Fear and the Opinions of Others

As I’ve touched upon in previous posts, I often worry too much about what other people think of me.  My desire to “look good” and be acceptable in other’s eyes has been a big driver of my compulsive shopping behavior (see “Shopping for Acceptance”).  Although my concern about other’s opinions has wreaked havoc on my “bottom line,” that’s far from the worst of its effects. In today’s post, I share the impact of my deep-seated fear of how others view me, how it’s caused problems in my life, and some steps I’m taking to turn things around.

Worrying About What Others Think

Do you worry too much about what others think of you?

“So, What Do You Do?”

I can’t tell you how much I’ve dreaded that question over the past ten years.  You see, I left my corporate high-tech job in 2003 to pursue a career in the relatively new field of life coaching.  While I was somewhat apprehensive to make the leap, I was also propelled by my desire to do work that was in line with my values and could make a profound difference in the world.  At the time, I truly believed I could make it work.  It didn’t…

Fast forward ten years to 2013.  Since I left my high-tech job, I’ve not only had a life coaching business that didn’t quite pan out.  I’ve also co-authored a book that wasn’t published, written two other blogs that didn’t reach a wide audience, and started two other businesses that weren’t successful.  While I never intended my book or blogs to be “bread and butter” endeavors, I did hope my businesses would be at least somewhat lucrative.  They weren’t…

I’ve written about my most recent business, wardrobe consulting, a few times on this blog.  Back in July, I shared that I was at a crossroads in terms of whether or not to continue in that industry.  I’ve since decided my best option is to close the doors on this business and move on.  To what, I’m not exactly sure, but I know wardrobe consulting isn’t “it” for me.

Inauthenticity Thy Name is Debbie…

I actually knew in my gut months ago that I didn’t want to continue being a wardrobe consultant.  I’d stopped trying to pursue new clients and hadn’t updated my business website or written any new blog posts there in a long time.  However, I kept the site up and left “personal wardrobe consultant” as my job on all of my social media accounts for one big reason.  I worried what people would think of me if I quit yet another business.  I feared they would think I was a flake, a dabbler, a quitter, or worst of all, a loser.

My fear paralyzed me.  I didn’t want to see or talk to people I knew or meet new people because I’d either have to tell the truth about my career situation or lie.  So I kept to myself and avoided conversations that could potentially drift to inquiries about my business.  When I did talk to other people, I did my best to keep them talking about themselves so I wouldn’t have to talk about me.

While I didn’t actually lie to anyone, I am guilty of lies of omission.  I allowed people to continue to believe I was Debbie Roes, Wardrobe Consultant. After all, my shiny professional website was still up, complete with my beautiful and polished logo.  By all appearances, I was a successful business owner, yet I knew that wasn’t true, not by a long-shot.

What My Fear Cost Me

I’ve frequently lamented my lack of closeness with other people and admitted to feelings of loneliness.  Yet I didn’t realize that I was the one keeping everyone at arm’s length.  My desire to “look good” and avoid criticism and judgment from others kept me perpetuating a farce.

The ruse I was maintaining not only led me to feel distant from people in my life, it also affected my health.  I’ve often had trouble sleeping due to my excessive worries about what’s next in my professional life and how to tell people I’m abandoning my wardrobe consulting business.  I’m also convinced that at least some of my digestive distress and migraine headaches have their roots in fear and worry.  I’ve definitely been paying a big price in order to appear like I have it all together.

Making a Different Choice

This past weekend, I decided I’d had enough of the charade.  I swallowed my fear and spent the past few days taking the necessary steps to put my wardrobe consulting business behind me.  I shut down my business Facebook page and Twitter account (the accounts for this blog remain active!), updated my LinkedIn profile, and modified my website to remove all references to wardrobe consulting.  While I retained certain key advice articles, I removed all of the client success stories and other business-specific posts.

I then wrote a post for the home page outlining my decision to “turn the page” and how I came to make it.  I also wrote about and linked to this blog for the first time!  I put the finishing touches on my interim website last night and switched everything over.  Although the trepidation was still there, I felt empowered to be taking action instead of remaining paralyzed by my fear.

If you’d like to check out my interim website and read my “Turn the Page” article, click HERE.  In the coming days and weeks, I’ll revise the site further, adding more content and filling in the gaps as I become clearer on the direction I wish to take.  I’ll add lots of articles I’ve written in the past on various personal development topics and I’ll write new articles as I’m inspired to do so.

