Ever asked yourself, “Why am I afraid to start my own business?”
I sure did, when I started my freelance writing business back in 2005. It’s scary enough to hear all the statistics about new businesses failing – and to make the leap from employee to business owner…
But there may be an added layer of angst when you’re making such a drastic change that your education and experience now become irrelevant (or at least perceived that way).
This may help.
I’m not exaggerating when I tell you THIS place looked like something out of a nightmare.
So, if you’ve read my book, you know that I’ve had a LOT of careers, jobs, businesses, and aspirations in my 48 years.
The butcher, the baker, the… psychotherapist???
Yup. The first time I went to college, I majored in Psychology. From there, I went to grad school to begin the LONG trek to become a psychotherapist (pretty much my goal from about sixth grade onward).
It was going great…
… until it came time to do my internship… at Danvers State Mental Hospital.
My first day, I drove to the top of this rather steep hill in Danvers, Massachusetts (pre-Internet days, so I was SHOCKED by what I saw.
I broke out in a cold sweat. My insides liquified (that happens pretty much anytime I’m terrified!). I debated turning back around and going home…
But I’d already come this far, so, you know…
It didn’t get any better when I went inside. Basically just WALKED RIGHT IN… nobody was there to greet me or direct me. I wandered around until I found what looked like an office.
By the time I poked my head in, I was shaking a bit (and also looking around desperately for a restroom!).
It got WORSE.
You see, I had ZERO hands-on training, despite years of academic study in this field. So when my supervisor assigned patients to me, I was stunned. I didn’t know what it meant that they were “Forensics”.
Um, what am I supposed to SAY?????
That became the constant refrain ringing in my head as I’d try (lamely) to make conversation. At 22, I didn’t have much confidence, and while I didn’t feel like I could help – I sure didn’t want to make anything worse for these folks.
I made small talk, which seemed ridiculous. I tried to make sense of their long-winded rants… and tried to avoid getting myself locked in anywhere dangerous (very easy to do).
Oh, and then there was the day I found out what it meant that my patients were “Forensics”… ever watch “Criminal Minds”?
“You remind me so much of my girlfriend,” he said.
I wasn’t sure how to respond (basically, everything anyone did or said scared the crap out of me there)… so I said, “That’s nice.”
And then I finally got access to his file…
… and I discovered he was there because he had KILLED his girlfriend.
I pretty nearly fainted… and that moment helped me make a major life decision.
THIS was NOT for me.
Thursdays were internship day, and from about Sunday afternoon onward each week, my guts were in knots. I couldn’t sleep. I wasn’t getting any better at it. I felt like while I probably wasn’t doing any harm, I sure wasn’t doing any good… and I had zero hope that there’d be a turnaround coming.
I tried to convince myself that I shouldn’t drop out of the program.
… “You and your parents have invested so much in your Psychology education already!”
… “Great, so you drop out. Then what???”
… “Everyone does jobs they hate, right?”
… “You’ve got NO other prospects. THIS is the basket you put all your eggs in.”
Soon, the thought of going even one more time was just too much. So I withdrew from the program…
… and went to work full-time doing medical billing – in a quiet back office where my officemate and I played the local classic rock station on a small boom box on top of the filing cabinet. It was sort of peaceful – but REALLY boring, too.
Honestly, I felt kind of embarrassed. Here I’d talked about becoming a therapist for about a decade. I’d ‘wasted’ six years and THOUSANDS of dollars (my parents and mine) on an education I’d never use. I no longer had any sense of direction, and not much of a sense of who I was, anymore.
What would I say when people asked what I was doing? Would my parents be angry? How long could I stand this billing job? Would that be my lifelong career? Would my job suck my life right out of me?
Have you ever felt that way about your job?
I mean, you’re probably grateful to have it… but maybe it’s just not a fit.
Maybe you invested an arm and a leg – and a couple of decades into training or education, going after the career you always thought you wanted…
Or maybe you stumbled into your job, and even though it’s familiar and comfortable in some ways, it’s not anything you ever wanted to do…
Maybe you’re just tired of always feeling like your neck is perpetually on the chopping block, like you’re a number, a cog in someone else’s wheel.
I don’t know your exact situation… but I bet you may be asking yourself, “Why am I afraid to start my own business.”
Maybe you’ve got those same voices yelling at you, trying to GUILT you into staying the course no matter what. Maybe they’re telling you your whole identity is wrapped up in whatever you’re doing right now – and that you’ll lose all that if you make a change.
Can I maybe share the a-ha moment I had that changed everything in this regard?
You see, when I went into Psychology, it was because it was interesting learning about how the mind works. I figured maybe I could use my understanding to HELP people.
It feels like that’s a good part of my purpose.
Even though that career path turned out to be a BAD fit, that desire was still strong in me… and in writing (and teaching) I’ve made my own way to fulfill that purpose.
If your mind’s throwing “identity” issues in your face as you make important decisions about your life and future, it may help you to reflect on your purpose… and other ways you could fulfill it rather than staying in a situation that’s not working.
George Bernard Shaw was right.
“Life isn’t about finding yourself… life is about CREATING yourself.”
Maybe, just maybe gaining a bit of clarity about how writing could help you live your true identity, to fulfill your purpose – and to do it in a way that ADDS to your life. You may even find the answers that make the voices that ask that question, “Why am I afraid to start my own business?” pipe down and let you get going.
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