On determining your worth

November 18, 2013   |   31 Comments


If you’ve ever wanted to get to the bottom of your deepest childhood wounds, stare unblinkingly at your creative terrors, or shine klieg lights on the dankest areas of your personal blind spot, I have a suggestion for you. Start your own business, preferably as a solopreneur. (Well, you could also write a book.)

When you work alone to launch an initiative that stems from your personal creativity and conviction and then put a price tag on it, you have just created the perfect storm for seeing what you really think of yourself. It’s like you’ve taken up residence in a hall of funhouse mirrors. If you receive a compliment or make a sale, you are tall and gorgeous. If your numbers come in below projections, you are squat and hideous. If you receive a message that a journalist has called you, you see yourself as put-together and on the leading edge. If you find she has called you for someone else’s contact info, you’re dressed in rags, about to trip on a rock.

As a solopreneur, every encounter turns into an encounter with self-worth. Every phone call, email, text message, business meeting, blog post, class, or conference is an opportunity to bolster or diminish ourselves. Each sale is a test of your belief in yourself and your offering. Invariably, the moment before hitting “publish,” great self-doubt arises. If someone buys it, self-esteem goes up. If no one does, it plummets.

I try to accrue as many positive moments as possible with the hope that someday I will reach a tipping point and no longer have to go through these calculations. Thus far, that day has not come. (I often tell my husband that my real job is managing my own moods.)

It never will.

Making the calculation is itself the problem. When I determine that I am unworthy, of course that undermines all of my efforts, not to mention zaps me of the energy needed to accomplish anything. And, while it feels great for a little while, it is equally as detrimental to determine that I am “worthy.” Worthiness is not mine to determine. It is inherent. It’s here right now and it is beyond question. Attempting to measure it is like trying to gauge the size of a mountain by crawling around on it. From one angle, it appears that the peak is just around the bend. Round that bend and you see that it’s much further (or closer) than you thought.  All calculations are kind of useless. The mountain is what is. No matter how your perspective changes, this remains so.

You are what you are. You possess true brilliance, unique genius, and a singular point of view. Trying to gauge its worth is irrelevant. If your work happens to correspond with the current gestalt and you receive rewards for it, fantastic. If it doesn’t and you don’t, I’m sorry, I know how painful that is. But it doesn’t change your genius.

In addition to this genius, of course, no doubt you are also confused, mistaken, have pissed people off, and/or refuse to acknowledge your shortcomings. Thank god. I mean, it’s cliché to say so, but without these dark areas, you would have no platform from which to leap into uncertainty and it is in uncertainty that innovation, creativity, and wisdom are born.  Seriously. Smooth sailing is not very interesting. At some point, anyone would fall asleep.

So as you go about this day and the invariable moments of “I suck” or “No, I don’t” arise, try to set both aside as momentary glimpses from a perspective that is bound to change before you get to the end of this paragraph. Remember: You’re allowed to feel excited, daunted, confused, depressed, exhilarated, bored, exhausted by your work. You’re just not allowed to doubt your worth.

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  • Posted by:  Melissa Dinwiddie

    So eloquently said, Susan! Yes, yes, yes. And, as with most important things, the practice is where it’s at. 🙂

    • Posted by:  susan


  • Posted by:  Lien

    New here. And so love your writings. Thank you.
    Lien ~ solopreneur, writer, worthy

    • Posted by:  susan

      Glad! And welcome–

  • Posted by:  Missy

    Susan, Thank you SO much for this. You are SO spot on, it was beyond words! With gratitude, Missy – a solopreneur who will spend her life trying to figure it all out 😉 If you’re interested, here is what I “do” to BEE the change. http://www.melibeeglobal.com

    • Posted by:  susan

      Thanks and will check out the link!

  • Posted by:  Tammy

    What. You have a secret window into my life? AGAIN?

    I spent all day yesterday moping around because I wasn’t working enough. Today I have apparently accomplished enough because I sure feel better!

    Of course, “enough” has no specific meaning or quantity, which means it’s pretty hit or miss. It also makes me think that working “enough” isn’t really the issue.