Telling the Truth Bit By Bit…

While I haven’t exactly sent out a press release announcing the demise of my wardrobe consulting business, I’m no longer hiding the truth.  I shared the news with a few people today in response to their emails on other topics.  I could have easily kept it to myself, but I’m ready to be open and honest and risk others looking down on me.  Admittedly, some people will be harder to tell than others.  In particular, I worry about telling most of my family members, as they are aware of my whole sordid professional history.

In “Friends, Shopping, and Telling the Truth,” I confessed my desire to be the “Debbie of Recovering Shopaholic” in my everyday life.  I’m now ready to take that step, as I’m no longer willing to pay the price for maintaining such a costly ruse.  The burden has become too heavy and I’d rather have others look down on me than continue regarding myself in a negative light.

I’m ready to take steps toward freedom and start being my authentic self with all people in all situations.  I know it won’t be easy, but I’m ready to live a fuller life.   Perhaps in my authentic life, I won’t need to shop so much and have such an overloaded closet.  Maybe when I really “get” that I’m enough, I won’t need to buy so much.  That’s my wish for all of us!

47 thoughts on “Fear and the Opinions of Others

  1. Great post! Love all your posts, they ring true to heart. I would never have as much courage as you do…I look forward to your articles…thank you

    • Thanks for your kind words, Sullygirl. I’ve never thought of myself as courageous, but maybe it’s happening later in life. I’m just glad my words are touching others. Since that’s the case, it’s worth any risk to me!

  2. Hi Debbie

    I’ve only recently discovered this blog and so far I’m impressed with the content. This post is brave but you are putting a very negative spin on your recent career history, and being extremely hard on yourself. It is admirable that you have had the courage to actually give these things you’ve wanted to try a go, even if none have them have worked out financially. At least you won’t wonder “what if…” I bet many people you know wish they could be more like you.

    • I really appreciate this comment, Gervy. You’re right in that I AM very hard on myself. While I have changed jobs/careers a lot of times, I haven’t given up and I do give myself credit for that. Maybe it IS true that others admire that in me. I’m definitely a fighter!

  3. I think it’s great that you’re moving onto another path, given the path you were going down wasn’t the right one for you. Just also read your other website and it made me laugh – the more I shop with clients, the less I shop for myself (I get well over my love of shopping after slogging round the shops with clients, looking at stuff for them). I love now that I can go shopping, get that shopping fix, and come home with more money (and no stuff) than when I started!

    • I’m glad I explored the business of styling even if it didn’t pan out, Imogen. Maybe it’s not as great a fit for me as it is for you. You seem to be such a natural for it! You’re definitely good at what you do and I love all of your wonderful articles (and your book !). I’m guessing that most image consultants / stylists are not shopaholics, so the effect of shopping with clients isn’t to make them want to shop more. For me, I often felt like I was “missing out” when I saw all of the beautiful new things. It’s probably because I struggle with insecurity, but my shopping problem got worse while I was doing styling. But I try to look at the bright side. If things hadn’t gotten worse, I might never have started this blog, and this blog is very fulfilling for me and may lead to bigger and better things for me down the line!

  4. You are too hard on yourself, Debbie. Society judges us by what job we have, but in reality it’s often not the best people who have the best jobs. A high flying professional person will cut no ice with me unless I can see other qualities, and if I meet a lovely person who’s out of work, I don’t hold their lack of money/career against them. We’re human beings, not human doings. Your blog is my favourite for many reasons, but mostly because it’s written by a beautiful person with depth to them, plus a shed load of courage. I’m pretty certain you didn’t win your wonderful husband in a lottery! Like attracts like.
    You always look so vibrant and your writing sounds so alive and full of passionate, that it was a shock to read about how you feel terrible physically. Here’s praying you find healing soon. Lots of hugs xxx

    • I really love your perspective on things, Magic Rabbit, and I appreciate your kind words, prayers, and virtual hugs! I wish everyone saw things the way you do, but perhaps the people who matter most DO look at it that way. I agree that we are NOT human doings, but the effects of my upbringing and society’s impact die hard. I do see my good qualities and I need to rank them higher than I do. I know I won’t be on my deathbed (hopefully many years from now!) thinking about how much money I did or didn’t earn. I hope I will feel happy that I made a positive impact on the world. I’m happy to be doing so with this blog!

