Anxiety is a powerful drug for entrepreneurs. In the right doses, it can mobilize you into action and make you relentless in the pursuit of your goals. The perfect combination of neurochemicals can keep you in the sweet spot of creative activity without all the burnout.
But when the way you think about your work becomes too rigid--veering into an unhealthy belief system dominated by dictates like "must" and "have to"--it's only a matter of time before you experience the debilitating effects of stress and anxiety.
Here's a partial list of beliefs that, if undetected, will eventually catch up with you and create a nearly inescapable nervous breakdown.
Everything I do must be perfect.
Perfectionism ranks high among anxiety-inducing beliefs. It typically takes root in childhood, when we learn its value--to buffer us from the criticism of others.
We think, "If I'm perfect, no one can judge me." We hide our limitations behind the guise of a perfect life, perfect family, perfect home, hoping that no one will notice how flawed we really are.
In an attempt to allay our anxiety, we size everyone up--especially those we're most threatened by--and compare ourselves to their mold.
It's a competition you can never win because you'll never be perfect.
If people really knew me, they'd hate me--and probably want nothing to do with me.
A close cousin to perfectionism is inauthenticity.
At pivotal points in your life, you learned that certain behaviors were acceptable and others were not--and if you want to get along in this world, you better only show the acceptable parts.
When you don't feel safe to be who you really are, you compartmentalize your identity into acceptable "buckets."
For some of us, the bucket looks like this--accommodating, agreeable, meek.
For others, the bucket is this--blunt, caustic, edgy.
You have your own acceptable bucket. Whatever it contains is the face you show to the world.
The unacceptable parts of your personality are the ones you hide from everyone, and probably yourself.
But when you remain disconnected from certain aspects of your personality, you cannot be fully yourself, fully alive.
This self-denial leads to an untenable level of disconnection, a breakdown of your identity, and eventual stress.
Talking about emotions is only for the weak.
Emotional Intelligence is important for understanding ourselves, working well with others, and managing our relationships.
Yet avoiding emotions remains one of the last remaining bulwarks of the sharky startup life.
Most entrepreneurs I encounter hate to talk about their feelings. They would rather harbor their emotions, deal with them personally--or avoid them all together--then move onto the next big idea.
Here's the thing: Emotions are the way you release your stress.
If you're not talking about them, chances are the stress you're under doesn't have a chance to metabolize in your body and work its way out.
Chronically not talking about emotions will only exacerbate the stress you feel.
If I fail, I'll die. So I'll kill myself not to fail.
On the road to success, we idolize failures as necessary setbacks. We even celebrate them with "Startup Funerals" and such.
But I wonder if this is just lip service--we know we're supposed to be OK with failure.
I think if we're really honest, we'd admit that we hate it. Most of us abhor failure and fight like hell to avoid it.
So, in order not to fail, we neglect our health, grow distant from family and friends, feign our own well-being so we don't have to talk about it, and plod on to the next task that ensures our eventual "success."
If you don't swiftly correct that course, this fear of failure will doom you to workaholic lifestyle that might lead to success, but at what cost?
Readers, what beliefs give you debilitating anxiety? What would you add to the list and how do you cope?