    What exactly is the issue? Success, or lack of? Income, or lack of? It’s always something, and that something has no definitive measure, so I never get to ARRIVE.

    It’s as if I make stuff up to determine how I feel about myself. If I remove those false measurements of how good I am or how well I’m doing, what is there?

    A whole lot of fear and discomfort, that’s what. And who wants to deal with that? It makes me squirmy just thinking about it.

    Maybe creating arbitrary measures of my worth gives me the illusion of control so I don’t have to venture into the mucky murkiness of being human in this world. You know, the discomfort of being me.

    • Posted by:  susan

      I really think you’re onto something with that last bit…

  • Posted by:  Debra

    There’s nothing quite like being self employed to bring all the demons out of one’s own closet. On a tough day, they stampede out of the past and scream at us. On a good day, they stroke our backs and hair, but we _know_ that it’s just time for the tide to turn.

    We are self employed in the arts and have learned to weather the cycles knowing that they are just that—cycles, rather that reflections on our abilities or character. This is our 25th year, oh, my, have we learned, Thank you for putting what we all go through in such eloquent words.

    • Posted by:  susan

      You are so welcome. And congrats on 25 years.

  • Posted by:  Sandra Pawula

    It’s all good and well to know that we have buddha nature, and I take to heart all the craziness of the endless ups and downs. At the same time, we still have to navigate making a living and that will require some measurements.

    • Posted by:  susan

      Of course.

  • Posted by:  Carole

    It’s nice to know I’m not alone in these feelings, but that they are actually quite common. Thanks for sharing, Susan.

    • Posted by:  susan

      You are very welcome and you’re definitely not alone.

  • Posted by:  Kylie

    Oh, Susan, this is marvelous! Just marvelous! (I am especially grateful for those last two sentences. Hit me right in my tender heart-spot.)

    • Posted by:  susan


  • Posted by:  Ineke

    Thank you Susan, for writing such lovely blogs. They inspire, sooth, support and relax me. I had two jobs, became unemployed from both of them, and am starting my own psychology practice now. I feel very alone and insecure, indeed feel old wounds and sadness seeping through, don’t know where to start and am harsh with myself for this. Think I am too old, not good enough, etc. You and your open heart project are a gift. Maybe now, with your help, I will even be able to take time for mindfulness meditation practice. Love, Ineke

    • Posted by:  susan

      You are so welcome and I really, really wish you well in your practice. It is a very brave thing to do and it also makes complete sense.

  • Posted by:  Janet Pal

    Needed these words of wisdom today, thank you Susan!

    • Posted by:  susan

      Glad they were there for you, Janet.

  • Posted by:  Christine Kane

    Ah. So perfect, and so perfectly written. This has been my deepest truest work this year – on me, on my clients, on having a business at all. Sending to my clients now. 🙂

    • Posted by:  susan

      Sending love to you and your lovely clients!

  • Posted by:  gluttonforlife

    Wonderful insights. Thank you for the reminder that the work must be its own reward.

  • Posted by:  Jessica @ Crunchy-Chewy Mama

    Thank you so much for sharing. Important messages to hear. Somehow I think my emotional spirit and physical spirit are facing a blockage on aligning. I think I know what I can handle intellectually and emotionally until my body throws me a curve ball that seems like it’s shouting, “No. Rest.” But that would also make me feel bored and unfilled after not very long, which would hurt my soul. Clearly this post speaks to just the conundrum I’m in. Thanks for sharing!

    • Posted by:  susan

      You are so welcome. Wishing you well!

  • Posted by:  Vicky

    If we can say that we’ve done our best, then that should be enough.
    Our best, if measured, could feel like crap. But if it’s the best we’ve got then we’d only be measuring against someone else’s best and that’s irrelevant.

    • Posted by:  susan

      Agreed on all counts…

  • Posted by:  Marsha Baxter

    Thank you, Susan, for your beautiful insights. I have soared and plummeted through the recent launch of my documentary project, For the Love of the Mambo. Onward.
    Happy Birthday (which we share!)

    • Posted by:  susan

      Congrats!!! And happy, happy birthday.

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