Mark Suster, a venture capitalist at Upfront Ventures, believes that success breeds loneliness. It can be a depressogen and in some studies the rate of depression in successful people is higher than 1 in 3.
Mark identifies four reasons success can be a lonely place:
1) the expectations don’t stop – they get higher
2) there is so much more at stake and so many more livelihoods and legacies that you plan for
3) it is only a heartbeat away from failure and the press love a rise and fall story
4) you find yourself surrounded by a bubble and often a bubble with vested interests in your actions.
This holds true for successful people in all walks of life, but I’d like to focus in on three groups:-
* fast-track executives, and
*social media influencers.
All three can get thrust into the spotlight of success with far more impetus than other groups and are therefore susceptible to the sudden onset of loneliness and depression, with no experience in how to identify or cope with it.
One moment Jim was a struggling entrepreneur. His mother kept yelling at him to get a real job. His friends told him that he was crazy. The next moment his company was valued at over a billion dollars and some guy he’d only ever previously seen on the cover of magazines was thrusting a very, very big check into his hands. He spent six months mastering golf and travelling the world. Deep down he began to feel more and more hollow inside. He was becoming detached from his former entrepreneurial self and didn’t know how to identify himself anymore.
Greg was on the executive fast-track within a Fortune 500 company. There was a constant pressure of work on him. He was taking big jumps up the corporate ladder and the higher he got the lonelier he became. He eventually made it to CEO, but this was short-lived. He was replaced eighteen months later when the board decided to bunker down on what had worked in the past rather than exploring new opportunities. He was extremely disappointed and went into an irrevocable downward spiral.
Social Media Influencers
Helen shot to prominence when she attracted a huge following on her YouTube channel. She received a six figure sum just to place a popular motor vehicle in the background of one of her Instagram photos. However, the industry began to wear her down. While the going was good she did great, but as she started to stumble it became really tough for her.
What can you do to deal with the dark side?
1. Embark on quest-centered therapy
Before you start any form of therapy or very early on in your therapy sessions, figure out with your coach or psychotherapist, what you want to achieve, for example being at peace with yourself.
And then embark on a quest to achieve this goal, marking your journey towards peace with myriad small wins. As you progress you will get better at achieving results that progress you towards fulfilling your quest.
2. Explore the dark
Your life exists as a narrative, a story arc with a past, present and future. In order to truly achieve well-being you need to delve into parts of your past and present that you may feel much trepidation about. There may be dark times when your arc dipped low and this darkness cannot be avoided. It must be explored as it leads to the third point.
3. Tackle the triggers
Loneliness is often exacerbated by triggers. Things happen in your life that for most people would be viewed as slightly negative, but you view them as off-the-charts negative. Having explored the dark you become aware why these things have such an effect on you. You can identify very early on, even before the trigger starts having an accentuated impact on you, that it is there and you can act.
You can put in place methods you’ve worked out with your coach or therapist to combat the downward spiral into depression, you can blast away the negative thought processes and the self-sabotage well in advance of them taking control of you and launching you into a days-long relapse.