Your Salary is Not Your Self-Worth (and Why I Gave Myself Permission to Earn Less)

June 29, 2016

Your Salary is Not Your Self-Worth (and Why I Gave Myself Permission to Earn Less)

It’s been an interesting first year as a full-time freelance writer. For starters, I didn’t even know that I’d still be out on my own, at this point. My last day of work was June 26th, 2015 and all I knew was that I had a bunch of cash saved up and at least six months of client work ahead of me. What would happen after six months, I could only imagine. Maybe I’d have another six months of work ahead of me, but maybe I wouldn’t. Maybe all my clients would drop me. In that case, if I had to use a little bit of my savings, I would. And if I had to get a job, I would. Even if I just needed a little bit of stable income and I had to get a job at Starbucks, I would and was prepared to do that. But I haven’t had to do any of that yet, which is one way I can measure my “success”.

In all my jobs before this, I would have, instead, measured my success by the size of the raise I got every year. When I was a teenager, I loved getting $0.25/hour and $0.50/hour raises; they proved I worked hard and deserved a little more money for my efforts. Once, I even told the owner of the coffee shop/bakery I worked at that I was going to quit and go work somewhere I could make more money. She offered me $1.00/hour more to stay, because she couldn’t afford to lose me. I was on top of the world. When I stepped into my first management position, I got a $4.00/hour raise that made me feel like a freaking boss (rightly so, I suppose, since I was one). In all the positions I earned hourly wages, getting a raise made me feel good; like people knew I was doing a good job and I was worth more money. But that mindset had to shift, when I worked for the government…

Let me preface this by saying it’s not my former employer’s fault. Like all unions, the government operates under pay grades and scales. Your position has a number (I was an 18) and there is a pay scale you move up each year, where you’re given a small raise essentially equivalent to the cost of living. I still liked getting those little boosts in my salary! They always helped (although I used to spend it all, back in the day). But it wasn’t a measure of how hard I worked – and I worked really hard at that job. I got to do what I went to school for (desktop publishing and print production), I worked with an amazing team, and I had managers who mentored and supported me. I should’ve been happy, and I was for a long time – until I found out that someone on my team who I felt was far less efficient/productive than I was (and really didn’t care about the job) earned more than me.

Things change when you see your co-workers pay stubs. I wish that statement weren’t true, but it is. I’m guessing this is every employer’s worst nightmare, too – that someone on your team will find out they make less money than someone else. Employers are probably terrified of people talking and figuring this stuff out, and they should be – not because the employer has done anything wrong, but because it causes a tectonic shift in the foundation of your employee’s happiness. Things change when you see your co-workers pay stubs. And things really change, when you find out you both started at the same time but they were started at a step up on the pay scale than you. The reasoning: the other person had a little more professional experience. What wasn’t understood at the time of hiring: I loved what I did and I was going to kick butt at my job.

After that, I noticed that I started keeping a mental tally of how much work I did compared to this other person. Some weeks, I produced as much as 300% more work! (240% was the average, but who’s keeping track? Oh, I was…) We were on the same team, had the same job title, the same job description, and the same daily duties of which I knew I did more of, yet this person made more money than me – and it felt awful. Things changed after I saw my co-workers pay stub. As time went on, I grew more and more unhappy in my job. There were other things at play, and it didn’t help that I felt stuck because a hiring freeze made it nearly impossible to find another job anywhere within the government. But at the end of the day, it simply felt awful to be stuck on a pay scale where I was compensated based on the date I started, not the commitment and effort I put into my work.

I didn’t feel this way, when I started working in the private sector. There, I earned annual raises that were based on my performance and I had nothing to complain about. It helped that I was on the management team, but I truly did feel like I was being paid well, and I know the numbers only would’ve gone up if I had stayed. But my mindset shifted again, after I joined the world of the self-employed…

If you were reading this blog last July, you might remember that I started sharing how much I was earning each month; this is something I’d never done when I had a full-time job. I think I had shared what a few of my salaries were, over the years (and you could’ve done the math to figure out what that looked like for me on a monthly basis) but I never specifically wrote: “I made $X this month”. Then, for whatever reason, I felt like I was supposed to share more numbers, once I started working for myself. Some of that was an internal need, in that I felt like I needed to attach some numbers to how much I was spending, saving, etc. But it was also something that a large majority of my self-employed friends in the personal finance space did, so I felt like I had to follow suit. And the fact that I was making good money probably gave me the confidence to hit publish on those posts.

