Two Words That Do Nothing For Your Sense of Self-Worth & Self-Value
I had a milestone birthday not too long ago. And with it came the unsurprising, and seemingly requisite, existential crisis. Where am I going? What am I doing? Who am I? I have loose answers to those questions, but for me that final question called my values and my value into question.
What is your value? My husband has asked me that question to support me (the poor dear) many times. Three times out of five, I will respond with “I don’t know” and not too long after, bawl my eyes out with emotions ranging from distress to despair.
Let me make this clear – everything about you has value. Your skills, your experience, your emotions, your love, your time. You need to value these things – because if you don’t value them, no one else will. If you don’t value them, then there is no one to defend their value when it comes under attack – knowingly or unknowingly.
I’m much better these days. I don’t know if I am any closer to answering that question in a manner that I consider satisfactory, but I have accepted the state of play. I am ready to be open to my value and my worth. Part of getting to where I am today has been becoming more self-aware. I have realised that there is an insidious and damaging script that runs through my head.
“Do I know what I’m doing? Does the client see that I don’t? Should I have stayed in a secure corporate position, even though I was told to tone down the personality? Would I at least be a senior associate now, if I didn’t leave the law firm in the first place?”
It’s not always on full blast, because that would draw too much attention to it. Rather, it runs at a volume that allows it to sit in the background – constantly. Like the backing track to my life. Recently, I’ve come to realise that the slow, simmering devaluing script is just as damaging as the loud, obnoxious berating screams. Maybe worse – because you don’t realise that you need to defend yourself from it. And perhaps worse again, you and the people around you who inadvertently run this script don’t register the message that comes with it – so there is this daily acceptance of the devaluing message.
I’m talking about the word “just”. You know the one. It just slips into a sentence that is quietly uttered, or silently mused.
My script was that I just needed to do something. Isolated, it doesn’t seem that bad, but it is the narrative that exists around that sentence that cuts at you.
“I’ll just skip a few hours of sleep so I can finish this work. I should have just stopped procrastinating and finished it ages ago!
In that context, the word “just” carries with it an assumption of ease and simplicity. Which is somewhat belittling when you can’t do that thing that apparently is so simple and easy to do. And if you can’t do simple and easy, then what good are you really? You see how easily that slips in there? The unnecessary categorisation of simplicity and ease often erodes the satisfaction of achievement . Because, why bother celebrating something small and seemingly trivial?
“Just” doesn’t exclusively exist in internal monologues either, by the way. Whether intentionally or not – and often not – others diminish the value of your skills, knowledge and time with that very word. And here’s the sucky part – you do it too. How many times have you thought to yourself, “I’ll just get so-and-so to do such-and-such” (we all know such-and-such is very technical)? What was your mindset when you said that? Was something along the lines of “Well, I’m not very good with computer stuff, so I’ll just get Alice to do it. She does that stuff all the time – she’ll be able to just get it doing what it needs to. Easy.” Realistically, in your mind you are high-fiving yourself for excellent delegation. And there is nothing wrong with getting someone’s assistance on something. But in using the word ‘just’, it tends to take for the granted the time and effort of the person helping you. Instead, try reframing it like this:
I’ll just get Nicole to schedule in that client for me VS I’ll ask for Nicole’s help with this
Yvonne can just get the family together for a quick and easy dinner VS I’ll see if Yvonne is happy to host dinner.
I’ll just get Gabby to redo those invoices with updated payments VS I’ll check if Gabby has the capacity to do this.
Sam will just be able to fix the formatting VS Formatting hurts my brain - I'm going to ask Sam how long it might take her to do it.
You can see it right? It’s much less presumptuous and puts you in a mindset where you are more appreciative — a far better outcome!
Oh, and that leads me to another of my least favourite words — “should”. I cannot press enough my absolute dislike for “should”. It imposes on obligation on an emotion or an action and then, in the same way as the word “just”, serves up a generous portion of guilt, and ultimately failure, when that action or emotion is not forthcoming.
Living according to a sense of obligation is unlikely to bring you joy, happiness or self-value. Empower yourself, by taking that word out of your narrative and replace it with direct action and choice. Think about a relationship for example:
I should speak to my sister more.
That sentence immediately strikes a sense of guilt – the obligation exists and it is not being met. You awful sister – your absence clearly indicates that you don’t care about your own family! Boooo! Hisss!!
What if you just changed the narrative?
I will speak to my sister more.
I don’t know about you, but that sentence is a lot more motivating and empowering. It’s direct - it describes intention and action. It does not dwell on the problem, rather it is a solution. And that works with any aspect of your life:
I should exercise more VS I’m going to go for a run tomorrow morning.
I should work less VS I’m going to leave on time tonight.
I should spent more time with the kids VS I’m going to take the kids to the zoo tomorrow.
I should own my own home by now VS I’m going to save for my own home.
I should have found my passion by now VS I’m going to focus on me.
Two questions about the first lot of statements: 1) how does that make you feel? 2) how many do you recognise as being part of your own script?
I don't know about you, but for me, the alternative statements are compelling and move me to action. And isn't that what we should be filling our lives with? We all love a glittery motivational Instagram post, but how often are we transferring that into our own mindset?
For whatever reason, we are constantly subjected to, and even worse, we accept a narrative where we are not good enough, not capable… It’s simply not true.
So eliminate these words from your script and the script around you. Choose to empower yourself. And give yourself a break from time to time, too.