Illustration by  
February 16, 2022

Detaching self-worth from work

Words by  

This second instalment of the self-worth and work topic will focus on the people who are actively working on detaching their self-worth from their work. I have struggled with this task ever since I dipped my toes into freelance journalism in 2020. I am slowly unlearning this practice, and have been doing so successfully, much to the point when I file copy, I actively file the piece in my mind for structure.

My journalism consumed my life as the world shut down and we were forced to lockdown. It was by large the only thing that occupied me thus it came to define me. As soon as I’d wake up each day, work was at the forefront of my mind – even when I had days off. I was slowly heading towards burnout; I felt it each day and I still feel it sneaking up on me now. Mostly because of my love for work compounding all reason most of the time. I love what I do and that can be my biggest downfall.

I have found ways to manage this looming feeling of exhaustion and most importantly detach my self worth from my work. For example, I try not to let work bleed into the time I want to be around my family or friends. I have not experienced burnout because of how I separate my work life from my personal life. I understand the privilege that comes with finding work as a freelancer, but we simply cannot work every hour of every day — that is a wholly unrealistic notion which I believe the freelance industry perpetuates unknowingly.

I write this while I’m on my leave, ironically — I have not been working for three days and while it has been blissful, I still find my mind obsessing over the work I could be doing. I am reminding myself that I am not my work, my work does not define me and that I should aim to be more present. I am a work in progress but detaching myself completely from work when I am enjoying myself doing other things is what is helping. Sure, I check an odd email sometimes, but I am doing so less frequently.

Sravya is a freelance artist who has reckoned with similar feelings of attaching her self-worth intrinsically to the work she produces. Sravya suggest boundaries are key to her relationship with the work she produces.

“My mindset has definitely changed and has allowed me to be more professional, temper my emotions in the workplace and more importantly, ensure the client is completely satisfied with my deliverables.”

Criticism can be one of the hardest pills to swallow — especially as a freelance creative when we pour a lot of our own ideas into the work we produce, but Sravya’s view towards this element of work is refreshing. “Subjective critiques are a reality of a creative career path.” Constructive criticism is key to growth and development in any career — plus it can help you to build a better business. It’s best not to take such comments personally and see them as a driving force to create. 

Sravya talks about the journey of her mindset changes. “I would find it hard to recognise that their comments were not a personal attack on my talents.”

This is a feeling that resonates with many in the freelance community — a process of unlearning these limiting beliefs must be practiced in order to build a business we find ourselves loving rather than simply surviving in. 

Money, mindset and business coach Joseph James has been coaching freelancers for 2012 and says that he says attaching self-worth to work is a common pattern. “One of the most common things I see is undercharging and over delivering which often comes from a place of wanting to be liked and approved of.”

Joseph recommends embracing the mindset of “you deserve to be paid for your time and energy”. He continues saying that setting clear boundaries don’t only benefit you, but also your clients. 

“Set clear money goals for yourself and your work,” is Joseph’s main piece of advice. He adds that as if you are self-employed, it is your responsibility to give yourself a pay rise — you deserve it.

Despite being our own bosses we sometimes feel crushed with the weight of responsibility. Our work should not define our self-worth, personal klaxons on Twitter announcing new job roles should not fill us with envy. We are moving at our pace and that is okay. We are no more less worthy if we’re not constantly on all the time.

This is something author of self-help book ‘From Narcissism To Nirvana’ that helps to directly tackle this issue, Esther Hunter talks about. “We can become jealous of people we actually love, simply because we believe they’re doing more of the things which will earn them the positive feedback we have unfortunately become reliant on.”

She says “a skewed sense of our value” could feed directly into the complex of attaching self worth to work. She adds “We think ‘doing’ more of what we were praised for early on, will ensure we keep experiencing positive emotion but likely this leads to burnout and lack of identity outside of what we ‘do’.”

Esther adds that knowing yourself and your values, equates to action based on passion and care for yourself — a type of care that cannot be categorised by metrics. “If you try to quantify your worthiness by external markers, you will suffer needlessly whenever whatever you’ve conflated your identity with changes in your life.” 

Thus, positive changes must be made to break out of this cycle, changes that often equate to setting your boundaries and goals firmly and sticking to them. This will allow you to create a sustainable business and lead you on the path away from the dreaded burnout.

Learn how you can turn your freelance gig into a money making business. It’s FREE!

Free 15 min freelancing consultation call
Advice and practical steps to level up your business
Learn how to consistently find work
Get tips for finding your niche

Recommended Reading

How to make your business more cost effective in 2022

Review your subscriptions Evaluate your phone and internet providers Don’t expense for the sake of it Think about where you’re working from Sell off excess equipment The UK has been experiencing a cost of living...

A Field Guide to Bad Clients (and how to deal with them)

What we suggest 1. Get a contract that secures weekly hours2. State your terms at the bottom of every invoice and outline your late fees3. Don’t reply to emails outside of work hours. Schedule your reply to be...

How should journalists build their social media brand?

For better or worse, I can almost guarantee that every young journalist will have come across the phrase “JournoTwitter” at least half a dozen times as they work to break the glass ceiling in their...

Writers beware: Avoid the content mill

Like many other freelance writers, I stumbled into the industry somewhat by accident. Before COVID-19, I had been living a cushy life abroad, basking in the satisfaction of not having to update my LinkedIn. But...

Detaching self-worth from work

This second instalment of the self-worth and work topic will focus on the people who are actively working on detaching their self-worth from their work. I have struggled with this task ever since I dipped...

