How Dread Sabotages Your Career And What To Do About It

About a year and a half ago, my children were due for a dental cleaning and exam and here’s what went through my head,

“Oh, no, I haven’t been nagging them to floss so they don’t do it every day and some days I think they forget to brush after breakfast so those days they only brush at night and that’s really terrible and I should be a more structured parent so I need to make sure we have a bunch of good weeks in a row before we go back to the dentist so I’ll deal with this later…”

Career Dread

As all these thoughts were swirling around my head, I felt dread and shame about visiting the dentist, so I didn’t make the appointment. I thought about it every few days, and here are my ruminations:

“I am still not sure my children’s dental hygiene is perfect and I’m confused about our new insurance coverage and now we’re a few months past when we were supposed to go and I’ll bet that really annoys dentists so maybe I should apologize right away when I call or maybe I should make a strong statement up front that if they shame me, we won’t come back…ugh, I hate this and I’ll deal with it later…”

So I didn’t call again, and more months went by, until suddenly it was eighteen months past my children’s last dental exam and cleaning. Every time I thought about calling to schedule a dental visit, the dread kicked up again:

“I hate taking my children to the dentist. Not only am I worried about the routine stuff, but I bet about this age is when they might need braces and I’ve heard that costs thousands of dollars and it is my fault this stresses me out because I did so much pro bono and reduced fee work this year because I wanted to help unemployed people but now I feel guilty because it was at the expense of my family…ugh, I’m usually so responsible so this is weird…I feel bad, bad, bad…”

Dread prevented me from making an appointment until two years past their last dental appointment. This week, I finally decided enough was enough. It would be better to face whatever the dentist said than to keep experiencing this awful dread. This morning I took my children to the dentist and here’s what happened:

– The dental hygienist told my son that his teeth were so clean, it was like he did her work for her. She complimented his brushing technique.

– Neither of my children have any cavities.

– The dentist didn’t mention braces.

Can you believe how much dread I felt for such a positive outcome? And are you wondering what this has to do with careers? Here is what dental dread and career dread have in common:

Dread keeps us paralyzed. Because we expect something awful to happen, we don’t do anything. We lose a lot of time feeling dread when we could be taking productive action.

Even if the worst case scenario did turn out to be true, isn’t it better to know what you are truly up against instead of prolonging the suffering month after month after month? If the dental hygienist had lectured me, and my children needed tons of expensive dental treatments, I would have taken a deep breath and developed a plan.

When you know what’s real instead of what you merely imagine, you can solve problems and overcome obstacles. Otherwise, you just wage fear-based battles in your head.

Here’s a call to action: Whatever you want to change about your career that you haven’t tackled, start doing it. Have the conversations with people who know what you need to learn, sign up for the skills-building class, attend the industry event, ask for the promotion and raise, launch the side gig that may lead to a new business, hire the assistant to do the part of your job you hate, retain the services of a career coach.

Lose the dread and tackle reality. Start today.


  1. What a great article! We humans are so…. human! And it always helps when I hear i am not so “terribly” (as in bad person) unique afterall. All wrapped up with a reminder to start talking and asking for help. Thanks Janet.

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