OK….I’ll admit, it’s not a scientifically proven statement…. I’m not aware of any study proving entrepreneurs have higher rates of fibromyalgia and other chronic conditions.
But it is something that seems common to entrepreneurs, and specially solo-preneurs.
When other entrepreneurs began pointing this out to me, and my clients with chronic pain conditions turned out to be people who either had or wanted their own solo-preneur businesses, I wasn’t surprised. There are some good reasons why this is the case.
The foundations of fibromyalgia
To understand why there seems to be a strong correlation between entrepreneurs and fibro, I’ll need to give a basic overview of what I think causes fibro and many other chronic conditions.
Body and spirit
We have a body and we have a spirit. I call that spirit the True Spirit. It’s the part that leaves the body when you die, that animates you and contains your likes and dislikes, natural talents, interests and passions.
For the duration of this life, your body and your True Spirit are inextricably, intimately and beautifully linked.
The purpose of life, then, is to give your True Spirit the fullest expression you can, through the body you’ve been given.
However, from the day we arrive on this planet, we’re learning how to survive, get love and get our other needs met. We learn pretty early on that certain things hurt and other things feel good, certain things are “allowed” and other things are not, certain choices, behaviours, attitudes and desires are “acceptable” and others are not.
We learn these social rules from our families, peers, culture, religion, education and the traumatic events we experience.
This almost universally results in the True Spirit being pushed away and hidden, at least in part, sometimes significantly, because its nature includes wanting things in the “not acceptable” category.
We arrive in adulthood living a “socialised” version of ourselves, not as a full expression of our True Spirit .
The longer term problem
Most of us aren’t aware that we’re ignoring our True Spirit (we’re not actually aware we have one!). We go through life following the socialised rules we’ve learned, or perhaps rebelling against them by running in the opposite direction.
Either way, we’re not freely and wholy expressing our True Spirit.
Our thinking does its best to find us a life we enjoy, but that’s not what it was designed to do. So, sometimes we’re successful, but often we don’t manage a deeply fulfilling and happy life.
By the time we reach mid-life (ish), we can find ourselves wondering what we’re doing with our lives, what we really want, whether we’re on the right path, because something doesn’t feel good, or fulfilling, or the way we want to feel.
This can be associated with our careers, our relationships, our lifestyle, our spirituality – any and everything can be questioned.
At the same time, our bodies start to develop chronic issues. Perhaps these issues have been there in the background already, maybe floating to the forefront occasionally. But about mid-life is when these things can seriously settle in.
Choosing a path that ignores the True Spirit’s longings and experiencing chronic health issues are not unrelated.
The link between body, mind and spirit
Our True Spirit longs to be expressed and is constantly pulling us in that direction. But when our mind has been socialised to pull us in another direction, that’s a lot of internal tension.
The body gets caught in the middle, balancing the two opposing forces pulling away from each other. Over time, that equates to the body breaking down.
Exactly how your body will break down is somewhat unique to you, somewhat genetic and even somewhat learned. But break down, it will, if you continue to live with this internal dichotomy of purpose.
It is from this perspective that I view fibromyalgia. Your body is caught in the middle of a Spirit yearning to live a deeply, richly fulfilling life and your mind, which is whipping you, like a bully, to live the “right”, “good”, “sensible”, “normal”, “acceptable” and/or “safe” life you’ve been socialised to live.
Your body is screaming “STOP IT! You’re going the wrong way, you need to stop, rest, care for your spirit and live to express it”.
Entrepreneurs and fibromyalgia
When women experience this mid-life (ish) development of chronic physical issues, as well as a sense of dissatisfaction with how they feel in their current life, starting their own business can be very appealing.
It’s flexible around kids and other commitments, it’s possible to start on a pretty low investment, there’s the potential to earn money expressing their creativity, intelligence and passions and there’s a HUGE amount of marketing to women offering training, mentoring and encouragement to do this…..there’s something about the freedom, success, agency and individuality of this pathway that can be appealing.
Mostly, they would get to do something that feels better to them.
That’s the key. Up till now, things haven’t felt good to them.
Entrepreneurs, and in particular, solo-preneurs, are seeking a life that feels good, in contrast to the one they’ve had that felt bad. This is almost universally true of solo-preneurs.
Note the alternative experience
I have a friend who had a wonderfully creative business idea that I thought would have been a great success. And she loved the creative side of it, which also gave her opportunity to use her skills as a social worker/counsellor (at which she was very good and was still working in that field at the time).
However, when she started to look into what running her own business would entail, she gave up the idea. It surprised me, because I love running my own business.
But for her, while the creativity of her business idea appealed to her, the effort of running a business outweighed it. And running your own business is definitely an effort-filled endeavour. For my friend, her day job, counselling people and their families after brain injury accidents, felt satisfying and fulfilling.
She did not need to feel better by building her own business and getting out of her day job. She felt good already.
She had a job that suited her True Spirit well.
The entrepreneur’s experience
Those of us willing to take on our own business are, by definition, not happy with our day jobs or current options. We have chosen work lives that do not fit our True Spirit.
We are aware that we want our work to feel different, better, more like an expression of who we are, even if we don’t know what that would entail.
