Being an entrepreneur makes me hate myself …and other scary stories.
For the past 13 months, I’ve attempted to create a double life for myself as the picture perfect entrepreneur- and its leaked in to every aspect of my life. I set out to hide my true identity, while reinventing myself as a successful “start up” robot, with contrived transparency, perfect hair, and a business that had no faults. And I have almost lost myself completely.
When I started my business, I had no intention of changing. I was already under scrutiny. My co-founders would say things like “Miranda, your blue hair is really cute, but its not professional.” “Miranda, you are allowed to have your opinions, but you shouldn’t talk about them where everyone can see.” Or my favorite one “Miranda, you really really cant say Fuck in meetings with Investors or Advisors.”
I never wanted to live a censored, robotic life. I didn’t think I was cut out for business. I was at a heavy crossroads and I wanted to do what everyone was telling me was right. I could feel myself sacrificing myself for the greater good of the company. I wanted to seem trustworthy, marketable, and diplomatic. This was over a year ago, and from there it only got worse.
I wanted to avoid any potential fall out, so I split myself in two. There was Miranda; the Liberal, Atheist, outspoken mother/wife, who didn’t give a shit about fashion, pop-culture, or Nikki Minaj- the Me that I had grown to love and accept. On the flip side, there was Miranda- Start-up Queen- A person who had no real opinions on anything, but loved to talk about margins, and how successful she was. She cared about expensive shoes, perfect eyebrows, and taking photos of fancy brunches. This person embodied everything I hated. But I believed I could be both people, to be safe. This harsh duality seemed manageable to me, as long as I was careful about who I got close to in the business world. I have still only made a couple of friends.
This scheme worked for a while. I could work all day, go to meetings, dress fancy, smile, laugh at shitty jokes, and even shave my legs…but everyone would still be staring at my purple hair. So, I dyed it back to its natural color. Soon after, I was wearing long sleeves and boat neck shirts to cover up my tattoos. And soon after that, I took out my facial piercing when someone mentioned that it was “distracting.” I would then come home, and enjoy some form of normalcy and true identity with my family, in a new skin that I wasn’t quite fond of. I was my own boss, and yet somehow I had a dress code that I didn’t consciously consent to.
Eventually, I became the sole operator of the business. In the beginning I was thrilled because I believed this was my time for liberation. I believed that I could finally be myself, and no one would hold me back or berate me. This was a driving force in my need for separation of the business partnerships. But the damage had been done. The voices telling me to shape up, and fall in line had become my inner voice. I hated myself for wanting to be something I wasn’t.
But I had to protect the integrity of the business, and it as it turned out, it was extremely difficult to separate myself from the personality of the business- even with the newfound creative control. I continued to laugh through uncomfortable situations, and appease people who deep down I thought were full of shit. I felt like a liar and a cheater.
I will say, that I feel its much more socially acceptable for the male entrepreneur to start a rebellion- and to be a rebel. I see this much more often. There is a culture in the Tech start up community, where men conform to a dress code of a Hoodie, jeans, and sneakers. This uniform is excruciatingly casual, widely acceptable in professional settings, and is now almost a form of satirical activism- sticking it to the man, even though you ARE the man. But women in my professional circle are still wearing blouses, blazers, and heels. Anyway, thats a story for a different day.
Once my real life was challenged, my social media accounts fell under scrutiny. Nothing felt safe after the first customer hunted me down on Instagram, debated me about my personal life and opinions, and took my information to a competing business to somehow use against me. After that, I sought to create a safe space for myself on-line, where these people could (if they hunted me down again) see the ins and outs of my life, without having any reason to judge me, without maybe choosing not to invest, or worse, take their business elsewhere because of a difference of opinion. I lived in fear of complete strangers. I was a paranoid mess.
I was afraid of people finding out I was the fraud I believed myself to be. The unkempt, depressed, disheveled person who is actually drowning every second, and cant get their shit together. Its so easy to live in fear as a business owner, because in this business culture your failure is not suppose to exist. Your fears are not suppose to exist. You fall under scrutiny for the smallest oppositions, and can literally lose everything for one miscommunication or a drunken Twitter debate. You can be the most experienced, perfect person for the job, but if you show an ounce of your imperfect humanity, you could lose it all.
I see this happen often actually. The slow transformation in to a fake hybrid version of oneself, to accomplish success. I see this especially with women. A woman wants to be taken seriously, or be hired for a higher position at work, so she changes herself for the betterment of the cause. She may start wearing more make-up. She may start working out to lose extra weight. She may start working twice as hard as her male co-workers, to prove she is equal and deserving.
It has all come down to the epiphany I had recently. That, when I began this business, I was criticized more for how I looked than for the mistakes I was making in the business. I put more energy in to trying to appear professional and successful, than I have creating a successful business, all the while believing this “fake it ‘till you make it” mantra- and praying that I don’t get caught. I’ve changed my hair, my wardrobe, the way I talk, my snark, my harsh sense of humor, my morbid curiosities ….my sense of self. All for the “betterment of the cause.” All for the “integrity of the business.”
Boom; just like that, I was a ghost. I was a prop. I do that embarrassing thing where you watch yourself cry in the mirror, wondering who you are, because you don’t recognize yourself anymore. I am so resentful of the person I wanted to be- who I once was- that I began to hate everything I once loved. I alienated my friends with the abhorrent humble brags about “celebrity endorsements” and forecasted dollar signs. I lost touch with reality. I almost lost my husband, and my best friends. When someone who loves you says “I want the old you back…” and you never even realized you were displaced, It’s time to wake the fuck up. I don’t even remember the last time I watched a horror movie, and enjoyed it.
… And I just cant do it anymore. My psyche is shot. I am burned out. I cant continue the fake smiles. I don’t want to laugh at shitty jokes, and hide my fears of failure. I have no energy left in me to “fake it ‘till you make it,” and if thats what it will take, I will give this all back. You can have it all back.
This is my letter of resignation from the culture I’ve opposed my entire life. The idea that you have to conform, be fearless, and smile to be successful, and earn respect. I am done fighting to be someone that over a year ago I would have felt sorry for. This is my farewell to the people who believe that money is root of all happiness, and that success is only as valuable as the number of digits in your salary.
And especially, I want to give the fondest of all farewells to the idea that a woman entrepreneur has to be pretty, charming, and interesting for someone to listen to her.