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Lean In: How I Dealt With Founder Depression and Came Out on Top

Lean In is a monthly, anonymous series, where contributors share their stories about business, life and the stuff we don't like to talk about.




Out with the negative talk.

It was a sentence I circled around for what felt like twenty minutes. Once I got to “not” I’d find myself back at the start with “worse.” 

Starting a business takes a leap of confidence. It’s you telling the world, “Hey, you need this service or this product and I am going to be the one to deliver it to you. Me. Out of the 7.125 billion people on the planet, I have the ability to solve this problem for you…" That’s no small undertaking. And the outcome of all your hardworking and determination to make you company successful may not always end in happiness or perfection. In some cases, it is common to develop a form of depression that is hard to shake. And how does that affect your confidence and ability to sell yourself as a business owner and your product? Telling someone you're depressed feels like the opposite of both confident and competent. Especially as the leader of a business venture that you’re trying to sell to the world. Scary, right?


No one, not even your best, most trusted employee, will care as much as you do about your vision for your business. There are days when you’re completely disheartened, as if the anxiety is a tide waiting to pull you under and all your doubts pull you to the bottom of the ocean. There will be nights when you stare at the ceiling wondering why you started the business in the first place and there are moments where you lose the ability to discern if you’re competent or not.


"There are moments where you lose

the ability to discern if you're

competent or not."


There is no worse feeling—the feeling of incompetence. But it's also temporary.  (You should also talk to other founders and understand that this feeling, this doubt, this low—is completely normal.)


As a female founder, you don't want to be perceived as weak. Beyond that, no one wants to feel weak in their leap of faith to launch your own business. I’m telling you to reconsider that feeling. Doubt should be used as a driving force rather than a setback. It’s our missteps that make us stronger. It is our weaknesses that make us reevaluate our strengths and propel us forward.


Look. Here’s what happens on a bad day: an employee quits, three deals blow up in your face, and your dog runs away. You feel completely alone; solopreneur for life. 

Here’s what happens on a good day: homeostasis. 


Here’s what happens on your worst day: your business folds.  


Here’s what happens on a great day: you land an account, something that has been pending for months gets SIGNED, Forbes sticks you on 30 under 30, the most talented copywriter comes to work for you, and your grandma calls to tell you she’s proud.


And that is when you realize, you're "not worse." No. Quite the opposite.


"You are competent." You are brilliantly competent. 

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