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Sierra king SPEAKS on dealing with entrepreneurship and Anxiety…
When I decided to launch the #HerStoryRocks campaign, I knew ‘anxiety and entrepreneurship’ was a topic I wanted to touch on. After personally feeling the pressure of trying to bring my dreams to life and not completely sure of all the steps I needed to take to get there, I struggled with managing the overwhelm. It was hard for me to share this truth with others, as anxiety is isn’t something commonly discussed within the black community.
However, the more I shared what I was going through with other entrepreneurs, the more I began to see a connection between the desire to create/pursue entrepreneurship/live out your dreams and the overwhelm that comes along with that.
I put a request out on Facebook for women interested in sharing their experiences with pursuing a biz/passion and anxiety. Sierra (among several other women) quickly responded and it was then that my assumption was confirmed. Thus the #HerStoryRocks “Anxiety Unplugged” series was born. Today Sierra King opens up about her own struggles with pursuing her photography career and balancing the “unknown” that tends to make her anxious as hell. Read more about how Sierra’s story below…
Precious: Finish this sentence. Being an entrepreneur is like __________.
Sierra: Being an entrepreneur is like riding a unicycle on a tightrope. Every second that you’re up in the air you get a rush of thoughts ranging from, “I’m really doing this” to “Oh shit, I’m gonna fall.” Not everyone can do it and those who look like they have it all together will tell you it took many, many, many hours of practice to make it look effortless. I’m still learning how not fall off of the tightrope. Thank God there’s a safety net of the support from family and friends under me.
Precious: As we know, anxiety has to do with one’s mental health. What are some specific mental struggles you’ve experienced that trigger anxiety?
Sierra: As a photographer, I’m constantly being pushed into the unknown. The unknown and uncertainty of it all makes me anxious. Not knowing the conversations or spaces I’m walking into. I’ve said no to a lot of opportunities, turned down things because the unknown becomes so overwhelming. Socially, it can also become so debilitating. It gets to a point where I’m not leaving the house or don’t go to events because I’m stuck in my thoughts…stuck in the what if’s.
Also, various tasks associated with my work bring about my anxiety. This can range from small things like getting unexpected phone calls to scheduling shoots or big things like sending invoices or applying to exhibition shows. I think the small things trip me up the most, especially phone calls. I never feel like I’m prepared enough to answer the questions that need to be answered in order to close the call. This sucks because I depend on my work for my livelihood, but the reality is some days the anxiety is so bad that I can’t even pick up the phone for people. The interesting thing is managing anxiety is really dependent upon structure and routine, and to go after entrepreneurship is the exact opposite of that.
Precious: What is it about Your entrepreneurial journey, in particular, that causes, heightens or triggers Your anxiety?
Sierra: Currently, it’s my lack of resources and just taking my camera places. My camera bag was stolen this past summer and for a week after I was stuck in thoughts, “I could’ve done more.” “Had I done something wrong?” “Why didn’t I check the car to make sure it was locked.” Even though I was able to purchase a new one, my entire kit that I had been working with is gone. It almost feels like I’m in a constant state of paranoia when I take my camera places and have been avoiding taking it out because I don’t want that to happen again.
As far as resources goes, one day I have enough to do what I need to do and the next I don’t. I’m constantly learning and reminding myself that you will never have enough and to just start with what I have. My advice for others (and myself) is to make it work with what you have and what you need will come in due time.
Precious: Do you follow a “holding it all together, while things are falling apart” approach to managing your anxiety and biz?
Sierra: I don’t because that isn’t true, it isn’t honest. If I want the people I’m working with to be their most honest selves, I too, have to be my most honest self. Most of my personal work is centered around awareness of mental illnesses so to hide that from the business side would be going against that. I find that a lot people want to know that they aren’t alone and that someone like them is making an effort every damn day to succeed. Recently, I started writing about being ‘Broke and Happy’ to remove that curtain. It’s just a small blog about my relationship with money while pursuing being an artist and entrepreneur.
Precious: What are some of the tools you’ve used to manage the stress/pressure associated with following your dream?
Sierra: I write as much as I can. I started doing morning pages where the first 30 minutes to an hour of my day is spent writing beginning thoughts. The goal is to get pass surface thoughts that may include being anxious, sad, confused etc. and be able to think deeper into creative ideas and problems.
I listen to my body. I don’t listen as much as I should but practicing yoga and preparing food/feeding myself are both things that I find peace in.
I surround myself with supportive people. Having a supportive circle is key. And not only are they supportive but they are also in sync with me. Like I said above, your circle is really your safety net. When you’ve fallen down, they’ll be there to pick you up. When something is wrong, they’ll be the first to sense it because they know you and your habits.
Helping and sharing with others. For the last year I’ve worked with Black Girl Magik and it has been so rewarding in not only sharing my story but helping other women see the best in themselves everyday. As much as I remind them to focus on the good, they are thousands of reflections of myself to do the same.
Precious: What advice would you give an entrepreneur who is also struggling with anxiety?
Sierra: Find what works for you. Go for something outside of what your business deals with and find peace in that. For you this may be doing yoga and for another it may be taking kickboxing classes. Whatever you choose, definitely find something or someplace that you can go to quiet your thoughts. Once you do those activities regularly your body will remember what that feels like and will want to replace the anxious feelings with the “feel good” feelings. It’s not easy and just like your business, it takes work…but it’s possible!
Precious: That’s gREAT ADVICE SIERRA! Thank you for taking the time share with uS. I am honored to share your story with the women in our community and I know the more we open up and share best practices the closer we All get to healing and happiness.
Sierra is a Visual Storyteller and Social Media Strategist based in Atlanta,GA. She believes that by going wherever the photos take her, the stories that need to be told will find her. Through photography and various mediums she wants to normalizing the stories of those who don’t feel represented. You can view her work at www.sierrachastity.co and keep up with her travel on IG @sierrachastity.
Photos by: John Stephens