Are you an "underearner"? You may be surprised…
Underearning has nothing to do with how much you earn in terms of numbers. You can make six figures and still be an underearner. It is a question of fulfillment — or lack thereof — and has more to do with our perspective than our actual salaries.
Conversely, you can also earn what some might consider a low salary, and not be an underearner. This person is someone I might call a "mindful low-earner," who consciously chooses lower pay because the particular job is fulfilling in other ways (and offers enough income so she's not forced into debt).
But underearning is rarely, if ever, a conscious choice. It never feeds your soul. It is always a condition of deprivation — not just of money, but time, respect, freedom, choices, joy and/or self-esteem.
Let's look at the ten traits of an underearner …
1. You talk as if you're trapped.
Underearners feel stuck. They rationalize their situations with an array of excuses that block out their options with emotional blinders. They don't realize that they can make changes in their lives to change their feelings.
2. You give your power away.
No wonder underearners feel trapped: they're constantly projecting their power outwards. They blame other people or outside conditions for causing their problems. The notion of "Prince Charming" is a stereotypical favorite for women; the lottery ranks high for both genders. But this is nothing more than an unproductive habit, and one that can be reversed!
3. You underestimate your value.
Underearners give away their time, knowledge, skills, experience for free or bargain prices because they don't believe they're worth more. They often seek proof of their value by volunteering, in the job or outside of it. There's nothing wrong with pro-bono work — but it should be, and can be, a choice.
4. You crave comfort.
Success in anything — take the challenges of making money or losing weight — requires stepping outside one's comfort zone. Underearners tend to cling to what is safe, to their so-called comfort zones. What a misnomer: these places are just familiar and predictable!
5. You tend to self-sabotage.
Underearners undermine themselves and their potential to succeed, plain and simple. They unconsciously self-sabotage, getting caught in traps such as procrastinating, job-hopping, cleverly rationalizing problems, and so on. Ironically, self-sabotage is a choice! Underearners can choose to change their attitudes, and thereby change their behavior.
6. You often feel codependent.
People who don't value themselves easily slip into codependence, and tend to prioritize others' needs above their own. Self-denial in this way always leads to anger, resentment, pain, and even illness. Attending to everyone else before taking care of yourself has been known to destroy careers, if not lives. Take care of yourself and you'll earn what you want.
7. You live in financial chaos.
Underearners often live paycheck to paycheck, struggling to make ends meet, racking up debt, working incessantly with no end in sight. This even applies to those who are making what seems like good money. These kinds of patterns can emerge just from adopting the attitude of an under-earner. Not respecting one's resources is just another kind of self-sabotage, a lack of self-care.
8. You are vague about money.
Underearners use the same methods to manage their money as they do to make most decisions: avoidance and delusion. They often have no idea how much money they have, how much they earn, how much they owe, or even how much they need. They operate by wishful thinking instead of thinking about concrete desires they wish to pursue.
9. You resent others' wealth.
Because of these other traits, underearners often fixate on competition. As a result, they can be downright negative about money and/or people who have it. As a rationalization for their self-sabotage, they often think there's virtue in being poor, and criticize those focused on financial gain.
10. You are controlled by fear.
Underearners are afraid of success. Why? They're ultimately afraid of failing, of rejection, of being judged. They're afraid of the responsibility of having more, and the possibility of losing it all.
This is the essential catch 22 for all underearners: I have to change, I'm afraid to change.
But there is good news…
Did you notice what these ten traits all have in common? Every single one of them is self-imposed. It all starts with the first trait — underestimating your value. This is something each and every one of us has to work on.
This is difficult, but fundamentally wonderful, news. How can it be both difficult and wonderful? Well, if you can single-handedly create the conditions for underearning to occur, you have the power to change them.