“Nobody can make you feel inferior, without your permission.” Eleanor Roosevelt
I was recently working with a leader who was debating taking a new job. He was disappointed in the offered salary compared to his previous salary with a different organization, an issue that so many leaders are facing these days as the economy and job market shift. I empathized as I listened to him express his inner struggle. I started my leadership consulting practice out of passion, not desire for greater financial compensation. Nevertheless, unlocking myself from the golden handcuffs of my former career and compensation was a deep struggle for me.
My intention in bringing up this example is not to discuss salary negotiation strategies or assess wages. It is certainly not to judge the feelings of this leader and his dilemma. Instead, I would like to ask a few questions about how we assess our own self worth and value. Here are my questions. Do you tie your self worth to your net worth? Does your take home salary determine your at home value? Does your feeling of importance in this world go up when you get a raise or go down when you do not? Up with the Dow and down with the Nasdaq? Ask yourself and search for your true and honest response. My sense is that many of us if not most of us will say yes to at least one of those questions.
One of my leadership lessons that I espouse is to own your power. If you do not use your power when you have it, then you are giving it away to someone else. What do I mean by this statement? If someone does offer you pay that is lower than a previous salary or expectation and you feel bad, then you may be reacting to your projection that someone is assessing your worth. You have given that person, or company, power over your feelings. Imagine a time when you made more money. If you are feeling great about yourself because of this wage, then you have again given your power away. You have authorized somebody else to determine how you should feel, in this example, feeling good because of money. See how this works?
Companies, employers, clients, will offer you what they can for a variety of reasons, budget, knowledge of the organization, history, responsibility, and market demand to name a few. If you organize your self worth based on how a company, industry or economy is organized in compensation, then you have abdicated your value as a person to things outside of your control. Separate your feelings about pay and net worth from your feelings about you and self worth.
Of course, it’s great to get as much income as you can. I am all for making as much money as you want. What I’m also for, is that you as a person, as a leader of your own life, differentiate between the value of pay for a task, and value of yourself as a person. You are valuable, important, beautiful, and have a right to be here because you are you, a human, and a creation of nature, of God and of life. Because of your ability to love and to be loved for your gifts and for all of your flaws you are important, valuable and undeniably a part of this world. What is it that makes you feel valuable? Who do you most value in your life and why? Is it a parent, a friend, a spouse? Based on what you value in yourself, in your life and in others, how can you bring more value to your life? I invite you to authorize your own self worth and value each and every day. Own your power. Then I ask you to extend that same appreciation to others.
Thank you for reading and best wishes for your continued learning and success in your leadership journey.