyone – was one week after the big event.
There was one more traumatic event that followed, but that big event – it was pivotal. I almost forgot crying in that damn meeting. Being vulnerable (which I hate). Being raw (which I hate).
Since then, I have been on a healing journey. I found out about my autoimmune disorder. I have surrounded myself with supportive family and friends, leaned on a beautiful group of like-minded professional women, purged toxic clients from my roster, listened to hours of Brene Brown, and more recently, Glennon Doyle. I can admit that I’ve had a few hypnotherapy sessions – all to come to terms with trauma and grief. And to work through the feelings of vulnerability that it left me.
If you have listened to Brene Brown, you know that she talks about the power in vulnerability. I struggle with the concept. It took me ten tearful sessions of hypnotherapy to finally convince me to let the armor loosen a little. I mentioned that I don’t like tears, rights?
Today is where my story makes a definitive turn.
I got a call this morning that proved to me that, indeed, there is beauty in those raw moments.
Someone started a business and wants to work with me. I have little experience in her field, but she said that didn’t matter.
I had known her only in passing before, but she was at that meeting. She saw my tears, witnessed my passion, and saw how I put my heart into everything to get it right. That was why she decided that she wanted to work with me when it was time to build her empire. Clearly, she saw something that I couldn’t in that ugly moment that I never wanted to revisit but writing in detail about today.
I am not sure how to close this except to say I finally believe in all that talk about beauty and power in vulnerability, and I wanted to add my story to the others that helped me get through life’s twists and turns while trying to run a business. I wanted to say, “Dear business owner, it’s okay to feel vulnerable.” I wanted to express my sincerest gratitude for that phone call today. And more than anything, to those that have been on this journey with me, I want to say thank you. I am approaching the twelve-month mark of my father’s passing, and I can honestly say that I finally feel whole again.
Dear fellow business owner,
Please know that it’s okay to feel vulnerable. Under normal conditions, we experience life’s ups and down, financial strain and family hardships. The pandemic has altered our plans and amplified the good, the bad and the ugly. Don’t set your feelings aside for a more convenient time or underestimate the toll it takes to balance life with the risks you took to build your dream business. Find a ‘safe space’ where you can let your guard down and talk. Exercise and fresh air help. There is no shame in talking to a licensed therapist. Self-care and your emotional wellbeing is just as vital to your business as good bookkeeping or building your sales pipeline. It doesn’t make you any less of a success. This applies to both women and men. If can’t find that ‘safe space’ within your circles, feel free to reach out. I get it.
Be well, my friend.