  5. My adult life was spent in Wash., DC where you are defined by what you do. When I left my government job to take care of the children, I certainly didn’t want to answer that question as being a housewife as that would earmark me as not being interesting to talk to (except by wives in the same situation). I was no longer the professional, just the spouse of one. I started answering the question by reframing my job situation as “I run a small social service agency with 6 family clients” or “I’m a special education advocate for my autistic son.” That would encourage conversation a bit longer before the person moved on to someone more powerful at cocktail parties or would lengthen the conversation with someone seated next to me at a dinner before they turned to the person on their other side.

    Now I just say I am retired and I have resumed painting botanical watercolors. That’s good for a few minutes but I am less often in the company of the upwardly mobile so there is a broader range of conversational topics.

    • Sounds delightful. Wish I were the artistic type. I would have a whole lot of questions about where you get your inspiration, do you sell your work, and if so, where, etc.

    • I love your creative responses, Sandra! As for me, I would be FAR more interested to talk to you than many of the people with the high-powered job titles. I think I’ll need to come up with some creative responses of my own 🙂 I think people are defined by what they DO in many settings, but I can see how it might be worse in a place like D.C. I hope you have a circle of people around you who love hearing about your painting and other hobbies. I agree with Dottie that the watercolors sound delightful!

  6. Debbie: I can relate. I took an early retirement from a CEO position to get out of the pressure cooker of the work place. I was fully planning to make a career transition, and I completed an advanced degree and began the search for a new position for the first time in decades — just as the economy crashed. I couldn’t move (couldn’t sell my house) to find a job, jobs in my field disappeared overnight, and my consulting business took a serious hit. But I have re-organized my life, reduced my spending and expectations, and have found greater control over my schedule and life. I volunteer, work a part-time job that I leave behind when I get into my car (what a change!!), and continue to consult with clients I believe in. I tell people who ask that I am semi-retired (too young to fully retire, if ever). No further explanations are needed or forthcoming. I don’t feel the need to apologize, explain, or regret. I don’t think I have been so happy in a long time. For me, the key to making this work has been to establish a budget and stick to it. I no longer shop except to replace clothes, and my annual clothing budget (including shoes, undies and accessories) is $240. I have also reached the age (over 50) at which I no longer worry about what other people think of me — except for those people in my life that matter to me (close friends and family). I know my accomplishments (and there are many) and I know my failures (there have been a few). How much more delightful to spend the morning in my garden than in an airless conference room at yet another meeting! If giving up shopping “buys” me this happiness, then the game is worth the candle.

    • Thanks for sharing your story, Dottie. I’m glad you are happier in your current situation. Actually, it sounds quite wonderful to me. I like the idea of part-time work, some consulting I believe in, and hobbies and interests I enjoy. I think it’s wonderful that you feel no regret, nor any need to apologize to explain. I hope to get to that point soon. Your morning in the garden sounds FAR better than the airless conference room meeting, that’s for sure!

  7. So what do YOU do? I usually ask “About what?” We have moved to several different states for my husband’s job. The last time I didn’t bother to look for a job because I figured we’d be moving again. Eleven years later…. What we did find is that this suited us very well. My husband works long hours and his job is high stress. He liked not having to deal with stuff at home durning the week and looks forward to coming home to dinner. I had always worked two jobs and this did me a world of good to slow down and spend some time with myself. He makes my life easier and I make his easier and we are both very happy with this choice. However, it seems like people will always judge. It used to bother me and I would try to justify all that I did. Now I know that’s just silly. It’s not really anyone else’s business and it won’t affect their lives at all. When asked now I can look them in the eye and say “I do a little online work to make some extra money, but I am fortunate enough to be able to stay home and take care of things there and I have a little extra time to read and paint.” That’s what I do and I am grateful for it instead of feeling ashamed. Most people now say That’s great. I think when I felt guilty and ashamed they could pick up on it and responded to it. I think that we do teach people how to treat us and if we’re feeling like we’re not good enough and not worth enough, I think other people will react to that. You are enough without having to do anything and what you are doing is pretty amazing. You’ve created a place where people all over the world can come and find others that feel like they do. I think that stress is one of the worst things that we can do for our health and I’m very glad that you’ve taken some steps to decrease the pressure you were putting on yourself. Wishing you peace and comfort.

