I once described my morning routine to another writer. I mentioned the fact that I shower, get dressed in actual clothes (no yoga pants, jeans are okay), apply my makeup, style my hair, slip on a pair of shoes, and then walk down one flight of stairs to the sunroom, where I sit at my desk to begin my workday. I could tell from the look on her face that she thought this ritual of mine was odd. “We could not be more opposite,” was all she said.
I guess the fact that I shower, get dressed, wear makeup, style my hair and put on shoes is a bit strange, considering that most days, I don’t ever leave my house (except to drop off and pick up my children from school, and even then, I don’t step out of the minivan). Most days, I don’t have any contact with human beings, save my husband and two boys. I rarely even answer the phone during my work hours, unless it’s the school, my husband or my agent. Yet every day I dress as if I still work in an office.
I’ve worked from home as a full-time writer for nearly four years now. But here’s the honest truth: Despite the fact that I’ve written two books and am working on my third, I still struggle to feel like I am legitimate. And if I’m really honest with myself, it’s because I equate financial earnings with worth and success.
I recently tallied my income for 2015 and discovered I made less this past year than the year before. Significantly less. This is not good, not only because I am a financial contributor to our household, but also because I saw that number as an indicator of failure. Brad reminded me that this ebb and flow is to be expected; a fluctuating income goes along with being self-employed. I know he’s right, yet I’ve also had to do a lot of self-talk over the past few weeks to convince myself that the number on my calculator does not define my worth, nor is it a signifier of failure or success.
This is, in large part, why I get dressed and apply lipstick and mascara and flat-iron my hair and pull on my tall boots just to sit at my laptop in the sunroom of my own house, where no one will see me but my dog (and she sleeps all day). This silly little ritual not only offers me much-needed structure, it also reminds me that what I do for work is valuable, even if it doesn’t pay very much. As ridiculous as it sounds, donning a pair of earrings and applying my favorite shade of Cover Girl is a concrete reminder that what I do for work is real, legitimate and worthwhile – that I am real, legitimate and worthwhile — despite what my 1040 states.
I don’t know if you struggle with feelings of inadequacy in your calling or career. Maybe you’ve already got this all figured out – and if that’s the case, I say, Wonderful! Call me! I need to talk to you!
But maybe you’re an artist or a small business owner or a writer like me, wrestling with your definition of success. Or maybe you’re a stay-at-home mom trying to figure out who exactly you are. Or maybe you’re a retiree wondering if you’re still valuable without your job title and forty-hour workweek.
If this is the case, here’s my advice for you: do one small thing every day that reminds you that your work — whether it’s mothering, volunteering, entrepreneuring, freelancing, caretaking — is important. Do one small thing every day that reminds you that you are valuable. Do one small thing every day that reminds you that you and your contributions are legitimate and worthwhile, whether you get paid a little or a lot or nothing at all.
For me, that one small thing is lipstick and shoes. Every day. No matter what.