I’m going to be very open about some numbers here – not because I want anyone to compare themselves to me (which is something you now know I’ve been guilty of doing, too) but because I want to be really honest about my thought processes over the last year. I also think it’s important to talk about how this stuff happens at all different salary ranges.

When I quit my full-time job, I was making $64,000/year ($49,000 USD today). In my first six months of self-employment, I grossed $57,000 ($44,000 USD). I will admit, it felt awesome at the time. Not only had I proven I could survive on my own, I was making more money than ever. Things were so good, I started talking numbers with some of my other self-employed friends. We cheered each other on, celebrated our first months where we earned over $10,000 and shared our final numbers for the year. I was among the lowest earners ($89,000 or $68,500 USD, which included six months at my full-time job) but if I could repeat the six months I’d just had, I could easily make $100,000 in 2016. So, I set that goal for myself. I even wrote it on the back of a Christmas card I sent to another self-employed friend, and told her to set a goal too so we could reflect on it at the end of the year.

I kid you not, that card changed everything for me. I didn’t think twice about it, when I popped it in the mail, but my mindset shifted drastically again over the holidays. As I let life slow down a bit, I began to realize how much work it actually took to earn that $57,000 and how exhausted I was. I also reflected on how much time I had spent doing what I truly loved (spending time with people and travelling) and the truth was that I’d said no to more invitations and opportunities than yes. This wasn’t what I’d signed up for. I didn’t quit my job to spend more time working and less time doing what I wanted… I quit because I wanted the freedom to build the life I had dreamed about, during all those years I was working full-time at a job and part-time on the side. One part of that dream was that I’d wanted to be able to work on my blog and personal projects first thing every morning, and I wasn’t even doing that. It was client work first, my own work second, my friends/passions last… and no amount of money was worth continuing to live with my priorities in that order.

So, I let go of that goal. Actually, 2016 has been the first year in nearly six years of blogging where I’ve found it nearly impossible to set goals for myself. It started on January 1st when I couldn’t come up with a single resolution I wanted to make (or could possibly commit to for an entire year). I was also tired of setting monthly goals, like read 4 books or workout 20x, because dozens of updates with red “FAIL” marks beside them taught me there must be a better way. I’ve tried to set quarterly goals, which has been a bit better, though I’ve still crossed many out with the old red marker. The truth is, I’ve only had one goal this year: to do whatever makes me happy. It is perhaps one of the most selfish and shortsighted goals I’ve ever made, but it’s also paid off – which is surprising, since I’ve also been making less money than I have in years.

As of this moment, I’ve grossed just over $30,000 ($23,000 USD) in 2016. If things continue as they are, I may finish the year with a $60,000 salary. I could look at those numbers and feel like I’m failing. Six months ago, I set out to earn $100,000 and I may miss that goal by as much as $40,000. So I could compare myself to my own goal, or compare myself to my other self-employed friends, and feel like I’m failing to reach my goal, falling behind, not cashing in on my earning potential, etc. etc. etc. But the decision to earn less has been 100% intentional – and I’m 100% happier for it.

Instead of chasing dollar signs, I’ve been chasing my goals. I’ve put my own projects (like my book proposal, which I finally completed earlier this month) ahead of client work. I’ve let a few clients go and built stronger relationships with the ones I’ve kept. And I’ve built my schedule in a way that my relationships now take priority (e.g. Tuesday’s adventure days) and I have more open availability to say yes to last-minute breakfast or hiking dates. When I wake up every morning now, I am happy. Of course, nobody aspires to earn less or truly wants to take a salary cut. I know that earning more would help me save more, travel more and speed up the date at which I could eventually retire. But for 2016, I intentionally decided that my goal is to determine my baseline for happiness first, so anything else is simply a bonus. Knowing my personal needs and wants, I would say $60,000 is my baseline, because it allows me to do a little bit of everything (live/save/travel).

