Community & Catharsis
catharsis (n): the process of releasing, and thereby providing relief from emotional tension, accompanied by cognitive insight and positive change.
Here’s a little glimpse into our first Rouge dinner party some months back. What a treat to see all these babes in red, going hard for the team! And thank you to the loveliest couple of gentlemen who sponsored our evening. Notable mention of the night: our waiter commenting on my “very attractive husband” who dropped by earlier to pay for the champagne. That he is, but no he is not, sir *cheeky grin*.
But this blog entry isn’t all champagne and girl talk. The culmination of our first dinner party was a special moment for me, and a milestone for our collective. So in the spirit of consummating our little family, I wanted to share a piece on my evolution through the industry, and how that ties into the emphasis Rouge places on creating community today. From independent solopreneur, to baby-faced matriarch of a heaux-ocracy. Please enjoy my brain dump.
Since launching Rouge, I’ve been pleasantly inundated with positive feedback from clients, providers and onlookers alike who resonate with our brand. I think that’s telling. Assuming you’re familiar with the concept of urban isolation and the impact digital communication has on human connection – it’s not hard to see why people are excited when they encounter brands who place an emphasis on community. These feelings of isolation accompanied by modern advancements are only exasperated when you’re an entrepreneur. You work long hours on your own with minimal human contact, are constantly living in your head and plotting your next move, staring at a screen. To be your own boss, set your own hours, answer to no one but yourself; it’s very freeing, but you’ll also find yourself alone for considerable amounts of time. So while entrepreneurship may seem glamorous, it comes with no shortage of challenges. Let’s take a peek at the statistics.
– Over a third (39%) say they have felt lonely since becoming their own boss. This is most common amongst millennials (25 – 34 year olds), with over half (54%) saying they have experienced this feeling. (Aldermore, 2017)
– Entrepreneurs are 2x as likely to suffer from depression. (Freeman, UCSF)
– Loneliness, poor social connections and isolation are as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. (Holt-Lunstad, 2010)
– Productivity suffers and other costs of the high level of disengagement associated with loneliness includes ~37% higher absenteeism, 49% more accidents and 16% lower profitability. (Gallup, 2017)
Some might argue saying independent companions have a built in safeguard against the challenges faced by entrepreneurs because their job literally revolves around connecting with others. But isolation takes nuanced forms when it comes to the dating industry, and in some ways I can see it affecting companions even more so that your typical civilian entrepreneur. In my experience as an independent provider, I felt like no one really knew me. I had and have, many close relationships with family, friends and clients. But no one saw all sides of me. I felt like a compartmentalized version of a human being, acting as a different person around each circle. Never truly being my whole self or knowing whether my relationships were even considered legitimate, all due to the societal stigma surrounding paid companionship. Maybe this is just me and my romanticization of melancholy, who knows.
I’ve since passed this way of thinking. My choice of work is a special part of me, but it doesn’t make me who I am. The reason I would like to share my whole story is because I’m proud to be a companion. There are so many beautiful character traits associated with our work; empathy, intuition, pragmatism, business and social acumen, open-mindedness, independence, being comfortable in your own skin and confidence to go your own way in life, despite what society says. But these traits I’m proud to be associated with still exist if you strip away my SW identity. The people in my life can still know me without knowing every detail. Nor am I under any obligation to go through the gruelling process of exposing the unconscious stigma and educating every misinformed person as to the realities of my work. To what once would be my surprise, I have found lately that being more open about my life with those closest to me has gone over very well! But getting involved in an active community of like-minded women was the most catalytic change in the connectedness I felt to my world by far. When Rouge is together, I breathe. I sink into my being, knowing that every aspect of myself is accepted, embraced and shared. And this is all not to say being an independent companion is inherently lonely, but from my experience it definitely takes a bit of effort to offset the potential for it to be.
Belonging is such an integral aspect of happiness. As an industry, companions are already segregated from society, and while still problematic, I can embrace that. I love our little oasis away from reality. What actually sucks is being isolated within an already disenfranchised community. Humans are a social species, it’s been hard wired into our DNA through biological success over millions of years, and all this striving for individualism is literally making us sick. I’m sure you’ve seen at least an article or two on how loneliness has an exceedingly close correlation to mental and physical health. It is a sickness of the heart that is quite literally causing premature death on a mass, worldwide scale (Holt-Lunstad, 2017). Conversely, strong bonds and social connections lead to a healthy, happy human being! So how can we all find more belonging in life, especially as entrepreneurs?
Find your tribe!
A modern day tribe is a group of people with similar vested interests or values, intimately linked through social, economic, and cultural ties. A tribe is not cold, dissociated corporate culture. A tribe instills a sense of belonging through a collective ethos, and active participation by its members.
For companions in particular:
- Can you find a group that regularly or periodically interacts face to face? If not, the next best thing is an online one.
- Reach out to other independents on twitter, make friends, put yourself out there. Retweet, retweet, retweet. Show your support through likes and genuine comments.
- Use a shared incall space
- Escalate online friendships to real life. Ask to buy your twitter crush lunch or dinner!
- Express yourself authentically, and with kindness
- Join in on or take initiative to curate IRL social functions (these can also double as business opportunities if you get creative!)
- Ask clients to set you up on a duo date with their other favourite provider, or encourage your clients to see you and a duo partner together
- Extend your support and resources to others
- Organize a shared business opportunity, such as hosting a space for a photoshoot with a photographer and a special package to offer other providers who would like to participate
- Create or join private group chats
- Express a strong WHY in your online presence. This naturally allows others to feel more connected to you and your brand
- Get involved with activism initiatives or community building projects. Strong communities are built on a shared sense of greater purpose
Principles similar in execution can be applied to almost every industry. Once you’ve established a baseline, the most important part is nurturing your network. Personally, while I did make a decent amount of acquaintances as an independent, I didn’t find there to be a strong glue or platform entangling me to the connections I made. At least enough to cement meaningful relationships. This all comes down to time and effort, so make sure you’re putting in the work!
Overall, the privilege to work for yourself is a blessing, and I’m grateful I’ve found a way to coalesce entrepreneurship with community for myself and others as well. It’s been so inspiring to watch everyone at Rouge encourage and support each other in a way that other people in our lives might not be able to. Creating friendships as a business model is an idea I’m pretty smitten with. I think as long as you love what you’re doing and you believe in your work, the pros of entrepreneurship far outweigh the cons. So, how are you going to breath a new sense of community into your life or business today? 🙂