As business owners, we are pouring our blood, sweat, and tears into what we put out into the world. We believe so much in what we’re creating that it can physically ache when things don’t go as planned, or when we aren’t filling up our client rosters in the way we’d hoped. Not only that, but because this is something we’ve created, we so often let the results from our business say something about who we are as people.
This inclination to link our businesses to our self-worth as a person of this world makes sense. After all, our businesses are our babies. But the problem is that it then becomes very hard to see our value outside of our jobs – to see who we are, instead of what we do. Our business successes become our successes as a person. Our business failures become our failures as a person. And these feelings bleed into all other parts of our lives.
But, we don’t have to stay in this way of thinking. There are ways to separate who you are and what you do. It isn’t always easy, and it’ll take work nearly every single day, but you are worth the effort.
Here are some tips to untangle your self-worth from your business:
Keep your eyes on your own paper
Comparison is one of the worst things that we can allow to affect our self-esteem – especially in the business world. We see someone else in the same space as us achieving what we want to achieve and we immediately get down on ourselves thinking that we aren’t as good as them, that we’ll never achieve what they have achieved, and that we should just give up.
But, the thing is, we have no idea what their business looks like behind the scenes. We don’t know how long they’ve been pushing away at this, we don’t know what kinds of resources they have, and we don’t know how they’ve gotten to where they are.
Try instead: Allow yourself to see your fellow business owner as inspiration, and then turn back to your business, what sets you apart, and remember what you bring to the world. Though other businesses may sound the same as yours, in theory, you bring something unique. It’s important to remember that and to celebrate it.
Understand that things will not always go as planned
If there’s one thing we can be certain of in business, it’s that things will not always go the way we hope. Launches will fail, clients won’t sign up, and products won’t fly off the shelves. And it can be really, really hard on our self-esteem when that happens. You beat yourself up and revert back to the old feelings of just not being good enough to run this business that you love so much.
Try instead: Remind yourself that this is just a temporary setback, that we all go through them, and that it doesn’t mean anything about you. Not only that, but try re-classifying what you perceive as a failure as a learning experience. You tried something new (that should be celebrated!), and you learned along the way what did and did not work. You can use that information next time.
Don’t let the numbers be your only means of seeing success
As business owners, we have to know our numbers. It’s important for the future success of our company. And when the numbers aren’t where you’d like them to be, this can be really scary. But this doesn’t mean it needs to be your ONLY measure of success. When we focus only on the numbers, we are failing to see the other incredible tidal waves that we are making.
Try instead: Define what success means to you – both financially and from an emotional/mental standpoint. What is success, actually? Identify how you want to feel in your business. Write all of it down, and keep it somewhere you can refer back to. And on those days when the numbers are just not on your side, look back at what you’ve written down – are you living out success in a different way?
Think about yourself as you would a friend
When we get into a spiral of talking negatively to ourselves when things aren’t happening in our businesses, it is going to lead to so much more than a bad day or two. It leads to feelings of depression, it leads to not feeling worthy in other areas of our lives, and it affects how we’re living in our daily lives, and how we react to other people. All of this then affects our mental health in our business, and it continues this vicious circle.
Try instead: Talking to yourself as you would a friend. Imagine a friend came to you to tell you that something she tried didn’t work. What would you say to her? Use that as fuel for how you can turn your negative thoughts around for yourself. If this exercise feels hard, try writing “her” a letter. What would you say to her in it to help her walk through it?
Repeat affirmations to separate the two sides of your life
Logically, we know that we aren’t our business. But it becomes very hard to separate the two. The success of our business means that we’ve succeeded as a person. The failure of a business means that we’re a failure of a person. Right? Wrong. You are your own person aside from being a business owner. Being a business owner just happens to be a side of who you are, and of what makes you, you.
Try instead: Affirmations, when repeated frequently, help you switch your negative thoughts into something positive and productive. Write these down in your planner. Post them on your mirror. Repeat them, out loud, to yourself multiple times a day. A few that would be beneficial for a business owner struggling with untangling who you are from what you do are:
I am not my business.
I am worthy simply because I exist.
I do not need to be perfect.
I am proud of myself for getting this far.
I deserve love and respect because I am a person in this world.
My value does not need to be justified.
Keep a sunshine folder
You know those days where you just feel like everything about you is wrong, that you’re not making the difference you’d hoped to in the world, and that you are convinced you are failing at everything? These are the days you need a sunshine folder.
Try instead: I began keeping a sunshine folder many years ago. It’s simply a folder in my email or screenshots on my phone of kind messages I’ve gotten from my community over the years. They’re messages that help me to remember why I’m doing what I’m doing, what kind of impact I’ve made, how I’ve helped others, and more. My sunshine folder is where I turn on my darkest days in entrepreneurship. It’s a place for me to see what I’m bringing to this world and has nothing to do with finances or being the biggest company in the world. A sunshine folder is like affirmations coming straight from the people who are cheering you on in your community.
While untangling who you are from what you do is really hard, using these steps is going to put you one step closer to remembering who YOU are and that you’re valuable no matter what you create, or don’t. No matter how much money you have in your bank account. And no matter if your business is around for two years, or twenty years. You are enough because you are you.
Negative self-talk is one of those things that never truly goes away, but when we learn to properly cope with the voices inside, we can begin to discredit what we’re hearing and move through to something much more positive. Use this free exercise to help you identify the negative thoughts you’re having and work to uncover the lies that they’re telling you.
Sarah Hartley is a wife, a mom to two boys, and the creator of The Kindred Voice, a company focused on proving to women that they are ENOUGH through group programs, private community, and life coaching. She is out to show women the value they bring to this world simply for existing. She is also the co-host of book podcast Reading Through Life and spends her days alternating between reading and dance parties with her boys.