I’m always happy to talk numbers with you. In fact, I think it’s really important to talk about this stuff. The more open and honest we are, the more we can learn from one another; this is a belief I’ve always had and recently learned I share with another online friend, Chelsea Fagan. So when I tell you that $60,000 is my baseline, it’s not because I want anyone to compare their numbers to mine (those who earn both less and more). I’m telling you because I want you to figure out what that number is for you. I know I need about $2,000/month to live, I like to save at least $1,000 and I also like to travel. Earning $60,000 lets me do all of that (even after setting aside 30% for taxes). And the more I think about this and talk about it, the more excited I am that I could finish 2016 by saying that all my bases were covered and I was happy.

When I look back at how I measured my success at work in the past, I can finally see that the problem wasn’t simply that I was comparing myself to others – it was that I let my salary make up a portion of my self-worth. When I made $64,000 and saw other people make more, I felt bad about myself. Why wasn’t I worth that much!? What was I doing wrong? The answer: nothing. In all my jobs, I earned an appropriate amount for the position I was in at the company I worked for, but I couldn’t see it at the time. Back then, I only saw dollar amounts and they made me feel awful.

Now, I have to wonder: how cool would it be if we measured our success at the end of each year by the things we did, rather than how much money we earned? I want to get to the end of 2016 and say I recovered from surgery (done!), got back into running, finally wrote my book proposal (done!), explored more of BC, went on a road trip and spent more time with the people I love. I’m sure I’ll add more work-related tasks to that list, along the way, but we’re halfway through the year and I already feel like it’s been a success. And it’s ok if numbers come into it. For example, if you want to earn $100,000/year so you can save 50% of your income and retire by the time you’re 40, that is awesome! You’ve set a goal and the money will help you reach it. But I don’t want to get to the end of the year and proclaim I made some arbitrary amount, as though it’s a measure of my success. The numbers don’t mean anything, if they don’t serve a purpose in helping you live the life you want.

Extra Reading


  • Reply Kate @ Cashville Skyline June 29, 2016 at 9:13 am

    Amazing, Cait. I had to tell myself this exact same thing when I quit my job and worked part-time (not earning enough to pay my bills) for four months. And then again when I accepted my current position! Numbers like salary, weight, or net worth should never equal our self-worth.

  • Reply Julie@ChooseBetterLife June 29, 2016 at 9:16 am

    Great job, Cait! You worked hard and paid off debt so that you can make this choice, and it’s a good one!

    I remember my first high school job–I started at $6.15 an hour as a restaurant hostess. A year and a half later I’d gotten the standard raises up to $7 per hour, then found out that the new girls made $7.25 because “that’s the market rate now” according to management. So, to earn the same as the new kids I would have had to quit and start at another restaurant. So frustrating!!!
    So I quit and started at a bank for $10.
    Oh, that seems like a lifetime and decades of school ago…

    Anyway, now that our debt is gone, I’ve gone down to part time too and am transitioning toward a career that is more fulfilling. Thanks for the inspiration.

  • Reply Carolin June 29, 2016 at 9:20 am

    Love, love, love this! Exactly what I needed to read at this moment. Thank you, Cait!

  • Reply Maggie June 29, 2016 at 9:36 am

    Cait, this is such an important message. I started self-employment a couple of months before you, but likewise had client work lined up for months. To my surprise and delight, there has never been a quiet period. With no promotion on my part, clients keep coming out of the woodwork. And like you, I was excited to finally earn what I am worth. However, it means I have said yes to SO much and, while I could make 6 figures this year, I find myself asking why. Some seasons are seasons of hard work and lots of hours – but ideally, there should be a reason (saving for a down payment, working lots before taking a long holiday). I’m just working to work. I loooooove work, and I love being able to help other people by sharing my skills and strengths. But at some point, a balance must be struck. Thanks for this post, which I’ll be thinking about all day.

  • Reply Victoria June 29, 2016 at 9:41 am

    Thank you so much for putting everything I’ve been feeling lately into words! I’m a longtime lurker on the blog but I had to comment because this has been on my mind all month. I work at a nonprofit in my field and I make much, much less than all of my friends from my graduating class. I sometimes get really upset about this because it makes me feel like they must work harder than I do, or they’re smarter than I am. Recently, I was offered a job that I thought I would take immediately because it offered a significant pay raise. But once I thought more about it, I realized that the job itself didn’t appeal to me and I didn’t want to make that sacrifice just for a high salary. I generally feel like I made the right decision (many family members disagree with me) and reading your post helped me feel more comfortable with my decision not to sacrifice a chance at happiness just for more money. Even in terms of job benefits, there are so many things I find just as important as salary like flexible hours, a short commute, and employer retirement contributions. Thanks, Cait!

