Written by: Belinda Rosenblum
The first two years of owning my business were challenging to say the least.
In 2008, the first full year of business, I brought in a bit more than $60,000. I was proud and felt I was off to a good start, but the reality was I couldn’t take money out of the business to pay myself. And, I had to invest around $37,000 into the business to cover what I considered to be “normal” startup expenses -- a website, certifications, a coach, and a virtual assistant. I told myself this would get better in year two.
The next year was better, I brought in $155,000 in revenue. My paycheck? $2,300 for the year (that was a measly 1.5%).
As a financial professional, I was ashamed, thinking “Really WTF? I left a $150,000 job for this?” I wanted to crawl into bed, pull the covers over my head and never come out.
How could I have let this happen? Why did I only focus on revenue? Was I really cut out for small business? Maybe I should go back to my miserable job?
I kept all this a secret because it didn’t feel safe to share my shame, my vulnerability, and my self-assessed lack of small business money management skills with anyone.
As I came to terms with the reality of my situation, and my out of control shame, I realized a few expensive lessons:
The constant focus only on revenue was completely flawed. Despite having surpassed the coveted $100,000 in revenue, my business -- and my personal bank account -- were nearly empty. I was broke.
Working hard doesn’t guarantee success. In fact that may be some of the worst advice I followed. All it did was keep me working harder, like “Oh this isn’t working, I’ll just run faster!” but that didn’t solve the problem. By making more money, but not adequately tracking and planning it, I just added more zeroes and stress to my situation.
Expertise doesn’t translate to a profitable business. Despite being a personal finance expert, becoming a self-made millionaire five years earlier, and having a background in corporate accounting, the skills I needed to successfully operate my small business were completely different, and I was in denial about needing to learn more.
Like me, many people equate money and success with self-worth which - as my one example showed - is extremely counterproductive in your business.
Why do we do this? Because money is not a black and white subject. Money is emotional.
Consider how worked up you get when you have to make an offer on a webinar or a sales call. Or when a launch doesn’t go as planned. Or when you know you’re undercharging and feel hot sweats every time you are about to commit to raising your rates.
But really, money is a tool to realize our goals and dreams - a currency, a means of exchange.
Here are the three things you can do to disconnect your self-worth from your bank account balance:
1. OWN YOUR (MONEY) STORY
You’re owning it, redefining it, and deciding what you want it to be.
What burdens the money conversation even more are the actions and attitudes that we either match or mirror from our upbringing. That is, either we (usually unconsciously) do the same thing we watched the money movers and makers from our childhood do or we intentionally do the opposite.
For example, many unconsciously believe that if we truly love our parents, then we will be like them as we grow up, so they match their behaviors. On the other side, there is often the classic vow, “I watched my parents struggle and I’m not going to let that happen in my life!”
Without bringing awareness to the legacy money patterns you’re repeating, you’re doomed to continue them.
Brené Brown, renowned shame researcher and #1 New York Times best-selling author, says, “You either walk inside your story and own it, or you stand outside your story and hustle for your worthiness.”
When it comes to owning your money story, start by recognizing the pivotal moments in your upbringing where you saw, heard, or did something that created a belief for you. Often these key moments are traumatic ones and lock in a limiting belief about money and success -- albeit created from the mind of a young 6-8 year-old child -- that you then spend the next 30, 40, 50+ years living that belief as Truth.
But, it’s not actually Truth just because you’ve told it to yourself for years. Unless it is true 100% of the time for 100% of people, it is simply a belief or a thought that you adopted and have held as truth. There’s a big difference.
Take the time to “rewrite” your money story as an adult and be careful not to believe everything you think. Without intentionally changing our internal narrative, we often protect ourselves with self-sabotaging and procrastinating behaviors.
In The Gifts Of Imperfection, Brown presents this conclusion, “If we want to live and love with our whole hearts, and if we want to engage with the world from a place of worthiness, we have to talk about the things that get in the way – especially shame, fear, and our resistance to vulnerability.”
The surprising truth is that the same applies for wealth and success.
If we want to create real wealth and success from a place of worthiness, we have to talk about these very same things that get in the way – namely shame, fear, and our resistance to vulnerability.
2. OWN YOUR SHAME
In the entrepreneurial space, we have lots of fancy names for when these challenging emotions arise… imposter syndrome, fraud complex, scarcity mindset, fear of success, fear of failure,... the list is too long to name them all.
At the core of our lack of worthiness is our unwillingness to appreciate the shame that we have resigned ourselves to.
Brown defines shame as “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.”
It puts the focus on self (ex: “I am bad”) versus guilt which is based on behavior (“I did something bad.”) Whereas guilt can be productive, shame is usually destructive.
