It started with the red suede boots. It could have just as easily been a nice office or a fancy car. The feeling was the same: Those nice things are for other people, they’re not for me.

In this case, the red suede boots were the tipping point for Susan. Every time her friend Pam wore the red boots, Susan found herself thinking, “I love those boots, but I could never wear something like that. Even if I wanted to, I can’t afford it.”

Imagine her surprise when Pam was cleaning her closet and offered Susan the boots, saying: “I love these, but I can’t wear heels anymore. Would you like to have them?”

Now, the boots were free. Yet, surprisingly, Susan was reluctant to accept them. She thought for a moment and finally told Pam: “Those boots represent the difference between you and me. You are someone who would buy red suede boots and wear them, I’m not.”

In that moment, Susan realized it wasn’t about the fashion or the money. It was about what Susan believed about herself. How many of us have felt the same way about something we secretly desire.

Can you relate to any of these statements?

He has a really nice office, but I’m not the kind of person who needs all that.

My co-worker takes a break to eat lunch, but I’m the kind of person who stays at their desk.

They’re the kind of person who drives a convertible, but I’d never do that.

We often look longingly at something – be it red suede boots or simply the ability to take a lunch break – and tell ourselves, “That’s for other people, not for me.”

It’s as if there is some invisible line that we can’t step over. In many cases, it’s not just about money. It’s about what we think we deserve and what we believe other people will think of us if we cross over that invisible line.

I used to believe that because I worked at home, there was no point in my having a nice office. It felt self-indulgent, like I was putting on airs and pretending to be more important than I was.

Eventually, I came to realize that even if no one else ever sees my office, I spend the better part of my time there and deserve to feel great. I didn’t have to spend a zillion dollars. In my early career, I simply bought a decent chair and put up a framed poster of Coco Channel. Those two small things made my space feel special. It was not to impress any client. It was a signal to me that my work matters, and so do I.

As you look at your own life, ask yourself: Are there things that you’ve been denying yourself simply because you believe you’re not the kind of person who can indulge in that?

Perhaps you’re working on a folding chair and card table when you can easily afford a better setup. Maybe you’re not taking a lunch break because you believe you don’t deserve to relax. Or maybe like Susan, you coveted something for years, but when you finally get it, you find to hard to accept it because you don’t believe you’re special enough to deserve it.

The people who make their space nice, take lunch breaks and wear red boots are not some unique species. They’re simply people who have decided that it’s OK to make yourself feel special.

– Lisa Earle McLeod is a leadership consultant and the author of several books. For more information on her company, visit McLeodandMore.com.

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