I am not what I do, and other things I say to myself

photo of Alison with the blog title

As I prepared to publish this, I doubted myself. What will people think?

At some point, I developed the tendency to base part of my self worth on things external to me. That means if people are happy with me, I’m ecstatic. If I’m not sure, I haven’t heard, or it’s clear (to me) they aren’t, I can spiral down pretty quick. High highs and low lows.

Life can be a bit of a roller coaster. It’s something I’m 100 percent aware of now and am working on. Can you relate?

This week we are in the deep, dark cold of winter. So that could be contributing to some of how I’ve been feeling. But I’ve also had many highs. Two new leads have come my way from people who know my work. I’ve had positive feedback on content I’ve delivered. And I got a new article assignment that I’m excited about. So work wise, things look good.

Regardless, my self-doubt has been hanging around. And that freaks me out. I buy into the idea of the law of attraction. If I’m focusing on feeling like I’m not living up to something, then I might attract either more of that feeling or that actual result.

This isn’t new for me though. Certainly, since becoming a freelancer, I’ve been pushing myself out of my comfort zone more than ever before. It’s been a mindset game. And with each step, I’ve had to move forward despite the fear.

And I do believe self doubt can have some value, and that most of us experience it. However, I also believe negative self talk can stop us from going after certain things. And it could lead to self-sabotaging behaviour. So I have things I say to myself to help me put the struggle into perspective. I thought they might help you too.

How I deal with self doubt as a freelancer

You aren’t what you do

We all have intrinsic worth — simply because. We’re worthy of love, safety, compassion and respect. And we can give those things. Most of us do. But when it comes to loving ourselves, we aren’t always so kind.

Remember, your work isn’t you. It’s what you do. And you might be crazy passionate about it for various reasons. But your worth isn’t tied to that unless you let it be. I remind myself of this now even during those highs — the excitement of praise or new opportunities.

Tying your worth to your work can pull you from the present. It becomes a distraction. It gives power over your well-being to the opinions of others — things outside of your control. As a small business owner, you might spend a lot of time thinking about your work. It can help to have other hobbies and interests. And to read for pleasure, not just work (I could do more of this… I love non-fiction).

Remember your values — what you stand for

Right now, my two core values are openness and freedom. I try to use those values to decide on my direction. Sarah Swain spoke about this on episode 51 of the Great Canadian Woman podcast.

I can remind myself of my values when I’m getting hung up on a detail. And they’re helpful when it comes to thinking about the big picture of what I’m doing. Sometimes when I’m basing my worth on my work, I don’t show up in a wonderful way for my kids. But my kids and our freedom and lifestyle as a family are a big part of the reason I’m doing what I’m doing.

What’s the worst that can happen?

This is a simple question you can ask yourself any time you start to worry about some future event. What’s the worst that can happen? Do they hate it? They never want to work with me again? Do they say something really nasty?

Sometimes thinking about what the worst thing is that could happen helps you to realize that it’s not that bad anyway. It’s not something you won’t get through. Tell yourself you’ll do what you’ve always done — deal with it in the best way you know how at the time.

What evidence do you have?

This is related to the what’s the worst that can happen. Often we have no evidence that the thing — the worst thing — will happen. It may not have happened before. When I send off content I’ve poured so much effort into, sometimes I think, oh gosh, what if they think it’s garbage? I have no evidence that’s a likely outcome. It hasn’t happened. Sure, there’s feedback, but that usually makes the content better. And helps me grow. It’s all good.

You’re not for everybody

A mentor of mine once told me, it’s better not to be liked by some people because if you are, that means you’re like them. And you’re not.

The thing is, not everyone is going to like you, your ideas or what you stand for. Just as you won’t like everything everyone else does. If you try to be for everybody, you’ll water yourself down or lose yourself in the process. You might forget what you stand for. Our essence is what makes us unique. It’s our gift we can bring to the world. And so when we honour that and accept that it won’t be for everyone, we can start to find the people we are for, and help to bring value to their lives.

It helps to bring these issues into the light

When we talk about our internal experiences, we’re bringing them into the light. That’s one way to lessen their power over us. I find this to be a healthier approach than other strategies — like drinking to sort of numb the emotion.

I’ve read that creatives and entrepreneurs are more prone to mental health issues. I use the term entrepreneur loosely when I speak about myself. Although I do have entrepreneurial tendencies, I’m not driven to grow a large business. At least not at this point in my life. Regardless, the challenges of the creative lifestyle are something to be aware of.

What’s key is we recognize we’re not alone. There’s always somebody to talk to. Talking with a supportive person is one of the best and healthiest ways to help yourself move through the challenges. Research has shown expressing gratitude can also impact your wellbeing. This is something I added to my life a month ago after a recommendation from a friend and I’ve noticed it affects my outlook.

I’d love to hear how you cope when you’re feeling self doubt. Leave a comment. And if you think this post could help others, please share.

My best wishes to you.

3 thoughts on “I am not what I do, and other things I say to myself

  1. Anth Edwards

    Alison, this is a great reflection and a necessary reminder for everyone that we need to put work into perspective and not allow peer or “unspoken societal pressure” place a sense of false “value” on who we are as a person. Somehow we need to place greater value on being passionate about being alive and experiencing each moment in the moment. Things that matter such as our faith, working for a cause, loving our family and friends, looking out for one another and not missing those subtle opportunities to be a positive influence. That’s the validation that we should really focus on. Thanks for sharing this post, you made a difference today!

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