    • I got a good chuckle from your “About what?” response, Tonya! I may have to use that one… I think you’re right that we teach people how to treat us. I think people “read” that I don’t feel great about my current situation, so they respond with the same type of judgment I use on myself or try to “fix” me. When I read your description of your relationship with your husband, it sounds great and perfectly valid and wonderful – and quite similar to my situation. If it works for you and you feel good about it, I can learn to do the same. I just need to let go of the terrible pressure I put on myself. In truth, doing this blog is FAR more fulfilling for me than pretty much every job I’ve ever had, even the ones with the great salaries. I am trying to live in the moment and enjoy the journey more, both for the sake of my health and for the sake of my sanity. Thanks for your kind wishes!

  8. Dear Debbie,

    Way to go, girlfriend! You’ve made a big decision to be true to yourself and I’m proud of you. I’ve gone through hard times over the past years related to health and career. I’m a MBA holder with minimal cash flow coming in, so I know what it like to have an under current of “nobody’s going to want me” going through my head. And, I’m in my fifties to boot.

    A book and web source that’s been helping me is Lissa Rankin’s “Mind over Medicine.” Lissa’s personal style is a little off-putting since her terminology is New Age or something. However, she is an MD who got sick and took a new view on how to treat her body and her life in a happy and more productive manner. (I’m not shilling for her.) She’s help me to see that I need people in my life that are healers, instead of judgers. I may never drink green juice, but the essence of her thinking is excellent for those of us who have worked out of the live up to other’s expectations model.

    I wish you the best.

    • Thanks for the kudos and for the book recommendation, Jeri. Actually, I just got that book upon the recommendation of someone I trust. I started reading it and like it so far. It gives me hope that I can get to a much better place in terms of my health. I like the idea of having more “healers” in my life and fewer “judgers.” Sadly, my family has a lot of judgers in it, but I can cultivate more relationships with healers in my life. The wonderful women who read and comment on my blog are definitely a positive influence in my life and I am grateful to all of you!

  9. I think if we are really honest with ourselves most of us have felt challenged at various points in our life by the “What do you do” question and by trying to dress ourselves to meet either real or imagined expectations of others. For a number of years, in addition to writing, I worked in a high pressure and fashionable corporate environment where I had frequent meetings to attend. I also travel to speak at conferences and I had fallen into the trap of thinking I needed a variety of outfits and worried about what people thought of me. I hated working in the corporate environment and left three years ago to take a much lower status part time position. While I’m happier now the change did leave me with an identity problem when I was faced with meeting new people who I felt might judge me. Although I’ve been writing and publishing for over 25 years, for the longest time I felt insecure to identify myself as a writer because when I did I often encountered people who wanted to know what I had written and then I felt like I needed to list a couple of impressive publications, which I didn’t have at the time. My solution was to simply say I was a freelance writer and when pressed I’d casually say, “Oh, I will write a magazine article on just about any subject as long as the pay is good.” That would usually make people laugh and then I would turn the question back on the person and get them to talking about what they “do.”

    When I finally did achieve a few impressive publishing credits, I found that when I mentioned them after saying that I was a writer, I felt silly and I could tell people thought I was impressed with myself (which I was) so I gave myself a good talking to and got off of my high horse. It all comes down to confidence really, and I’ve met extremely capable and confident people in blue-collar service jobs, and I’ve met plenty of people with high status white-collar jobs who are idiots. But I think all of us need to spend a few years searching to find an identity description that we feel comfortable with that best describes us.

    Now that I’m older (60) I have found that age has given me what I have always longed for. I simply no longer care what people think and what I care most about is being genuine. And I want my clothing choices to be genuine. I want to be well dressed, but only because it makes me feel good. And thankfully I’ve learned that I can be well dressed with a small wardrobe. Nobody needs to know that I’m wearing EF, because I wear it for me. And I have gained the confidence to say that I’m a writer without needing to explain or prove myself.

    So hold onto faith Debbie, you are an outstanding writer with a gift for being yourself on the page. Memoir might be a path for you to explore. Most importantly, you have not left a business behind that needs to be explained. You are walking forward, and right now you are a blogger with a successful blog, and this is something plenty of people are eager to achieve. Run with it and have fun.

