Each week in The Wisdom of Change blog series, I share the original artwork and unpack the insights and meaning behind one of the 44 cards in The Wisdom of Change oracle deck.
This week’s card is 11 Self Worth
Without realising it, I learnt early on in life to identify myself by what I did, where I worked, in what capacity and the wage I earned. Unsurprising perhaps, when I had spent so much time, effort and money on my education, qualifications and personal development. Pre the arrival of children I had the energy, ability and desire to focus on my career and chosen personal interests, so I did. I’d flop into bed at the end of a long day and generally speaking I felt happy, successful and appreciated. It was easy for me to deliver the requirements of my job description and agreed appraisal targets in return for a salary. Life felt good and I knew I was doing a great job. When people asked what I did, I could tell them. I felt proud of my accumulating achievements in a professional capacity. I could hold my own, buy what I wanted and I answered to myself most of the time. I had never stopped to question my value in the world or my self-worth.
Fast forward to find my salaried role unexpectedly redundant and three months pregnant with my first unplanned child and my life turned upside down. Everything that had previously defined me and all that I had held dear was falling away. My relationship with the baby’s father was on rocky ground, I wasn’t living in a child friendly home and I owned a horse and a sports car. By no stretch of the imagination was I ready to wrap my head around the identity of motherhood. In my eyes, pregnancy changed everything. For a start I was terrified to be pregnant and the thought of giving birth induced an instant panic attack. I was facing into my worst fears; single motherhood and loss of my independence and freedom in exchange for child care duties and an undefined career. I knew in my soul that a return to full time employment was going to be undesirable with a precious new life in the mix, but I hadn’t had the chance to review the alternatives.
The practicalities of my situation were tricky. I had no appreciable savings to luxuriate in a career break or costly re-training exercise. It looked likely that I would be a single mum and I realised with some surprise that I didn’t want to return to a similar professional role. However, it was the mental and emotional side of my situation that threw me the biggest curve ball. In essence I was asking myself who am I? If I can’t take care of myself with no salary coming in, then I need to rely on others. This was unfathomable to me. How could I be so irresponsible as to have left myself so exposed. Now I was at the mercy of others and the situation I found myself in. If I weren’t pregnant the way out would be clear; get another great job, leave my partner and get on with life. But that was not an option. I was completely hamstrung by my professional identity. To my mind my self-worth was measured via my financial contribution and career status. It was about what I was achieving and contributing from a career perspective and having that ‘taken’ from me felt like a personal disaster.
For many years I grappled with my newfound self-worth issues that lurked behind my bulletproof professional façade. I agonised over my business start-up status after retraining as a professional coach. It was not the ‘being a coach’ that I found challenging (I loved that right from the start); it was the ability to generate income. I know now that I am not alone in this being one of the biggest challenges for solopreneurs. The skills set required to deliver a service is quite distinct from the skills of sales and marketing. Nonetheless, I saw this as a personal failure and my self-confidence took a battering as I wondered if I had what it takes to make it as a self-employed person. As the years passed, I came to understand that being self-employed is one of the most rigorous personal development exercises one can embark upon. The challenges in work are simply a mirror of our personal challenges and there is nowhere to hide. When the business doesn’t perform, the only way to turn for answers is inwards!
With my entrepreneurial journey as my new teacher, I needed to uncouple my worth from my work. It hit me like a steam train when a coach of mine invited me to consider the value of my worth for simply who I am. I connected to the pain of the realisation that I did not value myself for who I was. I felt insignificant without my employed status without the income that I defined as worthy. I perceived my contribution in life as what I earned and my value in life by the job title I held. I felt shame at no longer desiring to run at the same pace whilst I nurtured the new life of my son alongside a financially resistant fledgling business. I resented the business I had birthed for its apparent inability to provide. With hindsight I can see that I was resisting the one thing it was trying to teach me; that I am inherently of value. That I am whole and complete merely for existing.
Alongside the unit entitled ‘entrepreneurship’ in my universally designed self-worth course was the ‘relationships’ unit. When one aspect of our life is out of kilter we can guarantee it is linked to another ‘problem area’. For me work and relationships were inextricably linked. In healing my self-worth issues, I needed to graduate from a masterclass in healthy boundaries and unconditional love for self and others. The journey of ever-increasing self-awareness is rigorous, multifaceted and interrelated. It delivered everything I needed to know to move forward with more grace and ease then I could have imagined, but I had to get comfortable with my own self-worth to let it show the way.
The loving invitation from this week’s wisdom card is to consider the health of your own self-worth. If you have given power to the belief that your value is measured by your financial contribution and what you do for others, it may be time to reflect. For the change you desire to manifest, do please consider the value of your worth simply for who you are. You may be surprised by what this makes possible or invites you to next.
You’ve got this.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s connection to your inner wisdom.
As always, I’d love to hear your comments below.