Annelies James – 72% of entrepreneurs develop a mental health issue

Annelies has been running her own marketing business, 22Midnight. She has encountered anxiety and a negative work-life balance but has found numerous ways to counter these and remain successful, both personally and professionally.

I’ve been running my own business since 2018. Since taking the leap I have discovered a lot about myself, my own limits and creativity, but have also been able to enjoy some mega experiences and opportunities which only come with the flexibility of being able to say yes. I love what I do, it is totally varied and very empowering. I help people define themselves, be noticed and build connection in business and life with personal branding and videography.


If I don’t just do this, I will never do it

I knew I wanted to be self-employed for about four years before I took the leap. I just need the balls to do it, which is why I ended up launching myself without much preparation. It was one of those moments where you are like “if I don’t just do this, I will never do it.’ I chose personal brand and video because after the first six months of business living in total chaos offering everything to everyone, I decided to take the reins and cherry pick the things I liked the most. Personal branding because people and their motivators are fascinating, video because I have an eye for it and the technical skill.


I had no idea who I was or what happiness was

I wandered through my life sort of doing what other people expected, get a husband, house, have a baby etc. It was only when this all fell apart and my first marriage collapsed that I realised I had spent my existence living for other people and it had just made me really unhappy. I had no idea who I was or what happiness was. Since then it has been a process of self-discovery, accepting the good and bad. Setting up the business was the last stepping stone into total autonomy but also comes with its own challenges, crazy hours, huge pressures, a bit of chaos. It has been quite a beast to master.


72% of entrepreneurs develop some form of mental health issue

In the first year of business I developed anxiety, apparently 72% of entrepreneurs develop some form of mental health issue. I needed to be kind and adopt calm. The business was extremely successful but to my own detriment and that is no way to live. I adopted mindfulness, practiced yoga and got really honest with people. It eventually subsided. Now with more reflection, I am much better at managing my commitments and keeping my life-work (the right way around) balance in order.


I am thankful I get to use my initiative every day. For me this looks like collaborative projects with others, for example Colleagues Getting Coffee, a Business Give Back YouTube show I run. I organise co-authored books, The Female Edge and more recently Being a BADASS B*tch in Business and Life. I am able to adopt new projects; I have just won the license for TEDxSouthampton and am working with a small team to make this a huge success. I think the passion through all of these is finding great people and extracting and sharing their greatness.


Success is anything you want it to be

I have always been surrounded by good female role-models. Those gritty, tenacious, unapologetic women who are fierce and bloody fabulous. While I am not always in the same space as them, I try to channel this and as such adopt the mindset that I just cannot fail. Success is anything you want it to be after all, so one day it might be a small feat and the next a huge project. I just always commit myself 100% and listen to those good influences around me.

It is marvellous being a woman

It is marvellous being a woman, although some of that ridiculousness still exists for me, sometimes mansplaining, sometimes being patronised and sometimes outwardly sexual advances. But not dwelling on that is key. It is people, not the whole category of “men” who choose to be that way. More now than ever I am able to be myself and tap into that female energy I have, being open about love, informality and openness. I also get to help others achieve the same.

I recognise my own privilege in terms of being cis and also white.

I have had situations when I have had to compete with male rivals for the top spot, it brings out an ugly side of me, but I think because I have resourced myself with women who are confident enough to be the type to help you fix your crown, I have always been just fine. That said, I do advocate for gender equality and I recognise my own privilege in terms of being cis and also white. Where I am able, I support and recognise the difficulties others face and stand with them, even though I cannot understand their struggle, I will seek to listen and use my voice to advocate.

Life is a journey not a destination

Life is a journey not a destination. Even if you think it is the end, it is often not the case. Whether personal development or business and relationships, it is all moving, changing, evolving. I think this approach lets you off the hook and takes the pressure off. Success is not a competition; everything takes its sweet time. Enjoy the journey.


Another big life lesson for me was to realise that happiness is not a state of permanence and it would be ridiculous to actually try to be permanently joyous. Instead seek contentment, it is more realistic.

I feel so privileged to be able to support others


I am a firm believer that everything you need you already have inside you. Just untapping that is the struggle but once you do it is magical and transformational. I feel so privileged to be able to support others with this in my own small way and would thoroughly encourage others to look at how they support others, because for me, this has been one of the most fulfilling aspects of my life.

Thank you, Annelies. If this has inspired you, you can read more #YesSheCan blogs here!

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