    • Thanks for sharing more of your story, Terra, and for all of your encouragement and praise. I definitely want to pursue writing further, both in terms of blogging and in other respects. I do worry that people will ask if I’ve been published and I was also hesitant to share this blog because of its very personal nature. But I also realize that people won’t even read it unless the content speaks to them on some level. They may glance at it a bit, but most will move on (including the people in my life when they find out) unless they can relate to the subject matter (which in truth is broader than just compulsive shopping).

      I think it’s wonderful that you no longer concern yourself with what others think of what you “do” or how you dress. Perhaps that’s something for me to look forward to as I get older 🙂 I SO look forward to no longer feeling any need to explain, justify, or prove my worthiness as a human being. While I know I don’t really have to do so, I have yet to feel it “in my bones.” But maybe if I keep writing about it and exploring being more authentic with those in my life, I will get over the whole worrying about what people think thing. I seriously hope so! I have to believe that those who truly matter will embrace me for who I am and that those who don’t are not those who matter…

  10. Please, quit apologizing and confessing! You are fabulous! We all admire you! And more importantly, I hope you get to the place where YOU admire YOU! So, you tried some things that didn’t work out — congratulations on being brave and courageous!

    • Thank you so much, Elizabeth! I DO feel accepted for who I am by the readers of my blog and I truly appreciate that. I am working on being more accepting of myself and acknowledging my strengths, though I have to admit that whenever someone writes that I’m brave or courageous, It brings tears to my eyes. I’ve just never thought of myself that way, but perhaps it really is true!

  11. Debbie, it really struck me after reading this article how everything up to this point in your life seems interrelated and synergistic – the psychology, tech job, life coaching, entrepreneurial efforts, writing, blogging, even the styling and health struggles – what a deep and wide collection of skills, education and experience you have! A solid foundation for your current writing here on the blog, as well as any future endeavors.

    I’ve had debilitating health issues for most of my life that really derailed my admin/finance career path, along with my sense of identity, early on. Like another commenter, I fell into the role of supportive wife/homemaker by default as we moved around over the years for my husband’s career. I still miss the days of my corporate work lifestyle, but I am very grateful that things have worked out this way. Otherwise I’d probably have had to apply for disability and struggle to find appropriate part-time work. And I’m so grateful we don’t have kids (we realized early in the marriage neither of us really wanted them).

    When folks ask me the what-do-you-do question, I like to quip something along the lines of “I work for my husband” or “I’m the family CFO/CEO”, possibly followed up with a joke about sleeping with the boss (or being the boss, haha). Or sometimes, I just say “I’m a homemaker” and leave it at that, since we find value in that and aren’t embarrassed by it. We don’t hide the fact that I have health problems but we generally don’t advertise details either. If others take umbrage to our set-up, that’s a reflection of their own issues – I actually feel quite lucky at the privilege of my situation – but honestly, I’ve rarely had a negative response. We’re also very frugal and practical by nature, not spendy or flashy or anything like that, so perhaps that helps ease the way. Mostly, I think it’s that we are secure in ourselves, our choices and each other, and people pick up on that and feel comfortable as well. Having a supportive spouse has been key for me.

    • Thanks for sharing that you are in a similar situation, Claire. It helps me a lot to know that others can relate to my various struggles, especially the health issues, not having a career, and not having children by choice. I often feel so alone in those respects that it’s helped a lot to read comments such as yours. I hadn’t really thought about how everything in my life has been synergistic, but perhaps that is right. It does feel in some respects that things are coming “full circle.” I do feel like perhaps I will circle back to some of the things I did before (like coaching and speaking) but in a different way. My main focus right now is on getting well and on continuing this blog and my writing. I know writing will continue to be a very important part of my future, whether that involves money or not. I would love to be able to have the types of responses you do to the “what do you do” question. Like you, I DO feel privileged not to have to work full-time, especially given the health challenges, but I have to convince myself that I’m worthy of such advantages. I think that when I stop feeling bad about my reality in terms of work and income, others will stop responding negatively. Regardless of other’s responses, thought, I just want to get to the point where I am okay within myself about where I am today.

  12. These days, I have learned not to give two hoots for the opinions of others with regard to my career or lifestyle, because I am a survivor. I don’t have poor health, in fact I have never been ill, had any surgeries or chronic ailments that prevented me from living an active life, and in this I have been blessed.

    However, I have been on my own since I was a teenager, by choice. I put myself through 6 years of college. I worked in the corporate world first as a technical illustrator, then later an engineer for 8 years, and then I started my own graphic design business which I ran profitably for 22 years. The economy and my burnout killed it, and I went to work for a communications company, where I have been for the past 4 years. It is a challenging and interesting position.

