I’ve struggled with self-worth all my life. My father was essentially gone from my life before I can remember. My sister, 13 years my senior, was gone by the time I was in kindergarten, and my brother not long after. I felt abandoned by everyone close to me. The one person who stayed - my mother - spent most of my childhood (and beyond) trying to shape me by pointing out what was wrong and/or incorrect about my thoughts, feelings, and body.
Separate from that, I had a whole host of other issues tied to my own perfectionism and exceptionally high standards for myself. When I got a B on my report card, I cried because I’d let myself down, not because I thought anyone else was going to be disappointed in me.
So when I began a career as a photographer, it was expected I would come face to face with the money blocks and inability to both charge and receive my worth which photographers, as artists, are particularly prone to.
I did, and it was a ruthless journey.
One day as I was crafting photography packages for an upcoming event, I calculated my cost of goods for the products I planned to offer, and then set about contemplating what to charge for my actual service and talent. I winced and started to erase the number in front of me on the computer screen, but then I stopped. My fee wasn’t outrageous, more than some, less than others, but included a lot of value and overall good service and talent.
Why should I hesitate?
I already knew for a fact that other photographers in my area were charging the same amount and even more, yet they had plenty of clients happily lining up to pay for it. Why not my business? I reminded myself how important photography is, that it is a record of the stories and the lives of those we love, that there are many families who truly value how important that record is, and who have sought to capture that record for generations, even if my family didn’t.
My family didn’t.
My mother was a single mother struggling for financial independence. She could never afford portraits of her children, and often lamented that fact. It’s one of the reasons I became interested in photography, because there were so few pictures of my childhood, and it broke my heart. But even with more money in the budget, photography just wasn’t valued in our home. We worried too much about how our teeth looked, how messed up our hair was, and whatever else we could find fault with in our photos. We didn’t seek out face time with a camera lens, because we simply could not value ourselves enough to desire to remember anything about ourselves.
When I had that thought, I was dumbfounded.
Imagine. I chose to purse, with great passion, an entire industry which those closest to me saw no value in my whole life.
How’s that for being glutton for punishment?
It’s strange how the choices we make in life force us to examine our hearts from the inside out, to face the hurts of our past head-on. I have found that I have done this to myself over and over again. Even when I think I’m choosing a different path than the one that hurt me before, somehow I find old hurts catching up with me in new ways. It's almost as if the Universe has a purpose behind repetition of these patterns...?
I realize we're venturing into some pretty heavy emotional territory here (anyone need a tissue?), but stay with me, this is relevant to our businesses.
Whenever we find that we're struggling with some form of success - whether it be financial success, personal success, or relationship success - it is almost always invariably linked to our internal belief system. If we believe on some level (even if it's an unconscious level) that we are not worthy of success, it's highly likely we will struggle to achieve it. When we feel unworthy, we somehow always manage to find a way to make sure we stay stuck like a boot in the mud.
If ever we find ourselves struggling with personal or business success, it's time to stop and take stock. Breathe. Go inward, and listen. We need to ask ourselves how this current struggle might connect to something in our past, or to our internal dialogue.
Is it possible we're sabotaging our own efforts because we struggle with our self-worth?
Is the path we're currently on different from the one the Universe it trying to nudge us toward?
Is there something we need to face, and so it continues reappearing like a dandelion in the middle of a perfectly manicured golf course?
Is it possible we're punishing ourselves because we feel on some level that we don't deserve happiness?
Have we been taught that nothing good comes without hard work, and we somehow believe that we have to make things as hard as possible in order to make certain the success feels valid?
Personal growth and business growth are almost always interconnected. It makes sense, because as a business owner, our business is a reflection of us, and of what is important to us. So in order to grow, we need to focus on letting the past go. Keep moving forward, always. But don’t simply walk past those weeds that pop up in our paths, or before we know it we'll be lost in a thicket. Dig it up. Examine it, and then release it.