You may have noticed that I haven’t been writing a lot of posts lately and I’ve also been uncharacteristically quiet on my social media accounts. It’s not just that I’ve been busy, although that’s obviously a part of it – February was one of the biggest months in the history of I Heart Reykjavík no matter how you look at it, but there’s actually more to it than that. I don’t know if I can explain in simple terms what I’m going through but since I’m usually better at writing things down than talking about them, and I find writing somewhat cathartic, I thought today I could give you some sort of insight into a) my scary brain and b) where we are at with I Heart Reykjavík as a business.
I’ve tried very hard to figure out what is wrong with me. I’m suffering from some sort of anxiety or something that makes me procrastinate like there’s no tomorrow and frankly most days I’d just much rather turn on the other side and pull the duvet over my head when the alarm goes off in the morning instead of getting up. I’m functional, I mean I do get up and I answer every e-mail that needs answering, do tours and am meeting people I make appointments with and everything but it’s just extra difficult. I know this sounds a little bit (or even a lot) like depression but I’m pretty sure that’s not it.
What I think I’m going through is early stages of a burnout. Every article you read about entrepreneurship tells you about the dangers of a burnout. Don’t work too hard, they say, make sure you have time to have a life. And I’ve taken this advice to heart but that’s also all I’ve done with it. The workload I’ve been under for the past 5 years, the last 2 in particular, has been inhumane. The worst part is that it has been completely self-inflicted and it has been the byproduct of something that I’m so profoundly proud of and happy with: the success of this blog and my business.
So I’ve told myself that it’s OK to ignore signs from my body that I’m over-doing it because it’s for something I love, something I believe in and something I’ve worked very hard to achieve.
I’ve never really gone into my life story on this blog. I wanted it to be personal but I also wanted to maintain my privacy and keep it focused on the topic which is obviously Iceland and the many wonders it offers to visitors. Like everyone my life has had its ups and downs. For a while there was actually much more of the downs part and in many ways it robbed me of my confidence and self-belief. I know intellectually that it’s unwarranted but when you’ve spent so many years being super hard on yourself it takes more than a few good years of self-love and being positive to heal. I genuinely feel I’m on the right path but every now and again those insecurities pop up out of nowhere and make it difficult for me to see clear.
It’s also a well known thing in the start-up world that successful entrepreneurs (women in particular apparently) often suffer from what is called the impostor syndrome. In short founders don’t believe in themselves and are petrified that people are going to find out that they actually have no idea what they are doing and that somehow their success is all accidental and not based on any merit.
Impostor syndrome can be defined as a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist even in face of information that indicates that the opposite is true. It is experienced internally as chronic self-doubt, and feelings of intellectual fraudulence
I identify with this so much. And especially now, at this point on my journey, where I’ve started to encounter some hurdles on the way for the first time. Just little things like miscommunication with partners, technical issues, bad reviews on Tripadvisor (which are actually not that bad and the good ones far exceed in numbers) and guests and readers that don’t see eye to eye with me on certain things. All of which is to be expected but because I’m already feeling raw, like an impostor even, it becomes like a validation for those feelings of self-doubt I have.
Which leaves me with some sort of content paralyses – I don’t want to put my heart and soul into something and post it just to get told I’m being dishonest, arrogant or rude. All words that have been used to describe me because of something I’ve posted as I Heart Reykjavík. When I’m not tired and I haven’t been working 16 hour days for months at a time I would tell you that these words have nothing to do with me. And I would tell myself that for every bad comment I’ve received I have 5000 so heartwarming that it literally brings me to tears at times. But when I am exhausted and lacking confidence there’s always that inkling of worry: What if it’s true?
Being super busy because people appreciate what you do is a luxury problem but it doesn’t make it any less of a problem. Nothing can go wrong. None of us can get sick. None of us can take any time off. And although you can work like that for a short while that’s not a good long term strategy.
For the last couple of weeks I’ve been meeting with people, chatting about my options and spending a lot of time on making elaborate multi-colored mind maps to try to figure things out. It’s been enlightening actually. And this is what I have found out.
- I cannot do everything on my own. There’s only so many hours in the day and I have to prioritize my time and use it on the things where I’m most needed. As much as I would love to guide every tour, answer every e-mail and write every post it’s simply humanly impossible.I cannot get better if I don’t have time to reflect and brainstorm. I can’t write more posts if I’m out doing tours all day. A hamster on a wheel doesn’t cover a lot of ground.
- Having Ásta doing tours with me has made our tours so much better. Not only is she a great guide and a lovely person, people adore her, but we can also take our own unique perspectives and combine them for a fuller experience for our guests. Having more voices, more points of views, is always going produce a better end product for our guests.
- Exhausted people should not be providing service to anyone. Whether it’s answering e-mails, giving tours or offering advice and information. Nobody benefits from that. Which is why you have to make sure your employees, and yourself, get enough time off from work to give everyone around them the 100% they deserve when they are there.
- I can provide excellent service and value to guests even though I don’t deliver everything personally. I can do this by hiring the right people and giving them the right frame to work with while still giving them space to shine as individuals. And by making sure that the infrastructure is strong.
- I have no interest in becoming a big corporation. The personal touch and love for our guests and our work is always going to be the center point in everything we do.
With every change I make, like when I brought Ásta in for the tours, I worry that you are going to think I’m selling out. That I’m losing what makes I Heart Reykjavík special. But things have changed. I’m no longer just a blogger. I’m running my own business. I have employees and I have a responsibility to them. I have to deal with all that boring stuff like taxes and insurances and licenses. But judging by the response there was a need for what I offer. And I want to do even better. I know it may sound insincere but money is not the end goal here. It’s great to get paid for your work but I do the work because I love it. Even if I would win the jackpot in the lottery I would’t quit this. And I don’t want to stop loving it just because I’m too tired to remember that I love it.
Changes are always scary. I’m going to go out on a limb here an declared that this is most scary for me. Not that it is a competition or anything. But I’m also grateful how understanding and encouraging most people have been so far and I can only hope for the same support going forward. Nothing is changing right now. But it’s lingering in the air. And I just wanted you to know why.
So there you have it. The reason I’ve been quiet. I already feel better just putting it out there.