    During those 22 years as a business owner, I was also a single parent. My child had ADHD and I spent many hours with school counselors, special ed teachers, doctors, etc. This is a whole differnt side of the story. I used to so envy parents whose children got good grades and found school to be more of a pleasure. Every time I had to show up at school for yet another conference, I felt humiliated inside. I felt like everyone was censoring me for remaining a single parent, instead of seeking to marry. I lived in a traditional community at that time, and it was hard for me to keep up the right sort of face to get by. At that time I couldn’t bear the thought of the stress of being married along with everything else.

    However, today I always wonder if people think less of me for “giving up” on my own business. I have missed my business, but at the same time I realize that my skill set needs upgrading in order to run it with the level of savvy to attract the type of client I would seek. Now that I have charge of my disabled mother in my home, I know it would be difficult to maintain the sort of spontaneous schedule that’s required when you are in the creative services field, so I am being realistic and now thinking of other business ventures that would mesh with my responsibilities and fulfill my creative yen.

    • It sounds like you have SO much to be proud of, Deby! I can’t imagine how anyone could think less of you for running your own business for 22 years. Most businesses don’t even make it anywhere close to that long. But I know some people view almost anything a failure if it doesn’t last “forever” (businesses, marriages, etc.). But I’m sure that those who matter most view you as the great success that you are – with your business, your son, and your mother!

  13. I hit post before I was finished writing!

    Debbie, I’m just going to ask you to consider this, and realize that I am not alone in thinking this: what you are doing right now is one of the most valuable things you can do “out in the world”–because you are touching people’s lives and influencing them to think about their own situations with an eye to self improvement.

    Your blog is one that I read EVERY day. It is one of the first blogs I look at when I get up in the morning. For me, you are right up there with Facebook, Huff Post and the Weather Channel! Does that tell you omething about the validity of what you are doing NOW? ( Don’t dwell on the perceived failures of the past…)

    How many of the rest of you read this blog as an important part of your news day?

    • Thank you SO much for your kind words, Deby! I’m so honored my blog is one of your daily must reads. I actually DO feel that what I’m doing is valuable and I have no plans of stopping. I have to erase some of the early “tapes” from my life about what success is because those messages don’t serve me. I’m blessed to be able to have time to do this blog and focus on my health at present instead of having to work in a stressful job, especially one I don’t like. I’m not sure what’s next for me career-wise, but I’m trying to enjoy the journey more – and I AM grateful for this blog and to have such wonderful readers!

  14. What you have done is tremendously courageous and inspiring! Kudos to you!
    Please stop beating yourself up: doing the right thing is not always immediately rewarding, nor is it necessarily financially lucrative. But it can still be the right thing to do.
    Your path through various endeavours sound like a valuable learning process. You are inspiring us all! Sending you lots and lots of strength and hope you’ll feel better soon!

    • Thank you so much, Anna! I know I need to stop beating myself up and I’m starting to “get” it. I DO feel I’m doing the right thing with this blog and with taking time to improve my health. I HAVE learned a great deal through my journey and I am grateful for that. I’m very happy to be inspiring others. I appreciate your kind words and wishes!

  15. There are so many wise and kind comments here, I really enjoyed reading through them and agree whole-heartedly. To add my own two cents, I’ve come to realize that most people aren’t thinking about me as much as I think they are. I used to be horribly self-conscious until I realized this and it’s been enormously freeing. Once I sat down and tried to remember what all my colleagues were wearing that day and the previous day. I honestly couldn’t remember and that’s when I realized that most people probably aren’t keeping tabs on me either. What really makes an impression is how people behave and whether I enjoy spending time with them. The rest is moot really (including how they make a living!).

    • Some really great points, Alice! Your comment reminded me of a quote by Eleanor Roosevelt: “You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do.”

      I used to worry so much about what I wore around other people, too. But one time I tried to remember what THEY were wearing the last time I saw them. Like you, I couldn’t remember! Since then, I’ve worried less about that, but I still worry about the work thing. I realize that people may have a thought about it – and that thought might even be negative – but then they will soon get back to thinking about themselves and their own lives. I realize this, but I still worry. I guess I will just have to “feel the fear and do it anyway” about sharing my career transitions. I’m sure I’ll eventually get over it, but it IS a challenge for me now. I totally agree with you about what’s MOST important, though!

