Have you ever read the 5 Love Languages book? Whether you are in a committed relationship or not, the ideas presented in the book are ones that I come back to over and over. The book is rooted in Christianity but applies to anyone. The premise of the book’s philosophy is that there are five love languages and most people have a couple that they identify with most, they are: words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time and physical touch.
The idea is that each of us possess a few of these as our dominant “language” and that most often our partners language is different than ours. The book tells us that we should seek to frame our expressions of love in the way that our partners will most intuitively receive and recognize and likewise we should be aware of our own languages and needs. So for instance, if your top love languages were acts of service & physical touch, all the red roses in the world may not register to you as the expressions of love that you need. You (though grateful) will probably still feel lacking in those other more dominant needs. As a parent, it’s also interesting to think of this idea and how you communicate with your child. It’s also interesting to think of it as an entrepreneur.
My primary love languages are words of affirmation & quality time, with words of affirmation being the most dominant. Though I don’t feel like I go around fishing for compliments, I do in reality need a lot of words of acknowledgement that I am recognized and seen, to feel whole. That doesn’t necessarily mean that I need to hear grand affirmative statements (though those are amazing – ha!), instead, simple recognition’s and thank-you’s and “hey, good job” go a REALLY long way for me. So when things get tough and I feel like I am pouring my whole self into things and don’t get that in return, business wise, it knocks me off balance. As an intensely introverted entrepreneur who feels like I am constantly “putting myself out there”, my ego can sometimes be especially fragile, as I’m sure are the egos of most other entrepreneurs who face tough decision making and intense output daily. This is why it is especially important to seek out those around you who will lift you up when you need it and have a network of friends, supporters and encouragers behind and around you.
At it’s best, entrepreneurship is the most fulfilling thing, being able to follow your passions, skills and effort toward change and a world that you would like to put your stamp on. At it’s worst it can be a harrowing struggle of doubt and faith. I liken entrepreneurship in some ways to being an explorer in a jungle; you are in the middle of a new land, you have a vision and a plan, you know in your gut that promise lies just ahead on the other side, you are frantically cutting down tall plants with a machete, not really able to see the path ahead, but trusting, and listening to your inner compass and intuition, that it exists. The key I think in some ways, is not stopping and looking around you or you will begin to realize that you are in the middle of a jungle, in a potentially scary place with low visibility and unknown threats lurking around each corner. You begin to think “Will I ever get there? What If I am wrong?” And then sometimes, sometimes, you look behind you and realize that you have forged a new path but now you’ve even got some people following you which can be both inspiring and terrifying. That’s when the real panic starts to hit in, “what if” you think “I am leading these people astray – what if all of this path forging has no value or purpose?”
Clearly, this line of reasoning shows that I could use a mentor and maybe even a therapist. 😉 Most paths have already been trod by someone before, and I, or other entrepreneurs, shouldn’t have to seek out the totally unknown on my own own. This is valid, I should seek out that wisdom from other more seasoned entrepreneurs, but, as that introverted entrepreneur who feels like I am expending every bit of my energy in seeking and cutting and forging, I oftentimes don’t feel like I have any additional energy to expend on anything else business-wise. I know a lot of other entrepreneurs at this stage of business feel the same way.
So what is the short-term solution? It is in knowing what my primary love languages are and how they relate to me as an entrepreneur and because mine is “words of affirmation”, asking to receive the encouragement I need from those around me when it feels especially lacking. It is also in giving back to those around me: my employees, my network of encouragers, my customers, in the ways that they need and actively thinking about that too. Likewise, if you haven’t yet, think about yourself, and just as importantly, those in your life: your friends and those you admire too, especially the entrepreneurs, in the “Love Languages” perspective. How can you give them what they need so that they can feel validated and continue down the path that they are forging? Do they inspire you? How can you inspire them back? How can you be an encourager to someone who encourages you often in small ways that you might take for granted? What can you give back to them to enrich their lives too?
You can read more about each of the 5 love languages and take a quiz to find out which ones are yours here.