Shame has two main messages according to Brown:
“You’re never good enough.”
“Who do you think you are?”
You may not naturally “claim shame” but yet you may tell yourself these on the daily. Seriously, these are the tracks on repeat in the heads of most entrepreneurs!
The “You’re never good enough” gremlin can keep you as a slave to your overly busy life, your never-ending to-do lists, and avoiding even looking at your numbers. No matter how much money you bring in one month, it can feel like you could always “do better” so you never allow yourself to feel proud of your success. With each accomplishment, you may feel a momentary sense of relief and joy, but then quickly feel overcome by all that is left to do to ever feel good enough and whole.
If it just took working harder, then every business owner who worked hard would enjoy a high revenue and profitable business, but that is not the reality. (I found this out the hard way!) The statistics don’t lie:
80% of women-owned businesses make less than $50k in REVENUE (not even Profit). Only 7% more make $50-100k, so 87% generate gross revenue under $100k.
60% of small businesses break-even or lose money. So yes, only 40% of all small businesses even make ANY money.
82% of businesses that fail are because of cash flow problems
Belief that focusing on revenue and hard work fuels the “never good enough” feeling and puts your happiness and confidence on the roller coaster ride of your bank balance and other people’s opinions of you.
When you go to charge premium prices, ask to get on a big podcast, or pretty much do anything that steps you out of your comfort zone… bam! The next “Who do you think you are?” gremlin sets you straight and keeps you wanting to hide and stay small.
To make matters worse, shame needs only three things to grow out of control: secrecy, silence, and judgment.
In my second year in business, my shame raged because I fed it with exactly these three ingredients. (It’s taken me years to even share that part of my life story, and you may be hesitant claiming shame, too.)
Perhaps you have hidden your own sweat, tears, or late night working. This secrecy can cause loneliness and isolation. Why? Because you experience shame as if you’re the only one needing to actually put in effort to achieve success.
And, the constant push to “make $10k every month” or surpass $100,000 in revenue to become the coveted “six-figure entrepreneur” can actually trigger those shame gremlins, too, because it often doesn’t feel safe to express your challenges so you stay silent and underprofiting.
Here’s the great news:
Just as in the 1984 movie Gremlins, gremlins die in sunlight.
When you bring your own shame gremlins into the light, they begin to lose their power over you and metaphorically die as you become more resilient to their effect. It is only then you can escape the recurring shame cycle and instead choose to respond not react mindfully.
3. OWN YOUR WORTHINESS
In our current culture, hustling non-stop is the norm. Gillette’s slogan “Never let them see you sweat” has never seemed more true. Yet this constant striving is often fueled by us feeling like we can’t really feel enough until we are _______ (richer, more talented, having a bigger following, creating that $100k launch, the $1M business, wearing better clothes, more productive, etc.).
This puts us on the speed train to burnout and people-pleasing, leaving us feeling not good enough ever, as if our next achievement will finally prove that, once and for all, we are worthy.
I’m sorry -- and happy -- to say that day will never come.
It is only when you stop shying away from that which feels emotional, vulnerable, and scary and instead lean into it, that you begin to experience freedom in your heart.
Entrepreneurship pushes every vulnerability button we have, and no one prepares us for it.
Your own worthiness is separate and distinct from what you charge or even how your business is doing (financially or otherwise).
As you begin to step into owning your worthiness, you’ll also begin to own your price at a whole new level. Your goal is to get so confident that you can share your offers with the same intonation as “Pass the salt. Pass the pepper. Here’s what I charge.”
The more worthy you feel, the easier EVERYTHING gets in your business… like asking for the sales, charging appropriately, and working with a team.
Yet, I can’t just tell you “feel worthy” and expect that to work. I’m guessing you may have tried that already but what you will begin to notice is that as you own your (money) story, own your shame, and own that you are in fact worthy right here right now, you will begin to feel a new sense of peace and trust that you are on the right path.
It boils down to this: It’s okay to talk about money. In fact, it’s necessary. You don’t have to let shame, money, or a lack of feeling worthy take over your life, consuming you and your business.
Worthiness is not defined by the amount of money in your bank account. You are worthy -- right here and right now.
You have the ability to make not just the money you need, but the money you want. It’s time to unleash your earning power in the world.
Article originally published in our MONEY 2021 annual special edition published in August 2021. Read this and more like it in our annual MONEY special, bringing together women from around the world to share their wisdom, expertise, and insights on creating wealth, managing your money, manifesting and living in abundance, growth strategy and mindset, investing, and more.
Get our current MONEY special at soulacymagazine.com/money