For most of my life, I believed that self-worth and net worth went hand in hand. Without one, you couldn’t have the other. I’m sure that’s why I got into personal finance in the first place. There was nothing I wanted more than to feel good enough, valued, even envied. And the only way to attain that, I thought, was to become rich.
This mentality was absolutely a product of my circumstances growing up. To put it bluntly, I was a hand-me-down kid, a never-on-trend teenager, then a more-than-broke university student. And I couldn’t stand it. I didn’t just hate being restricted by how much money I didn’t have either, it was the judgement that really pierced my self-esteem.
I noticed every single eye roll my friends made when I didn’t buy anything at the mall. Every sigh when I habitually ordered the cheapest thing on the menu. Every annoyed look when I told them I couldn’t afford it. If that didn’t make me feel small enough, being excluded from group events because of my lack of funds sure did the trick.
As self-pitying as all this sounds, I promise you that’s not why I’m sharing this. I’m sharing this because it’s the reason why I used to believe that wealth meant friendship and respect. That to be truly valued in life, you needed the money to back it up.
It’s also why I made a promise to myself to make sure things were different when I became an adult. I needed to do whatever I could to become that person I always wished I was. I needed to believe that this perpetual brokeness was just temporary, and a wealthier future was on the horizon.
Did it work? Well, I like not being broke anymore and feeling financially secure for the first time in my life is pretty great. But it did nothing to repair those old wounds of feeling worthless and undervalued.
I repaired those all on my own — money had nothing to do with it.
You Are Not How Much You Make
I’ll be honest, being self-employed has done some amazing things for my life. It’s something I never thought I’d do, but it’s incredible what 3 months of freelancing can do for your happiness, mental health and self-worth.
For most of my career, I had the bad habit of comparing myself to my peers who earned higher salaries than me. I just couldn’t understand why with the same education, experience and skillsets as them, they were earning $10,000-$20,000 more than me. Wasn’t I good enough to earn the same amount they were? Was there something wrong with me that resulted in me earning less?
Yes, I am good enough. No, there’s nothing wrong with me. Statements that are clear to me know that I’m my own boss, but were impossible for me to comprehend when I was an employee with pay scales, bonuses and raises clouding my judgement.
I know for a fact that I probably won’t earn as much as I did last year. Last year was my highest earning year ever for goodness sakes, and that’s no easy feat to outdo in your first year of business!
I thought this notion of earning less would scare me to the core. I’ve been working full-time (plus side hustles) for 7 years now, culminating in a record-breaking income year in 2016. If I was to quit at this stage, I was afraid that it would be like all that progress had gone to waste.
Except it wasn’t like that at all. I quit my job and my life actually improved. I stopped thinking about money oddly enough, and started focusing on producing work that was meaningful and helpful to myself and others.
I know it’s early days and I’m being optimistic, but it really did surprise me how little I’ve worried about money since I’ve become self-employed. Sure, I’ve got monthly income goals I try to achieve, but I immediately stopped obsessing about what others made as soon as I handed in my office access pass. How sweet it is not to have that bog me down anymore.
You Don’t Need to Be Ashamed of Being Frugal
Although I don’t worry about money as much as I expected, that doesn’t mean I’ve continued to spend as freely as I used to.
I used to think that to be able to spend whatever you wanted on clothes, eating out and activities, that was a sign of “making it.” Maybe it is, but it sure wasn’t enough to keep me happy for long. I’d be happy for a bit after swiping my credit card, but the sensation would fizzle within an hour or two.
When I became self-employed, I knew I needed to adjust my spending habits to fit within my new budget. But I also went a step further and imposed a bit of a spending ban on myself. I got sick of spending to be honest and I craved a simpler life for a while.
And I’m actually loving it. Who knew not spending could be so freeing? I’m not exactly practicing minimalism, but I have adopted the mentality of only spending money on things that add value to my life. And in turn, I feel like it’s improved my feeling of self-value too. Isn’t that interesting?
Not only that, I made a concerted effort to stop feeling ashamed or guilty for not spending. I never want to feel like that high school girl I used to be who would get embarrassed by not buying stuff like her friends did. Now, I can unabashedly say that I’m not spending money on useless crap and I don’t miss it one bit!
Choose a Better Reason for Growing Your Net Worth
So, if chasing a higher income isn’t that important and living a frugal lifestyle is awesome, am I saying that you should stop trying to grow your net worth? Hell no!
What I want you to take away from this is that self-worth should not be your reason for growing your net worth. So go get a better reason.
For me, I’m growing my net worth so I can continue to live a life that’s mine. I know I said in my money personality video that money means security to me, which it does, but it also means freedom. I want to build up my wealth so I can feel safe and have the freedom to do what I want. So…what’s your reason gonna be?
Do you believe there’s a link between self-worth and net worth? Share your thoughts and stories in the comments!