I wanted to follow up on my previous post and provide you with a few things to keep in mind if you are feeling stuck and wanting to make big life changes. This will be particularly useful for any unhappy dentist out there (or any other healthcare provider), who is contemplating quitting dentistry and changing professions.
A True Story of an Unhappy Dentist:
I want to share a story of an unhappy dentist with you, who happened to be a client of mine. A few years ago, she was miserable. She was plagued with regret for going to dental school. She felt resentful towards her family for pushing her to stick with it when she wanted to leave halfway through. All she thought about was how she had wasted her life in the pursuit of something she got no fulfillment or joy from.
Every morning before work, she would wake up dread, nausea, and a knot in her stomach. Throughout the workday, she constantly doubted and questioned the quality of her work, her diagnoses, and her treatment plans. She worried about what her assistant and other colleagues in the office thought about her and her speed. When things would go wrong, she felt flooded with shame and couldn’t move on from it.
During this time, she stayed in associateships that were not in her best interest nor in favor of her growth. She felt desperate, she wanted to quit dentistry more than anything.
But it was one thing we spoke about during a session that really stuck with her and changed everything. I offered her the following perspective- “ You should try to make your peace with dentistry before you leave it.”
There is so much value in doing this, and it’s what I want to talk to you about today.
Sort Through Your Emotional Baggage
Often, when you have a very strong negative emotion towards your profession (or anything else in life for that matter), it’s an indication that there is some inner work you need to do.
Plain and simple- you need to sort through and unload your baggage.
What do I mean by baggage?
Self-doubt, perfectionism, unrealistic expectations of yourself, lack of healthy boundaries, inability to say no when you want to say no, people-pleasing, and not knowing how to handle failure in a healthy and productive way.
The reason you feel so miserable, stuck, unfulfilled, and anxious at work is not because of dentistry itself. It’s because of your baggage, your thought patterns, and often your inability to process your feelings when they come up.
How do I know this? Because there is no profession out there that is universally accepted as being “bad,” or good. If this was the case, every single dentist out there would be a miserable, anxiety-ridden human being. But we know this is simply not true. There are dentists out there that are fulfilled and thriving. Not everyone in the field is an unhappy dentist who is struggling to keep their head afloat.
There are a few problems with leaving a job or profession when you are weighed down by heavy, negative emotions. (As a side note, I’m not referring to situations where your health or safety are in harm’s way)
Firstly, you can’t think and make decisions from a clean place. Given the amount of money and time you’ve already spent on your career, I’m guessing this isn’t something you want.
Your decisions will be likely be fueled by fear, doubt, confusion, overwhelm, or desperation. And you don’t need me to tell you that when we operate from this space, we can’t make decisions that are in our best interest. The quality of your decisions will be vastly different if they are coming from a place of certainty, clarity, or calm.
If you do leave your current situation, then don’t neglect doing the internal work after because it’ll show up again.
New Circumstance, Same You
If you struggle with any of the obstacles I outlined above such as constant self-doubt, perfectionistic thinking, unrealistic expectations, or inability to handle failure productively, leaving dentistry isn’t going to rid you of your current suffering.
I always tell my clients this- even in your dream job/career, these issues will re-surface because it comes down to your beliefs and thought patterns.
Yes, you’ll leave the office you’re currently at, but all you’re doing is taking that same brain of yours with its habitual ways of seeing the world into a new environment.
If you constantly doubt your skills and decisions at work as a dentist, why would this be any different in another field?
If you struggle with people-pleasing behaviour and tolerate your own discomfort for the comfort of others, it’ll show up again in your new pursuits.
In my client’s personal experience, she hated dentistry because she didn’t believe in herself and in her knowledge and skills. She thought she was incompetent, without any factual evidence to support this belief. She felt shame every time she didn’t know something, ran late, had a patient complaint, or made a mistake.
This was an exhausting way to function daily so, of course, she identified as an unhappy dentist.
Once we exposed and challenged her limiting beliefs, she gained a sense of peace and ease. Something that she did not think was possible for her at the beginning.
Making Clean Decisions
Once you can address your intense negative feelings and achieve a feeling of peace, acceptance, or even neutrality, then you can make your decisions from a clean place.
You can choose to stay in dentistry or leave dentistry, simply because you want to. If you choose to leave or pursue dentistry part-time, you’ll do so from a place that is guilt and shame-free. This is the place where true growth and evolution happen.
Trust me on this one, I’ve seen this happen with enough of my clients who felt that they were in the wrong profession only to realize that deep down, they actually did enjoy dentistry. It was their perfectionistic thinking and unrealistic expectations that made them an unhappy dentist, not the actual job itself.
What a shame it would have been to throw it all away when a solution was just around the corner. If this is something you are currently struggling with, please feel free to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org. A solution is not as complicated or as far away as you think.