  • Reply Casey Elliott June 29, 2016 at 10:06 am

    I dont ask about my friends’ salaries and when I was put in cash of payroll at my company (which at the time had 2 employees lol) I asked my boss specifically that he still handle my coworker’s pay. I am much more satisfied with my salary if I dont feel I need to compare it- it fulfills my needs and wants perfectly.

  • Reply Ashley June 29, 2016 at 11:16 am

    I have been reading your blog for a few years but I don’t think I’ve ever commented…I guess I’m a lurker! But, I just had to come here to say “Yes! Yes yes yes yes yes!” This totally speaks to me.

    2 years ago, I quit a job that I didn’t love anymore, but that I could have made a lot more money at by staying. I took a pay cut (and also a huge stress cut), and I’m so much happier. I finally realized that it wasn’t about the money for me…it was about having a better work/life balance and having energy left at the end of the day to actually have a life. I still haven’t “caught up” salary wise to where I was when I left, and I don’t really care. In a few months, I will make a career change and get a significant increase, but for the first time, it’s less about the money and more about what that money can do to help me meet my goals…namely, traveling more, saving more, and finally paying off my student loans. I just want to be free to live my life and have the time to live it.

    Thank you for being such an inspiration! I haven’t quite gotten to your shopping ban/debt payoff/minimalist level yet, and I don’t know if that will be my ultimate goal, but you’ve made me think and inspired me to make changes. I’m so glad you are happy! It really shows in your writing.

  • Reply giulia June 29, 2016 at 11:39 am

    Great job Cait and is absolutely true your salary isn’t your self-worth :D

  • Reply Rachel June 29, 2016 at 12:25 pm

    Time can be worth so much more than money. Experiences that people indulge in and share with others brings joy and happiness to your life. Congrats on your goals and realizing they don’t have to measure up to your salary.
    I am totally digging your blog…only wish I had found it sooner.

  • Reply Brian @ Debt Discipline June 29, 2016 at 12:28 pm

    I believe so many people chase their next pay raise because they do not have a plan for their money. The only way to correct their bad behavior is to earn more, which typically adds stress and takes more of their free time. Early this year I was able to make a career transition I took less money and have a better work/life balance and couldn’t be happier.

  • Reply Our Next Life June 29, 2016 at 12:55 pm

    I love that you’ve so intentionally decided (not surprising for you!) to focus on happiness over money. But the idea of self worth tied to a number is something we’ve been talking a lot about lately — we wonder if part of our self worth right now is tied up in how much we make, and how it will feel to lose that when we retire next year. I was talking to another friend who said that he equated what he earned in his highest-earning year with his self worth, and then when he didn’t hit it again the following year, he felt like he’d failed even though he still earned what anyone would consider more than enough money. So it definitely goes both ways — feeling awful, as you did, if you earn less than others around you, and then getting this complicated ego/failure thing going on if you know you earn more. But I so appreciate, as always, how open and candid you are about it all! Even though we don’t share our numbers (honestly, because we earn a lot and don’t want anyone to feel like they can only do what we’re doing if they earn as much, because that’s not true), I am grateful that you and others do. <3

    • Reply Chris @ Mindful Explorer July 2, 2016 at 9:28 am

      This is exactly what I am going through right now ONL , last year was the most I will ever make in my life. This year I have already taken a 50% pay cut to give myself 50% more personal time, it was extremely hard to do that. I want to spend more time with my wife, outdoor adventures and of course pursuing the growth of my freelance explorer based work.

      Cait, for yourself I think the best part is looking at all the fun you have had this year (even with the surgery) and realizing that you have still made enough to cover your cost of living.

      Are we selfish in these thoughts? I don’t know but I keep wanting to not work and get out and explore more and to get in touch with the “wild” . A break from the years of making more and buying more cycles to a new world of making less while living more.

      Thanks as always for sharing Cait

  • Reply Millennial Moola June 29, 2016 at 1:22 pm

    I wish more people defined their worth this way Cait. I made the smallest amount of money in my life this past year and it’s by far been the most fulfilling and most interesting. Traveled to three dozen countries, published a book and am finishing another, started a side business, worked on building my blog, and more. Never would have been able to do this sitting behind a desk in a cubicle. At least if I got hit by a bus tomorrow, I will feel like my life has meant something to others and I’ve helped them out.