How to network as a freelancer in 2022

A common misconception about freelancing is that it’s only something you can do after you’ve established yourself within your industry. This is because freelancing is something many people do later on in their careers, having...

Defining your time; or how to avoid being on call 24/7

Defining your time; or how to avoid being on call 24/7

Don’t be afraid to set your own time. That’s probably why you became a freelancer, after all.

Is email killing your freelance productivity?

Is email killing your freelance productivity?

Emails are great. But they can also really really slow you down. Here are some ways to make sure your most useful tool doesn’t stop you from actually doing work

Do not let non-competes kill your business

Do not let non-competes kill your business

Non-competes can kill your business. Do not let them. Here’s how

Freelancers, this is how to take control of your money

Freelancers, this is how to take control of your money

The 30% rule is going to make your life a lot easier. Make sure you follow it if you’re a freelancer looking to manage their money more consistenly

Retainer clients are the dream. How do you find good ones?

Retainer clients are the dream. How do you find good ones?

Consistency? Haven’t heard of her. But if you want to a place where you can take risks with your freelance career, retainer clients are the way to stability.

The magic word every freelancer needs to know

The magic word every freelancer needs to know

It’s often the first word we learn, but it’s the last one we’re willing to say. How can saying “No” more often be the magic word every freelancer needs to know?

How do you create a portfolio straight out of university?

How do you create a portfolio straight out of university?

Coming out of uni with only limited work experience feels like it means you can only apply for entry level roles. But uni students can build fantastic work-sealing portfolios with some small tips and tricks

Freelance networking groups: How to join in and build your business without spamming

Freelance networking groups: How to join in and build your business without spamming

Do you want to talk about your business on an FB group but don’t want to be THAT person? There are ways to discuss work without seeming self-serving. Click up to find out.

How to onboard new clients as a freelancer

How to onboard new clients as a freelancer

If you’re signing new clients, that’s fantastic. But the first and second steps of the relationship are vital to keeping things positive. Having a consistent onboarding system can get your started in the right place.

How to tackle portfolio procrastination

How to tackle portfolio procrastination

Making good portfolios is crucial for your freelance business, but it can be tempting to procrastinate. Check out UnderPinned’s Virtual Office for portfolio templates to fill and send to clients!

The difference between Portfolios and Proposals

The difference between Portfolios and Proposals

So you’re hunting for freelance work? Well, what do you say when a potential client asks for a proposal rather than a portfolio? Have a read to see.

Freelancing with ADHD

Freelancing with ADHD

Freelancing is for everyone. But a job that requires skills you struggle with can make freelancing with ADHD difficult. Hear from an expert and a freelancer with ADHD about how she makes it work.

How to go freelance straight after uni

How to go freelance straight after uni

How do you go freelance straight after uni? You honestly ask yourself if you’re ready, and then you just lean into it 100%. And you read this article to find out more.

Signs of a weak freelance portfolio that clients spot at once

Signs of a weak freelance portfolio that clients spot at once

What signs in your portfolio are you hoping that clients see? And what are you hoping will be good filler? Make sure you’re only putting things in there that you can defend

Ten actionable tips for freelancers to relieve their WFH fatigue

Ten actionable tips for freelancers to relieve their WFH fatigue

WFH has been tough. But, a year into the change for many people, there are still learnings to be had. Zoom past fatigue with our tips

Ten things you should never say to a freelancer

Ten things you should never say to a freelancer

Vent your client frustrations through us! A must read for anyone that hires/knows/ever talks to a freelancer, here’s ten things never to say to a freelancer

Kill The Boss In Your Head: Freelancing and Creativity

Kill The Boss In Your Head: Freelancing and Creativity

Through the tension and anxiety at the heart of all paid freelance work, what are the conditions that best support the free-flowing of creativity?

One year ago I turned to freelancing to save my mental health: Here’s what happened

One year ago I turned to freelancing to save my mental health: Here’s what happened

Fiona Thomas writes on her switch to freelancing pushed by her mental health, and how someone in a similar scenario can benefit from the change

A guide to being a creative freelancer without social media

A guide to being a creative freelancer without social media

We could all do with a break from social media. But how do you continue to run your creative freelance business without your Instagram? Here’s a guide.

An extension of your arm: Must-have tools for freelance content creators

An extension of your arm: Must-have tools for freelance content creators

Want an aresenal of tools in your pocket that can make your freelance life expontentially easier? Look no further

The role of the creative brief and why it’s so vital to get right

The role of the creative brief and why it’s so vital to get right

Here’s how to be clear with clients about what you need from their brief, and what they should expect from you too in the beginnings of the conversation

Building it alone; Freelancing when you’re single

Building it alone; Freelancing when you’re single

Being freelance is tough enough. But doing it all alone can make it a lot more complicated. Here’s how to take some steps to make it easier on you.

A guide to juggling multiple freelance clients

A guide to juggling multiple freelance clients

You want freelance success? You probably will need more than one client. Finding them is one thing, but keeping them organised? Oh boy. Luckily we have a guide just for you.

Freelance journalists, here’s how to make ALCS work for you

Freelance journalists, here’s how to make ALCS work for you

If you’re a freelance journalist, you might have a chance at passive income from the ALCS that you didn’t know about.

How writers and journalists can make money with Substack

How writers and journalists can make money with Substack

Want to escape from the editorial loop? Substack is on everyone’s lips right now. But how can you use it as a writer?