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What to Do When You Feel Guilty for Your Business Success

During the COVID-19 pandemic, numerous small businesses have closed their doors—and even more are fighting just to stay open. If you’re one of the few small business that don’t fall into either of those two categories, you might be struggling with a bit of guilt over your business success.

We’re here to tell you: You don’t have to feel guilty that your business is thriving. But at the same time, we understand if you do.

Why You Might Feel Guilty for Your Business Success

By May of this year, over 100,000 small businesses had to close their doors forever, according to the Washington Post. That number represents over 100,000 business owners who lost their livelihood, along with thousands of people who worked for them.

That’s a hard statistic to read. Those numbers reflect real lives and real families. So it’s totally understandable if you feel a little guilty that you’ve managed to make it through.

In a much smaller way, it’s like survivor’s guilt. Those suffering from true survivor’s guilt usually go through a traumatic incident in which others die. They then wrestle with the emotional turmoil surrounding the simple questions of “Why me? Why did I make it and not them?”

While “business survivor’s guilt” isn't as serious a condition as true survivor’s guilt, it often conjures up the same questions: “Why me? Why did my business survive while my friend’s shop didn’t?”

If you’ve been thinking those thoughts lately, just realize that what you’re feeling is normal. Employees who didn’t get fired during the pandemic can struggle with those same emotions.

So how do you cope?

How to Cope With ‘Business Survivor’s Guilt’

The first step to coping with guilt for your business success is to acknowledge the feelings. Perhaps you’ve already done this. If so, well done!

But you don’t have to wallow in those emotions. Instead, you can turn them around into something positive as you seek to make a difference in others’ lives. Here are some ways to do that:

1. Be grateful for your business success.

Instead of focusing on how guilty you feel, try focusing on how grateful you are that your business is still thriving even during the pandemic. That’s truly a wonderful blessing—and it’s OK to acknowledge that!

2. Be proud of your success.

Beyond being grateful that your business is succeeding, choose to be proud of it. I’m not talking about the rub-it-in-your-face kind of proud. I mean embracing the fact that you accomplished something and you’re not afraid to show it. Clients want to know that your business is doing well, so don't be timid to let them know!

3. Help another struggling small business.

Lastly, don’t forget to turn your own business success into a blessing for others. Give back by helping a fellow small-business owner or supporting a local shop.

That can be as simple as shopping at their store or as big as donating money to help them stay afloat. You could even host a free event for fellow business owners in which you teach them what has helped your business stay strong.

However you decide to give back, let it come from your heart and not out of a sense of guilt. If your business is succeeding during the pandemic, turn your guilt into gratitude and make a difference.

As your business continues to grow, are you creating a streamlined bookkeeping system? If not, we’d love to help you! Schedule a free consultation to get started.

The end of the year is fast approaching! Do you have everything you need to file your taxes? Download our free Tax Season Checklist for small businesses to make sure!


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