In 2009, three personal financial storms hit at the same time, leaving me hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt. These three storms merged and blew my entire financial life to smithereens, exposing the real problem: I perpetually devalued myself, which led to endless self-punishment and self-abuse.
I wish I could say that I'm completely recovered from this tendency. I wish I could say that I'm super-great at valuing myself and that I've spiritually evolved to the point where I live in a steady stream of kindness and self-compassion.
But, alas. That is not the world I live in.
Valuing myself? Claiming my worth? Standing up and raising my hand and trying to feel worthy? It's hard for me. And I'm pretty sure it's hard for a lot of us.
At some point in the hiring process (whether you're an employee, artist, entrepreneur or executive), you've got to have a conversation about payment. Even though I'm better at this conversation these days, it's still not my favorite. In fact, I can trace this uneasiness all the way back to my junior high babysitting jobs. I dreaded being asked, "What do you charge?" and instead, always hoped to simply be told what I was worth.
I didn't want to have to ask. I didn't want to risk rejection. I still don't.
And I don't just do this with money. I do this with time. With love. With intimacy. I don't want to have to ask. I don't want to claim what I'm worth. I don't want to risk rejection. I don't want to have to stand out on a ledge butt-naked, arms outstretched and say, "This is what I'm worth, take it or leave it, people."
Because people will leave it. And I, personally, don't like that part.
One of the sneaky ways that I get around having to claim what I'm worth is offering what I call a "Please-Like-Me-Discount." This is where I discount my services, or over-offer myself or over-commit my time. It's where I over-give, over-work, over-suffer and then secretly hold you accountable for loving me in return. And if you're not going to love me as a person, the least you could do is love my work.
I know it's not pretty. I'm not sharing this because I'm proud of it, I'm sharing because I do this, my students do this, my friends do this. We devalue ourselves hoping for love in return. Maybe you do this too.
And this bullshit's gotta stop. It reminds me of that scene in Far and Away, where Tom Cruise leaps off his horse and raises his flag and says, "This land is mine." Because that's sort of like what we've got to be willing to do.
We need to be willing to claim our spot in this world. To raise our flags and to say, "This is what I'm worth." To stand up for our right to exist, to be loved, to take up space, to be compensated, to be valued.
We need to stop offering our Please-Like-Me-Discounts and instead be willing to state what we're worth. To stake our claim in life. To show up and to fully own it.
Valuing yourself is a brutally courageous act. It's raw and vulnerable and sometimes it takes the strength of eighteen hundred elephants to speak it out loud. And like anything, it takes practice.
It takes practice to sit with the discomfort. It takes practice to stop trying to minimize yourself in hopes that people will like you better. It take practice to show up and let yourself shine. It takes faith. Strength. Hope. And trust.
It's hard work.
And, you're totally worth it.