Throughout my childhood, I felt insignificant compared to my siblings. They were skilled, capable, and hard workers who earned respect from others. I was tall and self-conscious, clumsy, and often lost in thought. It seemed like the world welcomed everyone else, but left me uneasy and uncertain about my place in it.
As I matured, I discovered humor as a way to gain favor with others by defusing tense situations. I saw myself as a joke, a clown pretending at life. Despite these dark feelings, I also found a passion for music. A family friend left an acoustic guitar in our home, and through diligent practice, I developed my musical skills and received recognition for my talents. Instead of playing the fool, I played guitar and sang for appreciative audiences.
This recognition certainly boosted my ego, but my self-image remained unchanged. I still believed I was insignificant, but I could fool others into believing I had value through hard work.
“If you don’t value your time, neither will others. Stop giving away your time and talents. Value what you know and start charging for it.” — Kim Garst, Marketing Strategist & Keynote Speaker
You Are Valuable
When I convinced the girl I loved to marry me, I thought I had fooled her as well. Over time, I learned she loved me regardless of my successes or failures. I realized that the love and support of my loved ones were not dependent on my efforts. My obsession with perfection was an obstacle to growth and joy in life, and I needed to let it go.
If your story resonates with mine, your career may be suffering. If we don’t value ourselves, our time, talent, and knowledge remain hidden. We may feel like impostors, always waiting to be found out. When we negotiate, we do so from a position of weakness, fearing rejection will confirm our worst suspicions about our self-worth.
But you are valuable, regardless of whether others recognize it! You possess a unique combination of story, perspective, talents, and skills that hold significant monetary value in the right circumstances. By recognizing your worth, your resilience, confidence, and ability to negotiate for better pay and positions will grow. Most importantly, you will be able to ask and answer the most challenging question: What do I truly want to give and receive in life?
Time Is Precious
As you read this message, seconds are ticking away, and you are breathing in and out. Each moment is fleeting and cannot be repeated. On one hand, in the grand scheme of the cosmos, you and I are insignificant – merely tiny specks on a small planet hurtling through space. Yet, from a Judeo-Christian perspective, we are made in God’s image, co-creators shaping the world and caretakers of our resources. We can be a force for moral good in society, and the moments we experience are the raw materials from which we create value, build relationships, and prepare our souls for eternity.
In this context, time is incredibly precious. Shouldn’t we invest it for the highest return possible? While I primarily refer to monetary rewards, these should not be our sole focus. We all seek to create an impact and leave a legacy of improved lives behind us. Therefore, we must consider both the financial rewards and social impact of our work. Time is passing, and opportunities are slipping away.
Generosity and Gratitude
Being generous with your time and talent is often seen as noble, but giving away your best work is like giving unsolicited advice. When friends ask for advice, they value our input, and when they pay for our talents, they treasure the work we deliver. Ultimately, offering our work for free may prove fruitless unless we are willing to risk rejection by assigning it a fair price.
Human nature drives us to desire valuable things and share what we value most with others. However, we often undervalue the gifts we receive from others. If they didn’t place much value on their time, talent, and wisdom, why should we consider it a precious gift? In this sense, generosity is negatively correlated with gratitude.
Charging for Time, Talent, and Knowledge
In 2016, Pew Research reported that “about half (51%) of employed Americans say they get a sense of identity from their job, while the other half (47%) say their job is just what they do for a living.” These two perspectives reveal the core of our struggle to ask for appropriate pay for our services. If we tie our identity to our work, and we raise prices without making a sale, we feel less valuable. If we see our job as merely a means to an end, we are more likely to accept lower pay than the market could bear.
It seems we either over-identify with our work or trivialize it. In reality, our work is a vehicle for self-expression but not our identity.
Our identity endures through life’s victories and setbacks; it must be deeper than the social roles we play. We must root our identity in our intrinsic value, rejecting labels derived from our utility to others.
While work is not merely a paycheck enabling us to live, it should provide a sense of fulfillment. On average, we spend one-third of our lives at work, so it makes sense to pursue work that has a positive impact as well as a paycheck. Our most effective work uses our personality and strengths to create an impact aligned with our values. I believe such work is the reason we are on this improbable little planet, tucked away in a vast and mysterious universe.
I hope I have clarified the distinction between the economic value the marketplace awards our experience, skills, and impact, and both the intrinsic value of work and our value as human beings. Work done with care and attention that aligns with our identity is far more valuable than any paycheck can assign, and our value as humans is far greater than any work we perform. So, when we ask for a fair market price for our services or approach our manager for a raise, neither our value nor the value of our work is on the line. We are merely attempting to add greater financial leverage to the skills we have been given and the impact we create.
Valuable, and Creating Value
For much of my life, I believed I was fooling people into seeing me as valuable by using humor, music, hard work, and continuous learning. Although these things held social and economic value, I didn’t see myself as valuable, rendering my work empty and my relationships tentative.
If you find parallels in your life, it’s time to break free. Anchor your value in who you are as a human being with intrinsic worth derived from your Creator. Then, your work can express your values, and you will be free to seek a fair market price for your efforts without tying your self-worth to your economic value.
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