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MoneyI made a startling realization the other day. One that actually made me say “whoopsie” out loud – and had me kicking myself for letting it happen on my watch.

The realization? I had inadvertently made the amount of money I earn the sole measure my worth.

Whoopsie. And wtf! I knew better than that, yet there I was – caught red-handed with my own realization.

It’s not surprising how that happened. I mean, this is tax season — the time many of us have a reckoning between last year’s best laid plans and this year’s actual reality. It can often be a nail-bitting, breath-holding time of year as we run all the reports, gather up the receipts, fill out all the forms, and then….wait. Wait for the final verdict – which, depending on the degree of your fiscal planning acumen (and discipline) can run the gamut from pleasantly surprised to totally blindsided (and everything in between).

To be completely honest, I pretty consistently fall in the “somewhere in between” camp. Such is the life of a hard-working optimist who loves strategy and also believes in magic.

I love playing with numbers and making them sing in our personal household finances as well as my business. I have done a shit ton of work around money (thank you Kate Northrup ) over the past years, and am proud of the solid and respectful relationship we’ve fostered, Money and I.

Thanks to teasing apart my truth from what I had been taught, I was able to face down fear, slay some old dragon beliefs I had been carrying, and fully own my desire as a woman to feel financially free and prosperous. The result is that my relationship to money feels lighter, more powerful and yes, even nourishing — having me feel financially fed as I run a profitable business while also feeling spiritually and emotionally aligned and connected to my work.

I am undeniably passionate about women realizing and getting their financial worth. I look at the wage gap, and I see all the systems, cultures, and antiquated mindsets we still have that get in the way of us making more forward progress. It’s a lot to look at — at times overwhelming — even with rose-colored glasses.

But in my work? I look at the woman I see in the mirror. And I look at the woman sitting across from me (in person or over the phone) and I ask: How are you culpable here? How are you contributing to the wage gap? And then I invite us both to look at that topic of worthiness (or confidence, assertiveness or negotiation), because that is something we women have direct control over – our relationship to money and how we show up (or don’t).

All good stuff, right?

On most days, yes, absolutely. I walk my talk around money, “touching” it on a weekly basis, looking at it from all different angles, and doing analysis in both forward and backward directions to orient myself. All of that lends credibility to the work I do with women leaders and business owners who are also seeking to increase their income at the same rate they are unleashing their value-added contributions. Turns out I’m not the only woman out there wanting to make her numbers sing more.

Sure, there are plenty shit-hitting-the-fan, oops-we-forgot-about-that, or YOLO moments that happen throughout our year. There are many, many nights I lay awake just worrying about what could happen in the blink of an eye — the unexpected health scare, lost job, ailing parent or heaven forbid child, natural disasters, and things (cars, furnaces, septic line, roof, relationships, contracts, social security system, the power grid…) that could break. 

Which of course has me feel vulnerable. Like a turtle without its hard shell.

I kid you not, I actually woke up the other morning listing in my head the insurance coverage and policies we had that helped offer some semblance of a “shell” that would mitigate against disaster if something unforeseen went down or exploded. It took me a while. Let’s just say I needed more than 10 fingers to tick them all off.

And then I thought (yes, still laying in bed…I’ll even use worrying as an excuse to stay in bed a bit longer…): What the fuck is wrong with this picture? So much insurance. So much bracing for disaster.  So much fear.

So much riding on making, having, and spending money. Like a machine.

But the thing is, I’m not a machine. Nor do I wish to be one — or even play one on TV. I actually am the turtle without its shell. All that other stuff is just an illusion. A source of comfort, sure, but ultimately smoke and mirrors.

Which brings me back to my worth and the realization I had the other day.

I had forgotten to make space for other measures to define my worth.

That’s my job — clearly our society won’t do that for me just yet — and I had fallen down on it. I’d let money be the sole measure of my worth. Whoopsie.

I came home that night and catapulted into the kitchen, eager to share my latest realization with my best friend and life partner. He smiled at me, knowing me well enough to know that my whole-body-wagging sensation would only be abated when I shared my new found treasure with him.

“I can’t believe I have been basing my entire worth on how much money I’m making! Do you realize what a mistake that is – and how limiting it can be? Dangerous, even. It sets me up so that if I’m making money, I’m worthy…but if I’m not making money – or enough of it, I’m what…unworthy!? Or worse..worthless? That’s fucking bullshit. How did I let that happen?”

Again, he smiled. Reminding me of the time I came home earlier this year — after having written blog posts for 10 years, and having written, re-written, edited, and actually published a book — and said with a gobsmacked expression on my face (so I’m told): “I think I’m a writer…”

That guy…he just gets me. Even when something “new” dawns on me when to him it has been obvious and plain as day all along.

So I’ve been getting busy. Now that the tax season is nearly behind me, the “somewhere in between” big reveal has happened once again, and I’ve done my annual crunching of the numbers to position myself for next year, I’m taking a step back from all that.

I still love to make my numbers sing, and I will always have that. But I want to widen my definition to include more measures of my worth — ones that don’t hinge so much on my ability to make money, the size of my savings account, the state of our readiness (insert laugh track here) for our sons’ educations and our eventual retirement.

It’s got to be a broader. And it’s up to me to put the rib spreaders on the chest of that existing definition to crack it open.

As I sit here today, I think I have my first clue. I’ve been writing this post in a local coffee shop, hearing the Beatles croon in my ear. First across the speakers, and now in the lovely ear worm it left inside me playing loop after loop of the same refrain:

2014-01-28 09.51.16All you need is love 
All you need is love
All you need is love, love
Love is all you need. 

I was humming those words to myself again and again without even realizing it.

I was reminded of that opening scene from one of my favorite movies, Love Actually, where Hugh Grant, in his lovely British voiceover, reminds us that when you need to counter the gloom of the state of the world, all you need to do is consider the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport in London…or the messages sent from the people on board the planes hitting the twin towers.

“If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling that you’ll find love is actually all around.” 

Which makes a pretty solid case for worth having a lot to do with our capacity to both give and receive love — as well as to see it when it’s all around.

Yup. I’ve got that in spades.