All the talk about salary, negotiations, and income has a side effect: we start to measure our worth in monetary terms. So if you have been unemployed for a while, underpaid at work, or working for a company where you don’t feel appreciated, you might have picked up consciously or unconsciously the idea that you, as a person, are not worth much, or as much as others.
We live at a time where the political party in power actively pursues policies based on the idea that if you don’t make enough money to pay for medical care, you simply should not receive any. No wonder that deep down you are starting to feel that your ability to make money is a reflection of your worth! Politicians talk about literally letting you die based on your income and ability to pay.
And yet, is the worth of a human being determined by his or her income? Do you base your worth on your paycheck?
Let me introduce you to the concept of intrinsic value. Forgive the big words, but this is an important concept, and something crucial to regaining your confidence and sense of self-worth. Let’s start with definitions:
Intrinsic is defined as “belonging to the essential nature or constitution of a thing – the intrinsic worth of a gem – the intrinsic brightness of a star”*
Extrinsic is defined as “originating from or on the outside”**
Almost all messages from our society make you focus on extrinsic value: from being a good partner, to becoming a successful business owner, we are bombarded by messages about how we are not good enough. If we just learned to be more productive, saved more money, had a higher degree…if only our parents had not divorced…if only we were better…we could achieve all our dreams. While it’s good to work on improving ourselves (and I am a huge fan of learning), it is a very big mistake to think our value as human beings lies in things outside of ourselves.
Almost every blog post – or career book – will list things you are doing wrong, sell you some “new” tool, and paint a picture in which everyone who has a better job or makes more money than you must have something you don’t have – more brains, more experience, more discipline, a better degree, a more productive routine, you name it. Usually it’s something you can pay to get or you can achieve with hard work.
If you are feeling stuck, stop reading all that crap. Chances are you have taken on the belief that you are defined by what is outside of you, and have become so identified with what you lack, or should be, that you have lost sight of who you are. It’s time to focus on your intrinsic value.
So take a moment today to look at yourself in the mirror and to list your intrinsic value. What is something about you that you value? Are you a kind friend? A good listener? A reliable coworker? Are you generous, considerate, honest? Are you a loving person? Are you passionate about everyone getting an education? Do you volunteer or help others? Write down everything you are and everything you do that might not be a source of money, but is good – by your definition of good. Write down the stuff about you that you appreciate when you see it reflected in other people.
Write it all down. And every time you feel discouraged, or stuck, go back to your list: remind yourself that you are good enough, and you are always valuable, even when poor, or unemployed, or miserable at work, or frustrated and undecided. You are always worthy.
With some work and determination, you’ll be able to make more money, get a job, switch to a more fulfilling career, but here’s the kicker: all those things might one day disappear again. Your priorities might change. You might aim for a bigger goal. If you find that stable place inside yourself, your core, that which holds your intrinsic value, you will able to weather the next storm, because you will know, really, truly know, that your worth is not tied to that which is outside of yourself, but is deeply connected to who you are. And every one of us is worthy.
Are you in Los Angeles? Join me for one of Repurpose Your Purpose’s in-person events!