I’ve talked before about my handbag business that I ran throughout my 20’s. It has been my dream since 6th grade to be in the fashion world and have my own business. In high school I worked flipping burgers to pay for one thing: My long distance phone bill to talk to my friends in NY after we moved to Jersey. Everything else I earned went into an envelope in my underwear drawer to go towards eventually starting my own business. And that biz was gonna be FANTASTIC. Seriously. The world was gonna stand up and take notice with this petite little girl with the big mouth had something to say. Oh- and they were gonna LOVE my products. No doubts. The end.
I was gonna be a superstar.
And then, I graduated college and realized the world was not necessarily waiting on the edge of their seats to see what I did next. But that was OK. I’d keep at it and they’d take notice. I started making pants for people. And belt buckles… and all types of etsy style one-offs that I was sure people would want, want, want.
And they did. And then I started making bags. But I wasn’t making them t home. I was making them in factories, in NY, and after that, in China, and I was selling them around the WORLD.
And seriously, this is before people were actually buying stuff online and shipping to individuals. I was selling into stores. Lots of them.
And yet, somehow, despite so many accomplishments, my Muchness kept dwindling. I allowed myself to be more disappointed by the failures than excited by the accomplishments. i focussed on my flaws, my weaknesses, and the fact that despite selling so many bags I never knew how much money I was making nor did I ever seem to have any.
I started that business with grandiose dreams of fun, a fame, and fortune and despite being proud of my product, I ended up broke and miserable with my self-esteem in the toilet.
I remember a conversation I had with a guy I was dating. I had an idea for a new way to market my bags. Se,, my bags very very clever- they did things, like change color, change shape, they were ergonomically designed…. basically, they were awesome. The problem was that when I went to trade shows and was able to explain how they worked, buyers fell in love with them. When those same bags sat on the shelf in retail stores without yours truly there to explain their hidden magic, they just sat. I told him my idea- and it was grandiose- I envisioned a display with my brands name on it that stores would put into their retail space that helped people understand my bags. I’d create cute little videos showing how the bags worked and the video would play on a loop in the store and consumers would see the magic in the bags.
I knew it was a crazy big, expensive, basically impossible idea, but thinking about it excited me none-the less. So I told my then boyfriend about this crazy-pants idea and you know what he said?
Not “Wow- that’s a big idea- do you really think you can pull that off?”
Not “Wow, that sounds really expensive… how on earth do you think you can make it happen?”
Not “That’s absurd Tova, it’ll never happen. Welcome to reality.”
Not even “That idea sucks. What’s for dinner?”
He said, with (to my ears) judgement with a twist of disgust “So you want to put videos of yourself in these stores… really all you want is to be famous. You’re like a little kid who thinks she can be famous. You want everyone to know who you are.”
And I said “NO! I want people to understand how to use the bags!!”
And we got into an argument and hung up the phone and I remember thinking “Did I really just want to be famous? And if I did, was that so bad? Was it childish and naive? Selfish and lame? Or, did I really just want to figure out how to get people to understand how to use my bags? (YouTube didn’t exist in those days, FYI)
The truth is, part of me did want to be famous. I loved what I did, I felt I was really good at it, I worked my ass off, and I loved sharing it with people. Yes, I DID want my handbags to ultimately become a household name.
But after years of slowly losing my confidence, I could no longer admit it.
It was that conversation that ultimately bookmarked on my brain as the moment I minimized my dreams. If I couldn’t even admit to myself what I wanted to achieve and who I wanted to be in the world, how could I ever accomplish it?
So I forfeited my business, gave up on my dream and went and got a job. (I also went and got an new boyfriend…)
Whether your dream is to become a famous superstar, write a book, or even just become president of the PTA- the first- and MOST IMPORTANT step in the journey is ADMITTING what you want.
First to yourself, and then out loud.
There is no shame, no fear, no absurdity around saying it out loud. Even if it feels scary and absurd. It’s also not like you are gonna be a “failure” if you say it out loud but then don’t accomplish, or even pursue it.
The only way you fail is you make the choice NOT to lean into your desires by cutting them off before they can even fully exist.
So do it. Right here, right now.
Tell me what you would dream about being or doing if you hadn’t, somewhere along the line, been taught to stop dreaming about who you could be or what you could do.