The Existential Guilt of Being an Entrepreneur

Recently, I had dinner with someone I worked with when I was still incubating the idea of BostonHCP. I hadn’t seen her since then and now we are coming up on my 3 year anniversary from our company’s inception. She was genuinely delighted to hear of how my idea has grown to where we are now. I am always thrilled when people talk about the company and my team’s success, but knowing me on a personal level, she praised ME and all MY efforts. I wish I could lie and say I am proud of what I have accomplished, but in truth it felt very awkward.

It’s not the first time I have received accolades, but every time I do I feel incredibly uncomfortable and undeserving. Sometimes I even find it almost patronizing and have to remind myself not to be flip with my response because I am suddenly feeling shamed about what I haven’t been able to accomplish yet. Every day I think of at least 10 things that I could do better. How can I take a pat on the back when I am clearly not worthy? Even when I reach a major milestone there is always another that I am setting my trajectory on.

In a Facebook exchange on this very topic, a friend who is an artist explained it as “the existential guilt of being an artist”. As she described it, she has a really big picture in her mind, however much she may accomplish, the vision is so big that she can never feel satisfied. The artist feels angst because of the distance to the goal. Always looking ahead, always with the vision in focus, leaves no time to look back and marvel at the distance traveled.

Looking at it from that perspective, I have some peace of mind. And while I may always get twitchy about praise of my own work, I can say with confidence that I am thrilled with my team’s success. Happy anniversary, BostonHCP. I look forward to seeing where we will be in another 3 years.

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