  • Reply NZ Muse June 29, 2016 at 1:50 pm

    This is a great post<3

    My story I think is slightly different. I'm totally with you on salary =/= your worth and that not all jobs pay what they SHOULD. But I've also learned the importance of knowing your worth and negotiating. Leaving publishing and supercharging my income has completely changed my life – and for the better. Knowing that I could make six figures in the next few years (though whether I will or want to) is an amazing and powerful feeling.

  • Reply Apathy Ends June 29, 2016 at 3:23 pm

    While I strive to make as much as possible, I don’t want my job or anything tied to it (including money) to define the year (that being said I do encourage anyone working in the corporate world to get paid what they are worth – at the end of the day most people are there for the money)

    Great outlook/perspective to have on your life and surroundings

  • Reply Dani June 29, 2016 at 3:25 pm

    Hi, I’m new reader to your blog and up until now still working for a bank. I’ve been changing companies in the last 10 years with the very thinking “I am worth as much as my salary is…”. Thus I keep getting myself an interview or two every three years or so. And now I’m thinking why can’t I feel satisfied with my salary if it is my self worth. That kind of things. Reading this is very eye opening. Thank you.

  • Reply Linda Sand June 29, 2016 at 5:42 pm

    I took several years off work to be a full-time mother. But when your kids start school, you become a part-time mother so I increased my volunteer work since paid work so rarely fit around a child’s day. Eventually my resume was about half paid work and half volunteer work. That’s when I learned how to write a functional rather than a chronological resume. Employers rarely see the skills involved in non-paid work. I though I would point this out for those of your readers who think parenting and/or volunteering is part of a good work/life balance.

  • Reply Shelly Seward June 29, 2016 at 6:21 pm

    You are 100% happier. That is the most important tidbit I took away from this post. No extra amount of money is worth sacrificing happiness.

  • Reply Isabelle June 29, 2016 at 7:07 pm

    I love your honesty.
    And I relate.
    My husband makes a decent salary working at the government and I work part time in an hospital. I am very well paid hourly for the degree I have (college degree), so I we can afford my part-time instead of full-time. Yes, I could earn double working full-time, but the quality of life for all of us (we have 2 young kids) would suffer. I work mornings and dedicate my afternoons to house cleaning, appointments, cooking, preparing lunchs, running errands, exercising and relaxing a bit, then I pick-up the kids around 3h30 and we can just take it easy, spend some time all together at night (and weekends!) This is worth more to us than an extra 30,000$/year!

  • Reply ARBM June 29, 2016 at 9:01 pm

    I think I struggle with this myself. I make a very decent wage, or at least I think I do – I have no idea what people in a similar role, even at my own workplace, get for their pay. However, I think that my ego gets too much from that thought. My husband makes significantly less than I do, and I know he struggles with that sometimes. I have to keep reminding him that the work that he is doing is getting towards his dream job, so the pay is not important… Thank you for sharing your story so honestly here. It really is something that I’m sure we all struggle with in some way, but thank you for pushing us to work past it and concentrate on happiness!

  • Reply Sukanya June 30, 2016 at 12:17 am

    Beautiful blog Cait! It is true that “Your salary is not your self-worth.”..And I completely agree with it…I love your blog..and it has always been fun and inspiring…Thanks for sharing your story!

  • Reply Jackie Lam June 30, 2016 at 4:03 am

    Absolutely loved reading this and can relate 100%. I started freelancing fulltime last October and decided not to take a contract job that paid nearly six figures to do freelance. At first, how much I made each month felt like a confirmation that I had made the right decision. The truth is, I wanted to freelance so I could focus on some personal projects. It has been a struggle, but I am also trying to give myself permission to earn less. Thanks Cait for writing this. Such an inspiration!

  • Reply Amanda @ centsiblyrich June 30, 2016 at 11:47 am

    “Now, I have to wonder: how cool would it be if we measured our success at the end of each year by the things we did, rather than how much money we earned?”

    This would be super cool! As a stay at home parent for the past 16 years, I can completely relate to money being a big part of self-worth. I remind myself on a regular basis to measure my success and worth by what I have done, not my earnings (though it is sometimes hard).

