Why is it so hard to talk about our own worth?

Why is it so hard to talk about our own worth? Photo of young woman in Leeds, looking downwards.
Photo credit: Alex Ivory

Last week I took part in an Instagram challenge called ‘Online Acts of Kindness‘, created by Ruth Poundwhite – a writer and entrepreneur whose work I really enjoy following.

It was a 3 day challenge, with the idea of spotlighting other people’s accounts and work, talking about what your online community means to you and finally, banging your own drum – i.e. acknowledging the value of your own work and sharing that with your audience.

When I got to day 3, I cringed inwardly and decided to put it off until the weekend. The weekend came and I headed onto Instagram stories to record my video and EURGH. What to say? I was blank.

Talking to camera is awkward enough without blowing your own trumpet and telling people how great you are.

I don’t think this awkwardness is specific to me. I suspect that you too, struggle to compliment yourself. Why is it so hard to talk about our own worth? I’m inclined to think it’s an especially British thing, and even more so, a female thing.

Confidence in our own abilities can all too easily come off as arrogance, after all. Isn’t that what we’re taught? We need other people to tell us we’re good and to validate us, not ourselves. That’s just a bit icky.

I spoke on here once before about how I never wanted to call myself an illustrator, for fear it sounded too presumptuous. Once I realised how misguided that fear was and changed how I described my work, I started to see more commissions come in.

Last weekend I went to a blogging workshop where they talked about how to pitch to brands and got us to practise a pitch to our dream brand. But I didn’t know who that would be, because to be honest I’d barely given it any thought up to that moment. How could I – little old me – do that? Surely I wasn’t good enough, at least not yet. That was for other people, or at a stretch, for future me. But not the me of right now.

A few times in the past, different brands have shared my illustrations on their social media. A friend messaged recently and suggested I approach one of these companies to see if they would in fact, like to start paying me for my work, which they clearly liked enough to be sharing. My toes curled a little at the thought, but I knew she’d made a good point.

Examples such as these have made me start to realise that the person holding me back, is me. By being shy and self-effacing, I’ve unknowingly been constructing my own barriers.

What if I were to be a little braver? What if I gave myself permission to ask for more? And to not be so scared if the answer was no, but for that to be fuel to my fire to try again.

To be clear, this isn’t about not being content with what we have. This isn’t about constantly striving for more stuff, or pinning happiness on the things we don’t yet have. I wrote in a recent post that I’m really happy doing what I’m doing right now and that I’m not ambitious in the traditional sense.

This is, rather, about owning the abilities we have now, and allowing ourselves the curiosity to explore them further. About being content in the present, but making sure we’re not getting in our own way.

What if I recognised that there’s value in my work? What if you recognised that there’s value in yours?

What might be lying out there for us to discover, if we could believe in our own work as much as we believed in that of others’?

What could that look like for you this year?

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