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Your Self-Worth Isn’t What You Do For a Living

Why We Can't Determine Our Value By Our Paycheck

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

It wasn’t too long ago that Cosby actor, Geoffrey Owens, 57, who played Elvin Tibideaux between 1985 and 1992 made headlines because he was spotted working as a cashier at Trader Joes in Clifton, NJ. The shopper that spotted him was quoted in the Daily Mail as saying, “It was a shock to see him working there and looking the way he did. It made me feel really bad. I was like, “Wow, all those years of doing the show and you ended up as a cashier.”

And we wonder why so many people tie up their self-worth and definition of success to their jobs?

Celebs rallied to Owens defense, going public with the jobs they did to pay their rent until they got their first break. Athlete turned actor Terry Crews shared how he swept floors after the NFL and Patrician Heaton from “Everybody Loves Raymond” said she was summarizing depositions to pay her rent while staring on “Raymond.”

The bottom line is, we live in a society that defines our worth by what we do and how much we make and this…. as so many of us know is simply not true.

None of us have spent our lifetimes at the top. Every successful person and by “successful” I mean whatever you personally define as success, started somewhere.

Whether it was fetching coffee, waiting tables, doing assistant work or answering phones, every job teaches us something and is of value. Without someone doing those things, multi-million dollar businesses can’t run.

Recently I walked away from my six-figure corporate job to focus on my Coaching business and to spend more time with my kids. For months I didn’t know what to say when people asked me what I did. I stumbled over my words, not wanting to let go of the prestige that working for a big studio seemed to garner me all my life. I found myself saying, “Oh…I’m (insert old job title) but I’m just taking some time off for a couple of months.”

Those few months turned into much longer than I had anticipated and after months of sending out resumes, networking and interviewing for jobs only to be told repeatedly I was “over-qualified” or “too senior” for, I found myself picking up any work I could get to make some cash.  I did assistant work, cleaned out and organized people’s home offices and spaces and then collapsed into a pile of self-pitying tears at the end of the day feeling… you got it… unworthy.

We’re not any less valuable when we aren’t working.  We aren’t better or less than someone else because of our title or our salary. We have to leave our egos at the door and remind ourselves that who we are as a person is of value no matter what we do to pay our bills. 

“When you know who you are and you’re pleased with the person you’ve become, you’ll experience a sense of peace through life’s inevitable ups and downs.” – Amy Morin

So how can we remind ourselves of this when we’re financially struggling? When we’ve lost our job or decided to stay at home to raise our kids or taken a pay cut to pursue our passion? These are some tools to navigate your way through:

Focus only on what you can control

We can’t control the job market, what people think of us or the timing of things happening.  But what we can control is our perception of what’s happening. We have a choice every day to focus on the things we have and release what we don’t have, trusting that it will either come or something better in it’s place. Whenever you find yourself in anxiety repeat this simple mantra… “I release control of what’s not mine and trust that I’m exactly where I’m meant to be.

Kick comparison to the curb

The Today Show surveyed 7,000 mothers about how using Pinterest affects their sense of self-worth. Forty-two percent said they felt inadequate as parents when looking at the glossy pics of kids birthday party spreads and Martha-Stewart worthy craft projects complete with monogrammed ribbon! Hours scrolling through social media and comparing our lives with the “highlight reel” of other people’s news feed doesn’t help when we’re already feeling crappy about our own lives.

Comparison is the killer of all joy. Remember… everyone is dealing with something even if they’re making a killer loaf of Pinterest-worthy banana bread or posing on top of the Eiffel Tower glass of wine and fresh baguette in hand. We’re all just dealing with something different.

This is just a moment in time

This moment… of being unemployed, of struggling with your business, of worrying over how to pay your bills, of not being in your dream job yet…. it’s just a moment in time. Time is fleeting and passes quickly. It can all change overnight. 

When you’re having one of those days where it all feels hopeless, avoid the temptation to spiral into the belief that “the world is ending and I’m never going to get out of this situation.”  You’re just having a bad day. It’s kind of like plummeting at 60 mph to the bottom of the rollercoaster. Scary as hell and maybe left us a little queasy but keep in mind that what goes down must come back up!

Work on what you define as “success”

Success comes in all shapes and sizes and people define it differently for themselves based on their core values.  What are your core values? If family and friends are something you value then success can be as simple as increasing the quality time spent with them.

If giving back to your community and making a difference in the world is a core value then seek out all the places you’re already doing that whether you make money doing it or not.

For me, success is making a difference in one person’s life each day. Whether it’s offering to help someone out who needs it, having a meaningful conversation with a friend or reaching just one person through my writing who needs to hear that particular message that day….my self-worth and value  is priceless.

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