    I think it’s great that you have figured out your life balance this year, Cait! Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply Sarah Li Cain June 30, 2016 at 12:59 pm

    Thank you for writing this! I just got into full-time freelancing and it’s kind of a struggle because I’m putting myself under a lot of pressure to earn more. The goal for freelancing is so I can spend more time with my son, and I quit the full time job because work was taking over. I will really have to think about what my basic expenses are, and I have 12 months of savings, so I’m not terribly worried (finally!)

  • Reply Nancy Madlin June 30, 2016 at 7:10 pm

    Thanks for your thoughtful insights, Cait! I have been on both sides of the fence on this one — well paid and not self actualized ; and more fulfilled and under paid! I have found, too, that as I keep learning what i want, clarifying that, and moving forward- THAT is what makes life satisfying. The joy comes from experience and making choices that reflect who we are and how we want to be. I

  • Reply Cathleen July 1, 2016 at 12:28 am

    I love what you say about yourself first, clients next. I am trying hard to make that shift because as a teacher–it’s so easy to teach first. But I’m not getting much of my own writing done. And that isn’t satisfying. I think learning to trust is hard, too–but that you have your savings to fall back on. Good lessons, thank you.

  • Reply Vicki@MakeSmarterDecisions July 1, 2016 at 6:48 am

    This is an awesome read and you definitely share an important message about self-worth. I also took a huge salary cut (almost in half) to prioritize my life and start enjoying the things I was giving up to “climb the ladder”. I have never been happier. With a mindful budget, everything else can fall in line. Keep up the great work and sharing of these messages. Chase your goals and manage the dollar signs – words to live by!

  • Reply Amanda @ My Life, I Guess July 3, 2016 at 8:56 am

    I remember when I accidentally found out a co-worker of mine who had no experience and no formal education made more money than me. Our jobs were different, but I had the experience, the education, and worked a lot harder than she did, so yah – I felt like a lot like you did!
    I’m about to start a new job with the government. I’ve worked a union job once before, and I liked knowing that after 3 months I’ll get a raise of X amount, and then again at 1 year, etc. For me, that works. I’ve never gotten a promotion at any of my old jobs, so I guess I sort of think it’s impossible, no matter how much I may deserve it. Being rewarded for staying at a job is a little more related to me.
    You need a life still, even if you are self-employed. You can’t work 24/7, and shouldn’t have to. Taking care of yourself is more important!

  • Reply Elizabeth Mayberry July 3, 2016 at 2:42 pm

    Oh! I love this so very much! It came at the perfect time for me too! I have just been trying to figure things out after quitting in June and going full time blogging. There is so much pressure to make so much money but you are so right – looking toward my baseline, making time for what matters, and not getting so caught up in being rich! This is just perfect encouragement for me today!

  • Reply Free to Pursue July 5, 2016 at 4:41 am

    “Now, I have to wonder: how cool would it be if we measured our success at the end of each year by the things we did, rather than how much money we earned?”

    Here here. Over three years ago, I gave up $100,000 in salary for a career change. I’ve been offered to go back, twice, and for more money. I’ve said “No.” both times. It’s not just about the money. It’s about loving what you do on and off the job and who you do it with. Well done Cait. Welcome to the good life. ;)

  • Reply Kurt July 5, 2016 at 7:35 am

    To me, salary was always nothing more than a means to get where I really wanted to be: financially free, which I define as being able to pursue what interests me, mostly. I never quite grasped the mentality that embraces accumulating money purely for the sake of accumulating money–to have a bigger stack than ‘the Joneses.’ On my deathbed–a spot we’ll all find ourselves one day–I would find such an “achievement” quite meaningless and empty.

  • Reply Harmony@CreatingMyKaleidoscope July 5, 2016 at 12:29 pm

    Thank you for sharing this really encouraging story about focusing on the right priorities, and setting income goals that reflect your true goals in life. I really identified with your estimates about cost of living towards the end of the post. It somewhat reflects what we’re working towards right now – once the debt is gone, we only need to earn enough to cover our frugal living expenses. I can’t wait to have more freedom, but the penance for our financial irresponsibility must be paid first.

