Your Self-Worth is Not Rooted in Your Work

for bookkeepers May 20, 2024



Today, we're going to be talking about a topic near and dear to my heart: why your work is not your worth.

Again, your work is not your worth.

This conversation was inspired by the talk I had recently with Katie Fleming, where I brought up this American saying: “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.”

That saying means that you have to ask for what you want. But I also mentioned that in Asia, there’s a proverb that is very different. It translates to “The duck who quacks gets shot.”

That saying means the exact opposite: don't speak up. Be quiet, blend in, and conform so that you will not be a target in the workplace.

For a long time, that’s exactly what I did: I kept my head down, followed the path set before me, and never once quacked.

Now, I eventually challenged those parts of myself, but becoming a business owner was one of the biggest catalysts that helped with that.

When I became a business owner, I realized that everything that had led me to being a successful employee—a twenty-nine-year-old CPA with a master's degree and a tax manager of a multi-billion dollar company—were also the qualities that I needed to completely flip in order to be a successful businessperson. Especially when I knew I wanted to be somebody that fit a lot of work into small pockets of time and prioritized motherhood over all else.



School, Motherhood, and Work

These priorities haven’t really changed for me, even though my kids are in school now.

I have about five hours per school day—maybe six—where my kids aren’t in the house. That adds up to twenty-five to thirty hours of childfree time.

But even though they’re in school, the ways I have shown up in motherhood have not really scaled back, because I still do a lot of things at the school. And that’s exactly how I planned it.

Part of prioritizing life first is making sure I'm showing up to drop off my kids every morning, at an hour when I would have to be at work if I was working for a corporate company. I'm there to volunteer for anything that they'll let me in for. I'm in the pickup line every single day. I'm taking them to activities, birthday parties, vacations, all of those things…and still running my business.

And the only way I could do this was by flipping the narrative of being an employee.

It means speaking up for yourself. It means being the wheel instead of the duck. And it starts by getting to the root of what makes you think you have to work yourself to death to be worthy.


We Are Not One Aspect of Ourselves

There are a lot of reasons why I was such a head-down, mouth-shut, diligent, dutiful student and worker. But for me, what came to mind first was the modeling of my parents.

I can specifically hear my dad using those sorts of phrases. Hard work was really glamorized in our household, as I'm sure it was—and is—in lots of households.

For example, my dad would wake up in the middle of the night and go stripe parking lots. He also worked for himself, but his version of self-employment was really different from mine, because his version of self-employment had more to do with being able to earn more, which he definitely was able to do on his own. It also meant he got to call his own shots; he did not like to be told what to do, and I think a lot of people could resonate with that too.

But in this space, a lot of the people that follow me and come here for guidance actually fit perfectly into the mold. We're like, “Where is the mold? How much do I need to bend and fold and cave in order to fit what you need from me so that I can get some sort of praise for being a good worker?”

Well, my version of business ownership has to do with taking that thought process—that my work is what gives me worth as a person—and figuring out how to find that worth separately from any one part of my identity.

I'm bigger than my job. I'm bigger than my career. I'm bigger than my business. I'm bigger than my motherhood. But too many of us take one aspect of ourselves and put all our worth into that.

Breaking this mindset is an everyday work in progress. It is a conscious choice I have to make every day. And that’s the way it is with anything we want to change, right?

We have to look at things like this and decide if we want it to change. And if we do…we have to change it. Actively. We can’t just sit and passively wait for it to shift, because it won’t. We have to pay attention to where our workaholic tendencies come into play, and we have to stay committed to seeing and changing those habits.



What is Self-Worth Tied To?

So if self-worth isn’t tied to hard work…what is it tied to?

I went to my good friend ChatGPT for this one, and here’s what it said…


Inherent Value

According to ChatGPT, self-worth based on inherent value is acknowledging and honoring the inherent value of oneself as a human being, independent of external achievements or validation. It involves recognizing that every individual possesses worth simply by virtue of being alive.

I have these little mantras with my kids that follow this line of thinking. I have little questions that I ask them, including…

 “Why do I love you?”

The answer: “Because I exist.”

Why are you worthy? Because you exist. It's as simple as that. You don't have to be chasing worthiness. You are born with it. You don't need to go out and prove how hard you can work just so that somebody can tell you that you're worthy.



