Guest Blog written by Lindsey Anderson of Six Leaf Design

As a business owner (and human being in general) something I’m learning about myself is that I base a lot of my value and self-worth on the amount of money I make. Seeing that total dollar amount at the end of each month can either make me feel like jumping for the moon or like digging a hole to hide in. I grew up with a very strong work ethic instilled in me, which in theory is an excellent trait to have, but as an adult who runs a freelance design business, it’s morphed into something else entirely. How hard I’m working has become directly tied to my worth as a person, and going by that standard, the clearest indicator of how hard I’m working has become how much money I’m making. It’s driven me to overwork myself in an effort to prove my overall value with that number I see. Hello, burnout!! No wonder the World Health Organization has classified it as an occupational phenomenon “resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”

Experiencing burnout multiple times a year has led me to try and change my mindset around money. Rather than looking at my earnings as a reflection of my value, I’m trying to think of it as an exchange of energy.

(Side note: Before I get any further, I want to acknowledge how privileged I am to even be able to live comfortably and have enough money to consider changing my mindset around it. I know lots of people don’t have that privilege and I’m very lucky to be able to think of it this way.)

Since I’ve been running my business for the last eight years, I’m finally able to consistently book new clients and get work from my growing list of previous clients. It’s possible for me to have $10K months (not always or often, but it’s possible). But since I’m the only one in my business, in order for me to get those $10K months I have to stretch my schedule thin, overwork myself, and deplete my energy so much so that it affects the rest of my life.

So, I have to ask myself: Is it really worth it? Because while it’s nice to see that number and tie it to success, am I really that successful if I’m miserable?

I’m trying to turn the tables inside my head, and I’m starting by identifying what my clients pay me for. In exchange for their hard-earned money, they’re paying for me to put my experience, heart, time, and energy into their brand or website designs. That’s what I give to each and every project I work on and I’m proud to do it. But I also have to put my experience, heart, time, and energy into my own life, family, child, marriage, friends, business, etc. And to back up what I’m feeling, a Gallup study on burnout showed that people who consistently experience high levels of burnout are twice as likely find it difficult to fulfill their family responsibilities.

Turns out that energy and money are both finite resources. Thinking of them as interchangeable is helping me reframe how I view them and how it reflects on my self-worth. Therefore, making less money means that I’ll have the ability to shift my energy to other areas of my life.

Because my value as a human is inherent, and it can’t be shown with a price tag or a number in some bookkeeping software at the end of the month.

The other part of this for me is changing my mindset around spending money on things I’ve deemed “unnecessary” because I could simply do them myself. But by spending money to delegate tasks in my business or life that either I don’t enjoy doing or don’t have the capacity for (both of which are complete energy sucks because I’m using even more hating on them) I’m exchanging money to get back energy for myself to put into my life. Now sometimes that’s worth it and sometimes it’s not. Sometimes I find out I’d rather spend the energy to do it myself a particularly way or that the exchange doesn’t balance out. The whole point is that I’m experimenting and, as usual, it comes down to finding that elusive work/life balance.

I don’t want to spend my whole life overworking myself to chase a certain number in my bank account that promises to fulfill me. I don’t think the number at the end of each month will ever actually make me feel worthy in a meaningful way. But hopefully by realizing this and working to shift my mindset, it will help me find and enjoy the more meaningful things in my life. 

Because isn’t that the whole point of working for yourself? To be able to work to live instead of vice versa?

Lindsey Anderson is the designer + owner of Six Leaf Design, a branding + web design studio out of Denver for lively small businesses who do things a little bit differently. If you’re in need of a visual brand identity or custom website visit her website for more information and to schedule a free consult call. Follow Six Leaf Design on Instagram to keep in touch.