How Much Are You Worth?

The question resounds, over and over, if not on the daily, then certainly on a weekly basis: How much are you worth?

Typically, the words themselves sound more like, “What do you do for a living?” or “How much do you make?” But the underlying question still remains.

How much are you worth?

When I first began my journey as a journalist, I was almost embarrassed to answer the question.  When I told people I was a writer, I either got the stink eye or a flat out laugh in my face.  One man – a friend of ours, actually – exploded into laughter and told my husband he better get a better paying job.

How much was I worth?  I was worth so little, it was laughable.

The question continued to haunt me in casual conversations and my own tortured thoughts.  If only I could find a job that helped ease the financial burden on my husband’s shoulders.  Then I would be better.  I would be more respectable.  I would be worth more.

It probably didn’t help matters when we found out we were pregnant with our first child and I decided to be a stay-at-home-mom.  After all, if there’s any job that pays less than writing, it’s mothering.

To make ends meet once our daughter came into this world, however, I took another job as a part-time administrative assistant with a high-end construction company.

There I was: A journalist for four magazines, a part-time administrative assistant, and a full-time new mom to an around-the-clock very needy infant.

I ran myself ragged juggling a baby with magazine interviews, which now had to be done over the phone so I could make sure the baby was alive and not crying without letting my interviewee know that’s what I was doing.  Then I had to transcribe those interviews and find time to write the articles by my deadline.  On top of that, I was training to be a secretary and learning all about a new corporation and their systems.  In the meantime, I had to magically make time appear so I could write my novels and maintain my blog.  Plus, somewhere in there, I was supposed to clean the house (which, let’s be real, didn’t happen all the time), cook meals, and keep another tiny person from choking or starving to death. Not to mention, I was still trying to figure out the whole breast-feeding thing.

And in my spare time I also wanted to be the perfect wife to my husband.

Was I finally worth enough yet?

Of course not. In fact, I kept wrestling with my own worthlessness until the pennies on my paycheck came in the mail.

“Look, Kyle!” I’d shout to my husband.  “I did something!  I’m contributing!”

But when I looked at our bank account, my hard work didn’t seem to be making a dent in our finances.  I wasn’t making enough to really make a difference.  I wasn’t really helping the family.  Or at least that’s what people told me in not so many words.  So much so, I started to believe it.

The only respectable thing to do, they’d advise, was to get a “real” job and put Marie in day care.  No more of this “writing” business.  No more of this part-time secretary stuff.  And certainly no more of the stay-at-home mom bologna.  All those things are worthless – they don’t bring in the dough.

What they said sounded a lot like President Obama’s most recent comment about stay-at-home moms:

“Sometimes, someone, usually mom, leaves the workplace to stay home with the kids, which then leaves her earning a lower wage for the rest of her life as a result. And that’s not a choice we want Americans to make.”

This blog is not a political one, so I’m not quoting the president to bash him, but rather to demonstrate how deeply this harmful message has permeated itself into our society.  He’s not the first to say these words and he certainly won’t be the last.

But I have a different message.  If you can, try to imagine your worth not being tied to your paycheck.  Hard, right?

There are so many messages that make us feel like our worth comes from outside of us.  We’re more worthwhile if we make more money, if we have more things, if we wear the right clothes and look “beautiful” every day.

But the truth is that you – just you, the way you were created to be – is what makes you worthwhile.

Yet, all too often we sacrifice what’s inside to chase what’s outside.  We give up our real worth to chase the counterfeit kind.  It’s counterfeit because even when we attain it, it’s still not good enough.  We still don’t feel as worthy, important, or valuable as we thought we would.  There’s always a promotion or new position that tells us we’re still not getting paid enough.  There’s still something else we haven’t bought or been able to afford.  There’s still someone else who looks better in the latest fashions.  And all of a sudden, we’re still not as valuable as we thought we’d be.

But when we own the worth that comes from inside – when we accept ourselves as we truly are – those shackles break free.  There’s no more inferiority, no more striving, no more strife.  Only liberation.

So, what makes you, you?  That’s what’s invaluable...and that’s how much you’re truly worth.

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