Next up is self-acceptance. Because we can know our self-worth exists inherently, but we also have to accept it. And if we accept it ourselves, we don't have to go and seek it elsewhere.

Self-worth entails accepting oneself unconditionally, flaws and all. It means embracing both strengths and weaknesses with compassion and understanding, and treating oneself with respect and kindness.

When we treat ourselves that way, then we expect and require that others treat us with respect and kindness as well.

One of the trickiest parts of this is accepting our flaws. But when we accept our flaws, we can lean into our strengths to improve our flaws, or set up systems to help make up for our flaws.

I'm still learning to accept some parts of me that simply won't be changed and figure out how to work with them. And that’s all right—it’s better than fighting something that can’t be changed and letting it drag down your self-worth.


Authenticity and Self-Expression

Lastly, ChatGPT lists self-worth expressed through authenticity and self-expression.

This involves living in alignment with one's true identity, values, and beliefs, and honoring personal aspirations and passions without fear of judgment or external expectations.

That’s a lot, right? That's a lot, because if you're just entering this season of life where you're starting to see this, regardless of your age, you're like, “How did I not know that I had control and choice over this?”

If you’ve always tied your worth to your work, it's scary to try to detach, even though you know that it's killing you. Because even though it’s killing you, it's also giving you something.

Ultimately, you have to decide if that exchange is worth it anymore. But if you immediately detach your work from your worth when that's all you've known about your worth, it's hard to let go of, because you don't know what else to fill it with.


The Next Steps

From there, it’s not enough to know that your work is not your worth. It's not enough to know how self-worth should be defined.  These are all parts of where self-worth should come from, but the next part of shifting self-worth to internal sources involves figuring out what you are, who you are, and what you want to do aside from work.

To help with this, I have three journal prompts focused on self-worth I want you to fill out. If this is something that you're struggling with, I really would encourage you to grab paper and pen and actually complete these exercises.

There is something so profound and different about taking the pen and paper and writing out your answer versus just thinking it in your head. Something comes through differently. You have to just trust me on this. If you want this to change, if you want to actually absorb this information and make a change you can feel in your life, you have to do this part.

Here are the three prompts:


What are three qualities or attributes about myself that I value beyond my work or achievements?

For this one, you'll reflect on the qualities that make you unique and valuable as a person, regardless of your professional accomplishments.

This is not related to work. They could be things such as kindness, creativity, empathy, resilience, compassion…anything you want it to be. And then consider how those intrinsic values contribute to your sense of self-worth and identity.


What is one area of personal growth or learning that I'm currently exploring or interested in?

Think about an aspect of your life or personal development that you're curious about or passionate about exploring further. It could be a new hobby, skill, interest, or personal goal that's unrelated to your work or career.


Write about why this area of growth is meaningful to you and how it contributes to your sense of self-worth and fulfillment.

For instance, I've been on a journey this whole year of trying to improve the way that I take care of myself for various reasons. And the thing that I've most recently done is decided that I am committed to walking 10,000 steps a day. I am no longer making an excuse about that. It is a part of who I want to be. It is an act of self-care and an act of self-love. There are so many valuable things that you get from that: longevity, improved memory, improved mood, better mental clarity, etcetera.

For a long time, I had legitimate excuses for not doing it…but even when I could do it, I made a lot of excuses about why I couldn’t. I was trying, and I thought that I could do it in a couple of different ways, but I just couldn't…so eventually I had to commit. I had to decide this was something I was going to do, and I had to equip myself to do it.

I got a Fitbit. I got a walking pad. I picked an accountability partner or two. And I just made the decision that I was going to change this thing about myself. It’s an area of growth that is meaningful to me, and it contributes to my sense of self-worth because I’m practicing self-care by building this routine.



No More Excuses

It’s easy to avoid making a change. It will always be easier to not make a change than to make one. But if we want to grow as humans apart from our work, we have to stop giving in to excuses.

Pinning all our self-worth on our work is killing us. I know, because I used to do it, and it was killing me. But I made the necessary changes…and everything is so much better than it was. So even if it’s scary, I really encourage you to do your best to break yourself of the habits that feed that self-worth struggle.



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