When I was younger, I had a plan in place for how my life would go:
- I’d have my first kid by 25. That didn’t happen.
- I’d be an English teacher with a partner who could handle the bills. Nope.
- I’d have a big house with a maid who would do all the cleaning. I wish!
In short, I planned on being provided for and choosing dependence on someone else so that I could have things I thought I wanted.
Life has a funny way of taking unexpected turns – and I am blessed in the life I am leading. Here’s what actually happened:
- I’m 30 with two ocicats and an adorable rescue pup (Chinook, Kiowa, and HK) – my husband and I will eventually adopt.
- I’m a digital marketer who is responsible for most of the bills.
- We live in a comfy house with a large yard, and my husband and I share household responsibilities (he’s the better cleaner, I own trash, laundry, and dishes).
There are several reasons why my “plan” didn’t work out, and I couldn’t be happier that my life took a different path.
Yet the shift from planned dependence to owned star power didn’t come overnight, nor is the life of a provider without trials and tribulations.
I had to shift my perspective to understand and appreciate my value.
This was a monumental task and I couldn’t have completed it as successfully without the many mentors who helped me unlock my potential. Chief among them is my husband who empowers me in all that I do.
These were the four major mindshifts that helped me appreciate where I am (instead of pining for where I thought I wanted to go).
Mindshift 1: Owning My Survival Instincts & Who/What Makes My Life Worth Living
Being a provider first and foremost means being a survivor and helping those you provide for survive.
Every hero’s journey includes a trip through hell, and emerging from whatever pain life has in store can empower you to even greater heights.
My hell came from having a forced medical withdrawal from my education degree and having to return home. I had to be provided for and I felt weak, useless, and alone.
Then I had a life-changing conversation with a relative in the PR industry. She asked me why I wasn’t in marketing. She saw in me what I had forgotten in myself: a creative, analytical, and mercantile mind.
I made the move to Boston 12 years ago, emerging from hell into confidence, pragmatism, and independence.
Survival often gets associated with self-preservation instincts (and in turn selfishness). I see survival as not only a preservation of the self but also preserving aspects of your life that make it worth living.
My husband may not contribute as much financially, yet what he does provide transcends monetary value. He’s my support system and provides stability in an otherwise stressful and chaotic world. He helped me find myself when I was lost, and is my partner in all things.
I provide for our household. He provides for our overall well-being.
Survival, ultimately, meant choosing to see my value and embracing how much I mean to those around me. These instincts took time to hone, but once achieved, the “burden” of being the main provider turns into a game of survival.
I believe in our ability to win.
Mindshift 2: Compromise Where I Can & Own What I Need
Being a provider means taking care of people. Being a survivor means taking care of yourself.
One of the hardest parts of being a provider for me is knowing where to draw lines so I can continue to provide for my family.
My job is empowering businesses to achieve the most profit possible.
Sometimes this requires a strategic data-driven touch. Sometimes it requires an empathetic friend who can help them transition from overwhelmed and underappreciated, to the celebrated hero of their brand.
My role also elevates trends in clients to our product, customer success, and leadership teams so we can provide better experiences and anticipate client needs.
I could not be more blessed in my career or the brand I serve.
I also acknowledge how draining it is to have so many relying on me at work, and how much I treasure that my husband owns most of the household items.
Yet that wasn’t always the case – there was a two-year period when he was struggling with his career and confidence. This knocked the energy out of him and despite knowing he should and wanting to, he wasn’t able to contribute to household tasks or income.
I thought I was serving him best by giving him the runway to find himself on his own. Yet as weeks dragged into months (and eventually years), I began to resent how much responsibility I had to own.
Eventually, I snapped and all the built-up frustration came flooding out in an unproductive tidal wave of rage and sadness.
We had stopped taking care of ourselves, so we couldn’t be good for each other or achieve what we needed to.
The conversation that followed put us back on a productive path. We worked together to purge the house of the clutter, filth, and junk that got in the way of our self-preservation tools (my workout equipment and his workshop).
This episode taught me the most valuable lesson of all: just because I’m the main financial provider, doesn’t mean I rule the house.
It does mean I’m entitled to call out when I feel overwhelmed and when I need my partner to help in other ways. It’s on me to let him know what I need, just like it’s on him to vocalize his needs.
True love and partnership happen when compromises on details are commonplace, and neither partner asks the other to compromise the self.
Mindshift 3: I Am Worth More Than My Paycheck
I come from a very financially driven family and used to equate my self-worth with how much money I made.
This is obviously a terrible attitude, but it’s seductive and incredibly hard to shake once it’s woven its way into your perspective.
These insecurities are amplified when you’re the main provider:
- “How could I fail my family?”
- “Why couldn’t I see that bill coming?”
- “I’m an idiot, now what are we going to do?”
It’s easy to see this way of thinking is terrible when you’re not in the heat of a financial obstacle. Yet we seem to forget how much good we’re capable of achieving at the moment.
The first time I “beat” a financial pitfall, it became easier to free myself from those toxic thoughts.
My moment was overcoming an unfortunate misfiling of taxes that threatened to ruin our family.
As someone who never had a penny of debt, this was horrifying to me (especially because we only had my income at the time and were just able to cover regular expenses).
Then we learned about offers in compromise. We achieved salvation. We won.
Every time my mind tries to go back to feelings of inadequacy, I have this data point to hold onto. This “win” where the outcome could have significant negative repercussions, gives me the confidence to meet future challenges (instead of giving into despair and anxiety).
My feelings on financial success being directly tied to self-worth are a lot like my feelings on Quality Score (PPC joke): how well you’re doing financially can point to areas of your life that you may want to “optimize”, but ultimately the most important metric of your life is your happiness and your positive impact on people blessed to know you.
While it’s true every financial hiccup is stressful, it’s also a chance to “play the game of survival.”
If you’re the type of person who thrives under pressure, own that and revel in your ingenuity to get out of any bind.
If you’re risk averse and need plans in place, own your process and revel in the serenity that comes from stability.
The actual amount of money I earn and save is inconsequential – what matters is I am setting myself up to live a life predisposed to bring me happiness.
Sometimes that means sacrificing wants for needs, but it never means equating the value I bring to my paycheck.
Mindshift 4: I May Be A Provider, But That Does Not Define Me
I am more than the tasks I complete.
Being a provider isn’t an all-defining attribute, nor is it a badge to show off. It’s simply something I do among the many other things I do.
I like taking care of people and the “provider” tasks and skills bring me joy, but at my core, I love luxury and crave pampering.
Reveling in all that makes me function, as opposed to compartmentalizing certain parts as guilty pleasures, is the kindest thing I’ve ever done for myself.
I really appreciate the opportunity to share what being a provider means to me, and the opportunity to learn from others. If you ever want to chat – the door’s always open!