The Allure of Not Trying

I am a perfectionist. Not the kind every job seeker becomes when writing out a resume, the ones who claim their drive and attention to detail are somehow drawbacks. Not like the president of the Such and Such Organization who never spells anything incorrectly or shows up at a meeting without her hair just so and her outfit casual but calculated and always coordinating.

I am the type of perfectionist who fears trying. Because trying means there’s a risk – a very big risk – of failing. So sometimes I give up before I’ve even begun. I feel like I save face this way, somehow. But save face to whom?

As I’ve written about before, I own a small business. Just one employee – me. Each year I nearly double my revenue from the previous year. This is good, and yet I’m still very far from earning a respectable income. The business will pay for Disney World this year and perhaps some new equipment I need, and not much else, most likely.

Lately I’ve grown tired of my hours. I love my job, am proud of what I do, but the hours are taking their toll. I work mostly evenings and weekends, except, in the school year, when Jonah will be able to attend child care on a more full time basis while the older three kids are in school.

Decisions lie before me. I can continue to work to grow my business, or I can start sending out resumes.

Both are daunting. Go down one path and I’m admitting I can’t make a living doing what I love. Go down another and I have to endure possibly months of not hearing back from employers who aren’t eager to hire someone who hasn’t had a paycheck except by her own hand since 2003.

When I think about closing my business at the end of the year, I feel sadness, relief, anticipation, yes, but also a nagging fear that perhaps I am quitting at the wrong time. Sales are on an upswing. I haven’t followed every avenue to make more money. What if I’m thisclose to succeeding?

I used to do this with writing. I’d start stories and start stories and keep a journal of beginnings next to my bed, but once I graduated from college and my short writing workshop was over, I stopped finishing anything. Eventually I stopped even starting. “This will suck,” I’d think. “Why bother?”

Sometimes I feel this way about exercise. I worked so hard to lose so much weight and then still felt flabby and big. Why keep it up? I couldn’t possibly earn back a flat belly after four children. Why bother?

Will I send out resumes and feel defeated when no one calls? Will I get a new job and wonder what might have happened if I’d continued with the business I already began?

How do we know when we’re about to strike upon the right trail that will lead us to success?

Linking up with Just Write, a hosted, weekly exercise in free writing. And this is what was on my mind today.



  1. I have the same fears when trying something new. Not just the “I’m afraid to fail” but also the “I’m afraid to be less than the best.” It really gets in the way of doing new things. I don’t know what to tell you about your situation, but whatever you choose, I really think you will do great. No one can birth four children and keep them alive all day for years without proving how capable, smart, and talented they are inside.

  2. I love the quote at the beginning. Taking a risk is scary. Kudos to you r making your own way since 2003 AND it’s paying for Disney World. Best of luck with whatever you choose to do. I have a feeling you will succeed!

  3. Oh do I know this feeling! I am at a crossroads myself and it is impossible to know the best answer. I always enjoy your free writing, but this one really hit home. Great post.

  4. I am the same way. I talk things through so much in my own head that I stalemate myself and do nothing. Trying to change….because I’m sure I missed out on lots of opportunities! Good luck with your discernment!

  5. I had a moment today when I thought, is this worth it, chasing my dreams, working hard at the start of something new, something that I love. I knew the answer was yes, but for today I set it aside and just let it rest, because that is what I needed to do. Tomorrow I’ll keep going. Hope you find the right answers for you.

  6. OH my goodness–well, I relate to this completely vis a vis writing. The “why bother” alternates with this “I feel this is getting somewhere” basically four times an hour.

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