I love reviewing the end of the year and the start of a new one by going over all the things that happened, good and bad, and thinking about how I want next year to be different. One of the ways I do this is to pick a word of the year. Last year it was "Open," as in, open to possibility. This year I’ve chosen a word that caused my husband's face to scrunch up in distaste until I explained what I meant. It’s "abundance."
Not abundance as in, “I'm a gonna be rolling in the dough” but more a mindset of being worthy of abundance. Worthiness would also suffice as my word of the year, but I like the way "abundance" sounds.
Why abundance? Well, it started with my friend Meg Leddy, a fellow podcaster and PA. I was listening to her podcast on burnout and she had a short segment on how we send our brain signals that we’re not worth it. She gave an example of looking in her sock drawer and realizing how many holy or missing socks and undies she had yet to discard.
I remember snickering because it's so true! We all hold onto things that are no longer serving us. Why? We lean on excuses like, “Well, it’s wasteful to throw stuff away when it’s still useful” or “I can’t afford to replace it right now” Okay, but wearing these holy undies or socks with no elastic and feeling them slouch on your body sends signals to our brains that we’re not worth buying new stuff.
While riding in the dark car with my family on the way to my parents, I stumbled across a podcast with Dr. Tara Swart, who studies neuropathyways. At the end she led a meditation for the listeners to imagine their future selves in a mirror. With her lovely British accent, she instructed the listener to pay attention to your future self's clothing, body, hair, etc.
My future self looked like me except I noted with surprise that she didn't have on my daily uniform of either black scrubs or yoga leggings and a natty hoodie. Instead, I had this fancy silky dry-clean only top that tied behind my neck and nice white slacks with cute wedges. I didn’t have my hair in a pony tail, it was down, fixed, and flowing.
Hmmm. I kept reflecting back on my future self all weekend. It finally dawned on me why I don't look like my future me in the present. It had to do with the clothes, as superficial as it sounds. And even the haircut. It all boils down to self-worth.
It shouldn’t have come as a surprise. I’ve had gobs of coaching sessions done on me thanks to being in a program with amazing coaching students from around the world. Coaches from Japan to Australia, have helped me with numerous problems, from whether or not to work more days as a PA to spousal disputes, to whether we should get a dog or not. Regardless of the problem I’m facing that day, there's a common theme of too little self-worth It goes something like this:
We’ll be several minutes into the session and the coach is asking me a lot of "Why" questions. Why does that matter, or why do you think that bothers you? What’s behind that? Who’s voice do you hear and what’s she saying to you? Why won’t you let yourself _____. At some point during almost every call, I would mumble, “I guess it’s because I don’t think I’m worth it” or “I don’t think I matter enough to insist on________ or to pursue ____________ ”
One example was signing up for a pottery class. I've been talking about taking a pottery class for 5 years. I signed my kids up for camp there but I never pulled the trigger on signing myself up. It was a 2 hour class on the weekend and I just didn’t think I could spare the time. One coach asked me, "Why do you think you don’t deserve the time to take this class?" Mic drop. And the floodgates opened as I explained why I wasn't worth it.
The mediation and my recent coaching were ah-has for me that I’ve been selling myself short. I don’t count myself as worthy of nice things.
Maybe this is a mom thing, or maybe it has to do with all the limiting money beliefs from childhood, being raised by a teacher and a farmer who were careful to watch each dime and a church that preached suspicious of the rich unless they gave it all away. I developed the unspoken belief that having a lot of money or buying nice things meant you were choosing riches over kindness or charity. If you had a lot, that meant others had less because of your choices. It took years before I heard someone say that having more meant you could do more good in the world.
So that's why my word of the year is going to be Abundance. This is the opposite word of the one I chose a few years ago, which now makes me chuckle. It was Enough. I was going to be content with what I had, or maybe even less than what I had. I remember thinking the clothes I owned were enough, it was enough to have a decent paying job even if I wasn't content, it was enough to have two healthy kids, I didn’t need to pursue my own interests. I had enough money and there was no need to strive for more.
"Abundance signals to my brain that I am worth it. I’m worth shoes that fit right, I'm worth clothes that aren't always on the sale rack. I’m worth s[ending money on my mental health by hiring a coach, seeing a therapist, and paying for yoga classes. I used to get my haircut at a barber shop with the kids because it was easy and cheap. It felt too extravagant to go to a salon all alone for an hour or two. But I hated getting my hair cut with all the men and kids. And I disliked how my hair looked afterwards. I’m worth having a nice haircut,
A few weeks ago I needed a new pair of running shoes. I usually wait until a model is 2-3 years old and buy it on clearance in a color I’m not crazy about. I'll even buy used hiking shoes, thinking that it’s saving me lots of money and not realizing how miserable I’ll be when my bunion starts hurting 1/2 a mile into the hike.
After my self-worth ah-ha, I ordered 5 new pairs of shoes. Don't worry, it was only so I could make sure I picked a pair that fit the best. I settled on a pair of red Brooks running shoes. They were $50 more than I usually pay, but I LOVE them!
