Hustle. It tends to be a rally-cry for the creative tribe. But to be honest, hustle didn’t work for me.
Instead, I’ve learned I want to work as a creative small business owner from a place of rest, not hustle.
And I believe it’s possible.
How I Got Addicted to Hustle
For years, I thought perfectionism was a virtue and that “eating weird” was a quirk. Thought everyone that worked in PR struggled with chronic anxiety and insomnia. Thought my friends would be horrified if I told them, that I would lose my job if I took medical leave of absence to recover (um, newsflash, you can’t because of FMLA). Thought I wasn’t a good woman of faith for wondering what it would be like to not exist. For years, I thought I was alone.
Mental illness and perfectionism got wound up in my profession: creativity and marketing and media and speed and such.
Seeking to control anything in my busy exhaustion, I created this food bank in my head. Miserable idea, but I ran the books on that bank, decided if a withdrawal or deposit was allowed each day. Everything could be spinning out of control, anxiety and depression could start knocking on panic attack’s door, but I — I could control what I ate.
I left my job in February as a publicist after years of work in agency and for private corporations, trading it in for a small, home office with two puppies as coworkers. I still write marketing copy and strategy, but this time, it’s for creative business owners like me. And when my hands aren’t rapping a keyboard? They’re forming more words with a calligraphy pen and ink.
Who knew. It is possible to work, publicize, and market my business from a place of rest.
How I Know I’m Not the Only Creative Wired this Way
For those of us who create, who meander through life with a “high EQ,” this is the truly temperament to which we may be prone. Fascinating research is out there that 20% of the population is a Highly-Sensitive Person (HSP).
“They … notice things others miss, and have stronger emotional reactions, both positive and negative,” Elaine N. Aron, Ph. D says. “Noticing so much, feeling so much, and thinking about everything so much naturally means that they also get more easily overwhelmed. They need more down time and are more bothered by things like noise or having too much to do at once.”
One in three entrepreneurs has to learn to manage depression. And hey, some of us have Generalized Anxiety Disorder, OCD, Bipolar Disorders, and more.
And that’s ok.
“I would see a doctor if my arm was broken,” my small business ladyboss friend said.
“So why do I think it is so weird to see a therapist when my emotions are broken?”
What Does it Look Like to Work from a Place of Rest
The longer the ebbs and flow of recovery span in length, I see this truth emerge: recovery doesn’t mean healed, as it means equipped.
I’m still hot mess express, but I’m figuring it out. And I’ll skip the “stand up and take a walk every 50 minutes/don’t sleep with your phone” stuff — going out on a limb that you’ve heard that.
Here’s what working from a place of rest looks like for me:
First, declare fearlessly that you’re worth it. Don’t live in pencil, ‘cause fair pencil strokes are less fulfilling than fat, inky lines. Commit to the ink, commit to the mess.
I dare you to bump up self-care on your to-do list.
I triple dog dare you to start saying no to things, and to not live how others expect you to.
If you think you need help, get help. Know that prescription medication doesn’t render you weak. Leah rounded up some awesome resources in her blog post.
Talk back to your thoughts. Index-card halves with affirmative phrases sharpied across them were taped to every mirror this past winter. I mean, I take them down when we have house guests, but leave them there mostly. Mostly as a redemption sign. A stack of stones like the Israelites. I love them.
Know your number of clients to book. Hit it each month. Then rest.
Go get ‘em tiger. Call “hustle” on its bluff from time to time, and above all, know you’re not alone.