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It’s lonely at the top (or bottom)

lonely at the topThere have been a few times recently where I’ve started to feel that no-one else gets it. Logically I know it isn’t true but there’s no accounting for the wobbles a human brain is capable of having. As I write this my mood has improved considerably and I feel much less isolated, but I still think it’s worth talking about the time where I felt really lonely. That’s the only word I can use to describe it.

When you start a business lots of people give you advice, whether you want it or not. When I told people I was going to be self-employed I got lots of responses. Everything from a heartfelt good luck to ‘oh well, you can always go back to the law if it doesn’t work out.’ Of all the responses I got, no-one talked about loneliness.

Working on your own

Most weekdays I sit at a desk, on my own. Don’t speak to another living soul from 9 until 3, or sometimes later. It varies depending on when I’m picking the kids up that day. I’m frequently thankful for the school run. That sounds like madness, doesn’t it? For some people it means running the clique ridden gauntlet of the other parents who won’t speak to you. To me it’s the opportunity to see other humans that I didn’t marry or give birth to. The only downside is that most of them aren’t business owners either. They don’t understand what it’s like to be by yourself all the time.

Lonely at the top

Working on your own has its own challenges, but so does being the boss. I’ve spoken to more than one business owner who feels lonely, even when they’ve got a team of employees. It’s easy to feel isolated even when, or perhaps especially when you’ve got other people relying on you. The decisions all rest with you which means the stress does too.

I’ve no doubt that being in the middle of a crowd can feel even lonelier than being on your own, especially when that crowd are all looking to you for leadership. Even Margaret Thatcher admitted that being Prime Minister was a lonely job as you can’t lead from the crowd.

Social media is a double edged sword

Facebook has tried to improve its’ image recently by emphasising the ways the platform can build communities. I’ve found lots of groups that are useful to me in different ways, including a few business groups. They’re full of people who run businesses so should understand the challenges. Yet somehow, when I was feeling isolated, they didn’t do the trick. Every post I came across was from someone happy and positive, or who was having a major crisis. If I’d had a specific problem I wanted solving I probably could have asked a question to find a solution. Somehow ‘I’m feeling a bit down and I don’t know why’ felt ridiculous.

What really helped?

Two things really helped me to get out of the doldrums. Firstly, constructive time alone. Ironic, really. I realised that I felt lonely because all of the decisions are down to me and I really wanted someone else to tell me what to do. Then I remembered that I hate being told what to do. I spent a morning with my notepad and pen looking at the plan I made last year and what I need to do to implement it. My head felt much clearer after that.

I also went to my networking group. It helped, even though I didn’t talk about how I’d been feeling. Just spending time, in person, with women who understand the life put things into perspective. It also reminded me that I have a network out there when I need them.

If any of this resonates with you, please don’t suffer in silence. Seek support wherever you can, whether that’s from a friend, family member or somewhere else. The Samaritans offer 24/7 support, without judgment, to anyone who’s struggling. They’re on the end of the phone at 116 123 or online.

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