What does it actually mean to have compassion for yourself and for your intended customers? Running a business is hard! Let's talk definitions and an example of how to apply compassion and self-compassion to the sometimes painful aspects of running and scaling your own business.
Welcome to Compassionate Side Hustle Strategy, hosted by Rochelle Sanchez. I'm a business designer and mindset coach, and I help side hustling solopreneurs like you quiet your inner drama and build compassionate systems that allow you to show up consistently and authentically in your business.
No matter what background or culture you were raised in, or even your current setbacks, economic status, identity struggles or labels, You deserve to do what you love for a living.
Welcome back! It took me longer than expected to come back, but for good reason. If you've been following me for a while, you know that I'm pretty open about my behind the scenes stuff and my mental health struggles because I think we need to be more open about the things in our lives as entrepreneurs that don't necessarily show up on Google searches or on Shark Tank or any mainstream resource when you're having trouble building and scaling your small business.
I think that probably stems from corporate culture, where we don't talk about money, we don't talk about our bodies, or sickness, or mental health, or anything other than the bottom line. Unfortunately many entrepreneurs and coaches have decided to replicate that kind of environment and only show up in perfectly curated, Instagram and Pinterest worthy containers. And while I know we all have our reasons for privacy and everyone has a different idea of how to create a sense of safety especially in these modern times, I think it's still worth talking about. So at least there's one person you know who says these things out loud, without any shame.
Long story short, these last couple months were really tough for me so I didn't force myself to do business-y work. I also changed medications -- nothing super drastic but enough for me to be like, "Oh! I'm taking something else now" and to feel things. As of right now, I actually haven't posted anything new to my Instagram feed in over two months. But the good news is I'm feeling better, otherwise you wouldn't be listening to this. And I'm doing well personally and with some changes I'm considering with my business, and things are going okay so we'll see what happens from here!
Today, I thought it would be helpful to really dig into what I mean by having compassion for yourself and for your intended customers. This podcast is intended to help you infuse more compassion into your business, whether it's having more compassion for yourself as the CEO or founder (or whatever title you've given yourself) or for your intended customers and for the journey they're going through.
My business has different components. I have digital courses, and I've run cohort-based masterminds, I've taught workshops and I've done a lot of done-for-you work in the past as a virtual assistant and eventually as a project and account manager for many kinds of businesses. It's been fun, actually.
The thing is, the more clients you get, and the more experience you get selling whatever it you sell, the more you learn about people. It's inevitable.
You learn about different kinds of people.
You meet humans you otherwise maybe would have never met, if they weren't giving you money in exchange for what you sell. You learn about the exchange of money and time -- sometimes in a very personal way.
So based on my own experience working with different kinds of businesses at different stages and with highly variable access to funding, I feel that now is a good time to bring up and maybe even SPELL OUT what compassion means when you're budding business owner.
I've experienced first hand what it's like to have business relationships not go the way you expected them to. And I think that if compassion becomes more of a mainstream topic in our industry, we'd all be better for it. Because I doubt there are a whole lot of entrepreneurs who don't want to be compassionate. Or who don't want compassion be part of their business model.
I'm sure there are probably a few business owners who would argue against feelings and emotions and compassion taking any part in certain industries, but... they're wrong. That's where sexism and patriachy and capitalism come in. And that's a great way to replicate the toxic corporate culture that you probably want to leave behind anyway, once your side hustle takes off.
So let's talk about compassion's literal definitions and then a framework for how you can apply more compassion to your business.
Oxford dictionary defines compassion as, "The feeling or emotion, when a person is moved by the suffering or distress of another, and by the desire to relieve it." It's literally derived from a latin word that means, "to suffer with."
And that makes sense, right? If you're running your business with compassion, then you're not just making something up and hoping lots of people buy it and you get rich really fast. You've probably witnessed a real problem in the world. You know that your service is needed and would be helpful. You know that what you offer is more than just the product, or the package of services or the number of calls or the specific benefits or features. It's the transformational change you know you'll bring to your customer's life because you created it specifically for a pain point or problem that you know they have.
I've found that a more tangible way to apply this concept to my business is to use the components defined by Dr. Kristin Neff in her extensive research on self-compassion.
It's helpful if you tend to the type of business owner who
- loves to over deliver,
- who worries about being salesy,
- who doesn't want to over charge, or
- who often feels bouts of imposter syndrom and unworthiness when it comes to building that big vision you have for your business, and ultimately, the legacy you want to leave behind.
Dr. Kristin Neff's definition of self-compassion has three components:
- Common Humanity
I was first introduced to these concepts while working with a therapist through some grief and trauma that was bubbling up from the way I was raised and the micro aggressions I was receiving as a business owner existing in this self-help industry with all of my personal identities. I didn't realize that while I was practicing compassion for others, I wasn't giving myself a lot of self-compassion, and that can really wear you down especially if you're a solopreneur and don't have lot of support around you.