  • Reply Roy Largo @ Band of Savers July 5, 2016 at 1:28 pm

    As a sole provider who is very financially minded this is something that I have always struggles with but have been working hard at correcting in myself. I have a very competitive personality and have found it very difficult not to compare my income and net worth to others in an attempt to validate myself even though most of the people I have always compared myself against are considerably older and farther along in their careers than I am. All it does is cause stress and self esteem issues. Great reminders, thank you.

  • Reply Kate July 6, 2016 at 4:41 am

    Thank you so much for this. I needed to read these words at this moment, more than you know!

  • Reply Lindsey Bomgren July 6, 2016 at 6:33 am

    I stumbled across this post due to a Facebook share from Break the Twitch and I’m so glad I did! Man does this resonate with me! I quit my full-time medical sales career in May 2015 and have been out on my own as a fitness entrepreneur + blogger for the past year and man I have been busting my butt and making way less money than I ever imagined. But you’re right I didn’t quit my job so I could stress out, spend sleepless nights wondering if I’d ever make $100K again, and lose my social life all-together…I think I need to stop placing so much of my value and success on my financial gain and spend more time being present and enjoying this life I’m creating! Thank you!

  • Reply Suzanne July 6, 2016 at 1:52 pm

    This really resonates. I recently decided to take a pretty significant pay cut in an effort to create more balance in my life, and to alleviate a heap of pressure I had been placing on myself. In doing so I found a job that I love and the balance with my family that I so drastically needed. It’s wonderful and so very freeing to let go and stop allowing your salary to define your success!

  • Reply Kalie @ Pretend to Be Poor July 9, 2016 at 4:54 am

    Wonderful post! I’ve done the same (chosen to earn less), but entering the personal finance blogosphere has been challenging at times! Sometimes there’s a sentiment that earning less is wrong or stupid. But I agree that once you divorce your salary from your real worth as a person, chasing your personal goals and dreams is so much more fulfilling than aiming for an impressive salary. Wanting more money for the purpose of boosting our own egos is actually wasteful.

  • Reply Jacob Zoller July 9, 2016 at 8:16 pm

    Hi Cait, this is the first post of yours I’ve read and it’s wonderful!

    I am just about to begin blogging and this was such a great message. I am taking a summer off from work, and while the blog is one of my goals and I want to eventually make money from it, this helped me step back and see the big picture. I think it will be especially helpful on those days I don’t feel particularly “successful.”


  • Reply Sarah @ Couple of Sense July 11, 2016 at 4:49 pm

    Thank you for sharing this and being so honest with your salary. I find it’s really funny how when you let a message out into the universe, like you did with the card, you get something back in return. Whether it’s the message or another sign it really is or isn’t what you want, something comes back. I had some job struggles a couple of years ago when I didn’t get a promotion. I’m up for it again but over the last 2 years I realized that if I don’t get that doesn’t define me as a person. Keep focused on your happiness and pay yourself first, with your time that is.

  • Reply Haley July 19, 2016 at 7:40 am

    I love everything about this. I work for a public university and our ‘raises’ sound similar to your old job. It’s hard to not think about the money sometimes, but then I remind myself that I’m ALWAYS done by 4 everyday, I get a good amount of vacation, I don’t have to bring work home, and my boss sometimes let me bring my kid in (or take long lunches to go do something with her).

  • Reply Liz August 4, 2016 at 3:43 am

    I known that this is something I’m struggling with. I work for a non-profit organization and love what we do….but ever since being promoted last year to an executive role, I’m not as happy despite a nice healthy salary.

    I long for slower days, days without the 1 hour commute, days with more time being active than sitting (in the car, at my desk, in meetings…..always sitting!). Time is the only thing I need more of, with family, outside, and to move more.

    I’ve got about a year before I’m debt free and can expect to have a healthy emergency fund. I’ve convinced myself that this will be when I can truly explore what comes next for me, and day dream of how happy and at peace I will be then.

    All to say: yes, you are right. Congratulations on making this year about peace and happiness while still being financially responsible!

  • Reply Julie @ Millennial Boss August 16, 2016 at 4:15 pm

    No joke this is probably the realest post I’ve read in a long time. I am someone who has defined themselves by their salary and it’s part of my identity. I’m afraid to launch my own business and take a step back financially. “Giving yourself permission to earn less” is really what it’s all about. Thank you.

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