EssayLife & Business

The Cycle of Fear & Entrepreneurship with Amber Kemp-Gerstel

by Kelli Kehler

I’ve never been one to give up. I’m a hustler. A grinder. When it’s time to work hard, I work hard. When it’s time to dive deep, I dive deep. And when faced with an entire pepperoni pizza, I truly believe in my unwavering ability to finish that thing off… crust included.

Nested firmly within that “don’t quit” attitude is a persistent need to nurse my tendency for worry and anxiety. Simply put: fear.

As a blogger, influencer, entrepreneur, maker, crafter, editor (I’m never truly sure what to call myself) – there have been more than enough opportunities for fear to stake its claim on my productivity.

Fear has worn many ugly hats in my journey – and I’m willing to bet a slice of that pepperoni pizza that you can relate to one or more of my experiences as a fearful entrepreneur, or as was the case in 2016: a fearful “would-be-entrepreneur.” —Amber Kemp-Gerstel

No longer afraid to take the leap – hell, that part was done – I now feared the likelihood of success.

Fear: The Mud Around Your Ankles

In 2016, I was working as a child psychologist at the University of Miami. I had my Ph.D. in clinical pediatric psychology and was tasked with providing therapy services to children and families dealing with chronic illness. I was also responsible for conducting research in my field, in hopes of increasing my roster of publications in academic journals. I was making $65,000 a year, working a fairly regular 9-5 schedule and had incredibly good medical and dental coverage. By most standards, it was an ideal career – but, truth be told, I did not enjoy it one iota.

I wasn’t passionate about it, but I stayed out of fear… fear that my side hustle as a blogger could never be a sustainable career choice. After all, “People don’t make DIY projects for a living” – that’s a direct quote from my dear friend “Fear.” Funny how “Fear” and my mother had eerily similar opinions about my career path. Fear also regularly reminded me “This is what you went to school for!” and “You’ll never earn the respect of others as a ‘blogger.’” Fear is one opinionated son of a biscuit. So, with fear as my trusty sidekick, I stayed right where I was: in a secure job, with a secure insurance plan… but a job that left me hungry for more. Fear has a way of consuming your mobility like mud around your ankles. It will keep you in one spot – feeling doubtful rather than hopeful.

Fear: Success Out of Reach

Eventually, even fear could not keep me in my job as a psychologist. I’d like to say that sheer girl power, ambition and chutzpah spurred my leap from psychology into blogging. But honestly, it was exhaustion. After a year of feeling overwhelmed, something had to give, and with the support of my family I left. Just like every sitcom episode you’ve ever seen, I packed up my therapy office in a Banker’s Box filled with files, pens, the requisite desk plant… and of course, a good bit of fear. No longer afraid to take the leap – hell, that part was done – I now feared the likelihood of success. “Is this sustainable?” “Are you talented enough for this?” “You know, running a business is really hard!” Once again, fear hit me with the realness. Fear asked all the hard questions.

Fear is the best friend I never wanted – but the one I’ve desperately needed.

Fear of Being Successful

After years of growing my blog Damask Love, I feel confident saying I’ve found success. As the creator and crafter behind Damask Love, I’ve appeared on national and local television, I’ve secured big brand partnerships, and maybe, most importantly, I earn a good living; more than I did as a psychologist — and wouldn’t you know it, medical insurance, too!

Surely, these are not the only measures of success. I am also happier, physically and mentally healthier, more satisfied and content and find more purpose in my career than I ever did before.

Never being one to live a completely worry-free life, though, fear continues to wrestle its way into my entrepreneurship journey. These days I have a very real worry about finding too much success, and before you finish that eye roll, hear me out.

Image above: Halloween tag printables from Amber’s blog, Damask Love

I know that if I invest even more of myself into my business and my career, the outcome will be successful. I know that by waking up earlier, diving even deeper, dedicating even more of myself to strategizing and learning, I know that the result will be a better, more robust Damask Love. This is a far cry from that 2016 fear of leaving my job. Or that fear of finding success. Today’s fear is very different. Fear taunts me with the unknown of success, thus leaving me to literally stifle my own progress for fear that the resulting success will require more of me than I am willing to give.

Fear is the best friend I never wanted – but the one I’ve desperately needed. Fear has been there through each part of my journey and I’ve become somewhat comfortable with her companionship. Fear has asked the hard questions that I needed to answer. Fear has challenged me to rise up or back out. Unlike some perspectives that will encourage you to fight back or ignore fear, I’d encourage you to walk with her. Approach her. Listen to her. Then respond. Always respond.

In my journey, fear has consistently guided me toward paths of difficulty and discomfort – the same paths where I also found my passion and purpose.

I know I’m not alone in this — What are your fears in work and life and how do you push past them?

Image above: A modern Halloween decor project from Amber’s blog, Damask Love.

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