Hi Nikki – It was meant to be that I saw your email today with a link to ask anything.
I am always the leader and giver in my [company], in my circle, on social media, etc. I am becoming drained and realizing when I am not feeling so strong that I really don’t have anyone to be strong for me however I am always the strong one for everyone else.
I am fully aware that being a leader is lonely and I’ve never felt so alone. I know this is just a speed bump and I intend to break through it as I know what is on the other side of a breakdown. Most would say “I’m too strong to have a breakdown” That’s false as I am sure you know!
How do I get through this hurdle faster?
My whole life is consumed with business and realizing I really don’t have a personal life however I don’t desire one with no significant other or kids, I don’t see the need for one right now.
Thank you for asking this question, it’s a struggle I find that so many leaders go through. I think mostly it stems from a story we’ve been told that “leadership is lonely” or “it’s lonely at the top”. As a result, so many of us who aspire to do great things or be a great leader wear our loneliness like a badge of honor. This idea that our life is so big and complicated there’s no way anyone in the world anyone could understand and certainly no way we can make room for anything else.
I used to think this way too and I found myself at one point leading multiple companies making loads of money with no one to share any of it with, feeling “successful” as ever and yet simultaneously like a complete failure. Sure you don’t need anyone but what is all this hard work for if there is no one to celebrate with when things are going well and no one to cry with when things feel like they are about to crumble?
I can’t tell you how to get through the hurdle of loneliness faster. This isn’t a ceiling you need to breakthrough, it’s a mindset that needs to shift. Loneliness is poisonous and it runs rampant through our society today. We’re more connected than ever yet lonelier than ever. Loneliness is not a badge of honor or a leadership right, it’s a destructive idea we’ve come to believe created by people who couldn’t figure out how to lead and have a full life so they took the easy way out and created the story that “leadership is lonely”.
The fact is, leadership isn’t lonely. Or rather, it doesn’t have to be. Leadership can be fulfilling, fun, challenging, frustrating, exciting. It doesn’t have to be lonely but it can be if you don’t take care of yourself. Remember that in order to be a great leader you have to first and foremost be a great leader of you, to have brought leadership to your own life. If you aren’t able to lead your own life, you haven’t earned the right to lead others.
The feeling of being drained is a sign something is missing, it’s up to you as the leader of yourself to find out what that is. The challenge with our whole life being about business is that it makes our problem-solving abilities narrow. We think because the symptoms of our problems are showing up in our business that we can fix them with more business, more productivity, more force but we can’t.
Being poured into as a leader doesn’t always have to be about productivity or growth. Sometimes it’s taking time for yourself, whatever that looks like for you, reading, hiking, a spa day, writing, quiet time, vacation. If we don’t recharge our batteries we won’t have the energy or mental space to keep going.
Loneliness is often self-created by this idea that we have no one who meets the standard of who we would be willing to spend our time with. Who we call our friends as a leader doesn’t always have to be someone who can advise you on your business, your finances or your productivity. Having a friend isn’t always about someone who is “doing better than you” in business or someone that you can look up to. Of course, having a tribe of mentors and people on your journey is important, yet it’s not all that’s important. Our friends, just like our mentors, don’t have to be perfect in every category.
Maybe you have a friend who isn’t so productive but you admire the way they laugh and cheer on their other friends. Maybe you have a friend who’s business or finances aren’t where yours are but you’ve always admired her relationship with her husband. Maybe you have a friend who has a bigger business and makes more money than you do but he’s not the best leader for his team. There is something to be learned from each of these people and value in spending time with each of them.
The idea that we don’t need anyone else is a dangerous story that was made up and it’s up to you to challenge if you really believe that. We humans are made to be connected and it’s often in that connection you’ll find the answers you’ve been looking for.
Keep your eye on our Ask Me Anything Blog, we broke this up into two parts and will be answering the second part in a later post.