August 1, 2009
world's worst snake-oil salesman
I am a massage therapist. I have my own business. It is not going well. I would like to blame it mostly on the economy, but I cannot.
I really hate doing girly froufrou foofy spa massage. What I love is working on athletes and other people who develop problems from doing the same stuff all day (musicians, mailmen, dental hygienists, surgeons, hairdressers, you name it). I'm still fairly new at this and I'm not nearly satisfied with my competence, but I try to do the kind of work I want when I get massage. And that kind of massage works for me, but I don't know exactly how or why. I have my hunches, but no way to back them up.
When you have your own business - and especially a non-essential business like mine - you have to be something of a cheerleader. I know many therapists who can't come up with a sentence (in normal conversation) that doesn't contain the word "massage," who are rah-rah-rah-massage 24/7 and you just want to smack them. Massage is the source of all good things, and life is always that much better after a massage! What's worse: a lot of these people try to come off as all-knowing Healers who can answer any and all health-related questions and cure whatever ails you, be it "stress" or ADD or cancer or run-of-the-mill muscle aches.
I am no cheerleader; even things I think are really really really great might not be your cup of tea, and forcing things on people seems ridiculous. But certainly more important is the fact that I can't stand to bullshit clients, even those who want to be bullshitted. Someone gets on my table complaining of low back pain and "tightness" in the hamstrings. "What is it?" they ask hopefully. "Do you think it could be stress?" How the hell do I know? I've only known you for all of 10 minutes. All I know about your life and your daily activities is what you've told me: what you've remembered to tell me, that is, plus or minus any omissions or exaggerations. "Wow, I didn't realize how sore and tight my back is. Is it because of all the toxins built up in the muscles? From stress?" No, it is not because of toxins built up in your muscles. If you really had toxins pooling in your muscles, you'd be dead. But the problem is that I don't know what it is. I don't know what causes your pain, or what about the massage actually makes you feel better. I know the names and locations of your muscles, and what the muscles do, and what kinds of activities tend to cause the muscles to feel sore, and different techniques that make the muscle feel softer and squishier instead of ropy and concrete-like, but why this has any lasting effect, I couldn't tell you with any certainty. I could not point you to any peer-reviewed studies to back my statements up. If, instead of mashing the hell out of that knotted muscle, I instead put you to sleep, made an incision and peeled back the skin and fascia, and manipulated the muscle directly, would the effect be the same? I don't know. But I'm sure as hell not going to palpate the irregularities in your skull and tell you your pain has something to do with the ebb and flow your cerebral-spinal fluid, or that your skull bones somehow model your pelvic structure. I'm not going to pretend that the soles of your feet model the whole rest of your body. I'm not going to lie to you about toxins needing to be flushed out of your muscles. Sometimes I don't know the answer to your questions, and then the only non-bullshit answer is "I don't know."
Clients don't want to hear "I don't know." In fact, most of the time they don't even care to participate in their own treatment, and instead just want stuff done to them. I've noticed that some (but not all) of the best therapists I've known have a slightly patronizing way about them. They Know what is wrong; they are Sure they can help. It almost doesn't matter if they're right; it's the confidence that counts. I've heard my boss at the chiro's office come up with very plausible-sounding explanations that go on and on and on until the client's eyes are practically glazed over. When I get massage I always take mental notes on the technique (even if I don't want to; I can't help it), but I rarely remember anything the therapists say. Maybe I should make appointments with some of these Healers just to see how they handle the kinds of questions I can't answer.
Or maybe I should just quit and go back to the 24/7/365 world of IT. There, at least, I knew what I was doing.
Posted by joe positive at August 1, 2009 9:12 AM
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Every time I sign on for a freelance project I get to reexperience the dreaded impostor complex. Even after 15+ years, I'm still convinced the whole world can see what a fraud I am. Yet I get hired again, so I must have some clue about what I'm doing. I'm sure you do too.
Don't go back to IT. That way lies madness. You'll find your way.
Posted by: Julie at August 1, 2009 1:54 PM
What Julie said. Don't go back to IT. I am still trying to break out myself. Golden handcuffs and all that. It's not in any way satisfying, and I figure if I don't quit it, it will quit me.
Re: the cheerleading...you might just say things like 'it could be many things' or 'let's see what we can do' or whatever. I am not much of a cheerleader either although I do get fired up about things at times. ADD and all that...
Posted by: SDC at August 1, 2009 4:11 PM
Your no-bullshit stance is totally refreshing. I wish I lived near you instead of 1,200 miles away. I'd be a client.
Posted by: Roslyn at August 2, 2009 9:41 PM
this is your finest hour
Posted by: ray at August 7, 2009 6:35 PM
I agree with 'SDCs' comment. Being an athlete myself, I would find your approach to massage completely refreshing compared to the forced awkwardness that many others put out there. Keep your head up and listen to your gut feelings. If you can manage it, you should follow what you are passionate about!
Posted by: janelle at August 10, 2009 7:41 AM
Hey wake up,
did you notice ALL of your comments are "cheerleaders"? It's not hard to do. If you want to work for yourself and be GOOD at it, in other words if you want to make money, you better get on the the cheerleader train. You don't have to be phony or lie, but if you're not fired up and excited about what you do, enough to make your clients think your the best $80 bucks they ever spent then you SHOULD go back to IT.
I have worked for myself for twenty plus years and no one stood over my shoulder saying good job, or make that dead line. If I didn't encourage myself and promote myself I didn't eat. I recently retrained in a new area to strengthen my client base and at school a kid asked the teacher how hard it was to get clientS, how would he know if he was good enough, could he make it on his own, the teacher replied with an answer I think you should take to heart... she said " I have known terrible artists making a lot of money, and great artists that starved, it depends on how good you are at marketing yourself not always your talent".
It sounds like you need more confidence and you SHOULD have answers for those questions, check out holistic healing or asian massage techniques and come up with some answers that make you feel confident enough to at least make an educated guess. By the way I have a pain rigggthhht .....there, can you help?
Posted by: suz at August 14, 2009 10:31 AM
nice try, suz, but the asian and holistic techniques just don't do it for me, so there's no way I can jump up and down about how they're gonna do it for you. As for your pain, well, I think you may need to get your 3rd chakra realigned, and maybe the roots touched up while you're there.
And all the rest a ya cheerleaders: thanks. If anyone's ever visiting my state and wants a no-bullshit massage, you got it. Massage! MassagemassageMAsSage! go, mASSSAGe!!!!
Posted by: joe positive at August 14, 2009 2:55 PM