The Piece of Paper Myth

by Caroline Stewart

I have a degree, and diplomas, and a bunch of certificates from the multitude of courses and workshops I’ve taken over the years.  I’ve sat in classrooms learning concepts that I apply every day and also covering material that will never have any relevance to my life or my work.

I get it.  I really do understand why we like the formality and security of the piece of paper.  What I don’t get is why we let it either validate or deny our knowledge and ability, and ultimately, our worthiness.

The formal recognition of our ability to pass tests and meet educational requirements has very little relevance to real life experience and success in work.  In a lot of cases, the piece of paper ends up being just a crutch - an easy assumption that we’ve done all the learning and development we need to do.

The people that I admire and respect the most are those who never got the piece of paper.  They’re the ones who built experience based on passion and creative drive.  You can see it written all over their work.  Their efforts are based on years of experience and a deep sense of awareness and personal development.

My own hidden belief in the piece of paper myth recently surfaced when I was chatting with my mentor Janne.  The work I’m doing now isn’t backed up by any of these pieces of paper.  I don’t have a signed, embossed and framed certificate telling the world that I know how to run a business, and offer some pretty kick ass transformative business coaching and personal mentorship.

I was talking with her about worthiness, abundance and the fact that I hate the idea of ‘selling’ myself to people.  She stopped me in my tracks by asking why I would ever need to feel like I was selling myself.  I shared my distaste in being sold to and explained how convincing just isn’t my thing.

The truth is that I was questioning my ability based on the fact that I don't possess the sought after piece of paper.  I had somehow formed the subconscious belief that I needed to sell myself or create a compelling argument for hiring me because I couldn’t turn to the piece of paper hanging on the wall to back me up.

There is no reason to sell, she said.  Selling is a scarcity mindset.  It is the belief that you NEED someone’s business or that they are doing you a favour by asking for your help.  It’s just a fear.  And a forgetting that we have no control over others, nor would we ever want to.

Belief in the piece of paper myth creates a distrust in self and a questioning of our worthiness.  We don’t need a piece of paper or even the validation from another person to be worthy. 

We are inherently worthy.  We have value.  Our personal choices and ability form experience.  We won’t be the right fit for everyone, and that’s ok.  In fact, it’s a great thing!  

Someone choosing you or not isn’t a reflection of you or your value.  Rather, it is a reflection of them.  It is a decision based on their wants and needs.  It has NOTHING to do with you.

Why would you ever want to work with or be in a relationship with someone who you feel the need to convince of your worthiness?  And hey, needs change.  Maybe you align with them now, but won’t in the future.

Releasing the need to be approved by everyone is incredibly freeing.  Letting go of scarcity means nothing, not even a piece of paper, can validate your experience or dictate your worthiness.  What an empowering truth to understand!