I've found that it's easier to understand the application of these components if I use examples, so here's one. Let's say you're figuring out how to build your business. You really want to help people with your particular idea or service, and you find out that someone else basically has done it already. It's literally your idea, but maybe even written better. They have an amazing website, they have a fancy logo, they have a bustling following on social media where people actually engage with them and seem to be buying their stuff, left and right.
The first component of self-compassion, kindness, is about having self-kindness vs self-judgment. In this example, you might be feeling really deflated. You're disappointed, and you might want to give up. But you can show yourself kindness in this moment by treating yourself the way a good friend would treat you during this time of disappointment. So you'd stop yourself from saying the mean things that go on in your head, like "See? I knew it wasn't worth it. My mother was right. I never should have put so much hope and excitement into this because it barely got off the ground."
You'd be kind to yourself instead. You could say, "They've done good work, and so have I. There's enough room for all of us." Or you'd remember that your mission is bigger than what just one person can accomplish, so it's good to see that there's someone else out there with a big heart for this mission you care about, too. You can even see it as an opportunity for collaboration. Or as an excuse to really niche down because that person has their community covered, so now you can cater your service specifically to the communities that you care about, and not feel like you're leaving anyone out.
The second component is Common Humanity. It means that you acknowledge that this is a shared experience by many people on this planet, and that means you're not alone. It doesn't mean it doesn't go away, it just means you have company on your entrepreneurial journey, and you may have just strengthened the relationships you're going to build because you now have a specific, emotional experience in common with other people who are doing this kind of work.
You can take a step back and say "I'm definitely not the only person who feels like their thunder has been stolen before they even got out of the gate with it." And that may bring you the comfort you need to get back up. Also, this experience of seeing someone else successfully build your dream business may give you more empathy and enable you to have more kindness in the future, when someone else may come to you and accuse you of not doing a good enough job, or stealing their idea.
You could end up with trolls commenting on all of your stuff on social media or on all of your blog posts, and it may just be because they're feeling terrible about their own disappointment about something in their life. This experience of disappointment will help you continue your path of leadership and set you up to be the role model you want to be, within the community you care about most.
The third component is mindfulness. This was tough for me when I first started defining compassion within my business systems and the way I put myself out there. The idea of mindfulness within self-compassion is that it's "Mindfulness instead of over-identification." You acknowledge the problem and the pain you're dealing with. You give it space, without trying to come up with a solution or immediately cover it with positivity and seeing the bright side. Depending on your upbringing, this may mean that you stop yourself from going into "No excuses," "back to the grindstone" or "hustle" mode.
Disappointment can wear you down if you don't acknowledge it, and if seeing someone else be successful at what you thought was uniquely meant for you, then it may take some time to surrender and accept that you don't have control over everything after all. And once you come to grips with that, maybe it's a matter of acknowledging where the need for control came from in the first place. For example, did your parents or guardians control all of your decisions, growing up, so you didn't feel a sense of freedom and independence until later in life? Or maybe you were raised in an unpredictable household and the only way to create a sense of safety was to always pre-plan and micro manage your life... and that's why seeing someone else joyfully succeeding at the helm of your dream business is affecting you more than usual.
The solution isn't to brainstorm, get scrappy, and dust yourself off. Not yet, anyway. You need time to let your body feel things. Let your nervous system process it. Let the pain or problem be what it is, without trying to fix it immediately. The same goes for not overidentifying with it, and assuming that it's the end of your entrepreneurial journey.
You may miss things, and you will. You're going to be surprised on a weekly basis. You're going to have weird exchanges with people. You're going to have haters and random accusational emails and DMs sent to you, and it's important to be mindful of what's happening around you versus what's happening inside of you. Like I said, that was so hard for me, and it's still a personal challenge sometimes because I'm an achiever at heart. But mindfulness is a huge skill that will help you in the long run, if this business idea you have really is that important to you and you don't plan to give up anytime soon.
So those are the components of self-compassion and how I think they'd be helpful to you if you find yourself really struggling with a particular aspect of scaling your business right now.
Remember that compassion literally comes from a latin worth that means, "to suffer with." And it has to do with being moved by the suffering or distress of another and the desire to relieve it. Or in cases of having self-compassion, you can apply the three components to yourself if you find yourself in a particularly low or painful struggle as a solopreneur.
The three components, again, are Kindness, Common Humanity, and Mindfulness. So the next time things aren't going as planned, you can always turn to these ideas and see if you can apply them to your situation. Maybe when you just can't find a solid 1 hour to work on your business, so you're falling behind on your marketing plan. Or maybe when you realize that things would be a lot easier if you had more funding, or a bigger network, or a shout-out from a big name in your industry. You're going to be okay, and it's perfectly normal to struggle in the early stages of your journey. And to be honest, I don't think the struggle ever ends. At least, that's what I've been told.
I'd love to hear what you think of this dissection of compassion and self-compassion and how they can be applied to your side hustle. Let me know you listened to this episode by sending me a tweet or tagging me in your social media post! I'd love to virtually meet you and give you a shout-out and take a look at the work you're doing.
That's all for today! Thanks for listening to Compassionate Side Hustle Strategy. This is Rochelle Sanchez. I believe in you, and I'll see you next time.