Compensation

Self-Worth Before Net Worth

Too many people fall into the subconscious trap of equating the two, instead of finding value outside of money.

In offices across the country, it is becoming a game of show-and-tell: tell me what you make and I’ll tell what you what I make. And not surprisingly, a lot of people aren’t going to feel great after that conversation.

Indeed, according to a recent survey by the salary comparison site Comparably, 30% of respondents age 18 to 30 said they were somewhat or very likely to discuss their salary to their coworkers, while only 12% of respondents above age 40 said the same. By revealing your paycheck amount, though, you’re creating more pressure than ever to rate yourself on your income. And that’s a no-win proposition, especially when average salary raises are only 1% this year. “You need to define success for yourself,” says David Ginchansky, a career coach at Korn Ferry Advance.

One way to separate your self-worth from your salary is to focus on activities or people that aren’t related to money.

So where do we go from here to build self-worth beyond net worth? A few tips:

Do an internal audit.

In this sort of environment, experts say it’s critical to ensure you’re focusing on your wants and needs first—despite how difficult it is when your Instagram friends seem to be financially crushing it. An internal audit requires looking at what you value and how you want to spend your time—not how much money you want to make. It also requires looking at what you’re willing to engage in to feel a sense of fulfillment. If you’ve decided to move into a new industry or pursue a passion project, that means understanding you might not make as much as you once did.

Focus on your non-financial factors.

One way to separate your self-worth from your salary is to focus on activities or people that aren’t related to money and make you feel good. That could mean distancing yourself from that friend who makes double what you do and is constantly going on $1,000 weekend getaways, or it could mean trying to catch yourself every time you mention how much something costs. The more you can start to associate feeling good with things that aren’t financial, the more you can gain perspective on what’s really valuable.

Keep perspective on your purpose.

When Cait Flanders, author of The Year of Less, left her full-time job in 2015 to focus on her blog and other personal projects, she intended to do some freelance writing as a means of sustaining herself. She ended up earning more money than she anticipated and set an ambitious goal to make $100,000 for the year. The challenge excited her initially, but the reality proved daunting: she spent all of her time freelancing and didn’t focus any of her energy on what she’d left her full-time job to do.

When she finally realized the problem, she overhauled her routine by figuring out how much she’d need to live without struggling, and she began putting her own projects ahead of client work. While she ended the year with a smaller income, she felt fulfilled. “I could compare myself to my own goal, or compare myself to my other self-employed friends, and feel like I’m failing to reach my goal, falling behind, not cashing in on my earning potential, etc. etc. etc.,” she wrote on her blog. “But the decision to earn less has been 100% intentional—and I’m 100% happier for it.”

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