On Self-worth vs. Productivity Value

I am not perfect. There’s a lot I am still learning — about life, about work, and about making a living independently as a creative.

As a freelancer, sometimes it’s hard not to conflate the work I do with how I’m perceived by people. When I fall short on a work or project goal, it feels like a personal failing, a judgement on my character.

When procrastination leads me to drag on projects endlessly, my instinct is towards self-flagellation.

Sometimes it works as a particularly brutal motivator.

But on the other hand, this mindset has also been a barrier to actively valuing my work in practical terms: I am guilty, far too often, of underselling myself, and then leaving myself open, time and again, to being taken advantage of, or shortchanged.

Because of a sense of guilt at prior failings, I’ll often let these incidents go, telling myself maybe it was my fault for not clarifying something early enough, or maybe the work wasn’t quite good enough — even when it objectively is.

But today I learned that, unless I have stringent boundaries of engaging with people as a freelancer, and work to maintain these, I won’t break out of this cycle of frustration and inwardly-directed doubt stemming from negative interactions with people, whether it be through poorly handled miscommunication, or through fallouts over changes to what was initially agreed upon.

I know my own failings, but often I am so focused on those that I fail to see when the fault lies elsewhere, until someone else objectively points it out.

However, a wise Internet-dweller once said: Know your own worth…then add tax.

I think that’s my new business — and life — plan.