I want to start this post with a question: where do you find your value & worth?
Take a minute and if you have a piece of scrap paper nearby and a few minutes, write down a few things that base how you feel about yourself. Here are a few things that may come to mind: how others see you, what you accomplish, what you look like, if you are popular, if you are successful...and the list can go on and on.
There are two option in defining value and worth: either YOU define your worth (internal) or you let everyone and every circumstance around you (external) dictate if you're valuable and worthy, depending on their approval/disapproval.
It can be hard not to be validated by outside influences (especially as a small business owner), like the number of 0's in your bank account or the number of followers on social media. It's great when things are going well to receive outside validation, but if you rely on others to make you feel worthy, what happens when people have less than great things to say about you or your work?
When you base your value on things outside of yourself, you are set up for disappointment. There will always be people who don't like you and what you're doing/sell and there will always be people who don't agree with you. ALWAYS.
When you shift from an external voice defining your value to an internal voice (your own voice) you are no longer held prisoner by what other people think. You get to decide if you are worthy or lovable. Nobody else gets to decide that. How you define your self-worth directly impacts the way that you interact with the world, with others, your actions, as well as how you feel about the obvious: yourself.
There are studies that have shown that basing self-worth on external factors harms mental health. One study at the University of Michigan found participants who base their self-worth on external sources (including academic performance, appearance and approval from others) reported more stress, anger, academic problems and relationship conflicts. The same study found that participants who based their self-worth on internal sources, not only felt better, they also received higher grades and were less likely to use drugs and alcohol or to develop eating disorders.
Dr. Donna Rockwell states that "we are all unique, and that, in and of itself, gives each of us inherent value."
Wondering where you can start if you're tired of basing your value on external factors?
1. Silence your inner critic. The voice that says you're not enough. That you will be better when you do _____. Our inner critic can undermine our self-worth. We all have that voice inside our head that hears outside criticism and then tells us we are worthless, not going to succeed, and that nobody finds what we do valuable.
2. Define your worth from an internal perspective. Discover the values you have as a person. Our society values things we can see like: attractiveness, money, and achievement...so it can be easy to fall into the trap of using those things to define your worth. Challenge yourself to think of qualities and values you have that aren't visible to others. Make a list all qualities! Some examples can be: showing love, being honest, having a sense of humor, being grateful, etc.
3. Redefine your Success. Write a new definition of how you define success based on what you wrote down in #2 and let it be your mantra.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said this about success, "To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded."
What does success look like to you?
4. Acknowledge that your value doesn't have a number equivalent. Your worth as a maker/business owner is not defined by how much people are willing (or not willing) to pay you. Have you ever sent over your pricing to someone to only hear back crickets..or worse, someone asked you to discount your pricing? I'm sure it felt like a kick in the stomach and I've been there. When you value yourself, it is easy to be confident in your pricing, but when you don't, it can feel like you need to accommodate everyone. You are not more valuable if you made $500K last year. You are not less valuable if you made $20.
5. Make time for fun! When you own a business, it can be easy to tie your worth to only that, but having other things you enjoy that are based on how well your business does it so important. See yourself first as a human being with feeling, needs, and desires. See yourself for the qualities you possess and not simply what you can do or produce. Be a business owner second. I know that's probably contradictory to some great business advice you've been given, but you have to continue to be yourself. When your business receives criticism, you will be better able to separate your value from that criticism (more on this topic soon!)
Be sure to sign up for announcements for Mental Health for Creatives and join the FREE Facebook group! What other struggles are you currently battling with as you navigate your small business journey? I would love to help! Feel free to email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) with any questions you may have or topics you would like to see covered in future posts.