The fact that we’ve spent our work life doing something that doesn’t suit us, however sensible, lucrative or impressive it may have been, means entrepreneurship is more likely to appeal to us. But it also means we’re more likely to develop chronic conditions because we’ve been ignoring our body’s signals that we’re on the wrong path.
We haven’t been listening to our True Spirit’s yearning.
Why entrepreneurship doesn’t alleviate fibromyalgia
Great question! If we’ve been ignoring our True Spirit while pursuing other careers, and that creates stress in our body that leads to the development of chronic conditions like fibromyalgia, and then we finally do something more suited to what our True Spirit yearns for, why doesn’t the fibro ease up? Or go away entirely?
Entrepreneurship, particularly solo-preneurship, appeals to us for its potential freedom, individuality and its potential to feel really good. But it’s also a magnet for those of us with a mindset that ignores the body, those of us who have the tendency to over-push ourselves and ignore self care. Solo-preneurship gives us an endless supply of overwork and under-rest because there is always, always something more that “needs to be done”.
If there’s one trait that’s super-common to fibro sufferers it’s the tendency to disregard for the body and its pain (as much as possible) and push through it to keep achieving.
The mindset that “I must push on, push through the body’s pain, and ignore my own health for the sake of…..” (fill in that blank with work, kids, dinner, parents, commitments etc etc) is almost universal in women with fibro.
So, while entrepreneurship does offer us the opportunity to find a work life more suited to our True Spirit, it also gives us perfect camouflage to continue to ignoring the body.
So the fibro doesn’t go away.
But if I don’t push through the body’s pain, I’ll never get anything done
This is a common response from those who have fibro, and many other chronic illnesses. And there’s some truth to this, in the short term.
Hurting bodies need rest and care and ease. That’s going to mean doing less.
But here, again, we see a traded long-term big benefit for the short term gain. If we push through now, we’ll achieve something that matters a little. But we pay in the long term with ever-declining health. Not to mention the continued growth of our dissatisfaction with life in general because we’re ignoring the True Spirit’s yearning.
Taking the time for more rest and care of our bodies now, eating better, moving more, learning to deeply rest through meditation, developing the practice of speaking lovingly toward our body and our selves, hearing and following the body’s needs and desires generates profound long-term benefits, though it will probably mean fewer short term to-do list items get done.
But if we continue belting it out with pain killers and pushing on, forcing even greater stress into our already hurting bodies until the pain killers don’t work, at which point we “toughen up” and push through some more – well there’s no healing down that path.
We all know that.
It’s a brutal, unloving, adversarial relationship with our body – our body is seen as the enemy and we must fight it, however we can.That's the core problem underlying fibromyalgia development - we've never loved our body as a best friend that will guide us to a life that feels beautiful to live. Click To Tweet
Really? That’s the cause?? I don’t know…..
Throw a rock in the air and you’ll hit a woman who dislikes her body. Sure. We all feel that, to some degree or other….and we don’t all have fibro.
But then again, fibro is also WAY more common in women than men. Coincidence?
When I work with a client who has any kind of chronic pain issue (and I’ve worked with fibro, migraine, frozen shoulder, fatigue, anxiety and more), the first and biggest mindset change we tackle is loving the body.
Loving the body isn’t about loving how it looks (though that’s important). It’s about seeing it has your best friend, guiding you to the most fulfilling and meaningful life possible. So, caring about it and doing whatever it takes to make it healthy, is essential .
As we transform how we think and feel about our body, we begin to care for it in new ways, listening to what it wants, giving it comfort, ease, pleasure and energy. Avoiding what creates pain, tension, sickness, exhaustion, ill health etc.
Think you’re actually doing OK on body-love?
Feel into your body now – take a minute or two, close your eyes and feel your body.
Notice any pain, discomfort, tension, cold, tiredness you weren’t aware of?
Tell that hurting, uncomfortable, tense, cold or tired part of your body that you love it. Tell it that you are sorry you’re ignoring it and making it feel that way. (if this seems a little weird, read more about talking positively to your body in this blog post)
Then ask it what it needs to feel better.
Then do that.
What happened to the pain, discomfort, tension, cold or tiredness when you listened, loved and cared for it enough to change what you’re doing?
Reduced or improved, right?
Can fibromyalgia be cured?
Everyone’s body is different. The issues each person carries, that lead them to ignore their body, will be different and the extent of the illness that has developed will be different. Sometimes people simply push too hard for too long, and the body truly does break.
But I do believe it is possible to greatly improve, if not eradicate, fibro, in most instances.
The key is choosing to commit to changing how you think, not just about your body (though that’s the first and most important change) but also how you think about your mind, your emotions, your Spirit, you life, your purpose, your goals and your lifestyle.
Healing fibro requires a complete internal makeover of thought, feeling, action and intention. And those changes will inevitably mean many changes to your lifestyle.
But when you make loving your Spirit, and giving it the fullest expression possible, your primary goal in life, you’ll have the best chance of living symptom-free.
And it starts with loving the body.
Need some help learning to love your body? My Making Peace With Pain Program might be a good fit for you. Register to receive information soon about the next enrolment.