      • I do understand because my identity is rather strongly tied to my career. I’m very lucky that I’m doing something I love and that it’s a very well-defined path (I’m a scientist working in an academic institution) – what you’ve tried to do and what you’re trying to do is much less well-defined and risky. I think it takes guts to switch directions when you could have played it safe and at least you’ll never have the regret of not having tried it (it’s clear you know this, but I just wanted you to know it’s clear to others as well!). The kind of people who won’t support you now, will likely never support you no matter how successful you become. In fact, maybe they will be jealous and probably still manage to be unpleasant. I find that such people will simply shift their negative attentions over to other areas of your life they can nitpick – it all has to do with their own insecurities…

        Anyway, you’re such a precise writer and I love reading the long posts. Many blogs just post pictures but I’m a reader and I get so much more out of your writing. I think your analytical side also appeals to me as a scientist! I love data.

      • Thanks for your kind words and validation, Alice! I’m glad you like my long, analytical posts. Your point about how some people would never support me even if I were very successful is right on. Some people just want to judge and criticize, but fortunately there are many kind people out there!

  16. Oh my gosh, Debbie, you are my worry twin! I have gone through all these same thoughts as I have claimed writing as my career. I don’t have a novel to prove myself, or an income from my work at this point, so I can tend to feel judged by others. Over time, I am realizing that is not the truth. I’m reading the book The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer, and it is a wonderful tool for moving through any kind of anxiety.

    • Thanks for your comment, Kayla (aka worry twin), and for the book recommendation. That one sounds right up my alley, as I struggle with lots of anxiety in life. Keep writing and pursuing your passion. The right people will be supportive of you and know you’re a writer, published book or no published book!

  17. Wow, Debbie, what an amazing post. I feel like I’m right there with you in some ways. I’m kind of a “dabbler” and also left a job in IT 6 or 7 years ago because it wasn’t a good fit. Unlike you, though, it took me a lot longer (until now) to figure out I need to align my values more closely with whatever work I choose to do and things should feel more right.

    Thanks so much for sharing and I wish you the best moving forward!

    • I’m glad you liked the post, Kim, and could identify with what I wrote. I guess the important thing is that we DO figure things out, not when it happens. I wish you the best moving forward, too!

  18. Hi Debbie. I thought about this post for days and am now getting back to responding! You are hands down a writer. BAM!
    I used to work in recruiting and your past experiences enrich what you are now doing. They aren’t failures just stepping stones to where you are now in the universe.
    I know you felt uncomfortable in the role of “wardrobe stylist”, but would you consider resuscitating your styling business into an wardrobe editing business? Helping people part with their wardrobes is half the battle as you have written about so eloquently!

    • I appreciate your insights, Marianne. I like the view of my past experiences as stepping stones rather than failures. As for the wardrobe work, I did enjoy the editing part, but it was difficult to find clients who not only wanted help but were also willing to pay for it. I am thinking more of writing and perhaps speaking on such issues rather than working with people one on one, but I haven’t fully decided my next steps as of yet.

  19. Wow. The fact that you’re getting so many impassioned comments shows what a powerful thing you have done by opening up. People are drawn to authenticity. People are also drawn to compelling writing. You are lucky to have both of those. Whatever happens, please keep sharing your story and your experiences with the world. You have the ability to move people.

    • I appreciate your kind words, Andy, especially coming from another writer! I do feel good to be opening up after hiding myself for so long and I definitely plan to keep sharing. I’m very happy my words are resonating with so many people!

  20. that was awesome! I feel like i put people at arms length a lot, but it just leaves me feeling, like you wrote, lonely. Learning to let others in takes time and practice. It’s hard when I too feel like I just want to be accepted and connected. Thank you for sharing!

    • Welcome, Adina, and thanks for your comment. You’re right that it takes practice to let others in. I’ve gotten better at doing that online, but need to translate it into face to face interactions, too. Baby steps!

  21. It’s nobody’s business what you do or don’t do career-wise.

    But if anyone asks, you can smile and say you’re happily unemployed. (LOL! I would be jealous…) 🙂

    • Thanks so much for your support, Chris! Intellectually, I know it’s really no one’s business, but I’m still working on letting go of my worries about what others think. Ending my styling business and writing this blog are definitely helping me with that lesson!

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