Let’s talk about time. I am worth spending time on myself. I don’t have to put everyone else in the family first. I can do my writing after the kids get up if I want because they’re old enough tot know that my time matters and this is part of my job, dammit.
I matter. My opinion and tastes matter. I don't have to take the broken cookies, the kids' leftovers, and say, "it's fine" all the time like a stepford wife.
How to assess if you have issues with self-worth
Take a look at your clothes, do you own stuff that doesn’t fit right, feels uncomfortable, or has holes/lots of wear and tear? Do you own things you haven’t worn in years?
Do you only shop sales and thrift stores? It’s fine if you love shopping in thrift stores, but ask yourself if you’re buying your kids’ clothes there and if not, why? Do you adore the things you buy there? I found a Kate Spade dress at one and while it's gorgeous, I bought it because of the brand, not pausing to notice how it felt a little tight around the bust and wasn't the best fit.
Do you feed yourself high quality healthy foods or do you forget to pack yourself a lunch and nibble on whatever you can find for supper? If you’re spending more money and energy to feed others good foods (including your pets) then you might have a self-worth problem
Are you happy in your current job? Does your inner voice tell you you should be grateful for this job and you’d better not start whining? Will you allow yourself to believe in possibility and explore other options? I have a male client who’s the breadwinner and while he encouraged his wife to follow her dreams with her own career, he won’t allow himself to even consider quitting his nice job with benefits despite not being happy there for a few years.
Time: How much free time do you allow yourself? Time without to-do’s, time to read a book or go do something fun? Do you ever go out of town or a night on the town with girlfriends, or do you tell yourself it’s too much trouble and “not worth it” (the "not worth it" speech is a clue!)
How often do you stop and ask yourself what you really want? Whether it’s what you’re eating, what you’d like to wear, how you spend your time, or where you’d like to vacation? Treat yourself like a beloved friend. You’d talk to her kindly and ask what she’d like to do.
For your birthday, do you find yourself saying things like, “I’m fine, really, I don’t need a cake or supper at a restaurant” Or, “I’ll pick up something for myself, it’s fine, you don’t have to go shopping” You are worth it. Let people spoil you and if they won’t, spoil yourself once year.
So what do you do about it?
Ask yourself what you really want. And ask often. Start with low-hanging fruit like a snack. Pause, check within, and ask yourself what you really, really want. Even if it seems “bad” or inconvenient (I once drove across town to a Dairy Queen because I decided the thing I wanted more than anything was a peanut buster parfait)
After you get good at voicing your opinion for a week or two, move to bigger things. Movie night, restaurants, vacation destinations, your job. Check in with yourself on all these.
Ask yourself this: “What's standing in your way of happiness or a better situation? If you know what needs to happen to move you towards the thing you want, whether it’s a new job, losing weight, joining a gym, reaching out to someone to make a friend, ask yourself why haven't you done it yet? I’m guessing the excuses will be something like “I don’t have time, I don’t know if I’m ready, what if _____ happens (rejection/failure)." What would you tell your daughter or best friend if they were in the same situation? I bet you’d say, “Do it!! You deserve it!!”
Why don’t you think you’re worth it? This will give you an ah-ha. If you’re honest with yourself, I bet you will repeat beliefs you carry from childhood. Things like, “I have to do the responsible thing. I have to give to others first. This is just what moms do. I would be selfish if I did that” These are all false beliefs we’ve convinced ourselves are facts. They’re not. I remember learning that a friend hired a babysitter once a week so she could go hang out with her girlfriends. I said, “I mean, maybe if it’s a Bible study or something but she’s being selfish to spend that money just so she can go out”. In hindsight, I was secretly jealous she was taking time for herself and spending money to have free time. Another friend paid to have her car cleaned and detailed regularly. I remember being aghast that she’d drop that kind of money. But she said it made her feel better about life when her “mobile office” was clean. She was sending the message to her brain that she was worth having a nice, clean car. My messy car is sending signals to my brain that I'm not worth it, I deserve to have a messy car because it's too much trouble to vacuum it out or pay someone to do it for me.
Try this: Let's do a 5 day “spoil me” challenge. We’ll start it next week. Chances are, you’ve given and given and given during this holiday season. Worked yourself to the bone to make it special for everyone else. Like me spending two entire days making homemade gingerbread houses, including two different kinds of icing. Starting the Sunday after Christmas, I want you to pause and ask yourself what you really want. Then do it. If it costs under $50, do it. If you want to go flying off to Key West, you obviously can’t do this, but if you want to go to Target all alone with no kids, do it! If you crave spicy dan dan noodles with peanut sauce and you never let yourself have them b/c both kids are allergic to peanuts, go do it. The Spoil Me challenge also includes doing a closet sweep to identify those clothes you feel gross wearing. I got rid of my black and white socks that were once great but have zero elastic left in them. I gave away shoes that don't fit right. I threw out all the holy undies and bras.